Varanasi of the jains

Moodabidri, sometimes described as the Varanasi of the jains, has 18 Jain basadis, although jains themselves are a minority population in Dakshina Kannada district. This place consists mainly of followers of the Digambar sect; the most famous among them is the 1000 pillared Chandranatha Basadi popularly known as "Savirakambha Basadi".

The uniqueness is that no two pillars are identical. The devotees under the directions of the local ruler at that time - Devaraja Wodeyar of Nagamangala, built this in 1430 A.D. Figures of giraffes and Chinese dragons have been carved on sections of the Temple indicating the trade with Africa and China by the Jain Merchants of the time. The Temple is also called Hosa Basadi since the relief of the Temple always appears as "Hosa" which means new.

This has a powerful presence in the center of the Moodabidri. Three mandapas lead to the main sanctuary. These mandapas have a series of sloping tiered roofs, adapted to the heavy monsoon rainfall of the region. The main entrance, which faces east, opens into a superb monolithic pillar (mana-stambha) in front of the main doorway. The temple has a valuable collection of metal, jewel carved images of Jain tirthankars.

The columns in Moodabidri are extraordinary typical of the Chalukyan architecture. The 2 meter high panchaloha (5 metal) image of Chandranatha stands out among images. Once a year a grand Jain festival is celebrated where in thousands of Jains take part with a lot of fervor. The Jain monastery near the main temple entrance has a library with some beautiful 12th and 13th century palm leaf manuscripts. Booklets on Moodabidri are available in English, Hindi and Kannada. The 17th century Chowta Place, which is still occupied by descendants of the royal family, is also worth visiting for its beautifully carved wooden pillars, ceilings and screen.

History facts

Temple and Statue of Bahubali - Gomateshwara (The Calm Stone), Karkala: Bahubali or the “ one with strong shoulders” was a local prince who fought his brother Bharata and won the kingdom. Having done so, he gave it all up for meditation and prayer. This went on for 12 long years and even the surrounding creepers had grown around him. In his honour, the ruler at that time Veerapandya Bhairava Raja built this temple and statue.

It was completed on 13.02.1432. The statue is 42 feet 12.6 meters in height and was engraved from a single stone at the foot of the hill on which the temple stands. It was carried up the crest by a forty-wheeled vehicle. In 1907, 212 steps (182 are continuous) were cut into the rock face of the hill leading up to the Temple.

A stone pillar, Brahma Stambha, and holy stone or Kshetrapalaka stand in front of the Temple as protectors. Two steps cut into this holy stone commemorate a Jain Muni or holy man who died during the building stage. A festival in Bahubali’s honour is held every 12 years and it is the Maha Masthakaabhisheka.

Karkala Temple

In the shadowy depths of the interiors of southern Karnataka, is a little town called Karkala. The Jain temple in Karkala stands witness to a different age dating back a thousand years. The lavish architecture within its simple stone framework, flowing stone sculptures, and rich carvings bear testimony to probably the combined work of talented sculptors, carvers, temple designers, architects long dead. Karkala is primarily home to a Jain stupa and a gigantic statue of the Jain god Gandharva, situated high on top of a hill with a stone staircase cut into the rock face of the rising hill. Surrounded by hills and a lagoon is the charming Karkala temple.

Temple towns are usually filled with mendicants, pilgrims, chanting pundits and the entire clamor that accompanies Indian pilgrimages, but Karkala is marked by its silence. There is a lot to see and study at Karkala. The Jains built this temple on top of a hill in AD 1000 to erect a memorial and place of worship to their god, the Gandharva. The statue of the Gandharva is worth seeing as it is marvelously carved out of a granite rock that rises 300 feet. At the foot or the entrance to the Jain temple is a special set of footprints embedded in a rock that is preserved in a little shrine dedicated to the Gandharva. These footprints are unique because they are the actual impressions of the holy saint, dating back a thousand years or more. It is amazing how even after so many years the footprints still remain as they were. Worshipped by devotees who visit the temple annually, the footprints are believed to be a cosmic mystery as it is still unknown how the footprints made such an impression on solid stone and still remain the same even after over a thousand years.

The gigantic rock statue of the Gandharva remains a rarity and is one of the three such statues in the whole of India. But the little place remains unmentioned and unknown to many. However, its environs are charming, the people friendly, and the place a delight to visit. The rich architecture, the florid Hoysala type carvings and the unique construction and architectural design of the staircases and porticos mark the temples of Karkala.

South Indian temple architecture

The basic structure of temples in India is a room or the Garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum) where the idol of the main deity is kept. The temple is approached by a flight of steps and is often built on a platform. A porch covers the entrance to the temples, which is supported by carved pillars. A prominent roof called the shikhara surmounts the top of the Garbhagriha, and dominates the surroundings. As time went by, small temples grew into temple complexes. However the temples of the Hindus and the Jains have many similarities and dissimilarities in their making and outlook.

Temple architecture in India is broadly divided into the northern and southern styles. Temple architecture has been classified according to the form and shape of the shikhara and the distinctiveness of its decoration. The shikharas of the temples in south India tend to be made up of distinct horizontal levels that diminish to form a rough pyramid. Each level is decorated with miniature temple rooftops. Some south Indian temples, like the Minakshi temple, also have tall shikharas over elaborate gateways or gopurams, to add to the overall symmetry of the temple complex. The shikharas of the temples in north and central India, in contrast, resemble an upturned cone that is decorated with miniature conical shikharas. Some temples developed their own local flavor, while following the basic regional style.

The Jain temple at Karkala, although located in the southern part of India, does not have the lavish shikharas and gopurams like most South Indian Hindu temples. It is completely Dravidian and simple in character and has a flat roof. Influences of Buddhist architecture can also be detected in this temple. The Jain temples are similar to their Hindu counterparts in many ways (basic structure, pillared galleries, carved pillars, etc), but the lavish and minute carvings and the use of marble?as Jains associate white with purity?set them apart from their Hindu counterparts. The Jain temples in the Southern part of India do not generally use marble but make use of granite, which lends strength to the structure but is extremely hard to work on. Other important aspects of the south Indian Jain temples, which set them apart from their northern counterparts, are their simplicity and huge monolithic sculptures of their deities.