Worship of Lord Brahma, Part 80

BY: SUN STAFF - 25.4 2018

Manastambha at Chandragiri Hill

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


Iruva Brahmadeva Temple, Sravanabelgola, Karnataka

In Volume 20 of the Encyclopaedia Indica, we find the following explanation of Jainism's relationship to Brahmadev: 'It is very strange that the Brahma cult disappeared in India. It was popular where Jainism flourished later, i.e., from Ajmer to Saurastra, and there is the well known temple of Pushkar.

Parallel to Padma Purana, which was mainly devoted to Brahma, the Jains evolved their own Padma Purana which was devoted to Rsabha, and he was called Brahma. It is possible that the seat of Brahma, who was pure in all his characteristics, was shifted to Rsabha and the incarnations concept was changed to Tirthankaras concept.

It is not an accident that the Brahma cult disappeared and Jainism flourished in this area. The researches of T.P. Bhattacharya have shown that out of 24 Tirthankaras, more than 16 may be shown to have more or less connection with the cult of Brahma.

This area of Brahma, i.e., Ajmer to Saurastra, developed purity and vegetarianism to the extent that the hunting was prohibited in this area, and that became a definition for Brahmavarta, vis a vis Aryavarta. The sacrifices were done less and the Apastambha school developed in the Bay of Khambat only.'

There are many images of Lord Brahma found amongst the Jain ruins, either in the form of shrines, temple deities or murtis, Brahmastambhas (tall pedestals), or Brahma Theertham (sacred kunds or tanks). The Brahma Theertham alone are far too many in number for us to catalog.

Chandragiri Temple Complex

In the town of Shravanabelagola in Karnataka is the Chandragiri (Chikkabetta) Hill complex, which is home to the Iruve Brahmadeva Temple. Just opposite of the Vindhyagiri site, the small hill of Chandragiri is situated. Steps have been cut into the hill to make ascent easier for the pilgrims. Iruve Brahmadeva Temple is one of some twenty monuments residing there.

Vindyagiri Hill at Sravanabelagola

The murti of Lord Brahma at Iruve Brahmadeva is carved out of solid rock, done in the Late Phase of Jain basadi sculture. The image is fairly small. The temple sits to the north in the main Chandragiri complex. There, the solitary shrine consists of a garbhagriha, with the low relief murti of Brahmadev. An inscription on the doorway dates the temple to about 950 A.D.

The Brahmastambhas

Nearby is the imposing Kuge Brahmadeva pillar, which stands at the south entrance of the enclosure. A small seated figure of Brahmadeva is positioned at the top, facing east. The pillar stands on a high platform of three tiers; the lowest is broad and squared, the middle one octagonal, and the upper one circular. The pithas were originally held in place by eight elephants, each oriented towards the diks and vidiks (the four directions), but now only a few remain. Lions are carved at the middle tier, with the asta-dik-palakas with retinue and musician are represented. An inscription on the pillar notes the death of the Ganga king Marasimha II, in 974 A.D., so the stambha was likely installed not much after that date.

The Tyagada Brahmadeva pillar stands 2.30 meters high. It was erected in front of the enclosure leading to the colossal Bahubali shrine. The pillar has a small gopura on top with kalasa as the crown. Inside is the seated figure of Lord Brahma. The four side of the pavilion on top contain Jain figures, facing the four directions.

Chandragupta Basadi at Chandragiri Hill

The erection of free-standing pillars like Kuge Brahmadeva represents an interesting aspect of Ganga art. Jain pillars are generally of two types: Manasthambas and Brahmasthambhas. The Manasthambhas, also known as Indrasthamba pillars, are those which have a pavilion at the top contains figures that face the four directions. In the case of Brahmasthambhas, a seated figure of Lord Brahma sits at the top. The huge Kuge Brahmadeva pillar at Chandragiri and the Tyagada Brahmadeva pillar at Vindhyagiri are excellent examples of free-standing pillars from this period, and both stand as witness to the importance of Brahmadev in the Jain cult.

Another fine example of a Brahmastambha is found at Shantishwara Basti, Kambadahalli, at Guruvyankeri. This 12th century pillar is unique in its size and construction, having a series of five tiled roofs, almost pagoda-style. The central pillar itself is the Brahmastambha, which was surrounded by a second structure comprised of four pillars and the large, multi-tiered roof.

Brahmastambha at Kambadahalli