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Meena basti; A Jain cave of Aihole


Early chalukyan monuments were erected during 6-8 century AD and considered more ancient than Ellora. Early chalukya or Chalukya of Badami were tolerant to various religion and some of them were admirers and devout of Jainism. Meguti Jain temple and a sixth century cave were examples of early chalukyan structure at Aihole. Initially Aihole was not capital of chalukya Emperors but after some generations of Chalukyan sovereigns it was shifted to Aihole from Badami during reign of Monarch Pulakesi II (610-642 AD) who patronized Jainism.

Aihole which is situated in modern Bagalkot district of Karnataka State is worldly renowned for its 125 monuments documented by ASI. This place is about 13 kms from Pattakdal and 35 kms from Badami. Aihole is situated near Malaprabha River which trickles through dry beds of rocks. Jagged cliffs and rocky hills realize us that Aihole could be only place where such great monuments erected.

Meena basti: - Aihole Jain cave which is known as Meena basti is perched over craggy outcrops of a hill on the way to famous Meguti Jain temple in south direction of the village .This cave is hailed from a5-6 century AD when most of earlier chalukyan activities were concentrated to Badami and Aihole. This is considered one of the oldest monuments of Aihole. After climbing flight of some steps an entrance of the cave guarded by an iron bar door is there. This entrance leads us to an ornate and richly carved cave. Upon entering the cave a porch is there which leads us to a square hall with multiple small chambers. In the centre is a Jina savoir image in meditation posture flanked by some subordinate deities. This Jina ford maker is Vardhman (Mahaveera) the 24th lord seated on a lion throne. Triple umbrella is canopied over Jina flanked by two whisk bearers on either side of Jina.

Ornate ceiling is another attraction of this Jaina cave. Ceiling is decorated with lotus paddles and some vyala carvings in central porch. Central porch consists of four pillars and two pilasters have two Jina figures on left and right sides of it. On the left side of porch there are a finely carved image of five hooded Lord Parshwantha along with Dharnendra, Padmawati and Kamatha. This is depiction of famous Kamatha episode of Parshwantha’s Life. Dharnendra is holding an umbrella over Jina and Padmawati is depicted with lotus in hand beside Dharnendra. Kamatha is depicted over Jina throwing rocks. In the middle of all deities Jina is standing in Kayotsarga posture with Tranquility on face.

On the right side of Porch Bahubali (Gommateshwar) Jina is depicted in Kayotsarga posture flanked by two female deities on either side of Jina. Bahubali is depicted with vidhyadhars praising to him, vines and serpents lies in their feet. Perhaps two female figures on either side many be Brahmi and Sundari sisters of Bahubali and daughters of First savior Rishabha.

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