Oct 16, 2009

The Gang Dynasty of Talkad: Karnataka History

The Ganga period witnessed the popularity of Jainism and Vedicreligion. Scholars like Lewis Rice, S. R. Sharma or M. V. KrishnaRao, believed that the Ganga rulers were Jains, and that a JainaAcharya, Simhanadi, was instrumental in founding the Kingdom. Dr. S.Srikanta Sastri was of the opinion that Durvinita was a Vaishnava.Inscriptions speak of the Kalamukhas, Pasupatas and Lokayatas whoflourished in Gangavadi. However, from the time of Shivamara II, theGanga rulers appear to have embraced Jainism. Perhaps his contactswith the Jaina saints and Philosophers like Toranacharya andPushpanandi must have contributed to this change in faith.

In fact, the Ganga period witnessed the activities of several Jainasaints and scholars like Pujyapada, Jinasena, Ajitasena, Akalanka orNemichandrasiddanta. Many Jaina basadis were built at Manne,Sravanabelagola and Kambadahalli. The great minister Chavundaraya wasa champion of Jainism and the Gomata monolith at Sravanabelagola is astanding testimony to his religious fervour. However, whether thefollowers of Vedic religion or of Jainism, the Ganga monarchs alwaysremained tolerant in their religious attitude.

Education was imparted in the Agraharas, Brahmapuris, Ghatikas and inMathas. Vedas, Vedangas, the Dharmasastras, the Smritis and thePuranas were taught as part of religious studies. Among the secularsubjects, mention may be made of the six systems of Philosophy,Itihasas, Vyakarana, poetry, medicine, astrology, music, archery andso on. Vocational education was promoted through craft guilds.

The Ganga period was one of brisk literary activity, in Sanskrit,Prakrit and Kannada. Many Kings of this period were Scholars andwriters of repute. Madhava II wrote Dattaka Sutra, a treatise onerotics. Durvinita, whose literary prowess is mentioned in theKavirajamarga, was a great author. He translated Gunadya's Vaddakathainto Sanskrit, wrote a commentary on the 15th sarga of Bharavi'sKiratarjuniya and wrote Sabdavatara, a Sanskrit work on grammar.Sripurusha wrote Gajasastra, a treatise on elephants. Shivamara IIwas the author of Gajashtaka, a Kannada work on elephant management,and Sethubandha in Prakrit.

A number of Scholars of great reputation flourished in the Gangaperiod. The redoubtable Bharavi is believed to have visited the Courtof Durvinita. Pujyapada was the author of Sarvathasiddi and JinendraVyakarana. Hemasena or Vidya Dhananjaya was patronized by Butuga IIand he wrote Raghavpandaviya. His pupil Vidhibhasimha was the authorof Gadyachintamani and Kshatrachudamani. Chavundaraya, the famousGanga minister, was the author of Chavundarayapurana. He is alsobelieved to have patronized Ranna during his early days and also theKannada grammarian Gunavarma. Nagavarma, the author of Chandombhudhi,is said to have been patronized by Rakkasaganga. In short, the Gangasoffered a very fertile ground for literary cultivation, and itcertainly yielded a wholesome harvest.

The Gangas made significant contribution to Karnataka heritage in therealm of art and architecture. Scholars think that there was aconsiderable impact of the Pallava as well as the early Chalukyanstyle on the Ganga constructions. It is also pointed out that theGanga architecture is predominantly Jaina. A number of monuments havesurvived to mirror the Ganga tradition of architecture. TheKapileswara temple at Manne, the Hanumantesvara temple at Bannur, theRameswara temple at Narasamangala are some of the monuments of theearly Ganga period. The Bhoganandi shrine at Nandi is a beautifulshrine with lovely sculptures and an exquisite tower. Talkad, theGanga capital has a few temples like the Maralesvara temple, theArakesvara temple, the Patalesvara temple or the Mahalingesvaratemple. In the Tamil country too a few Ganga structures have beenidentified, like the Koranganatha temple at Srinivasanallur andMahimalesvara temple at Erode. Among other Ganga temples ofimportance, mention may be made of the Mahalingesvara temple atVaruna, the Kallesvara temple at Aralaguppe, the Yoga Narasimhatemple at Dadiga and Dadigesvara temple at Kodihalli.

The Jaina monuments are mostly centered around the two hillocksnamely Vindhyagiri and Chandragiri in Sravanabelagola. Of these, theChandraprabha basadi belongs to the period of Shivamara II, and is abeautiful structure with a Garbhagriha, a Sukhanasi, a Navaranga anda porch. The Iruve-Brahmadeva temple is a small shrine which belongsto the 9th century A. D. the Chavundaraya basadi (10th century) isone of the largest structures in the area, and is dedicated toNeminatha. Its Vimana has two more storeys, in addition to the lowerstorey, which is long. The Panchakuta basadi at Kambadahalli isanother fine monument of this period. Rajamalla I constructed a caveJaina temple at Vallimalai in Chittore district.

The erection of free-standing pillars constitutes an interestingfeature of the Ganga art. These Jaina pillars are of two typesnamely, Manasthambas and Brahmasthambhas or Brahmadeva pillars.Manasthambhas, also known as Indrasthamba pillars are those whichhave a pavilion at the top, which contains the Jaina figures facingfour different directions. In the Brahmasthambha, the Jaina figure issubstituted by a seated figure of Brahma at the top. The hugeBrahmadeva pillar at Chandragiri in Sravanabelagola and the TyagadaBrahmadeva pillar at Vindhyagiri of the same place are the twoexamples of the free-standing pillars of this period. Dr. VincentSmith extols their beauty when he says, " In the whole range ofIndian art, there is nothing perhaps equal to the pillars for goodtaste".

The Ganga temples and basadis provide ample evidences to the growingmaturity of their sculptural art. Even their inscriptions offerexcellent sculptural pieces. The Atkur inscription depicts a scene offight between a hound and a boar; the Doddahundi inscription depictsthe scene of Nitimarga's death, and it has all the elements ofdignity and pathos befitting the occasion.

The crowning achievement of the Ganga sculptural art is the statue ofGomatesvara at Vindhyagiri in Sravanabelagola. It is 57 feet high,hardly 10 foot less than the statue of Sphinx of Egypt. It was carvedout of the mighty granite outcrop, at orders of the Ganga ministerChavundaraya, and the work was completed in 984 A. D. Entirely nude,this Indian colossus stands erect, facing the north, with squareface, curly locks, elongated ear-lobes, broad shoulders and a smallwaist. The half-closed eyes indicate the saint's meditative mood,while his lips exuding a gentle smile seems to tell us how transientthe affairs of the world are.
Gomata stands with an expression wonderfully calm, serene anddivinely radiant, silently preaching to the sinning world the basicnecessities of detachment, patience and love to attain happiness inthis world and beyond. Venkoba Rao has described it as a crowningachievement of Indian art, and the noblest creation of man in praiseof God. As Percy Brown has pointed out, through the surge and stressof over a thousand years, this solemn and impassive figure has defiedelements, and the high finish of its workmanship still remains.Surely Blake had visions of such a monumental image when he wrote,

" …… Reared his mighty stature; on Earth stood his feet.His naked limbs glittering upon the dark blue sky where the Eaglescry and the Vultures laugh".

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