Inscriptional evidences on the development of Jainism in Karnataka
Author(s): Ms. Lavanya.V. Eswar
Abstract: Jainism came to South India before Buddhism, and first came to the region of Karnataka before spreading to Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. K.A. Nilakanta Sastri writes in his book, A History of South India: “Jainism had more influence than Buddhism on the life of the people, particularly in Karnataka and in the Tamil country owing to the striking contributions made by Jaina authors to the literature of Kannada and Tamil”. This could be because Jainism had more in common with Hinduism than Buddhism. Several rituals and beliefs were common to Hindu and Jaina systems. This paper intends to bring out the various inscriptional evidences which special reference to inscriptions of Çravaëa Beÿgoÿa that throw light on the development of Jainism in Karnataka. Jainism in Karnataka goes as back as Vardhamäna Mahävéra. Tradition has it that Mahavira visited Karnataka and initiated King Jévandhara of Hemanagada country of the Kuntala (Karnataka) region, and this probably accounts for the early origin of Jainism in Karnataka, generally assigned to the fourth century BC by Jaina tradition. This is known from the Jévandhara Carite of Bhäskara (15th century C.E). A very strong (Digambara) tradition is found in the story of Äcärya Bhadrabähu coming to Çravaëa Beÿgoÿa in the company of Candragupta Maurya1. According to this tradition, the disciples of Bhadrabähu propagated the religion all over Karnataka and other 95 parts of South India. Only as late as the 6th and 7th century C.E, inscriptional evidence is found to support this belief, wherein the name of the king is given as Prabhäcandra. This is the inscription (Çravaëa Beÿgoÿa (ÇB) I) found on the rock, at Çravaëa Beÿgoÿa in Mysore2 : ‘Bhadrabähu-svämin – a lineage rendered by a succession of great men …. set out from North to the South, and reached by degrees a country…. filled with happy people ….’ ‘Then separating himself from the saàgha, Äcärya Prabhacandra by name, …desiring to accomplish Samädhi, on this high-peaked mountain – Kaöavapra, bade farewell …..’ It is thus an undisputed fact that Jainism entered into Karnataka during the days of Emperor Candragupta Maurya when Bhadrabähu after predicting twelve years famine in the north India, led the migration of the Jaina Saàgha to the South. Thus the Jaina history in the South commences from the 3rd Century B.C. as according to all Jaina authors the death of Äcärya Bhadrabähu took place in 297 B.C. at Çravaëa Beÿgoÿa. But in this connection it is strongly asserted from further historical researches that this Bhadrabähu tradition is the starting point of a revival and not the commencement of the Jaina activities in south India. Bhadrabähu was in fact the rejuvenator of Jainism in south India. Båhat-kathäkoça of Hariçena (931 A.D.) also mentions this tradition3.