Nov 22, 2007


By Parshwanath

Karnataka is the sacred abode of various religions of India. Jainism, Buddhism, vedic and Shaivism and also Christianity and Islam coexisted in the state. Dvaitha, Advaitha, Vishishtadvaitha, Shakthi Vishishtadvaitha, Kapalika, Kalamukha, Pashupatha and also Swethambara, Digambara and Yapaniya sects of Jainism have flourished and cherished this sacred land. The history of Karnataka is synonymous with that of Jainism. Jainism migrated to south in the pre Christian era. It has played an important part in the social and political life of the people. Jainism has found its firm foothold and roots in Karnataka since the very ancient time. It was the principal site and power of the religion. Many inscriptions, monuments and other historical evidences support this concept. The Kuppaturu inscription mentions that Karnataka was the abode of Jainism the tower of victory, the house of majesty and the seat of education. Also to take note of is the information furnished by classics, puranas and other available literary works. Vimalasuri's 'Pahumacharita' mentions that Sri Rama on the eve of proceeding to forests vowed to Dasharatha and his mother Kausalya that he would spend his arduous time near Vindyagiri, Malaya and adjacent to sea and later would return to Ayodhya. Further he arrived at Vamshagiri where Deshabhushana and Kulabhushana munis lived and freed them from Upasarga. Further Sridharadeva the last Kevali attained salvation near the mountain where Deshabhushana and Kulabhushana attained nirvana according to 'Tilayopannatthi'. Vamshasthalapura (Vamshagiri) is no other than Kunthalagiri as mentioned in Pahumacharita. Kunthalagiri is situated nearer to Sholapur which was once a part of Karnataka. The traditional belief that Sridharadeva strongly holds good that he attained Mukthi 62 years after Lord Mahavira attained nirvana. Terapura (Dharashiva) nearer to Usmanabad and also to Kunthalagiri throws much light on the antiquity of Jainism. According to Acharya Arishena's Bruhatkathakosha the King Karakandu observed and renovated the ancient cave with Parshwanatha idol. Both Jaina and Buddhist traditions contemplate Karakandu as 'Pratyekha Buddha'. This historical evidence is of much importance and Karakandu was predecessor of Lord Mahavira. This information helps us to find the traces of Jainism in the 7th century B.C.. There are prolific evidences to cite that Jainism flourished well in the ancient period in Venyatatapura (Andhra Pradesh). One should note the incidence mentioned in Acharya Arisena's Bruhatkathakosha in Sanskrit containing Asathya Bashana Kathanaka. This has been supported by Chidanandas Munivamshabyudaya, Ratnanandi's Badrabahu Charite and Devachandra's Rajavalikathe. It is equally interesting to know the veracity of this fact by the research done by the renowned historians and scholars like Dr.Vincent Smith, Dr.Fleet, Dr.Rice, R.Narasimhachar & Prof. S.R.Sharma. Samprathi the grandson of Ashoka sent missonaries for the propagation of Jainism in the south. There is a mountain called Sri Parvat in the southern part of Andhra and to its west lies the mandala river, probably the tributary of Tungabadra river. There lies the Vallore city on the southern bank of Mandala river. Princes Sridhara the son of Yashodhara undertook penance in Sri Parvata. He relinquished asceticism for some time and became a gruhastha to protect the dynastic rule. His dynasty was called Munditta Vamsha. It is said that the Varadatta Ganadhara who was present in the Samavasarana of Neminatha belonged to this dynasty. Further Dhanada of Munda dynasty, an exponent of anuvrata and strict follower of Jainism became the king. Venyatatapura is identified as Pratipalapura or Bhattiprolu. P.B.Desai has vividly explained about the same and mentioned that the place was situated near Krishnaveni river. Indranandi's Srutavatara also mentions this place as venatatakapura. Due to these reasons, one can infer that Valluru and Venatatakapura were the abode of Jainism since 2nd century A.D.

Jevendara Kumara, the contemporer of Lord Mahavira visited Sahasrakuta Chaityalaya in Kshemapura (South India) during his sojourn. Kshemapura is identified as Ballatakipura near Gerusoppe. However much research is required to assert the same. These facts denote that Jainism found its place in South India even before Dvadashanga Shrutakevali Badrabahu Swamy arrived there. It should be noted that Acharya Badrabahu Swamy with his team of twelve thousand disciples, Prabhachandra and Vishakacharya arrived at South India following the deep famine in the North which hindered observing the nigrantha munidharma. The Maurya emperor Chandragupta of Magadha kingdom followed his guru. This further emphasises the view that there were revered Shravakas living in the south to welcome and provide shelter to the munis. The inscription at Shravanabelagola states that muni Sangha which departed from Ujjain arrived at Kalvappu or Katavapra (Shravanabelagola) through 'aarshamarga'. It is interesting to trace the aarshamarga through which the muni sangha travelled in the places such as Siddavarakoota, Pavapuri, Chulagiri, Ujjanthagiri, Mangitungi, Gajapanth, Charanagiri, Kunthalagiri and Tera. There were Jain sravakas living in parts of Karnataka. Shravanabelagola became the place of main stay where Shrutakevali Badrabahu attained samadhi. As mentioned in Bruhatkathakosa, Chanakya embraced asceticism along with his 500 disciples and travelled through south. He observed kayotsarga in Gokula of Mahakounchapura situated on the western part of the region. Further Subandhu the minister of Nandaraja arrived at Mahakrounchapura and assumed the ministership of the king of the place following the demise of his former king. He also observed samadhi marana following the path of Chanakyamuni. Chanakyamuni is mentioned in various pages of Bruhatkathakosha, even though the name of Banavasi is not cited. If one treats discontent as historical, it can be inferred that Jainism prevailed well in Banavasi region of Karnataka in the 3rd century B.C. Karnataka was an important place of Digambara sect of Jainism in 2nd century A.D. and the religion also pervaded its tentacles in other parts of South India. It is observed that Jainism identified itself as independent Digambara and Swethambara sects by 2nd century A.D. following the arrival of Srutakevali Badrabahu Swami in south. Furthermore Swethambara prevailed more in north where as Digambaras in south India.

The conferences of Swethambara munis and protecting of Agamas were recorded first in North India. It is noteworthy to mention that there was only a single inscription of Brigeshaverma available citing the Swethambaras existence in South India. However many records of Digambara and Yapaniya sects are found and protected especially in Karnataka. Pushpadantha and Buthabali munis sought the preachings of the residual agamas emanated from Dharasenamuni who spent his last days in Chandra cave of Ujjanthagiri. Pushpadanthamuni arrived at Vanavasi with the intention of protecting agamas through writings. Later he devised the formula as a prelude to Shatkandagama. Buthabali the religious brethren of Pushpadantha completed the work of Shatkandagama. The historical evidence of criticisms or interpretations on Shatkandagama and its evolution stand as a testimony of the history of ancient Kannada literature in Karnataka but also is the morphos of the evolution of the format of Kannada literature. It can be inferred that undoubtedly Karnataka was a mainstay of Jainism from time immemorial.

1. Shravanabelagola Ondhu Samikshe: Ed. Dr.G.S.Shivarudrappa (Bangalore University Publication, 1983)
2. Karnataka Mattu Jaina Dharma: Hampa. Nagarajaiah (Directorate of Kannada and Culture, Bangalore, 1983) 3. Shravanabelagola Srigalavara Bashana Sangraha: Ed. A.Shantharaja Shastry (1932)

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