Jain World

Sub-Categories of Passions - The Sacred Sravana - Belagola





Apart form this intimate relationship between Sarvana-Belagola and the most reputed saints for centuries, the place was known for its treasure of manuscripts.  For example, the temple situated in the west of the enclosure of Akkana-basti in the village Sarvana-Belagola was turned as �Siddhanta-Basti�, because practically all the books bearing on the JainaSiddhanta�, i.e. philosophy were once secured in a dark room of this �Basti�. It was obvious that the learned Acharya like Nemichadra must have taken advantage of this great treasure of knowledge.  It is also likely that this treasure must have been useful to Nemichadra in his writing of high philosophical treatises like Gommatasara.  It is said that, at some remote period, Dhavala, Jaya-dhavala and other rare philosophical  works were carried away from Sarvana-Belagola to Mudabidri in the South Kanara District.  Any way, Sarvana-Belagola did contribute to the sacred work of the preservation of rare manuscripts for long period.  Thus the availability of rare manuscripts for study also increased the position of Sarvana-Belagola as a religious and educational center.

          In addition, the JainaMatha� at Sarvana-Belagola rendered great services in the filed of religious and educational activities.  This �Matha� along with similar Mathas at Mudabidri, Karkal, Humacha, Kolhapur, Nandani, Malakhed and several other places in India, was  established in the early medieval period and was revived by Chmuanda-Raya after the installation of colossal image of Bahubali on the Vindhyagiri hill of the village.  The head pontiff on his Matha Bhattarka, but he is popularly called �Panditarya� or �Panditacharya� or �Swamigalu�.  According to tradition this Bhattarka used to perform a number of duties of a religious nature.  In the filed of religion he not only directed and controlled and helped the undertaking and completion of various religious projects and activities.  He ably discharged his responsibility to provide religious education to students and others by various means like conducting Patha-salas, i.e., religious schools, maintaining Sastra-bhandras, i.e., religious scripture libraries, delivering Dharma-bhandras, i.e., religious scripture libraries, delivering Dharma-bhandras, i.e., religious discourses, publishing and distributing Dharmagranthas.  i.e., religions books, training persons in the performance of Dharma-vidhis, i.e., religious rituals, arranging Dharma-Sammelanas, i.e. religious conference, etc. Further, it was his main work to supervise and direct several religious like Murti-pratishthapana, i.e., installation of images in temples, and various Dharma-Samarambhas, i.e., religious ceremonies, Similarly, he used to officiate at all kinds of Pujas, i.e., worships, and especially at the great Vrata-Udyapana-Pujas, i.e., the special worship arranged at the completion of religious vows.  On the same lines, the Bhattarka always performed, personally or through others, important Dharma-Samskaras, i.e., religious sacraments, at the time of birth, marriage and death.  Moreover, the major concern of the Bhattaraka was to took after the Management of the Tirthakshetra, i.e., the holy place of Sravana-Belagola.  Furthermore, the Bhattaraka invariably devoted particular attention to encourage and help his followers in carrying out religious activities like construction of new temples, renovation of old temples, grant of donations, publication of books, provision of education, medicine and shelter to the  needy, organization of facilities and conveniences to the pilgrims, maintenance to proper relations with the government etc.  As these multifarious duties of a religious nature were carried out on  a large scale continuously for centuries by the religious authority like the Bhattaraka in the general interest of the followers of the religion, the significance of Sravana-Belagola as a strong-hold of  religious activities was constantly maintained. In fact, the Jaina Matha at Sravana-Belagola had always been a very prominent cerntre of Jaina religion and culture. Naturally, this institution of the Bhattaraka also helped a great deal in maintaining and enhancing the reputation of Sravana-Belagola as a spiritual university.

          Further, the extra-ordinary importance of Sravana-Belagola as a highly prominent spiritual centre is quite evident from the fact that all categories of persons like the rulers and the ruled, the rich and the poor, the learned and the illiterate, the �Sadhus and the Sadhvis�, i.e., the monks and the nuns, and the �Sravakas and the Sravikas�, i.e., the lay men and the lay women, considered it of immense value to lead a restrained life in accordance with the vows laid down in the scriptures and especiallly to voluntarily quit the life as per the religious rite of �Sallekhana� at the most sacred and hallowed place of Sravana-Belagola. Sallekhana is a specific way in which death is brought about strictly under certain specifc conditions, by the performance of a vow. Sallekhana is described by Acharya Samantabhadra in his authoritative work entitled Ratnaka-randa Sravakachara as follows : �When overtaken by a calamity, by famine, by ofld agae, or by an incurable disease, to get rid of the body for �dharma� is called �Sallekhana. One should by degrees give up solid food and take liquid food; then, giving up liquid food on should gradually contaent oneself with warm water; then, abandoing enven warm water, one should fast entirely, and thus, with mind intent on the �panchanamaskara�, i.e., five salutations, should by every effort quit the body�.

          There are ample evidence to show that many devout Jainas willingly submitted themselves to the inevitable death by the rite of Sallekhana at Sravana-belagola. There are ab out ninety epitaphs, that is inscriptions, which record the death of men and women, mostly monks and nuns, by the performance of �Sallekhana�. The epitaphs range in date from about 600 to 1809 A.D. Of these epitaphs about sixty-four commemorate the death of men, mostly monks, and sixteen mention the death of women, monstly nuns. In a few cases the period of the fast is mentioned : one month each in epitaphs Nos. 25, 143 and 167; twenty-one days in No. 33, and three-days in No. 59. About seventy-five percent fo these epitaphs belong to the seventh and eighth centuries A.D. Of these epitaphs many are important as they furnish some additional informoation. For example, Inscription No. 1 records the death of a Jaina guru named Prabhachandra of the mountain named Katavapra, i.e., Chandragiri hill and states that in course of time seven hundred �rshis� or ascetics similarly accomplished Samadhi, i.e., voluntary death. Again, the Inscription No. 11 Mentions the name of a king who was pressent at the time of his guru�s death by �Sallekhana� Among the monks whose death by �Sallekhana� is recorded in the early epitaphs may be mentioned : (1) Akshaya-kirti of Southern Madhura, who was bitten by a sanke; (Vide Inscription No. 27, dated about 700 A.D.); (2) Santisena-muni, who revived the Jaina faith when it had become weak after the time of sages Bhadrabahu and Chandragupta; (vide Finscription No. 31, dated about 650 A.D.); and (3) Chandradevacharya, renowned in the Nadi kingdom (vide Inscription No. 84, dated about 700 A.D.). Among the later eptaphs mention may be made af Inscription No. 127 which records the death in 1115 A.D. of a famous saint by name Meghachandra-traividyadeva of the Pustaka-gachchha, of the Desiyagana. Of the Mula-Sangh, and a disciple of Acharya Sakalendu. After giving a succession of gurus from Gautama-ganadhara to Meghachandra who is praised at length, the record closes with the statement that Prabhachandra, the chief disciple of Meghachandra, had the epitaph Gantga-Jaja (the great General and chief Minister of Hoyasala kingdom) and his wife Lakshmi-Devi. Again, Finscription No. 140 states that Prabhachandra, the disciple of Meghachandra, died in 1145 A.D. Here his lay disciple Santala-Devi, the chief queen of Vishnuvardhana, is mentioned and reference is made to the death of her mother, Machikabbe. Further, Inscription No. 254 gives information about the transmission of the sacred love and the formation of the �sanghas�, (i.e., the congregations of ascetics), its object being to record the death in 1398 A.D. of a guru named Fpadita. Similarly, Inscription No. 258 refers to the formation of �Sanghas� and record the death in 1432 A.D. of Sruta-muni and unlike other epitaphs also mentions the death by the rite of �Sallekhana� of four of his predecessors. We also learn that �Sruta-muni was suffering from an incurable disease, and his reflections on the evanescent nature of the world before death are givin in detail.

          Thus it is clear that, in order to end their life by the rite of �Sallekhana�, persons used to come to Sravana-Belagola from the north and from various plsces in the south. Obviously, it reveals the utmost significance attached by the people to Sravana-Belagola as a spiritual centre.

          Moreover, the records of the pilgrims also clearly reveal the tremendous spiritual importance that they attached to Sravana-Belagola. There are many inscriptions, numbering about 160, which record the visits of pilgrims from southern and northern India. These records may not be very important historically, but they have their own value in several other respects, one of them, for exmple, being their antiquity. They thus bear unequivocal  testimone to the sacredness and importance of the place even in early times, so that eminent jaina gurus, poets, artist, chiefs of the army, officers and other high personages in common with ordinary people deemed it a duty to visit the place, at least once in their life time, and to have their names permanently recorded on the holy spot.