SIGNIFICANCE OF SRAVANA
(iv) Between the hills of Vindhyagiri and Chandragiri there are two
beautiful tanks, viz., Kalyani Tank and Jakki-Katte Tank, which form part
of Sravana-Belagola village. The Kalyani Tank is a well-built tank near
the western side of the village and is the first structure to be seen as
one enters the village by only main road coming from the Taluka
Headquarters Chennarayapattana on the west. The Kalyani Tank is a
beautiful large pond, stepped on all sides and surrounded by a wall with
gates surrounded by towers. To the north of the pond is a large pillared
hall on one of the pillars of which is an inscription, No. 365 stating
that the pond was caused to be built by Chikka-Deva-Rajendra, the king of
Mysore, who ruled from 1672 to 1704 A. D. As the king died before the
completion of this renovation work, his mini-master by name Annayya
completed the entire work with the addition of towers, pillared hall, etc.
during the rule of Krishna-Raja-Wodeyar I (1713-1731 A. D. ) the
grand-son-of- Chikka-Deva-Raja. In this way, the Kayani pond which had
been in exstence for centuires and which was in a dilapidated condition
was renovated by the kings of Mysore during the early part of the
eighteenth century. The second tank, viz, Jakki-Katte, is a small tank to
the south of the village and near the Bhandari Basti, the largest temple
in the village.
(v) Chennannaï¿½s pond is small pond at some distance to the south of the
village. From Inscription No. 390 It is learnt that the period of the
construction of the pond was about 1673 A. D. The pond is named after the
philanthropist by name Chennanna who also built a grove, a ï¿½mondapaï¿½, i.
e., hall, and a temple named Chennanna-Basti on the larger, i. e.,
Thus the prominent hill with heavy boulders, the built-up tank with
pillared hall and towers, the natural ponds with clean water, the groves
of tall cocount trees, the old temple of various dimensions scattered over
the entire area, the elegant pillars with inscriptions, the large Matha
with its fine wallpaintings, the serene and enchanting surroundings, the
exquisite statues of different deities, and above all the most imposing
image of Gommateswara in a commanding position drawing the attention of
persons for miles around undoubtedly make the village. Sravana-Belagola
the most beautiful and highly attractive spot in the region. This is
testfied by the views of discriminating travellers who visited the spot
during the last so many centuries. In this connection the British
travellers. W.H. Workman and W.J. Workman, state in their book that ï¿½In
the whole beautiful State of Mysore it would be hard to find a spot, where
the historic and picturesque clasp hands so firmly as hereï¿½. [vide Through
Town and Jungle (London, 1904), p. 80]. This opinion of modern foreign
travellers was regarded certainly justified by the eminent historian, Dr.
B. A. Saletore, who had clearly stated that ï¿½The Jainas, much more than
the Hindus, had a rare conception of scenic beauty and a gift of selecting
delighful spots which were suited for religious meditation as well as for
furthering the cause of material existence. Sravana-Belagola was
essentially one such spot.ï¿½ (vide ï¿½Jaina Antiquaryï¿½, Vol. V, March 1940).
3. MEANINGFUL NAMES
The names given to the village and to the hills are very meaningful, and
they do convey the long, effective and continued association of the Jainas
with these places.
(i) Sravana Belagola :
The word Sravana-Belagola is formed by joining the two words. ï¿½Sravana and
Belagolaï¿½ together, and it means Belagola of the Sravanas. Again the word
ï¿½Sravanaï¿½ is derived from the Sanskrit word, ï¿½Sramanaï¿½ meaning a Jaina
ascetic. It is an established fact that the village Belagola was closely
associated with Sharamanas or Jaina ascetics since the stay of the great
sage Bhadrabahu with his 12,000 ascetic followers and of the Mauryan
Emperor Chandragupta at the hill near the village in the 3rd century B. C.
and that both Bhadrabahu and Chandragupta died on the hill according to
the Jaina rite of Sallekhana. In view of this sancitity attached to the
place, Emperor Asoka, the grand-son of Chandragupta Maurya, visited the
place to pay his respects to his departed grandfather and it is believed
that Asoka named the place as Sravana-Belagola to signify the intimate
relationship of Shramapas or Jaina ascetics with Belagola. Further, the
name Sravana-Belagola bestowed on the village Belagola also served to
distinguish it from two other Belagola villages in the same neighbourhood,
viz., ï¿½Hale-Belagolaï¿½, i. e., Old Belagola, and ï¿½Kodi Belagolaï¿½, i. e.,
Belagola by the side of water-channel.
Later on, with the installation of the image of the God (i. e. Jina) on
the hill, the term ï¿½Sravanaï¿½ assumed the meaning of Jina image and was
accordingly prefixed to the hills having Jina image on them. That is why
we find that the villages are named ï¿½Sravana-guttaï¿½ in the Mysore Taluka
and ï¿½Sravana-ppana-guttaï¿½ in the Malvalli Taluka of the Mysore District as
both the places are ï¿½guttaï¿½ i.e., small hills with Jina images on them. In
the same strain we find that even the place Sravana-Belagola was mentioned
in the inscritption No 352 of 1634 A. D. as Devara-Belagolaï¿½ that is,
Belagola of the God Jina.
The usual derivation of Belagola is from the two Kannada words ï¿½belï¿½
(meaning white) and ï¿½kolaï¿½ by euphony ï¿½golaï¿½ (meaning a pond) evidently in
allusion to the splendid pond in the middle of the village; and this
derivation derives support from the Sanskrit equivalents ï¿½Svela-Sarovaraï¿½,
ï¿½Dhavala-sarasï¿½ and ï¿½Dhavala-Sarovaraï¿½ (meaning white lake) used in the
inscription Nos 67 of 1129 A. D. and No. 258 of 1432 A. D. to denote the
place. That is why in some Jaina inscriptions the place is termed as ï¿½Sukla-tirthaï¿½,
i. e., ï¿½bright sacred placeï¿½.
Moreover, the name Velgola occurs in the inscription No. 31 of about 650
A. D., and Belagola in the inscription No 35 of about 800 A. D. , other
forms of the name occuring mostly in later inscriptions are Belagola,
Belugua and Belagola, which have given rise to another derivation of the
name Belagola from the herb white ï¿½gullaï¿½ (the egg plant, Solanum ferox)
in allusion to a tradition which says that a pious old women completely
annointed the colossal image with the milk she had brought in a
ï¿½gulla-kayiï¿½ or gulla fruit. The old woman was hence forward known as ï¿½Gulla-Kayajjiï¿½.
On learning this incident saint Ajitasena, the religious preceptor of
Chamunda Raya who installed the colossal image on the top of the
Vindhyagiri hill, remarked that ï¿½As the old woman who has brought milk in
a white ï¿½gulla-kayiï¿½ obtained celebrity by immersing the god in that milk,
it is appropriate that the village should be named Belagolaï¿½. Accordingly
Chamunda-Raya named the village Belagola and had also a stone image of old
woman Gullakayajji installed in the enclosure on the Vindhyagiri hill.
In addition, the village is also designated as ï¿½Gommatapuraï¿½, the city of
God Gommata, i. e., Bahubali, whose colossal image is the most important
spot in the village. In many inscriptions the word Gommatapura is
Further, in some modern inscriptions the epithet ï¿½Dakshina Kasiï¿½, i. e.,
Benaras of the South, is applied to the village Sravana-Belagola.
On the same lines the Jainas, especially from North India, frequently
refer to Sravana-Belagola as ï¿½Jaina-Badriï¿½, i. e., the Badri, or the most
holy place, of the Jainas. Furthermore, in modern Jaina literature the
village Sravana-Belagola is some times respectfully described as ï¿½Abhinava
Podanapuraï¿½, i. e., mordern Podanapura, the capital of Bahubali during his
career as a king.
(ii) Vindhyagiri :
Like Sravana-Belagola, the word Vindhyagiri also denotes a spiritual
meaning. The word Vindhyagiri is derived from the three words ï¿½Vimï¿½,
meaning soul, ï¿½Dhyaï¿½ meaning doing meditation, and ï¿½Giriï¿½ meaning hill.
Thus the word ï¿½Vindhyagiriï¿½ denotes ï¿½hill for the meditation of soulï¿½
Since many Jaina saints practised penance here in the form of meditation
or comtemplation, the word Vindhyagiri came to be associated with the
Further, Vindhyagiri is also sometimes designated as ï¿½Indragiriï¿½, i. e.,
the hill of God Indra. There is a beautiful statue of God Indra in the
pose of holding a pot for annointing Gommatesvara. This fine statue is
erected in the centre of the pillared hall facing the image of
Gommatesvara. It is felt that, due to this special statue of Indra, the
hill might have got the name of ï¿½Indragiriï¿½.
Moreover, Vindhyagiri is commonly termed in the local Kannada language as
ï¿½Dodda-bettaï¿½, i. e., the larger hill, distinguishing it from the other
smaller hill known as ï¿½Chikka-bettaï¿½.
(iii) Chandragiri :
The word ï¿½Chandragiriï¿½ i. e., the hill of Chandragupta, has a meaning of
historical nature in the sense that it signifies the most important events
in the life of Emperor Chandragupta Maurya-his arrival, his long stay for
12 years, his practice of penance as a Jaina ascetic and of his ultimate
death according to the Jaina rite of Sallekhana (Chandragupta Maurya,
founder of the Mauryan Dynasty, in the third century B.C)
In the old inscriptions Chandragiri is designated as ï¿½Katavapragiriï¿½ or
ï¿½Katavapraï¿½ in Sanskrit and as ï¿½Kalvappuï¿½ or ï¿½Kalbappuï¿½ in Kannada.
Further a portion of the hill Chandragiri, has been referred to as ï¿½Tirhagiriï¿½,
i. e., the sacred hill in the inscription No. 76 and as ï¿½Rishigiriï¿½, i.
e., the hill of the sages, in the inscription No. 84.
Moreover, Chandragiri is commonly termed in the local Kannada language as
ï¿½Chikka-bettaï¿½, i.e., the smaller hill, distinguishing it from the other
larger hill known as ï¿½Dodda-bettaï¿½.
Thus the words designating the village ï¿½Sravana-Belagolaï¿½ and its hills
ï¿½Vindhyagiriï¿½ and ï¿½Chandragiriï¿½ are very appropriate as they correctly
convey the spiritual significance and historical association of the Jainas
over several long centuries.