1. PRE-EMINENT POSITION
Just as the benevolent kings of various dynasties that ruled over different areas of Karnataka from the ancient times generously extended their royal patronage for the proper upkeep and adequate maintenance of the holy place of Sravana-Belagola, similarly their Chief Ministers and Military Generals also took personal and special interest not only in giving suffecient protection to Sravana-Belagola by incessantly making varied and rich contributions of an enduring nature. Among such note-worthy Chief Ministers and Military Generals of Karnataka, Chamunda-Raya of the Ganga Kingdom and Ganga-Raja and Hulla-Raja of the Hoyasala Empire stend out very prominently in the history of Sravana-Belagola and in the promotion of Jaina religion. The extremely pre-eminent position of these three great Ministers in the field of Jaina religious activities has been quite distinctly recorded in Inscription No. 345 dated 1160 A. D. at Sravana-Belagola in the following words :
“If it be asked who at the beginning were the firm promoters of the Jaina doctrine, -only Raya(i. e.,-Chamunda-Raya), the excellent minister of Rachamalla, after him, only Ganga-Raya, the excellent minister of King Visnu ; and after him again, only Hulla, the excellent minister of king Narasimha. If any other had such claim, why not name him?”.
This record clearly indicates that these three Generals and Ministers, viz.,
(i) Chamunda-Raya of Ganga King Rajamalla IV
(974-984 A. D.),
(ii) Ganga-Raja of Hoysala King Vishnuvardhana
(1108-1142 A. D.)
(iii) Hulla-Raja of Hoysala Monarch Narasimha I
(1142-1173 A. D.)
were mainly responsible for the promotion of Jaina religion. That is why Chamunda-Raja, Ganga-Raja and Hulla-Raja are described as the triumvirate of pre-eminent promoters of the Jaina faith.
Among these three benefactors of Jaina religion, however, the contributions of Chamunda-Raya are by far of the most outstanding, inspiring and lasting nature. By his rich personal accomplishments and varied achievements in different fields Chamunda-Raya has made a permanent mark and there is hardly any other personality of his stature and competence in the history of Karnataka. Chamunda-Raya has emerged into the light of history of Karnataka as a faithful minister, a loyal General, a profound scholar and a great patron of Jainism. That is why the famous historian of Karnataka Dr. B.A. Saletore refers to the pre-eminent position of Chamunda-Raya in the following terms. “The first great name in the constellation of brilliant Jaina Generals we meet with is that of Chamunda-Raya, popularly known as Raya. A braver soldier, a more devout Jaina, and a more honest man than Chamunda-Raya Karnataka had never seen.”
2. MILITARY VICTORIES
Even though Chamunda-Raya held such a pre-eminent position in Karnataka and had such a remarkable record of achievements in different fields to his credit, still it is unfortunate that they very little information about his personal life is available. The details about his native place, parents, place of birth, childhood, education, early career etc. are not known. Luckily in the Sanskrit work entitled ï¿½Bhujabali-Charitraï¿½ depicting the life-story of Bahubali or Gommata, there are some stray references about Chamunda-Raya’s life. It is known that Chamunda-Rays’s mother’s name was Kalala-Devi, his wife’s name was Ajita-Devi and his son’s name was Jina-Deva and that he had one younger sister by name Pullaua and one younger brother by name Nagavarma. Again, from this source and also from inscriptions it is learnt that Chamunda-Raya belonged to a Brahma-Kshatra family. It means that he was a Brahmin by birth and became a Kshatrya or warrior by profession. Since he excelled in his work and achievements he was termed as “Brahma-Kshatra-Kula-Mani”, i. e., the gem of Brahme-Kshatra family and as “Brahma-Kshatra-Kula-Mani”,i. e., the sun of Brahma-Kshatra family. By sheer dint of merit Chamunda-Raya rose to the position of the Military General and Chief Minister in the Ganga Kingdom and later on he was placed in charge of “Madhura” the southern region of the Ganga Kingdom. He spent most of his life at Talakad, the capital city of the Ganga Kingdom. As he enjoyed a long life he had the rare opportunity to serve as General and Minister to the three Ganga monarchs in succession, viz, Marasimha (961-974 A.D), Raja-malla IV (974-984 A.D.) and Rakkasa-Ganga. In his life he always held in high esteem his God “Jina”, his master ï¿½Ganga Monarchï¿½, his preceptor ï¿½ Acharya Nemichandraï¿½ and his mother ï¿½Kalala-Deviï¿½ and devoted his entire life and directed all his activities to secure their blessings and admiration.
As the Commander-in-Chief of his Kingdom Chamunda-Raya proved his merit and had many military victories to his credit. In recognition of his superb skill in warfare and his successes, various coveted titles, which were generally borne by the kings, were awarded to him. When the western Chalukya opposition led by prince Rajaditya posed a formidable danger to the safety of the Ganga Kingdom, Chamunda-Raya defeated Rajaditya by attacking the fortress of Ucchangi, where Rajaditya had shut himself. The stone inscription dated 974 A.D., found on the kuge Brahmadeva Pillar on the Vindhyagiri hill at Sravana-Belagola relates the siege of Ucchangi and states that the this storming of famous fortess by Chamund-Raya astonished the world. In this way the credit of annihilating the Western Chalukya danger to the very existence of the Ganga Kingdom goes to Chamunda-Raya and for the valour shown in this brave fight he received the title of ï¿½Ranaranga-Singhaï¿½ or ï¿½Rana-Raja-Simhaï¿½, i. e., ï¿½a great lion in battleï¿½, which was borne by the vanquished prince Rajaditya. This victory was won during the reign of Ganga king Rajamalla IV.
Like Western Chalukyas, the Nolambas also had posed a serious threat to the Ganga kingdom. In answer to this grave challenge Chamunda-Raya attacked the Nolambas and crushed their army in the fierce battle fought on the plain of Gonur. For the valour which Chamunda-Raya displayed it this war, he was given the title of ï¿½Viramartandaï¿½, i. e., ï¿½the sun among the braveï¿½, Inscription No. 281, dated about 983 A.D. at Sravana-Belagola gives the details of this war and relates how the Ganga king praised Chamunda-Raya for his victory against Nolamba king.
Other enemies of the Ganga Kingdom were likewise very formidable, but they too suffered the same fate at the hands of this indomitable Jaina General. In these various wars decisive victories were won by him and he was awarded aspecific title for his success in each war as follows :
(i) ï¿½Samara-Dhuraindharaï¿½, i. e., ï¿½the leaderï¿½, for inflicting a defeat on Vijjala-deva in the Khedaga war;
(ii) ï¿½Vairikula-Kaladandaï¿½, i. e., ï¿½the sceptre of death for the hosts of enemiesï¿½, for killing Tribhuvana Vira and others in the fort of Bagalur and enabling Govinda to enter it;
(iii) ï¿½Bhuja-Martandaï¿½, i.e., ï¿½the sun among the powerfull-armedï¿½, for defeating Raja Basa, Sivara, Kunaka, and other warriors in the fort of King Kama;
(iv) ï¿½Samara-Parasuramaï¿½, i.e., ï¿½Parasurama in battleï¿½, for slaying Muduracharya known as Chalandaka-Ganga and Gangara-Bhata who killed his younger brother Nagavarma;
(v) ï¿½Pratipaksh-Rakshasaï¿½ for his skill in destroying the enemies; and
(vi) ï¿½Bhata-mariï¿½ for destroying the fort of the warrior (i.e., bhata) Vira.
Apart from superb military leadership, Chamunda-Raya displayed his administrative capacity as a Minister also. During his period the Ganga kingdom registered steady progress in several nation-building and cultural activities. The prosperity of the people, construction of temples and installation of the colossal image of Gommatesvara at Sravana-Belagola give eloquent testimony to the peace time leadership of Minister Chamuma-Raya.