Humcha's Jain heritage

Humcha's Jain heritage
Humcha, a small town in Hosanagara taluk of Shivamogga district, was an important Jain pilgrim centre from 8th to 16th century. It was also known by the names Pombuchcha and Hombuja. It was also the capital of a minor ruling dynasty, the Santaras. There are many basadis in Humcha, and the largest among them is the Panchakuta Basadi built in 1077 by Chattaladevi.

The Panchakuta Basadi, as the name suggests, has five garbhagrihas built on a common plinth arranged in a row. Only three of the five original idols remain — Neminatha, Shanthinatha and Parshvanatha. The five garbhagrihas have a common navaranga and mukhamantapa. Many additions have been made to the original structure.

The most awe-inspiring feature of this basadi is the tall ornate pillar in front of the shrine – the manastambha. This monolithic pillar has been erected on a high platform with three levels. The base has four elephants at the four corners and four more between them. Lions in various postures are carved in-between these elephants. Ashtadikpalakas and musicians are carved in the second level.

There is a solitary basadi to the right of manastambha if you are facing the Panchakuta Basadi. It is dedicated to Parshwanatha and is completely dark. I encountered a cobra here which was resting in the navaranga. It slithered into the garbhagriha as soon as I set foot into the navaranga. There are inscriptions in old Kannada on the outer walls of this basadi.

There is also a Jain Math in Humcha. The monks who belonged to the Nandi Sanga of Kunda Kundanavaya established the math a few centuries ago. There is a Padmavathi Temple in the math premises which is considered to be very powerful and draws devotees from all over India. There are other temples like Parshwanatha Basadi, Marthanda Basadi, Bogara Basadi and Jattigaraya Basadi in the math premises. Close to the math, you will find an ancient lakki tree.

According to legends, King Jinadattaraya came from Mathura carrying an idol of Padmavathi with plans to set up a kingdom. He reached Humcha and rested under the lakki tree and was instructed in his dream to set up his capital in Humcha. Humcha is considered as an atishaya kshetra — a place where divine events happens regularly. The annual car festival of Padmavathi Devi is celebrated on the moola nakshatra day in March every year. The Navarathri festival is also celebrated with great fervour.

On top of the nearby hill overlooking the math, there is another ancient basadi dedicated to Bhagawan Bahubali. As per the inscription found there, the basadi was constructed in 898 AD by Vikramaditya Santara. Muttinakere, where River Kumudavathi originates from, is nearby. Humcha is known for its rich cultural and architectural heritage. Sculptures and monuments are discovered at regular intervals in Humcha. The town is 58 km away from Shivamogga and about 30 km from Thirthahalli.

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