Anterior to the introduction of Buddhism in to the Deccan by the missionary zeal of Asoka in the 3rd century B.C. the Jaina religion seemed to have found a convenient foothold in Karnataka for its growth. It is but natural, therefore, that when a rival claimant appeared in the field, the adherents of Jainism should strive hard to resist the new intruder philosopher of the digambara school, could produce in the beginning of the Christian era as many as 84 parudars and three monumental works of panchastikaya, samayasara and pravachanasara, which are technically called the natakaraya or prabritatraya, on the analogy of the vedantis prasthanatraya, the continuity of the digambara tradition must have been an unbroken record of eventful career. Unfortunately at present we have no definite evidence to know this. We should expect to unearth some remains of architectural or archeological nature either in Karnataka or in Tamil land, which are ascribable to the period between the 3rd and the 1st centuries B.C., just as we find references to the Jaina settlement in North India, (in Mathura) and Kalinga-desa (Udayagiri caves) in the 2nd century B.C. in the numerous Jaina inscriptions found there. In Karnataka and Western India, owing to the rise of the Satakarnis and Chutus who were Buddhists by persuasion, Jainism appeared to have received a set back during the first two centuries, but immediately after, we find the Gangas of Talakadu and Kadambas of Banavasi, patronizing this religion from the 4th to the 6th centuries A.D. The spread of Jainism was greatly promoted by Samantabhadra and later by Akalanka, who defeated the Buddhists in public disputation in the court of Himasitala of Kanchi, in the 8th or the 9th century in consequence of which they were banished to Ceylon. Royal support was also not wanting.
Jainism in South Kanara
Facts are not adequate enough to determine when Jainism first set its foot in the district of South Kanara. Inferences of the early dissemination of this faith could only be hypothetical. M. Govinda Pai is of the opinion that Jainism must have been prevalent at least from the 2nd century A.D. His surmise is based on the argument that for the spread of this faith from Sravanabelagola where it established itself in the 3rd century B.C. to the south Kanara dist. It may not have taken more than two or three centuries and hence by the 2nd century A.D. it must have had the first phase of its influence in this district. But this view is only conjectural.
There are reasonable grounds for us to surmise that by about the 10th century A.D. Jainism must have made its headway in south Kanara. It has already been proved that the contact between the Santaras of Pombuchcha who were staunch Jains and the Alupas was close from the 10th century A.D., which resulted in matrimonial alliances in the 11th century between the two dynasties. It is not unreasonable, therefore, it imagine that this faith started its missionary work from at least the 10th century A.D. if not earlier. Hattiyangadi near Basaruru of the Kundapur taluk had trading contacts with Purigere of the Dharwar district in about the 9th century A.D. Although it is far-fetched to conclude that this contact may have brought to this district one wave of Jaina missionaries, we cannot altogether eliminate the possibility of such influence.
Based on sound epigraphic evidence, Jainism must have definitely gained ground in South Kanara in the 12th century A.D. because two inscriptions of Nellikaru of the Karkala taluk, spread in no uncertain terms of the Jaina activities (Both of these are assignable to the 12th century A.D.) One epigraph records the installation of a pillar by Devachandradhara with the property of Kalyanakirti-deva, disciple of Lalitakirti-Bhattaraka. Another inscription of the same place states that the mandira of the chaitya was used to be built by Manjana Alias Bhupa. These two epigraphs may even prompt us to infer that at least some time earlier than these construction works were undertaken, Janis must have settled at Nellikaru. Therefore, we may even push the date of its influence back to the 10 or 11 century A.D. Sewel, in his List of antiquarian Remains, reports the existence of one inscription dated 1161 A.D. Keravase, Karkala, which simply mentions Kumara Raya. This epigraph gives room fro us to infer, from the later history of the Bhairarasa Odeyas of Karkala, that this prince might be a Jaina of the Santara stock of Pombuchcha and that Keravase was under the Jaina influence by about the 12th Century A.D. In the present state of our knowledge, the first ruler of Karkala to assume the Santara titles was Lokanathadevarasa (A.D.1334) who is referred to in an epigraph of Hiriyangadi of the town Karkala.
One of the biggest centers of Jainism in the whole of the district of south Kanara is Varanga of the Karkala taluk. The epigraphs that relate to this place are of 14th Century A.D. but they do not say anything of the construction of the bastis (Neminatha and Kere-bastis) nor give us any clue when the Jaina influence in this region came to be felt. The epigraphs speak of gifts and of renewal of grants made to the bastis. Therefore, approximately a century or two earlier, i.e. in the12th or 13th century, it must have set its foot here. But it is not unlikely that this religion had its hold even earlier in Varanga, for the Alupa ruler Pattigadeva who reigned in the last quarter of the 11the Century A.D. seemed to have issued grants at Varanga. The preamble to the Pattavali of the pontiff, Malkhed (Gulbarga district) contains the following Nija ghatika-sthana- Dilli Malaydri-Vijayanagara-Varanga-Patti Pombuchcha Chaturvidha siddha-simhasanadhisvara. This epigraph is dated A.D. 1393. And the importance of Varanga as a reputed seat of Jainism and its recognition elsewhere is clearly manifest and this may also speak of its antiquity. The Jaina images of the Kere –basti are of the fourteenth century A.D. But the recent discovery of the epigraph ascribable to circa 12th C.A.D. has strengthened the inference that this shrine was erected in the 12th century and that Jainism may have been a factor in the life of the people here much earlier.
With the accession of Hoysala Vishnuvardhana, the center of Jaina influence was virtually shifted to Mudabidure of the Karkala taluk. The defaced stone epigraph found in the Gauri temple at Prantya in Mudabidure, dated A.D.1215 contains the incomplete sentence – Bidireya Parsvadevaru bareyisi -. This, perhaps, is the earliest dated record in this locality and it proves beyond doubt that Jainism flourished in this place in the beginning of the 13th century A.D. and we may surmise that it must have settled here much earlier as proved earlier. A recently discovered epigraph from Setra-Basti, Mudabidure, in the Hoysala characters and assignable to the 12th C.A.D. introduced a new ruler in to the genealogy of the Alupas, Bammadevalvendra by name and his is stated to belong to the Soma-vamsa and is the vermillion of the Pandya lineage. It further states that one Uttama-setti passed away after performance of samadhi-vidhi. Perhaps, this is the earliest datable Jaina epigraph from Mudabidure. It is engraved as an epitaph on a stone slab with remarkably elegant Jaina reliefs. It may convincingly be supposed that at least a century earlier, Jainism may have spread in this urban center.
Another epigraph ascribable to circa 12th C.A.D. engraved on the pedestal of a charming seated bronze of Adinatha along with the other twenty-three Tirthankaras from Guru Basti records that one Gummata-deva who was the disciple of Vadirajadeva who, in turn, was the disciple of Sripala Traividya-deva, belonging to the Damila Sangha installed the image. Perhaps, this bronze is the second earliest inscribed bronze from South Kanara.
The third epigraph from Mudabidure discovered in the Setra-basti is more interesting from the standpoint of the history of Jainism in Tulunadu. It is engraved on the pedestal of the image of Vardhamana-svami an elegant Kalyani Chalukyan sculpture. It speaks of one Sivadasalva Pandya, who was the nephew of one Santi-setti, who in turn was the younger brother of Uttama-setti. This epigraph may be accepted as the earliest hitherto discovered, making mention of the role of the nephew, thereby suggesting the prevalence of the aliya-santana system amongst the Jainas. As a form of social system, if this were to exist in the 12th C.A.D, Jainism must have been rooted here a century or two earlier.
The Chaturvimsati Tirthankara images from the Tirthanakara-basti of Guru-basti bear on their pedestals beautiful inscriptions containing the names of the Tirthankaras and of those who were responsible for their installation. All these images are charming Hoysala sculptures.
Venuru is described in an inscription. As consisting of groups of beautiful Jaina temples and houses-Jainalaya-ramya-harmya chayadim. The poet of the epigraphs says, “Who has the tongue to sing the glory of Venurupura, where women are true to their lords and men are ever engaged in the study of Jaina Sastras and worshippers find recreating in giving gifts and performing Puja and where even children are enthusiastic in their adherence to dharma.” It looks as though all the 18 Jaina bastis of this place had been built by the time and construction of the Hosa-basti (Thibhuvana-tilaka-Chudamani) was undertaken in A.D.1429. One of the epigraphs refers to Mudabidure (Venupura) as the unique town of Tulu-desa (Tuludesakke visistha-amappa nagaram Sri venunamapuram)
A bronze from the Savanuru-basti (Bahubali) could help us infer that it is stylistically a Ganga bronze and that Jainism in this place may be traced to the 8th-9th C.A.D. The name Sadanur come across in the Bantra inscription of circa 8th-9th C.A.D. may be the ancient form of Savanuru, which is a Jaina name. There is an elegant Chola bronze of Santinatha at the Bangadi-basti. It may be assigned to circa 10th C.A.D. Coming to Venuru (Enuru) we have a rare Adinatha image carved out of hard granite, which can stylistically be ascribed to circa 10th C.A.D.
The monuments of Mudabidure are misleading externally. For, they make us believe that they belong to the Vijayanagara period only. Hitherto, no attempt had been made to examine the sculptures in these bastis. The sculptures of Mulasthana Tirthankaras in the Hire-basti, the Padu-basti, the Setra-basti and Leppada-basti undoubtedly go to the 9th –10th C.A.D. and therefore, it is almost indisputable that Jainism was prevalent in Mudabidure b then. The figure of Parsvanatha from the Guru-basti is a masterpiece of all Karnataka importance. It is 12’ in height and all of its features suggest that it is assignable to circa 9th C.A.D. if not to an earlier date. It may be true that this image was installed in the 8th C.A.D. as tradition makes us believe.
It is also difficult to date the origin of Jainism in Barakuru, the capital of Tulunadu and according to Dr. B.A.Saletore; it traveled to this place only when it had secured a firm footing in Nalluru, Keravase, Varanga and Mudabidure. But it cannot be said infallibly that earlier traces of Jainism in Barakuru are wanting. We have elsewhere suggested that the Santaras had a direct contact with South Kanara in the 10th century A.D. Dattalvendra Srimara who seemed to have reigned Barakuru b about A.D.1070 must have belonged to the Santara stock, who was undoubtedly Jainas. Again Bankiyalupendra who was the sovereign of Barakuru according to two inscriptions in the middle of the 11th century A.D., married Birabbgarasi, a Santara princess, and Bankiyaluva’s sister Mankabbarasi was given in marriage to Tailappa-deva, the Santara prince. Evidently, these instances may prove that the 10th or 11th century A.D. Since these Tholahas exercised their authority over parts of Udupi and Kundapur taluks, it is very likely that in the 12th century A.D. Jainism must have been fairly popular and widespread in these parts of the district.
The latest discovery of the earliest Jaina relic was recently made at Barakuru. This is a piece of Nishidhi stone found at Bhandarkeri matha, Barakuru. The lower portion seems to have been lost. The sculptural style of this remnant of architecture prompts us to compare it with the Western Chalukyan style, which it very closely resembles. In sober estimate, this piece may be assigned to circa 7th-8th C.A.D. And the architectural remains of Hiriya-basti, Barakuru further strengthens our inference that in this urban city, Jainism must have settled down by about the 7th or 8th C.A.D.
Two pontifical seats of Jainism were established in the district, namely, the Matha of Abhinava Charukirti-Panditacharya of Mudabidure and of Lalitakirti-Bhattaraka of Karkala. The exact date of their establishment is not known. The Hiriyangadi inscription of Karkala, dated A.D.1334 states that Mahamandalesvara Lokanatha-devarasa was the disciple of Charukirti Panditadeva and the Hosa-basti epigraph of Mudabidure of the same taluk, dated A.D. 1429 informs us that Tribhuvana-tilaka-Chudamani, the Jaina-Chaityalaya was constructed in accordance with wishes of Abhinava Charukirti – panditadeva. The latter was the pontiff of the Matha of Mudabidure and we can roughly conclude that sometime between A.D.1334 and A.D. 1429, this Matha must have been set up. It is possible to surmise that by about A.D.1388 the Matha of Sri Charukirti may have been established in Mudabidure, for it was in that year that the Alupa ruler Pandya-Chakravarthi is stated to have been set up. It is possible to surmise that by about A.D.1388 the matha of Sri Charukirti may have been established in Mudabidure, for it was in that year that the Alupa ruler Pandya-Chakravarthi is stated to have had his capital at Mudabidure and he styled himself as the worshipper of Srimat Charukirti. The importance of this pontificate is evidenced in a copper plate inscription of Mudabidure, dated A.D.1504 which refers to him as the high pontiff of the 72 religious Samsthanas of the Jainas. At Karkala an independent matha was found sometime in the 16th century. Sri Lokanatha Sastri writes that the Lalitakirthi matha at Karkala was founded in A.D.1405 according to a copper plate inscription of Bhairavadeva-raya. The reason for this is stated to be born out of the political rivalry between the Chautas of Mudabidure (Puttige) and Bhairarasa-Odeyas of Karkala.
Thus Mudabidure, Karkala, Keravase, Varanga, Enuru, Barakuru and Hattiyangadi were the reputed centers of the Jaina faith during the period under study, although the importance of the last two has dwindled almost completely today.
The following were the various monastic orders of the Jaina church mentioned in the inscriptions of the South Kanara district.
- Mula-Sangha Kundanvaya and Kranurgana – the epigraph of Varanga contains a eulogy of the Jaina preceptors Maladhari-deva Madhavachandra, Prabhachandra and Nemichandra of the above order. The record announces a gift of land earlier made to a person called Varanga by Kundana.
- Kalorgana – (This must be the corrupt form of Kranurgana) Srimat Kirti-Bhattaraka, who is described as the fore-most of the Kalorgana, is mentioned along with the Sravakas (lay worshippers) of the quarter called Manigara-keri in Barakuru, making a monumental structure of remains and the gift of a grant for merit (A.D. 1392)
- Balatkara-gana – An inscription of Keravase, Karkala records a gift of land at Marne by the chief Vira-Bhairava at the instance of Vasantakirti Raula of Balatkara-gana for offerings to the image of Parsvanatha and for feeding rishis in the basti at Barakuru built by the king (A.D. 1409) Kunda-Kundanvaya Sri Balatkara-gana-vrajanya – Chandrakirti-deva.
- Desigana – Kunda-kundanvaya Panasokavalisvara Srimat Maladhari Lalitakirti-Bhattaraka-deva –The record speaks of a gift of charity to Neminatha-svami of Gururaya-basti, Karkala, in honour of the chief Sri Pandya deva-Odeya, who was the disciple of the above preceptor in A.D.1427.
- Mula-sangha, Kanurgana Sri Kaumudachandra Bhattaraka, disciple of Sri Bhanukirti-deva-construction of basti to Santinatha-deva by the disciples (guddugalu) of the above preceptor (A.D. 1334)
- Desigana- Nishidhi erected in Mudabidure
- Desigana Parasaravalisvarah (A.D. 1545)
- Nandi-sangha, Balatkara-gana and Sarasvata-gachcha-Ratnappa-odeya the governor of Tulu rajya made a donation to Neminatha temple at Varanga at the request of Devakirti-Bhattaraka of the above named order (A.D. 1515)
- Sena-gana – Sri Vardhamana-avva, one of the donors for Sastra-dana.
- Samantabhadra-deva of the sena-gana.
- Dramila-sangha – engraved on the Chaturvimsati-Thirthankara bronze in Guru Basti Gummata-deva, disciple of Vadiraja-deva, disciple of Sripala Traividya-deva of Dramila-sangha. The Jainas in the district were said to belong to balis, which were the sub-divisions of Gachchas. Nowhere else is such a perfect system of grouping by balis found.
Distribution of Bastis in Tulunadu:-
There seem to be 180 bastis spread all over Tulunadu. Amongst them, Mudabidure has 18, Karkala 18, Bantvala 3, Haduvalli 9, Gerusoppe 4, Enuru 8 and Mulki and Hosangadi 8, which have been the most prominent. Out of these bastis those of Nerebandihole, Mogaru, Siradi, Enigallu, Kannarapadi, Panja, Chakkangai, Bandadi, Mobaru, Nandavara, Uchila, Ullala, Kalatturu and five bastis of Hosangadi are in complete ruins. The wide distribution of the Jaina temples through the length and breadth of Tulunadu from Gerusoppe in the North Kanara district to Kasargod (Now in Kerala) is an ample proof of the popularity and influence of this faith in Tuluva.