Artifact discovered at the Arattipura site in India.

Important 800-Year-Old Jain Inscription Uncovered in India

An 800-year-old inscription detailing a donation during the Hoysala Regime has been discovered in Arattipura, India. This find is thought to be a very important discovery for researchers interested in Jainism, as it may provide evidence for an older Jain site than the sacred location of Sharavanabelagola and the site appears to have similar structures to the famous Chandragiri hill.

The Bangalore Mirror reports that the recently uncovered inscription contains only two lines, although it measures  two meters (6.6 feet) in length. Written in halegannada (ancient Kannada language), the inscription says:  "It is a donation of a village for the construction of Jain basadis."

The 800-year-old inscription stone describing a Jain donation uncovered at Arattipura, India.

The 800-year-old inscription stone describing a Jain donation uncovered at Arattipura, India. (Bangalore Mirror)

Arun Raj, superintending archeologist of the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) Bangalore circle, asserts that this inscription supports the hypothesis that Arattipura is older than the Jain holy center at Sharavanabelagola:

“There are clear indications that Arattipura is geographically older than Shravanabelagola. And incidentally, the exposed structures at Chikka betta here resemble the similar structures exposed at Chandragiri hill in Shravanabelagola.”

The Chandragiri temple complex at Shravanabelagola, India. (CC BY SA 3.0)

"Our ASI epigraphists from Mysuru have preliminarily deciphered the inscription which dates back to the Hoysala period between 10th and 12 centuries AD," Arun Raj continued.

The Hoysala Empire was a powerful empire in Southern India (especially Karnataka) from the 10th to 14th centuries AD. The Hoysala rulers were known to promote religious tolerance and altogether they built over 1500 temples during their ruling.

These temples were split up into worshipping sites for the Shaivite and Vaishnavite sects of Hinduism as well as Jain spiritual centers. The current discovery suggests that the worshippers of Jainism wished to increase followers of their faith.

Statue of Adinatha, also known as Rishabha, (the founder of Jainism) in padmasana (lotus posture).

Statue of Adinatha, also known as Rishabha, (the founder of Jainism) in padmasana (lotus posture). (CC BY SA 3.0) The recently deciphered inscription appears to promote Jainism in Arattipura and artifacts depicting Adinatha, possibly also dating to the Hoysala period, were found at the site.

Arattipura is an archaeological site that is protected by the Banglore Circle of the ASI. This site was previously known as Tippur. Enclosing the site are two small hills known as Shravana betta and Chikka betta. At Arattipura, which has been called ‘The Lost World,’ numerous pillars, terracotta sculptures of women and men, conch bangles, and lamps have all been found during this excavation.

An ancient carving and idol. Arattipura, India.

An ancient carving (Great Escapes) and idol. Arattipura, India. (Great Escapes)

Apart from the abovementioned artifacts, five temple complexes showing two phases of construction were unearthed in this excavation. These temples were made of brick and stone. The basements of the brick temples were “plastered with lime, and various shapes of lime bricks were used for construction. The stone platforms were topped with sockets for installing pillars” according to Arun Raj.

Another interesting feature one can see at the 250-acre site at Arattipura is a small pond which has detailed carvings on a rock face behind it. This characteristic provides more similarities with Sharavanabelagola as both sites contain two hills (Sharavanabelagola has Chandragiri and Vindhyagiri) and a pond.

Detailed carvings on the rock face behind the pond at Arattipura, India.

Detailed carvings on the rock face behind the pond at Arattipura, India. (Great Escapes)

Last year, archaeologists from ASI excavated a small portion of the hill and found the base of a temple consisting of garbhagriha (a sanctum sanctorum), pillared mantapa (pillared outdoor hall), yaksha (nature spirits), yakshi (a female earth spirit), and headless tirthankaras (people who have conquered the cycle of rebirth).

With this October’s excavations completed, Arun Raj has said: “All the scientific clearances are done on the hilltop.” Of course analysis will continue on the artifacts uncovered, as the hypothesis that this site is older than the sacred location of Sharavanabelagola remains in question.

Featured Image: Artifact discovered at the Arattipura site in India. (Bangalore Mirror)

By: Alicia McDermott

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