Jain World

Sub-Categories of Passions - The Sacred Sravana - Belagola





It is clear that the Chikka-Betta., i. e., the Chandragiri Hill is more important from the point of discovery of the inscriptions as practically half of the rich collection of inscriptions was found there. Further it is interesting to note that out of these 244 inscriptions on the Chandragiri Hill, a very large number of epigraphs was located especially in front of the Kattale-Basti and to the south of the Parsvanatha-Basti on the hill. Again, these inscriptions on the Chandragiri Hill have greater historical significance as they are more ancient compared to the inscriptions found at other places in the sacred complex of Sravana-Belagola.

Moreover, these inscriptions are more varied in nature in the sense that they are written in different languages and in various scripts. The inscriptions are in Prakrit, Sanskrit, Kannada, Tamil and Marathi languages and according to the characters in which the inscriptions are written we find that there are:

45 in Devanagari script,

17 in Mahajani script,

11 in Grantha and Tamil script,

1 in Vatteluttu script, and

426 in Kannada script,

As regads the period of these inscriptions we can note that they cover a very long range of nearly thirteen centuries as they pertain to the period from 600 A. D. to 1889 A. D. Even in this period many epigraphs belong to the period from the 7th to the 12th century A. D. and especially to the 7th and 8th centuries.

Futhermore, many of the inscriptions are of great historical importance as they supply various kinds of information useful to the historian, the archaeologist, the sociologist and the other scientists For example a good number of inscriptions refer to specific dynasties of kings such as the Ganga, the Rashrrakuta, the Chalukya, the Hoyasala and to the kings of Vijaynagar and Mysore. The epigraphs relating to the Hoyasala dynasty are fairly numerous. There are also a few records which refer to the Kadambas, the Nolambas, the Cholas, the Changalvas and the chiefs of Nidugal and Nuggehalli. Again in the early inscriptions we get references to various areas and places like Agare, Kottera, Velgola, Malanur, etc. They also mention frequently the names of Digambara Jaina saints belonging to Mula-Sangha, Sena-Sangha, Deva-Sangha and Nandi-Sangha. Similarly, they give information about religious practices and ceremonies. In general, the inscriptions are of great interest in several ways. A good number of them record the visits of kings, queens, ministers, generals, divines, scholars, poets and artists. Several of them are fine specimens of Kannada and Sanskrit compositions. Many furnish items of important information bearing on history and religion.

Apart from inscriptions, the literature and local tradition also serve as source of the history of Sravana-Belagola. Many poets and sanits of repute and authority have got inspiration from the sacred environment of Sravana-Belagola, especially from the colossal image of Bahubali. Their beautiful poetic compositions and learned religious treatises provide varied information about the place. Poets have composed verses on the beauty and gradeur of the image of Gommatesvara in many languages. The names of great Kannada poets like Ranna, Sujanottamsa, and Madhura and of great Jaina saints like Ajitasena, Acharya Nemichandra, etc., are closely associated with Sravana-Belagola. The great General and Minister Chamunda-Raya, who installed the superb image of Gommatesvara, was a patron of many poets. The writings of these poets and other authors do supply additional information of a reliable nature about Sravana-Belagola in different periods.

Like epigraphs and literary works, the antiquities also serve as significant source of history of Sravana-Belagola. The sacred complex of Sravana-Belagola has been very forrunate in having a large number of antiquities like statues, structures, paintings, etc. and that too in a comparatively good condition, as such relics are not found in other ancient and prominent Jaina sacred places in Karnataka, like Malakheda in Gulburga District and Koppal in the Raichur District. Many of these relics are works of art and as such they throw sufficient light on the architectural and sculptural glory of Sravana-Belagola.

Thus, with the help of numerous and reliable inscriptions, literary works and antiquities, the history of Sravana-Belagola can be traced continuously from the ancient times of saint Bhadrabahu and Emperor Chandragupta Maurya to the persent day.


It was held by many writers that the history of Jainism in South India starts when the famous saint, Bhadrabahu, the head of the Jaina ascetic order, with his 12000 followers and his disciple Emperor Chandragupta Maurya, migrated from North India, to Sravana-Belagola in South India, by the end of the third centruy B.C. with a view to protecting and preseving the religion in its pristine purity from the impending fear of the long protracted conditions of severe famine in North India. This view of correlating the advent of Jainism in South India with the migration of Bhadrabahu and Chandragupta to Sravana-Belagola in the third centuty B.C. was maintained in historical writings writings for a considerable time. But recent researches in South Indian history have discredited this view and have convincingly shown that Jainism must have been in existence in South India even before that Jainism must have been in existence in South India even before the arrival of Bhadrabahu and Chandragupta. The reasons put forward for this recent view may be briefly stated as follows:

(i) Before Bhadrabahu made up his mind to migrate towards the South with his royal disciple and a large body of monks, he must have been confident of the favourable nature of reception he was going to have in the land of his destination. This, therefore, indicates the earlier existence of the followers of the Jaina religion in the southern parts of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

(ii) In the Buddhist work �Mahavamsa� (translated by Wilhelm Geiger and published by Pali Text Society, London, 1912) it is stated that Jainism was prevalent in the island of Ceylon during the 4th century B.C. The most reasonable view regarding the immigration of the Jaina faith to the island of Ceylon would be to hold that it travelled all the way from North India by land route through South India. This suggests a date anterior to the 4th century B.C., for the advent of Jainism in South India.

(iii) Tamil Nadu appears to have come under the influence of Jainism earlier than the infiltration of the Vedic or Brahmanical faith from North India. This is suggested by the imprint of Jaina ideas and concepts noticeable in the early Tamil works like Kural and Tolkappiyam. The origin of another early Tamil works named Naladiyara is couched in Jaina associations. This work, as the tradition goes, is a composite writing of eight thousand Jaina monks departing from the Pandyan kingdom against the wishes of its ruler who was attached to their faith.