It pays to keep the eyes peeled while traversing countrysides . In addition to the sign boards put by the State Roadways giving directions and distances to major towns , there are many smaller, older stones with barely visible lettering, pointing to lesser known destinations .
Last week of December . On road, somewhere between Gundlupete and Terakanambi . ( About 65 Kms from Mysuru ) .
One sign post catches the eye ." Kelasuru Sri Chandranathaswami Digambara Jain Basadi" in fading kannada letters ....just a 3 km detour from the road .
The word " Basadi " ensnares, evoking visions of other glorious basadis of south karnataka.......So, detour !
Narrow mud road . Hardly a creature in sight . Ploughed fields . Arid patches. A deserted pumphouse ......finally, a spacious whitewashed compound with a building , painted orange and cream , that looks like any small town community hall . The sign , arching over the gate , announces the Basadi !
A pang of disappointment . A modern shrine, after all ? ....
Reverse and U-turn, back to the mudroad ....but wait ! Whats that , just south of the hall ? A tall jina murthi in blackstone ! And it looks decidedly old.
U-Turn again . Into the compound....
So glad we did turn back !
It transpires that The Chandranathaswami Basadi dates from 7 AD and is associated with the revered Jaina Acharya , Veerasena , who wrote commentaries on Jaina Canons ( Dhavalas) . He lived , worked and prayed here !
We learn that The Acharya has referred to the Shrine in his writings as Chandraprabha Jinalaya and the place as Udyogapura ( kelasa is the kannada word for Udyoga = 'work' . Hence Kelasapura ) .
Though the front mantapa has polished , tiled flooring and plastered walls, one can see the shrine's venerable age in the carved stone doorway to the sanctum ( though thickly painted) and in the slightly sunken floor of the garbhagriha . The unadorned angular pillars are also quite old.
There are two idols of Chandranatha in the shrine .
A small white marble image , standing in the antarala , receives the ablutions and poojas while the larger image in the garbhagriha , in padmasana position, receives only flower offerings . Because this latter is a "leppa" idol ( 'Made of clay' . stucco ? )
The leppa image has two attendants , also of clay , placed on either side of the sanctum entrance . They are : ShyamaYaksharu and Jwalamalini Yakshi , five feet in height with ornate prabhavalis of their own. They are Guardians of the Eighth Tirthankara , Chandranatha. The room being small, these two figures just overwhelm visitors.
Large Leppa images are ( reportedly) not too common ( another site in karnataka having huge leppa jain images is Moodbidri ).
To one side of the marble idol is a platform on which are placed three antique stone images of modest size : Brahmayaksha, Padmavathi and Kushmandini . They receive daily poojas too.
King Krishnaraja III of Mysore had renovated the shrine in1829. At present, it is cared for by the better known Kanakagiri Jain Math.
The impressive 5 ft tall blackstone sculpture of Lord Parshwanatha in kayotsarga posture , erected in the backyard ( which beckoned us in ! ) turns out to be a treasure found 35 years ago , while digging foundation for a villager's house and not part of this shrine's heirloom . Its damaged limbs have been repaired .
A few other slabs with indistinct images , also excavated in the surrounding countryside, are lined up nearby .
A few inscriptions are seen on the skirting of the shrine's base. Probably recording grants.
One detour well worth the bumpy ride !
Read the signs . Follow the heart .