Worship of Lord Brahma, Part 84

BY: SUN STAFF - 4.5 2018

Shri Brahmadeva Temple in Tanaji Galli, Belgaum

A serial exploration of places of Lord Brahma's worship.

Lord Brahma in Belgaum, Shimoga and Megunda

As we near the end of our study of Jain sites in western Karnataka that are dedicated to Lord Brahma, we come to Belgaum, which is due south of our last stop in Nippani. Belgaum is situated inland, adjacent to the northern boundary of Goa. Previously known as Venugrama, or the "bamboo village", Belgaum is one of the oldest and most prominent sites in Karnataka's Western Ghats. Belgaum sits near the Sahyadri Mountain foothills and the Markandeya River flows through the area, where some 1,278 villages are established.

Built in the 12th century AD by leaders of the Ratta dynasty, Belgaum served the Ratta capital from 1210 to 1250, until they were defeated by the Yadava Dynasty of Devagiri. In 1300 the Khiljis of Delhi invaded, and later the Vijayanagara Empire became the reigning power. In the 15th and 16th centuries, the Bahmani Sultanate took control, and Belgaum eventually became part of the Adilshahi sultanate of Bijapur. It was then taken over by the Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb, until the Marathas finally took over.

Brahmalinga, Tanaji Galli Temple

Belgaum is home to the Shri Brahmadeva Temple in Tanaji Galli, which is famous in the local region. A Diwali festival is held there each year on the temple premises. During Amavsaya, devotees offer coconuts to Lord Brahma. Children in the area cry continuously during the observance of Amavsaya, and puja must be offered at the Brahmadeva shrine in order to stop their crying.

A Ratta tablet inscription provides dates for the Brahmadeva temple at Hannikeri, Belgaum in Saka 1130 and 1178.

Shri Brahmadeva Temple

There are several other temples in the area, most notably the Yellamma Temple and the Kapileshwara Temple. Inside the Belgaum Fort there are three Jain temples, built in Nagara, or northern style of architecture. It is not known if the Brahmadeva temple pictured above resides within the Fort temple complex of Jain basadis, or if it is on adjacent premises. However, all references put the Jain Brahmadeva temple at Hannikeri, the area in which Tanaji Galli resides.

Belgaum Fort Entrance, c. 1874

Brahmadeva Pillar at Shimoga

Heading much further south now, we arrive at Shimoga, which is located inland from Udupi, just north of the Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary and the sacred groves we covered earlier in the series. There, in the village of Melagi is a Jain basti with a Brahmadeva pillar on the temple grounds. While no pictures have been located, we have gathered fairly detailed information on this Brahmadeva shrine.

The village of Melagi (Melige), six miles southeast of Thirthahalli, Shimoga district, is home to the Sri Anantanatha temple, which is well known for its Brahmadeva pillar. The temple is dedicated to a Jain Tirthankara named Anantanatha, and was built by Ddvarajannpati and his wife Kompamnianm, who installed the murti of Anantanatha.

In discussions of ancient South Indian architecture, the Shimoga area is also referred to as Karur, and this causes some confusion with respect to the location of Brahmadeva sites. Karur is also a city in Tamil Nadu, famous for Lord Brahma's pastimes there, beginning his work of creation. In the case of Karur (Shimoga), the area hosts some of the most prominent Chalukya architecture from the 8th and 9th centuries.

In the Jain tradition, the cycles of eternal time are divided into aeons, with two-aeon divisions. In each there is the avasarpini era, in which there is a descending order of all virtues, and the utsarpini, a time of ascending order of virtues. There are 24 Jinas, or Tirthankaras, in each of the two aeons. In the present cycle, the Jina Anantanath, in front of whose temple the Brahmadeva pillar stands, is number 14 in the group of 24.

The place is further dated by a rock inscription dated 1530 AD, which refers to Melige: Construction of a temple in honor of Anantanatha, by a rich merchant, follower of Visalakirti, line of Vidyananda. Disciple of Devendrakirti, Balatkara gana. An inscription in the temple mukhamantapa states that the structure was rebuilt in stone about 1608 A D, which places it in the Malnad Keladi period.

While descriptions of the Jain temple at Shimoga indicate that an opulence of architectural elements and ornamentation, it is said that the finest architectural piece in the temple complex is the stambha, or pillar in front. It stands on a four-tiered platform, or manastambha, with a total height of approximately nine feet. The base is square, developing into an octagon. All the surfaces are carved with figures and designs.

The long sixteen-sided shaft has a pot-shaped moulding covered by finely ornamented brackets with wheel-bearing lions, upon which rests a padma whose fringes have knot Drops. On the padma is a platform, above which is the small Brahmadeva shrine, which has arched doorways, a step pyramid tower (pagoda style), and a square stone sikhara. At each corner of the platform is a miniature niche with a similar doorway, tower, head and finial. Under the tower arches are four Jain murtis.

This beautiful shrine is poised atop an imposing pillar, said to rival even the excellent example found at Chandragm Hill in Sravanabelagola.

The Ballegavi Pillar 

Elsewhere in Shimoga district is the village of Ballegavi, which is home to a striking sculpted pillar of Brahmadeva. Ballegavi was once a flourishing center, with various Vaisnava, Jain, and Buddhist temples. The catur-mukha (four-faced) stone murti of Lord Brahma there is most beautiful.

Catur-mukha Brahmadev at Ballegavi

Brahmadeva Pillar at Megunda 

The village of Megunda is located in Koppa taluk, in the Chikmagalur district of Karnataka. A number of well known temples are found in Chikmagalur, including a Jwalamalinidevi temple, and two Jain basadis, the Chandranatha and Shantinatha temples. The Shanthinatha temple and the pillar of Brahmadeva of Megunda are among the most often visited shrines.

Lord Brahma Challenging Indra
Wall carving at Chikmagalur