Jainism in Karnataka
(This article was published in esamskriti.com in June, 2010))
Jainism has been a small, but one of the most influential religious tradition in India. It has been a major cultural, philosophical, social, and political force since dawn of civilization in India. Jainism is often referred to as Jain Dharma or Shraman Dharma or the religion of Nirgantha by ancient texts. It is one of the oldest Shramana traditions, that is Ascetic tradition still surviving in India. Today, with 4 million population (2001 census), Jains are spread throughout India. They are present prominently in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. Karnataka, Madya Pradesh and Bundelkhand have considerable population of Jains.
In the Rig -Veda there are clear references to Rishabhdev, the 1st Tirthankar, and to Aristanemi, the 22nd Tirthankar. The Yajur-veda also mentions the names of three Tirthankars, viz. Rishabhdev, Ajitanath and Aristanemi. Rishabha has also been mentioned in Bhagavata-Puran (1). Parshvanatha, the twenty-third Tirthankar, is the earliest Jain leader who can be reliably dated. According to scholars, he probably lived in the 9th Century BC. This pervasive influence of Jain culture and philosophy in ancient Bihar may have given rise to Buddhism. It has been said that, when Siddharta Gautama, left his home, he went into forest for penance, and he moved above naked and he plucked his own hairs and lived like Jaina Niggantha(2).
The beginning of Jainism in Karnataka has been a matter of speculation. Legend has it that Mahavira visited Karnataka and initiated King Jivandhara of Hemanagada country of the Kuntala (Karnataka) region and this probably accounts for the early beginnings of Jainism in Karnataka.
The advent of Jainism in Karnataka is assigned to 4th century BC by a well-known Jaina tradition. It states that, Badrabhahu, of the line of pontiffs started by Mahavira and his royal disciple Chandragupta Maurya, migrated to South along with many followers due to famine in north and settled in Shravana-Belagola and breath their last in Chandragiri, by Sallekhana(Death by Fasting).
Chandragupta Basadi at Shravana-Belagola though a latter day structure, bears its connections with the tradition. But, unfortunately no epigraphic or literary evidence is available to corroborate this Bhadrabahu-Chandragupta tradition. The first mention of this tradition is found in Shravana-Belagola epigraph of 7th century. “Brhatkhosha” of Harisena of 931 AD also mentions of this tradition. Narasimhachar, who has examined the sources in detail, believes that, this tradition has some basis to stand. (3)
Historically, Jainism received huge patronage at hands of Karnataka Kings, royal families, merchants and even common men. Large number of monuments present throughout the state is the visible examples of Jain influence. A large number of epigraphical references also exist mentioning about patronage and grants received from Kings and Queens to Jain faith. Apart from this, contribution of Jains for Kannada literature too is immense.
Political position of Jainism under Karnataka Kings:
Beginning from time of Kadambas of Banavasi, until Vijayanagara period, Jainism received generous grants from Kannada monarchs.
Kadambas of Banavasi (345-525CE): The earliest grant from Kadambas comes from the time of Mrigesavarman(his fourth regnal year)(4). The copper plate mentions the grant of an entire village for the benefits of Jain Gods (Bhagavat, Arhat and Mahajinendra). He also gave thirty-three Nivartanas of land (in modern Halsi in Belguam) to Yapaniyas (Jainas) (5). The same copper plate also states that, Jaina ascetics must be fed during rainy seasons. Kadambas have to their credit of inaugurating the tradition of grants to Jainas.
The Gangas of Talkad (350-1000 CE): Tradition connects origin of Gangas to a Jaina teacher Simhanandi. Shripurusha gave Devanahalli grant to Jinalaya and Narasimharajapura grant to a Jaina Caityalaya.(6) Prithvipati Ist’s Billur grant records the gift of twelve villages on the banks of Lakshmanathirtha to Satyavakya Jinaalaya at Pannekadanga.(7)
There are many inscriptions showing huge grants made by Rachamalla IV, and his minister Chavundaraaya.
Chalukyas of Badami(6th century): In spite of being staunch Hindus, they extended patronage to Jainas. The existence pf a Jaina cave by side of Vaishnava cave at Badami, is the best example of tolerance of Chalukyas. During the period of Kirthivarma II, Kaliyamma built a Jinalaya at Annigeri. (8) Sendraka Durgasakti donated lands to Sankha-Jinalaya at Puligere(9). Vijayaditya gave away village Seribaluru near Laksmeshwar.
The Rashtrakutas(8th century) and Chalukyas of Kalyana(12th century):
Altekar characterizes the age of Rashtrakutas as the most flourishing period in history of Jainism in Deccan. Amoghavarsha I was more a Jaina than a Hindu (10). Many of officers of Rashtrakutas were Jainas. The Rattas of Saundatti were staunch supporters of Jainism. Altekar estimates that at least one third of total populations of Deccan during this period were Jainas(11).
Chalukyas of Kalyana patronized all religions. Taila, the founder of Chalukya dynasty was patron of great poet Ranna(who was a Jaina). Satyashraya has a Jaina teacher as Rajguru. Attimabbe constructed many basadis. King gave golden Kalasha to one such basadi at Lokkigundi (12). Shantinatha, a minister of Someshwara II built Mallikamoda Shantinatha basadi at Baligrama (13)
The Hoysalas(10th-14th century): Hoysalas are traditionally connected with Jainism since origin. Sala, himself was a Jain. Ereyanga is said to have made many grants at Belagola. Vinayaditya II built large number of Jaina shrines. According to Belur inscription, Vishnuvardhana received prasadam of God Vijaya Parshwa from Jinalaya and made provision for performance of ceromonies of Vijaya Parshwa and 24 Thirthankaras. His wife Shantaladevi is described as jewel of Jainism (14). Many of his generals including Mariyane Dandanayaka, Punisa and Boppa were all Jains. These disprove the allegation that Vishnuvardhana after his conversion to Vaishnavism ignored Jainas. Narasimha I though a Vaishnavite made grants to Sravanabelagola. Ballala II built Nagara Jinalaya at Dorasamudra. Patronage to Jainism continued in the days of Narasimha and Ramanatha.
Vijayanagara Period (1336-1646 CE): With establishment of Vijayanagara kingdom, emphasis was more on Hinduism and Jainism received great setback. Yet, Jainas received some grants. Harihara II patronized Jaina ministers. He also constructed Kuntha Jinaalaya at Vijayanagara (15). Shravanabelagola inscription of 1442 mentions grants for Gommateshwara.
These shows that Jainas enjoyed patronage from Kings and were a dominant political force in Karnataka.
Jainism and Veerashaivism:
A cursory look into the philosophies of Jainas and Veerashaivas (their scriptures, Agamas,mythology etc) shows the commona concepts like Avidya, Acharanga, Karmikamala, Dyana, Paapa-Punya, Doctrines of Karma etc. Veerashaivas use Lingam as external symbol and Jainas wear Upasakasutra as external symbol.
For example, Jinasenacharya declares in Mahapurana- “Ahimsa Paramo Dharmaha, Ahimsa Lakshanam Dharmam”(Ahimsa is highest Dharma, and Ahimsa is indicative of Dharma). Similarly, Basava says in one of his vachanas “Dayavillada Dharmadavudidayya”(No Dharma without Compassion).
Vattakeracharya recommends Himsaviratti(Non-violence), Brahmacharya(celibacy), Amrashavada(good speech), Asteya(non-stealing) in his book Mulachara.
Similarly, Veerashaiva vachanas say “Kala Beda, Kolabeda, Husiya Nudiya beda”(Don’t steal, Don’t kill, Don’t lie).
Further, Jaina concepts of Samyagdharshana, Jnana and Chariya are the Samayagdharshanas of Veerashaivas also. The Veerashaiva Pancha Acharas viz., Shivachara, Gaachara etc agree with Jaina Pancha acharas viz., Darshanachara, Jnanachara etc (16). These illustrate the commonality between different indigenous philosophical streams.
Kannada literature is often classified into Jaina, Vaishnava and Veerashaiva literatures recognizing the prominence of these three faiths in giving form to, and fostering, classical expression of the language (17). Starting with the Kavirajamarga (c. 850), and until the middle of the 12th century, literature in Kannada was almost exclusively composed by the Jains, who found eager patrons in the Chalukya, Ganga, Rashtrakuta and Hoysala kings (18). Jainas dominated Kannada literature till 12th century.
The earliest existing prose piece in old Kannada is a Jain text Vaddaradhane (“Worship of Elders”, 9th century) by Shivakotiacharya(19).Jain writers Adikavi Pampa, Sri Ponna and Ranna, collectively called the “three gems of Kannada literature”, Pampa wrote “Adi Purana” in 941 AD, which narrates the life history of Rishabdev, the first Thirthankar of Jainism. Ponna wrote “Shantipurana”, a biography of the 16th Jain Tirthankar Shantinatha. Ranna’s poetic writings reached their zenith with “Sahasa Bhima Vijaya”.
These clearly show the strong influence of Jainas in Kannada literature.
Jain contribution to Architecture is immense. The monolith statue of 60 feet, the famous Gomateshwara statue, in Shravanabelagola is the living example of Jain contribution to architecture and scupture. Shravanabelagola, Chandragiri, Indragiri, Moodabidiri, Karkala, Dharmasthala, Venur, Gerosoppa, Hadolli, Bilgi, Lakkundi, are some of the important centers of Jain monuments in Karnataka.
The earliest references to Jaina monuments are found in Halasi and Devagiri inscriptions of Kadamba period. According to Gudnapur inscription Kadamba King Ravivarma built a temple, kamajinalaya for Manmatha. Ganga minister and commander Chamundaraya in honour of Lord Bahubali built it. Badami Chalukyas built a cave temple dedicated to Adinatha Thirthankara. Another Jaina cave is in Aihole. Structural temples built by them include-Meguti Jinalaya at Aihole and the jinalaya built by Kumkuma Mahadevi at Lakshmesvar.
The Jaina monuments of the Rashtrakutas period are found at Pattadakal, Malkhed, Lakshmeshwar, Koppal and Bankura, of North Karnataka. The Neminatha basadi at Malkhed, the capital of the Rashtrakutas belongs to ninth century A. D. Jaina temple at Naregal is the biggest Rashtrakuta temple in Karnataka. It was built during the period of Krishna III, by Padmabbarasi, the queen of Ganga Permadi Bhutayya in 950 A.D. Similarly many Jinalayas were built by Kalyani Chalukyas too including Brahma Jinalaya at Lakkundi and Sankha Jinalya at Lakshmeshwar. Chaturmukha basadi, Neminatha basadi, Vardhamana basadi and two Parsvanatha basadis located at Gerusoppa are important jain monuments built During Vijayanagara period.
These show, the enormous contribution of Jainas in every aspect of life of Karnataka people.
1-The Bhāgavata says: “In the womb of Merudevi, wife of Nabhi, Rishaba had his eighth avatara. He showed himself in a form that is to be worshipped by all Shramanas.”
2-Majjima Nikaya: Maha Siha Nada Sutta, mentioned in “Buddha and Mahavira: A Philosophical Perspective” by Dr.T.G. Kalghatgi
3-Epigraphia Carnatica, Sacred Books.
4-Indian Antiquary, Vol. 7, mentioned in Karnaraka Kings and Jainism, Dr. A.V.Narasumha Murthy
6-Ibid, Vol. 2, mentioned in Karnaraka Kings and Jainism, Dr. A.V.Narasumha Murthy
7-Epigraphia Carnatica, Vol. 1
8-Epigraphia Indica, Vol.32
9-Karnaraka Kings and Jainism, Dr. A.V.Narasumha Murthy
12-South Indian Inscriptions, Vol.11
13-Shikripur 136, mentioned in Karnaraka Kings and Jainism, Dr. A.V.Narasumha Murthy
15-South Indian Inscriptions, Vol. 9
16-Jainism and Veerashaivism, Dr.G.Marulasiddaiah