Kolanapaku :: a Jain shrine and an open air museum

A small village called Kolanapaku in Yadari (Nalgonda earlier) district often figures as a pit-stop enroute to Warangal but could certainly merit a road-trip on its own. Kolanapaku is said to have got its name from a number of lakes (kolanu) and huts (paka) that were around. It is home to the Kulpakji temple, an important pilgrimage centre for the Shwetambar Jains in South India.

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Historically, Kolanupaka flourished as a prominent Jain centre under the Rashtrakuta dynasty and was also the second capital town of the Kalyani Chalukyas during the 11th century. A number of Jain antiquities and inscriptions including a Manasthamba (Column of Dignity) were found in this region suggesting that it was a major centre for Jainism.

The 2,000-year-old Kulpakji Jain temple is flanked with elephant sculptures at the entrance and adorned with beautiful images of the Jain Tirthankaras. Renovations had been carried out in the recent past, involving more than 150 artisans from Gujarat and Rajasthan. The old sanctum was preserved and a new temple complex was built around it. Extensive use of red sand stone and white marble is seen on the walls and pillars in the interiors.

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The three idols worshipped in the inner sanctum are Lord Rishabha, Lord Neminatha, and Lord Mahavira. The idol of Lord Rishabha is carved out of a green stone and is popular as Manikyaswami. The statue of Lord Mahavira is extraordinary in that it is 140 cm in height and carved out of a single block of jade. Legend has it that the Manikyasami idol was worshipped by Mandodari, Ravana’s wife and brought here by Sankara, a king from Kalyana in Northern Karnataka.

A mantra that is simple yet  important in Jainism is the Navkar Mantra. (Source :wikipedia.com)

Namo Arihantanam: I bow down to Arihanta (Those who have cleared their gati karmas),
Namo Siddhanam: I bow down to Siddha (The fully liberated souls ),
Namo Ayriyanam: I bow down to Acharya (The spiritual leaders or Preceptors ),
Namo Uvajjhayanam: I bow down to Upadhyaya (The teachers),
Namo Loe Savva-sahunam: I bow down to the monks or sages in the world.

Eso Panch Namokaro: These five bowing downs,
Savva-pavappanasano: Destroy all the sins,
Manglananch Savvesim: Amongst all that is auspicious,
Padhamam Havei Mangalam: This Navkar Mantra is the foremost.

There is no mention of any particular names of the gods or any specific person. The prayer is done towards the ‘guna‘ (the good qualities) of the gods, teachers and the saints. This mantra simply serves as a gesture of deep respect towards beings whom they believe are spiritually ahead, as well as to remind the people of their ultimate goal of nirvana or moksa.

At the Jain temple, the authorities are quite strict about the rules to be followed. People wearing leather or black clothes are not allowed to enter.Photography is strictly prohibited and visitors are advised not to disturb the peace and quiet of the temple premises.

About a ten-minute walk from Jain temple is the famous Someshwara temple built by Kalyani Chalukyas. To enter this temple one needs to walk past an open air site museum in its front yard. Known as the Kolanapaku site museum, it contains panels, statues and other excavations dated from 6th CE to 16th CE.

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At the entrance is a polished basalt life-sized sculpture of a seated Mahavira, while a granite statue of Hanuman’s son Matsya Vallabha stands in the centre of the courtyard. Beyond the Kirthi Sthambham is a Nandi mandapam facing the temple in the opposite direction.

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A walk around the courtyard reveals many exhibits – Parshvanath, Sapta Matrukas, Veeragal, Chamunda, Naga Devas, a Shiva-Brahma-Vishnu panel, Kosthapanjara to name only a few.

In the sanctum-sanctorum of the Someswara temple, an idol of the Veerasaiva saint Renukacharya stands behind the main idol. In a corner, is Goddess Chandi’s shrine with an entire roof covered with colourful cloth wrapped around coconuts. The devotees tie these to the roof hoping their wishes come true.

Many smaller shrines and temples around Someshwara are in need of renovation. Amongst them, a single shrine stands out with a unique and breath-taking sight. The Shiva idol here is known as Kotilingeswara, and has thousand and one small shivalingams carved on a larger shivalingam.

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