Monday 24 December 2012

A devout Jain who was a military genius, poet and builder

Chavundaraya is synonymous with the construction of the Gomateshwara in Shravanabelogala. A Jain, he is also known as one of the ministers of the Western Ganga Emperors who ruled over large tracts of south Karnataka.
The Ganga Emperors had Talakad as their capital and they were very faithful vassals of the Rashtrakutas and they fought many wars for the Rashtrakutas. They even took on the Cholas on behalf of the Rashkrakutas.
Chavundraya also known as Chamundaraya (940–989) was also a renowned military commander of the times and he had been given the title Samara Parushurama and Ranaranga Singa . He was a veteran of many wars and his knowledge of military tactics was exceptional.
He played a vital role in the battles fought with Rajaditya, Vajjaladeva, Govinda and the battles of Bageyurakote, Ucchangi and Gonarabayalu which are all  well documented in inscriptitions and literary works
A Brahmin by birth, Chavundaraya himself says he converted to Kshatriya caste. A 10th century inscription in Algodu village in Mysore district and an inscription in Arani in Mandya district sheds light on the genealogy of Chavundaraya.
The inscriptions says that Chavundaya was the son of  Govindamaiah.
It is believed that Chavundaraya owed his scholarship and interest in literature to his initial upbringing as a Brahmin. He was also a patron of art, architecture, literature. But not many know that Chavundaraya was himself a poet of repute and the second oldest works on verse in Kannada language was written by him. He was also adept in Sanskrit in which he has written some works
An ardent devotee of the Jain ascetics, Nemichandra and Ajitasena Bhattaraka, this powerful minister of the Gangas commissioned the Gomata statue in 982.
Chavundaraya exerted immense influence during the rule of the Ganga Emperors, Narasimha, the second, Rachamalla the fourth and Rachamalla the fifth.  
It is really a mystery how this multi-talented personality found time to pen down some of the well-known works of his age.
His Chavundaraya Purana, also known as Trishasthi Lakshana Purana, is a Kannada work which was written in 978. It is very probable that the “Charitrasara” in Sanskrit was written during the same time or a little later.
The Kannada work is important as it is the second work in verse in the language.
Chavundaraya Purana is a summary of the Sanskrit works, Adipurana and Uttarapurana, written by Jinasena and Gunabhadra during the rule of Rashtrakuta Emperor Amoghavarsha.
The prose is written in simple and lucid Kannada and it does not have any reference to complicated Jain philosophy.
It narrates the legends of twenty-four Jain Thirthankaras, twelve Chakravartis, nine Balabhadras, nine Narayanas and nine Pratinarayanas – narrations on sixty-three Jain proponents in all
Apart from being a writer, Chavundaraya personally patronised  the two famous Kannada grammarians Gunavarma and Nagavarma, the first.
Kannada language and literature owes an indelible debt to Chavundaraya for having patronized the poet Ranna whose  Parusharama Charitre is an eulogy of  Chavundaraya.
Charitrasara  is a scholarly treatise  on the subject of the practices of ascetics. He has also written a commentary on Nemichandra’s Gommatasara. If Gommatasara is in Prakit, Chavundaraya’s commentary called Vira Martandai is in Kannada. Unfortunately this book is supposedly lost.
However, we have references to this work by another commentator, Kesava Varni, who is the author of  Kesavavarniya Vritthi.
Chavundaraya’s contribution is acknowledged in an inscription in the Tyagada Brahmadeva pillar in Shravanabelogala where is called a gem in the jewel of Lakshmi and a moon.
He also personally helped out Ranna when the latter came to Talkad from his home in north Karnataka.   
A devout Jain, Chavundaya practiced Jain religion with full dedication. He lived his life according to the Jain tenets. He and his family members- mother Kalala Devi, wife Ajita Devi,  son Jina Deva, younger sister Pullava and younger brother Naga Varma were all strict Jains and they lived the life of austere Jains.
Well, the story of Chavundaraya and the statue of Gomata is too long to write here. Suffice it to say that it is a shining example of his work as a builder.
Chavundaraya thus comes across as an all-rounder. He was a warrior, patron of arts and literature, poet and writer, Minister and adviser, a devout Jain and above all a fine human being. 

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