Manuscript Libraries of Moodbidri-Jain Math (South India)
Joana yogi Bhattaraka
Charukeerthi Swamiji (Moodbidri)
Moodbidri has been an important centre of Jainism from times immemorial, and it is known from History that Jainism landed its foot in this region in the first Century A.D. One Bhootlla Pandya, a rich Jaina merchant is said to have started trade with foreign countries from Barakur, an ancient port in the locality. Therefore, it would not be incorrect to say that Jainas had settled in the region a little earlier than that period. That is why during the reigns of the Imperial Chalukyas of Badami (5th Century onwards) Rastrakutes of Malkhed (8th Cent. onwards) and Hoysalas of Dwarasamudra (10th Cent. onwards) Jainism was welcome and it became a popular religion in the region very soon, Added to this, the tradition of the Jaina Math here shows that the Math of Charukeerti Bhattarak Swamiji was founded in the 12th Century A.D. Under the benevolence and patronage of this Math, Moodbidri could achieve marvellous progress in all walks of life, especially in the cultural field. The literature produced through the ages after the establishment of the Math here has been immense and varied.
All the Manuscript volumes belonging to the Digambara Jain Math Mood- bidri are kept at present in the Srimati Ramarani Jain Shodha Samsthan, which is a Jaina research Institute at Moodbidri. Besides being a religious and cultural centre, Moodbidri has grown to be an educational centre with two colleges and some high schools, and it attracts scholars and intellectuals occassionally from different parts of India, as it possesses the invaluable treasure of knowledge in the form of manuscripts and as it caters to the needs of those who are in quest of know- ledge and those who dare to dive deep in to the ocean of knowledge. Certainly they would discover the valuable pearls and jewels from the depth.
Recently, attempts have been started by a research scholar in the Srimti Ramarani Jaina Shodha Samsthan to go through these valuable manuscripts and bring to light the Jaina poets of Moodbidri and the sorrounding areas hitherto unknown. But it is a fact that practically such a work can not progress with greaterrapidity, as the work requires more time and large amount of funds. But it gives us immense pleasure to bring to your kind notice that two research scholars have been working here for their P.H.D. one on the Cultural History of Moodbidri und the other on the Jaina Mathematics-to whom bare necessities like borading and lodging have been provided by the Jain Math. They have reported us that they have here large number of manuscripts for consultation which form the source material for writing their theses and that the material available here have been highly useful, easily accessible and really valuable.
Formerly there manuscript volumes were stored in a disordered way in a temple near the Digambara Jain Math. Sorry were people to see the condition of these valuable works of old, which were about 4,000 in number. Fortunately for us, all these volumes were discovered and brought to the knowledge of the people of Moodbidri by Shri Devakumarji Jain of Arral (Bihar state) who also arranged for keeping them safely in the first floor of Jaina Dharmashala of Moodbidri. Thanks to Shri Devakumarji, but for whose personal interest all the volumes would have been lost.
When Late Smt. Ramarani Jain, the wife of Late Shri Shanti prasad Jain took the Pioneering interest in providing research facilities in Karnataka to the pro- mising youngsters for bringing to light the hitherto unknown facts of history, then the Srimati Ramarani Jaina Shodha Samsthana at Moodbidri came into existance and Sri Charukeerti Bhattaraka Swami of Moodbidri donated all the manuscript volumes he possessed to the research Institute, Thus, one has to be proud of the services of Smt. Ramarani Jaina who spent more than four Lakhs of Rupees for the construction of the building and also to be proud of the donation of Shri Digambara Jain Math which parted with four thousand manuscript volumes which were its own. The result is the formation of the manuscript library under the care, control and benefaction of the Dig Jain Math which has been attracting research scholars and thus fostering the progress of research work.
The manuscript library in Smt. Ramarani Jaina Shodha Samsthana has an enormous treasure of Knowledge, dealing with almost all branches of human wisdom of old, along with the literary works like Kavyas, puranas, poetry, comm- entaries, works on history, tradition, social practices, philosopy etc. The special importance of this particular library is that it contains the copies of the original works of different authors of modbidri and the neighbouring areas, the works which have been neither published so far nor even known to others. When Sri R. Narasimhachar undertook the work of reading all the unpublished manuscript volumes in the whole of Karnataka in the beginning of this century and also brought to light more than 1145 unknown authors of Karna- taka it appears that he did not get a chance to go through these manuscripts just because the presence of all these volumes was not known to outsiders at that time. And quite recently, after a new research scholar has joined Smt. Ramarani Jaina Shodha Samsthana, attempts are being made by him to go through these manuscripts and he is successful in collecting the whereabouts of about seventy aur hors and their works in the research institute. He is publishing articles on them in series in Vivekabhyudaya, the journal of Smt. Ramarani Jaina Shodha Samathana run by the Math.
The works of these authors which are not published so far and consequenly not known to others, contain the history of the locality, and of the social practices existed in historical times, and some contain the information regarding the principles to be follwed in building up of Jaina Temples in the region where we have got excesive rains and heat of the Torrid zone. These principles we do not know where they originated from. Some of these works are found to be the copies of great works which are known throughout India and these are useful in getting the ect texts of these volumes.
Another remarkable feature and asset of the manuscript library of Srimati Ramarani Jaina Shodha Samathana is that it possesses a collection of very valuable historical documents which are in the form of copper plate inscriptions and they are 56 (fifty six) in number. All these copper plate inscriptions are a very valuable source of historical information. The additional importance of these plates is that they are connected with the history of Moodbidri primarily, and of Karnataka, generally. Some of them throw light on the history of Tamil Nadu and Andhra pradesh and thus of the whole of South India. These inscriptions are all unpublished. Several educational institutions, colleges, research centres and scholars of distinction in Karnataka have been appe- aling us to publish these inscriptions, as they will make substantial contribution to history, literature, sociology, political science, economics, philology and philosophy. But the publication of these inscriptions is, in fact, a costly affair which requires a huge investment.
Most of the copper plate inscriptions are in Kannada language and Kannada script of the middle ages, which only experts can decipher. Anyway. the research scholars working in our research institute have been successful in reading almost all of them. Some of them are in Kannada script but in Sanskrit language while some others are in Kannada lauguage but in Sanskrit script, and one or two may be in Prakrit language also.
The dates of all the inscriptions range between 12th to 18th century. But it is a surprise and a point of appreciation that our ancestors preserved them all through the ages and handed down to us which bear inestimable historical and literary value. We hope that very soon all these inscriptions will get published.
We would like to mention that we have been collecting manuscript volumes from different individuals and institutions also who donate them to us. For example, recently we have received a donation of 150 palm leaf manuscripts from Sri Maha vir Trust of Bangalore who had preserved all these volumes in a small Jaina Temple,
2. Veeravani Jaina Siddhantha Bhavan, Moodbidri :
Sri Veeravani Jain Siddhantha Bhavan is another manuscript library of Moodbidri, which was organised by late Sri V. Lokanatha Shastri, a scholar of the locality. This particular library is housed in a building which had come up with the support of the public of Moodbidri. In it there are about 1,000 old palm-leaf and paper volumes. Late Shri Lokanatha Shastri could read the old script and the- refore he published about 30 books out of them. As regards big volumes, which he could not publish owing to the paucity of funds, he copied them in his own hand and send them to several publishers of the South as well as of the North. Any way. his services in the publication of the unpublished volumes have been great. It is believed that there are yet few unpublished volumes in this library which, we hope, would be published in course of time
3. Library at the Siddhanta Basadi, Moodbidri :
The accession ceremony or the Pitharohana Ceremony of the pontiff or the Bhattaraka of the Jain Math has been conducted in this Temple and hence, it is known as Guru Basadi. (Basadi means a Jain Temple) It is here that the single manuscript copies of Dhavala, Jaya Dhavala and Maha Dhavala were discovered and hence this temple is called “The Siddhanta Basadi”. Here we would like to bring to your notice that the well-known Jina figures made of pre- cious stones like diamond, pearls, coral, ajade, emerald ruby, sapphire and so on are exhibited here along with Samavasarana models all made of gold and precious stones. All these are kept in safe custody guarded by two or three guards and watchmen. Moodbidri is known for this invaluable treasure of these figures also. To witness them hundreds of people come over here daily, especially from North India.
In the same temple there is a small library having only about 20 manuscript volumes, which are the oldest of all those available at Moodbidri, along with the duplicate paper copies of the Siddhanta granthas copied in Kannada and Sanskrit Scripts. The sacred volumes of all the original Dhavala are also kept here to which people owe a great reverence. They are actually adored by the pilgrims.
It is said that these volumes were originally written and preserved in the Sri Shantinatha Temple of Bankapur in Dharwar District of Karnataka State, and that when the temple was attacked and seized by the non-believers, the priests and other people of the noble class who wanted to protect them from the barbarity of these invaders, simply caried them to Moodbidri where they could get protection. Anyway, this particular event took place in the 11th Century and it has got some historical sanctity, whereas another tradition says that when there was an irresis ble attack on the Jain faith and its scriptures, the Shasanadevalas (called Yakala and Yakshis in South India) carried these scriptures off towards south and when they came to Moodbidri they could take breath of contentment, as they saw a large congregation in front of Sri Parshwanatha Swami Temle of Moodbidri and handed over all the holy scriptures that they had to the people, and to the surprise of all they instantly disappeared Realising the importance of these volumes, and also being convinced of the fact that those who had brought them were divine beings, the people of Moodbidri preserved them in the same temple which, for the same reason, came to be called Siddhanta Basadi later on.
Apart from the sacredness and their message to posterity and the deep phi losophy that the Dhavala Siddhantas contain, they are known for the beautiful paintings that they contain. There are hundreds of very beautiful paintings in the volumes and almost cach page has a picture painted in different colours still prese- rved in a very good condition. By a clear examination of these paintings one ca observe that, unlike other old Palm-leaf paintings where the pictures were carved in with the help of a pointed needle, these volumes have got the pictures painted clearly on the bare surface of the palm-leaves, where any base was not given and not even in a single place the marks with the needles are made, but instead it can be observed that very thin lines are drawn with the help of a very thin painting brush, Minute details have been given due attention by the painter. Congratu lations to the Painter who has done these master pieces on the palm leaves which are about 21/2 inches wide with such colours as have not faded even the slightest after the passage of many centuries.
Another point to be noted in this connection is that there have been used some pictographical signs in the place of numerals to number the palm-leaf sheets. The author has maintained uniformity throughout. The specific importance of the numbering signs is that they are not found in other volumes of the contemporary period or of later ages. It is not possible to identify these numerals with any of the existing ones. Suffice it to say that the author of these volumes has displayed his special ingenuity in inventing new numerals, which have all preciseness and exac- tness like the modern Arabic numerals.