Emperor Chandragupta Maurya and Jainism
Acharya Bhadrabahu and Chandragupt Maurya
Chandragupt Maurya was the founder of Mauryan dynasty. He defeated the mighty Magadhan emperor Dhananand of Nand Dynasty, and became the emperor of Magadh. Almost all of the India, including present day Pakistan and Afghanistan were parts of Magadhan Empire.
Chandragupt ruled for 25 years. After retiring from the throne, he became a naked Jain monk. Acharya Bhadrabahu, the most influential Jain ascetic of that time was Chandragupt’s spiritual teacher.
At that time, the region was suffering from a dreadful famine. Acharya Bhadrabahu, Chandragupt Maurya and about 12000 Jain monks decided to migrate. First, they migrated to west, and from there to southern parts of India. The monks settled in southern parts of Karnataka and Northern parts of Tamil Nadu, with their head quarter at Shravanabelagola.
In Shavanabelagola, Chandragupt Maurya became a Jain Acharya, i.e the head of a group of monks. His name as a head was Acharya Prabhachandra. Bhadrabahu, Prabhachandra and other monks promoted Jainism in the southern parts of India.
In the last days of their life, Acharya Badrabahu and Acharya Prabhachandra, both adopted Sallekhana, a Jain way of death by starvation.
There are two hills at Shravanabelagola. One is known as Indragiri and the other one as Chandragiri. The name Chandragiri of the hill was kept in memories of Chandragupt. There is a famous meditation cave on the hill known as ‘Bhadrabahu Gufa’ i.e Bhadrabahu Cave, where Acharya Bhadrabahu meditated. On the same hill, there are footprints of Chandragupta carved on a rock.
Chandragiri hill is full of rock inscriptions written in ancient and medieval period. The oldest inscriptions are in Prakrit language. There are many Jain temples on the hill. The most ancient temple is known as Chandragupt Basdi, i.e. Chandragupt Temple. Inside this temple, there is a carved history of Chandragupt’s migration with Acharya Bhadrabahu to Shravanabelagola.
Shravanabelagola: Pilgrimage Center of Jains
Shravanbelagola is one of the most important pilgrimage centers of Jains and now it has become world famous. On Chandragiri hill, you can see many beautiful and historical Jain temples, the meditation cave where Acharya Bhadrabahu meditated and the footprints of Chandragupt Maurya.
On the Indragiri hill, there is world's largest monolithic statue. The statue is of Lord Bahubali, the famous son Rishabh the first Teerthankar of Jains, and brother of Bharat, the first mythical Chakravarti i.e Emperor of Greater India. A big abhishek ceremony is celebrated every 12th year. Millions of people from all over India and other countries attend this ceremony.
On the two hills, there are over 600 inscriptions carved in ancient and medieval period, which are very important for knowing the history of Karnataka and India. The oldest inscription of Marathi language is carved near the footstep of the giant statue of Gomateshwara.
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