GLORY OF SRAVANA-BELAGOLA
1. MATERIAL PROSPERITY
Sravana ï¿½ Belagola occupaied a very promient position in the Cultural history of India in general and of South India in parti- Cular. Sravana-Belagola has been considerd by the Jainas all Over India as one of their most sacred spots in this country. But the significance of Sravana-Belagola was not confined only To its popularity as a sacred place of Jaina pigrimage It is Clear that along with religious imprtance Sravana-Belagola Had secular importance also as it was noted for itsmaterial,Wealthandprosperity. In fact, Sravana-Belagola was widely Known for its material affluence right from ancient times and its Far-flung reputation as a centre of material abundance has been Specifically stated in Inscription No. 1, engraved on the rock to the south of parsvanatha Basti on the Chikkapetta or Chandra- giri hill at Sravana-Belagola dated about 600 A.D. in the follo- wing terms :
ï¿½Now in deed, after the sun Mahavira who had risen to ele-vate the whole world had completely set, Bhadrabahu Svami of a lineage rendered illustrious by a succession of great men who came in regular descent from the venerable supreme ï¿½rishiï¿½ Gautame-Ganadharaï¿½ and other teachers who was acquainted with the true nature of the eitht-fold great omens and was a seer of the past, the present and the future, having learnt from omen and foretold in Ujjayani a calamity lasting for a period of twelve years, the entire ï¿½sanghaï¿½ (or community) set out from the North to the South and reached by degrees a country coun- ting many hundreds of villages and filled with happy people, wealth, gold,l grain, and herds of cows, buffaloes, goats and sheepï¿½.
In other words, when the celebrated Srutakevali Bhadrabahu selected theis southern centre of Sravana-Belagola for his ï¿½Sanghaï¿½(or community), he made if clear to the world that the Jainas were going to a region the was economically self- sufficient and prosperous. Sravana-Belagola had continuously maintained thiseconomic importance till recent times and then lost it, as many hundreds of centres have lost, because of the changed nature of the times and the onrush of the forces of the modern industrial world.
From close scrutiny of the epigraphs ranging from the twelfth to the sixteenth centuries A. D. it is evident that the commercial life of the people of Sravana-Belagola was marked by some special features. The most noticeable fo those was their intense devoutness and patriotism. It is a fact that in early and medieval times in the South, patriotism went hand in hand with religion. The merchants of Sravana-Belagola were no exception to this rule. For example, according to Inscriptions Nos. 241 and 242, dated about 1175 A. D., all the merchants of Sravana-Belagola had pledged themselves to pay annually for as long as the sun, moon and stars endure, certain specified contribution, to provide for flwoers for Gommata-deva and Parsvadeva. These merchants, it si stated, were ï¿½endowed with all good qualitiesï¿½ , and are asid in the two inscriptio9ns to have been ï¿½ of the holy place Belugula.ï¿½ It is interesting to observe in this connection that it was not only men who thus gave evidence of their devoutness, but women as well. One of these two epigraphs expressly relates as follows : ï¿½ To provide for flowersa for Gommatadeva, all the merchants of the holy place Balugula, including Gumi-Settiï¿½s Dasaiya, Lokeya-Sahaniï¿½s Dauthter Somavva and others, hav ing purchas- ed certain lands at Gangasamudra and Gommatapura from the assembly, made over the same to the garland-maker with a charter to the effect that he was to enjoy them for as long as the sun, moon and stars endureï¿½. In the like mannerï¿½ the merchants fo Mosale, probably a neighbouring place, also shared their devotion. For in the Inscription No. 236, dated about 185 A.D., it is clearly mentioned that the merchants of Mosale pledged themselves to give annually, as a perpetual gift, certain specified amounts for the eight kings of worship of the Tirthankaras, set up by Basavi Setti. The large-hearted Jaina merchant leader of Sravana-Belagola.
Further, it is interesting to note that, in the Inscription No. 235, dated about 1185 A.D., the above-named merchant Basavi-Setti has been called ï¿½Vadda-Vyavahariï¿½, i.e., the senior-most merchant, which obviously suggests that the merchants of Mosale had gradations of honour amonst them. This system fo gradation is also clear from the Inscription No. 397, which is assigned to about 1179 A.D., stating that the merchant by name Malli-Setti was the ï¿½Pattanasvamiï¿½, i.e., the Lord Mayor, of Gommatapura. Thus from these records it is evident that the Jainas of sravana-Belagola were organized in commer-cial guilds and that the merchants fo the holy place led a cor-porate life.
Ths merchants of this holy place were also famous for certain virtues. This fact has been specifically mentioned in the In-cription No. 335, dated 1195 A.D., as follows : ï¿½The merchants were born in the eminent line of Khandali and Mulabhondra, devoted to truth and purity, possessed of lionï¿½s valour, skilled in conducting various kinds of trade with many seaports, adorn-ed with the famous three jewels, the marchants residing at the holy place Belugula acquired celebrity on earth.ï¿½
From the same lengthy Inscription No. 335, dated 1195 A.D. we learn about another special feature of the commerciial life of the merchants of Sravana-Belagola. This is related to the very high place they occupied in the civic life of the people. The merchants of Sracvana-Belagola. This is related to the very high place they occupied in the civi life of the people. The merchants of Sravana-Belagola were in charge of the religious endowment of that city. The same record informs us that the merchants of that centre ï¿½were the protectors of the Janalayaï¿½, i.e., the famous Nagara-Jinalaya of Sravana-Belagola.
Even in later years the merchants of Sravana-Belagola were inj charge of the public charities of that centre. Thus in Inscription No. 244, dated about 1274 A.D., it is specifically mentioned that as per agreement the jewel merchants of Sravana-Belagola were to look after the charity which was mede by some one whose name is not mentioned in the epigraph. But we are informed that a perpetual endowment fo four ï¿½godyanasï¿½ was made as an act of reverence to the memory of Medhavi Setti of Barakanur, the lay disciple of Prabhachandra Bhattaraka, with the condition that three manasï¿½ fo milk should be supplied every day as long as the sun and the moon lasted. Similary, this king of arrangemen with the special responsibility ot the jewel merchants of Sravana-Belagola has been categorically stated in the Inscription No. 245, dated about 1274 A.D., as followsï¿½ : ï¿½Keti-Setti son of Soy-Setti of Halasur, paid 3 ï¿½gadyanasï¿½ to Gommatadeva. The milk should be supplied out of the interest on the sum by the jewel merchants for as long as the sun and moon last. Good fortune.ï¿½
The extreme care with which the merchants looked after the public charities entrusted to their charge is proved by the agreement mentioned in the Inscription No. 336, dated 1288 A.D., which state: ï¿½ All the jewel merchants of the holy place of Belugula and Jinanathapura, agreeing upon themselves, gave a deed as follows: ï¿½For the repairs (of the temple) of the god Adi of the Nagara Jinalaya temple vesssels, etc. and services all the merchants of those two cities granted , with pouring of water, to continue for as long as the sun, the moon, and the stars endure, ï¿½davanaï¿½ at the rate of one gadyanaï¿½ for every hundred ï¿½gadyansï¿½ of ï¿½ davanaï¿½ received from either local men or foreigners, for the god Adi.ï¿½ The concluding lines of this deed clearly prove the solidarity of the merchants, their intense patriotism, and their honesty of purpose. They state : ï¿½If any one denies or conceals (his income) in this matter, his rece shall be childless, he shall be a traitor to the god, a traitor to the king, and a traitor to the creed. The signature of all the merchants. Sri Gommata.ï¿½
The existence of jewel merchants and their guild for centuries at Sravana-Belagola bespeaks great wealth and influence in that centre. But wealth brought with it pleasure and enjoyment, and in this connection one more feature of Sravana-Belagola can be mentioned. It is with reference to the existence of dancing grils in that city. These were in no way behind other citizens in their piety and large-heartedness. An example of one such generous and devout dancing girl was that of Mangayi. The two Inscriptions Nos. 339 and 341, dated about 1325 A.D., relate that she was the disciple of Abhinava-Gharukirti-Panditacharya and that she was ï¿½a crest-jiwel of firm faith (in Jainism), and a crest-jewel of royal dancing girls.ï¿½ This devout dancing girl Mangayi caused a famous Chaityalaya, i.e., temple-named Tribhuvanachudamani to be built at Sravana-Belagola. For nearly two centuries this wonder-ful structure received public donations and charities.
1. SPIRITUAL UNIVERSITY
Sravana-Belagola was distinguished more as a spiritual centre than for its material abundance right from the time of Bhadrabahu in the third century B.C. Since the place was hallowed both by the sacred presence and by the ultimate death in accordance with the supreme rite of ï¿½Sallekhanaï¿½ of Srutakevali Bhadrabahu, the highest religious and spiritual authority of the time, and his disciple, Emperor Chandragupta Maurya, as a Jaina ascetic by namne Chandraguptu Muni, it became the first most important ï¿½tirtha-kshetraï¿½, i.e., the holy place and the place of pilgrimage, in South India as early as the third century B.C. Again, due to its calm, peaceful and picturesque natural surroundings the place was ideally suited for leading an ascetic life of contemplation and meditation and for carrying out educational activities fo learning, teaching and writing As a result Sravana-Belagola soon became a prominent centre of religious and educational activities under the able guidance of renowned saints and talented preceptors and it assumed the status of a virtual spiritual university. This supreme position in the important religious and educational activities was suc-cessfully maintained by Sravana-Blagola continuously for centuries during the ancient and medieval period, as it was closely associated with the very eminent and hightly learned Jaina ascetics, popularly known as ï¿½gurusï¿½.