Sunday, August 30, 2009

Chandragiri abode of Chandragupta Maurya

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The inspiration of Aristotle ( 384 – 322 BC ) combined with the valour of Alexander the great ( 356 – 323 BC ) firmly entrenched the Macedonian empire. In the sub-continent under the tutelage of Chanakya ( 350 – 283 BC ) the Mauryan empire was born with Chandragupta Maurya ( 340 – 298 BC ) as the emperor by vanquishing the Nanda empire. In 325 BC it is speculated that Chandragupta Maurya closely observed the Macedonian Army of Alexander in Taxila. The young Chandragupta was ambitious and with fire in his belly to overthrow the Nanda tyrant. After reasonably mastering the technique of Macedonian warfare which had superior edge over the Indian rulers. He approached Alexander the great to invade Magadh and defeat the tyrant king. But Alexander refused to trudge another 1000 km to reach Magadh. Alexander smelt the rebellion in his ranks and had to return because of mutiny in his forces which was feeling homesick.

After the demise of Alexander in 323 BC Chandragupta overturned the garrison stationed at Taxila. He influenced some greek soldiers to join the ranks of his army on promise of huge rewards. The army trained on the lines of Macedonian warfare with field cavalry lead by elephant and horses. The cavalry was fortified with long spears. Chankya joined the ranks as the chief advisor to Chandragupta Maurya. He revealed the Achilles heel of Nanda army. Thus the deadly combination of valour and wisdom defeated the Nanda king and vanquished him in the battle.

Chandragupta Maurya consolidated his empire by overthrowing and subjugating lessor known kings and his empire spread far and wide upto Bangladesh in the East and Taxila in the west. The successor of Alexander in 305 BC Seleucus Nicator wanted to re-capture Taxila. Chandragupta was now well versed with Macedonian strategy of warfare, he unleashed terror into the enemy camp with a superior technique.

The influence of Chankya’s of political diplomacy came in handy to sign treaty with the Seleucus Nicator. He gifted him 500 elephants which would be useful in fighting his own battle in the West. In return Chandragupta Maurya extracted a heavy price of huge territory upto Afghanistan including Pakistan and Balochistan. He was additionally rewarded with marriage alliance. Seleucus Nicator married his daughter with Chandragupta to firmly entrench his alliance. In addition to the treaty he dispatched his ambassador Magasthenese to Chandragupta’s court. Chandragupta gained further friendship milege with Seleucus by dispatching aphrodisiacs to please his consorts.

Chankya laid a firm foundation for the rulers of the Mauryan empire with his treatise Arthasasthra, which was created for Kings to follow for successful reign. This classic political treatise was largely secretive and documentation was restricted. The Arthasashtra was later refined into 150 chapters classified into 15 books. The broadbased sections relate to National security and foreign policy, administration of justice and crime prevention, policies regarding revenue generation, accounting and economic development.

Megasthanes describes the routine of Chandragupta. The king woke up before the sunrise and worshipped. His routine after bathing and breakfast was to attend to his durbar and court to dispense justice to his subjects. He received reports from his spies and sent dictates and directions to his subjects. In the noon he inspected his troops and examined battle fitness of his men. Than in the evening he went for hunting to keep himself battle ready. He maintained a diary of his activities and decision for posterity. One of the greatest legacy of Chandragupta was to ensure that his army was well fed and taken care. The treasury looked after all the needs of his army. Soldiers were not burdened with any thought and they were battle ready with short notice.

Chandragupta was guarded in his approach. He never slept in the same bed twice, and partook food or drinks which was tested for poison by his aide. Maybe this was prompted with untimely demise of Alexander the great at young age of 32. Chankya ensured that Chandragupta devised new techniques to overpower his enemies and avoid traps laid to vanquish him. He impressed his subjects with grandeur and opulence. He used to travel in procession during occasion. He used to ride elephant decked with gold and silver mantaps. He was decked with fine silk robe with gold embroidery. Such was the grandeur of Chandragupta’s reign that his subject felt, here was an emperor who mastered the fine art of aristocracy and feudalism.

One day he happened to meet his future guru Bhadrabahu ( 433 – 357 BC ) who became a spiritual guru. Chandragupta Maurya was inspired by Bhadrabahu to convert himself to Jainism and relinquish the worldly commitments. The guru through his nimitt gyan could forsee the advent of a decade filled with famine in the near future in Magadh empire. He alongwith his followers decided to relocate to Chandragiri which was surrounded by multiple lakes. In 298 BC Chandragupta abdicated his throne in favour of his son Bindusra and relocated to Shravanbelgola.

Chandragupta lived a life of a hermit and worshipped his guru Bhadrabahu. His routine was to recite the slokas, and lead a spiritual life day in day out for a period of 7 years. He followed a routine of climbing the hillock daily and praying and attending discourse of his guru. Bhadrabahu is considered to last expert of 14 Purvas of Jainism. Under his tutlege Chandragupta Maurya attained salvation though Sallekhana. Sallekhana is a jain religious ritual of voluntary death by fasting.

Location : Chandragiri Hillock was natural hideout for people seeking spiritual deliverance. The small hillock was easily surmountable with steps carved on the granite sloped hillock. The steps are so designed that even during rain it provides a superb foothold while ascending and with railings laid out it is more safe. One has to deviate after chennarayapatna towards Sravanabelagola from NH 47 highway proceeding towards Mangalore from Bangalore.


Chandragiri is branded as Chikkabetta by the villagers from ancient times. It has also been variously known as Katavapra( black hill ), Tirthagiri ( signifying teerthankaras ) or Rishigiri ( hillock of saints ). Chikkabetta terminology stuck because of the bigger Vindyagiri hillock on which the mammoth statue of Gommateswara is located. This hillock has been subject to patronage from various dynasties starting with Gangas, Hoysalas, Vijaynagar, and Wodeyars. The hillock is situated 3052 feet above the sea level with a tomb of the jain muni Bhadrabahu.

Rain harvesting with Ponds on the hillock, roughly chiseled steps to ascend with railings provided, many inscriptions on the rock surface, trekking routes to the top for viewing the sunrise and landscape around. This point is also known as the Chandragupta gyaanstal.

There are 14 basadis in Chandragiri and surroundings :

Shantinata Basadi : This Basadi houses the image of Shantinatha which 4 meters in height. The basadi is embedded with four pillars in Vijaynagar style. The identity of the builder is unknown but it can be reasonably assumed some jain patrons during the Vijaynagar empire could have constructed the same.

Suprashwanatha :

Parsavanatha Basadi : The basadi houses 14 feet 6 inches statue of the Teertankara Parsavanatha, which is erected on the Lotus pedestal. The main image with a serpent hood is hewn from a single block of schist. The statues sculpted are of mythological importance. The hall is constructed in honour of the saint Mallisena in 1129 AD, and the chief architect is the Hoysala famed Gangachari. The basadi also elougises the achievement of the poet Mallinatha. This kamata parsavanatha temple is probably associated with Dhanakirtideva according to inscriptions available on the premises.

Manasthamba : An impressive 65 feet tall Manasthamba is installed in the verandah of Parsavanath Basadi. This imposing pillar is the tallest in Karnataka with sculptures of Lakshmi, and other goddesses embedded on it. The pedestal is three layered platform acting as foundation for the huge structure. The pillar was erected by Jain traders in 17th century during the reign Chikkadevaraja Wodeyar.

Kattale Basadi : The name is derieved because of the darkness prevalent in the complex. There seems to be a deliberate attempt to keep the Basti dark in lieu of the harsh sun rays. The ventilation is kept to the barest minimum. This has an internal circambulation unlike other basadis An image of the first thirtankara Adinatha is found in the sanctum. In lieu of the linkage to other basadi such as Parsvanatha and Chandragupta the hall is darkened. .

Chandragupta Basadi : This basadi is dedicated to the emperor Chandragupta Maurya, with a south facing enterance. This basadi is one of the smallest and almost innocuous looking which is attached to Kattale Basadi. Around 12th century a doorway along with sculptures of Chandragupta and his guru Bhadrabahu was added in recognition of their contribution to the huge complex.

Chavundraya Basadi : The architect and patron of Lord Gommateswara statue on the Vindyagiri began the construction of this interesting Basadi. It is acknowledged that his son completed the basadi. This magnificent structure represents the Ganga style of architecture combined with Dravidian architectural features. The out walls of the basadi is plain but inner walls have been sculpted. We find the finest creation of artistic excellence with dexterity. Rows of swans, lions, fishes etc adorn the façade. A large section of the walls are embedded with Thirtankaras, Yakas, Gandharvas, Elephants, and other relief. The architectural style is repeated on the tower. The sanctum contains the statue of Neminatha sculpted by the famous Hoysala artist Gangachari. A narrow stair case is located at the south east corner, which needs to be skillfully tackled to ascend to upper storey, which is not for the weak hearted. A statue of thirtanakara is installed in the upper sanctum. It is here the secret is uncovered that this basadi is constructed by the son of Chavundraya, in dedication of the effort of his father.

Shasana Basadi This Basadi was constructed in 1118 AD by Gangaraja, who has dedicated the same to his wife Lakshmimati. The Kattale Basadi was dedicated to his mother Pokiabbe. The image of teerthanakar Adinatha is seated in the sanctum, in a typical yogic posture. The king Vishnuvardhan granted revenues from Parama for its maintainence.

Chandraprabha Basadi :

Savathi Gandhavarna Basadi : This basadi was commissioned by Shantala, queen of Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana. The term is derieved from the epitaph of queen Shantala,who was one of the most charming and elegant one amongst the many co-wives. This basadi was constructed in 1123 AD. It contains the statue of Shantinatha who is considered to be 16th thirtankara. The tower of this basadi has been renovated to prevent crumbling of the structure. There seems to be some amount of vandalism considering Hoysalas heritage of adorning the temples with elaborate sculpture.

Mahanavami Mantapa : This 15 feet long Mahanavami Mantapa is located in front of the Bharat statue and beside Shantinatha Basadi. It was probably constructed for the royalty to be seated to witness the celeberations during Mahanavami.

Majjigana Basadi : It is strange name to adopt. Maybe it represents the common man concept of simple living. Majjigana literally means yoghurt rice. The exterior façade is embedded with flowery designs.

Eradukatte Basadi : The basadi has double staircase to enterence. Probably the name is derived from peculiar format.

Bharatha’s unfinished Statue ; This unfinished statue of Bharat is embedded into the ground. His phallus is covered by an ordinary stone. The statue is preserved instead of being discarded maybe in lieu of the damage or crack caused to the thigh portion.

Iruve Bramha temple : This small temple or mantap is located opposite the Bharat statue.  The name signifies Ant hill.

Bhadrabahu Cave : The last guru of undivided Jainism is honoured with a dedicated cave. It is located outside the Basadi complex. There is a footprint of the saint which is worshipped by one and all. An inscription is visible and is covered by glass panel just outside the cave.

Chandragupta Meditation spot : This spot is located on the hillock which can be trekked easily. It forms the highest point in the chandragiri hillock. The view of the shravanabelagola hillock is beautiful. The magnificient viewpoint of the entire Basadi complex can be viewed in a bird eye fashion. A good view point for heritage lovers to click.

The number of basadis constructed at Chandragiri and its surrounding indicates the patronage of all the rulers of ancient time. It also indicates the eagerness of the kings to contribute to fame of the place. Maybe it served as pilgrimage centre for the high and mighty. The availability of water with huge ponds may be an added attraction for ensuring the construction activity.

In and around Shravanbelagola :

Jinanathpura Basadi : This Basadi is built in Hoysala style by king Vishnuvardhana’s commander Gangaraja. It houses a fine white marbled statue of Parsavanatha. This statue was installed in replacement by Bhujabalayya in 1889 AD. There are number of bronze metal statues of the 24th Teertanakaras.

Mangayi Basadi : In 1335 AD, this basadi was built by Mangavi who was a disciple of Panditadeva. In the entrance there are two beautiful elephants carved with elegance. The temple is built on the Hoysala format. In all 3 images are present inside the complex Lord Mahaveer, Shantinatha and Parsavanath.

Akkana Basadi : This basadi was constructed in 1181 by Acchiakka who was the wife of minister Chandramouli of Hoysala king Ballal II. The sculpture on the tower is beautifully preserved. One can see the teethanakara meditating surrounded by dwarpalikas and elephant one side and cow on the other side.

Siddantha Basadi : This basadi was once a library filled with texts of Siddantha. It appears to have been constructed during the 10th century of the Ganga reign. An inscription in Marwadi language points out to the patronage of businessmen. All the literary texts moved to Moodabidri.

Overall a trip to this heritage destination is an eye opener. The local Jain mutt has accommodation for the devotees, but one can be refused accommodation by the caretakers for reasons best known to them. There one small private lodging Raghu which is just suffice for emergency purpose, otherwise one can drive towards Hassan for a range of lodging options.


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Rajesh said...

Very beautifully compiled.

brp said...

good. It is written so well that i want to pack my bags now.


cannons ready to fire

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