Top Ten Articles on Jainism

By Kunal Bhatia

Lying to the north-east of Mangalore, in Dakshina Kannada district of Karnataka, Moodabidri derives its name from two words: moodu meaning east and bidru meaning bamboo, a reference to the abundant bamboo trees that once grew here. Jainism flourished in this region from the 14th – 16th century CE, because of patronage from the local rulers. In fact, Moodabidri is often referred to as the Jain Kashi of south India, a testimony to its 18 Jain basadis (temples).
The most prominent of the basadis is the Tribhuvana Tilaka Chudamani basadi, the largest, the most ornate and the most visited. Built with the support of the local ruler - Devaraja Woodeyar of Nagamangala, Jain monks, the wealthy Jain merchant class and the common people, this temple-complex resembles a mini-fortification. On stepping in, one is confronted by a 15-metre high monolithic stone pillar, called the manastambha, topped by a square canopy.

While most Jain temples are associated with marble, this 1430 temple is built of local granite. In front of the sanctum sanctorum, there are three mandapas (gathering halls), adorned with numerous pillars. The sheer number of stone pillars and the fact that no two are identical has earned the temple the title of ‘the 1000-pillared Temple’. While we didn’t count the actual number of pillars, we did pray before the beautiful 2-metre high 5-metal sculpture of Chandranatha, in the midst of melodious chants by devotees. An air of tranquillity prevails in the serene surroundings, except on major festivals.

On the upper level are other smaller shrines, including one that holds dozens of idols of Jain tirthankars, a spell binding sight. Non-Jains may not be permitted upstairs, look out for the signboard.

The actual surprise however presents itself on walking along the periphery of the main temple. Above the main sanctum rises a double-volume with slanting walls made of wooden slats. And its’ all painted red, giving it a far-eastern look, very different from any other Jain temple! This architectural feature makes one wonder about the cultural-exchanges that must have taken place during those times. And sure enough, a closer look reveals figures of dragons and giraffes in the midst of yakshas and yakshis; indicating strong trade-ties between the Jain merchants of South India and China and Africa.

Other Attractions
Chowta Palace is the 17th century palace of the then ruling Jain family. Though much of it has been overtaken by vegetation, it’s still worth a visit for its wooden screens and carvings. Of the six original houses, only two have survived today: of which one is falling apart, and the other houses the descendants of the royal family!

Guru Basadi and Ammanavara Basadi are the other famous Jain basadis in Moodabidri. Guru Basadi is said to be the oldest one, and houses rare 12th century Jain palm-leaf manuscripts known as ‘Dhvala’ texts. On the outskirts of the town are the ancient Gowri and Kantharva temples. Along Naravi Road, one can visit Konaje Kallu, a large granite monolith, the twin peaks of which were referred to as Ass’s ears by early British sailors. The spot also offers some short hiking and bird watching possibilities.

Fact File
Getting there Moodabidri is a comfortable 40km (90 mins) journey from Mangalore city. Private buses leave Mangalore’s State Bank Bus Stand every 15 minutes. The road journey is a pleasant one, over many winding hills and through green coconut and banana plantations. The nearest railway station as well as airport is in Mangalore city.
Best time to visit is winter, from November to February

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