Moodabidri, a temple town in Karnataka has some fascinating stories of a rich cultural past embedded in its eighteen temples. With 18 roads connecting various villages, 18 lakes, 18 temples and 18 Jain Basadis, Moodabidri has a definitive link to the number 18. Located 37 kilometers away from Mangalore, the town was named after the abundant bamboo growing in the area. Moodabidri is a compound word made up of Mooda (East) and Bidri (Bamboo).
Saavira Kambada Basadi
Saavira Kambada Basadi, a Jain temple in Karnataka, is well known across the world not only because it was built in 1430, but because of the remarkable pillars that are an integral part of the temple. The temples is also known as the Tribhuvana Tilaka Chudamani Basadi or the crest jewel of the three worlds.
The local Chieftain Devaraya Wodeyar initiated the construction of the temple in 1430, but the temple as it stands today includes additions made in 1962. The temple was constructed over a painstaking period of 31 years. An equivalent amount of 9 crores was spent in the construction of the fascinating temple.
The construction of the temple took place in phases. The first phase saw the construction of the sanctum sanctorum with the eight foot idol of Chandranath. The idol is the reason the temple is also known as the Chandranath Basadi.
The second phase oversaw the construction of the magnificent prayer hall with its innumerable pillars. The last phase of construction was the erection of the manasthamba, commissioned by Queen Nagala Devi. The 60 foot monolith is in many ways the center piece in a temple that is awe-inspiring around every turn.
Although the temple complex feature three separate stories, devotees are only allowed on the upper floors once in a year. Despite being one of the oldest and biggest Jain temples in Asia, the upper floors are in many ways a well-kept secret.
The stories of the pillars
Standing in the courtyard, every visitor experiences the grandeur and vigor that has come to stand as the hallmark of an era long lost in the sands of time. The temple boasts of many mantapas, each one supported by pillars. The pillars carved from granite have stories carved on each one. Every pillar is unique and the figures carved on them are unique. With so much beauty to behold, some visitors are intrigued while the plebeians will simply look at a few and move on to the next sight to behold.
Even as the pillars and the carvings attract your attention, there is a fascinating hush of silence and peace that envelops the temple. The intricate carvings and geometrically accurate lines speak of craftsmen whose skills can dumbfound today’s machines in the blink of an eye.
Stone chandeliers that seemingly defy gravity and other such architectural marvels form a part of the landscape of the temple and never fail to boggle the modern man’s mind. The inherent patience of the craftsmen evident in the intricacy of the carvings is an anti-thesis to the constant hustle and bustle in the city. They might just inspire you to slow down and savor the art, as it were.
Tales of history, exchanges of culture and the interaction between man and nature is all carved in plain sight for everyone to see. Mythical tales of animals mingle with carvings of African giraffes and Chinese carvings harking back to a time of prosperous commercial trade routes between continents.
A less explored history
Sadly, English literature on the history of the temple is not readily available for perusal or to be bought. Historians speak of Moodabidri as offering much needed shelter and relief to weary Jain travelers who were persecuted for their religious beliefs in the North. The rulers in this area, including the Chalukya, Ganga, Rashtrakuta, Alupa and the Hoysala rulers were benevolent to Jain refugees and offered them a safe sanctuary in the temples.
The sacred and ancient Jain literature was moved to Moodabidri from Shravanbelagola when the Mughals assaulted in an attempt to rule over all of the subcontinent. These texts were rediscovered and preserved in the 1800s.
The texts referred to as the Moodabidri texts are actually Prakrit texts that were copied in the ancient old Kannada script on to palm leaves using only pinpricks. Believed to have been scribed around the year 1060 the palm leaves are one of the last few vestiges of the era that dates back to Arihant.
While the architecture from the outside is reminiscent of a typical north Karnataka structure, the interior is chock full on beautiful architectural and cultural details. Temples like the Vikram Shetty Basadi, Chola Shetty Basadi, Mahadeva Shetty Basadi, Koti Shetty Basadi, Derma Shetty Basadi and the Ammanavara Basadi alongside the rest of the Basadis form what is affectionately known as the Jain Kashi in India. Amidst the other temples, the Guru Basadi is one of the oldest and most revered temples.
Robbery shoots Guru Basadi into the limelight
The Guru Basadi or Siddhanta Mandira as it known, houses the revered palm leaf manuscripts believed to be from the 12th century. Alongside the manuscripts called the “Dhavala texts”, the temple is also home to over 52 priceless idols. The sanctum sanctorum of the temple features a 3.5 meters idol of Parshwanatha.
Of the 52 miniature idols held in a strong room, 15 idols amounting to a few hundred crores were stolen. Since the robbery a majority of the idols were recovered and security has been beefed up in and around the temple.
Sights and sounds
Apart from the Jain temples, there are other temples belonging to the 7th century in this temple town. A Gowri temple located in the heart of the city is believed to have been constructed around the 7th century. There is also a Hanuman temple in the city that attracts devotees from far and wide.
Drams, performances and cultural treats
Tulu dramas and Yakshagana performances regularly entertain the people of Moodabidri. The Yakshagana plays usually begin at 9 pm and go on till 6 am of the following morning. The performances have cultural and religious references and play once a week in a few particular months every year.
Apart from the Yakshagana, there are several cultural treats in Moodabidri. Hulivesha, Navaraatri, Rashi pooja, Bhuta kola, Kambala, Korikatta, Nagaradhane, Dindu, Uroos, Rathotsava and Santhmari are festivals that are almost unique to Moodabidri.
Rathotsavas Rathotsavas or chariot festivals are celebrated by every temple in town with great pomp and circumstance. Each festival lasts for about a week and the festivities are a great treat to watch.
Korikatta is a traditional cock fight that has cultural and religious ties to the temples in the town. Specially reared fowls are allowed to fight each other in a traditional ritual.
Kambala is a buffalo race held in the paddy fields that are flooded with water. This two day event is also one of the yarns that is essential to the fabric of the culture of Moodabidri.
Hulivesha or Tiger Dance
Similarly the Hulivesha or tiger dance is a part of the cultural make up of northern Karnataka. Performed as a part of the Dushera celebration, the dance is a visual treat to outsiders. Moodabidri is a riot of color, music and festivities during Ganesha chatruthi when the tiger dance hits the streets in this otherwise sleepy town.
With such unique festivals and temples from long lost eras, Moodabidri is a place that simply cannot be described in words. With ample local and long distance transportation, the town is easily accessible from Mangalore and the rest of Karnataka. Express bus routes connect Moodabidri to locations like Mangalore, Udupi, Shimoga, Dharmasthala and Kudremukh. Private and public buses ply established routes between Moodabidri and Goa, Bangalore, Bombay, Hubli, Dharwad, Chikmagalur, Subramanya and other such important cities and towns.
How to Reach
Moodabidri is around 3 kilometres away from Mangalore. Mangalore and Bangalore airports are the two close by airports. One can hire a taxi or board on to a private or government run buses from the airport to Moodabidri.
Mangalore is the nearby railway station.
Bus services are also available to Moodabidri from major cities like Bangalore, Mangalore, Udupi etc.