Chavundaraya (cAvunDarAya) (ಚಾವುಂಡರಾಯ) is better known as a patron of literature and culture, than a writer who has made a lasting contribution to Kannada literature. He was born in the latter half of the tenth century and lived well in to the eleventh century. He belonged to the Jaina religion by birth and inclination. (However, he declares in his work that he was from Brahma Kshatriya vamsha and that he was later converted to Kshatriya dharma.) He was a valiant warrior who served, Marasimha-2, (963-974 A.D.) Rachamalla-4 (974-999 A.D.) and Rachamalla-5(Rakkasa Ganga) (999-1004A.D.) all illustrious kings belonging to the Western Talakadu Ganga dynasty based in South Karnataka. He was a minister as well as a military commander and wielded a lot of influence. The role played by him in the battles fought with Rajaditya, Vajjaladeva, Govinda and the battles fought at places such as bAgeyUrakOTe, uccangi kOTe, gOnUra bayalu are well documented in inscriptitions and literary works. His valour has earned him titles such as raNaranga singa and samara parashurAma. However these documents are more intent on giving glowing tributes to his military ability rather than specific historical details about the battles per se.

Chavundaraya’s literary fame rests almost exclusively on ‘Chavundarayapurana’. (978 A.D.) This work which is also known as ‘Trishashtilakshanamahapurana’ (triSaSThilakSaNamahApurANa) is by and large a prose work meant for the lay reader, giving a biographical account of all the twenty four Tirthankaras of the Jaina religion starting from Vrushbhanatha right up to Vardhamana Mahaveera. The number sixty three is arrived at, by adding the lives of other noble personalities. This work is inspired by the Sanskrit classic ‘Mahapurana’ by Jinasenacharya and Gunabhadracharya. Pampa ’sAdipurana’ also has wielded considerable influence. Chavundaraya was an erudite scholar and quotes profusely from Sanskrit and Prakrit. Chavundarayapurana contains a brief version Ramayana which is modeled on the Jaina tradition.

Chavundrayapurana is among the earliest prose works in Kannada, even though it is smattered with a few poems here. It holds a mirror to the contemporary language. However the work is very uninspiring for a student of literature and is confined to a prosaic narration of whatever it sets out to present.

Charitrasara’ (cAritrasAra) is another work written by Chavundaraya and it is in Sanskrit. This is a description of the characteristic features of monks and house holders.

In spite of these literary efforts Chavundaraya is famous as a person who commissioned the great idol of the Lord Gommateshvara in Shravanabelagola. This monolithic idol which stands majestically atop the Chandragiri hill bears witness on the anthills on its either side, confirming the fact. The inscrptions are interestingly enough in Marathi, Tamil and Kannada. He was also generous enough to donate handsomely for the worship and upkeep of the statue. This service is eulogized and documented in many later texts.

Chavundaraya was great patron of literature as acknowledged by Ranna, Nagavarma-1 and Nemichandryathi.

Thus Chavundaraya occupies an important position in the history of medieval Karnataka both as a statesman and a benefactor of arts and culture.

1.      References and Links: 1. Kamat's Potpourri: Jaina Minsiter Chavundaraya

2. Chavundaraya - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


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