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THE GANGAS OF TALAKAD
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ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL CONDITIONS:
The Ganga economy was essentially based on agriculture, and naturally the village was the pivot around which the economy revolved. Peasant proprietary was in vogue in the Ganga period, although the waste land and the forest belonged to the State. The Government gave grants of land to the civil servants, to the Brahmins for their learning or piety, to the soldiers for their sacrifices. Often these lands were leased out to the tillers of the soil by the donees and thus a Zamindari tradition was gradually built up. There are also evidences of collective ownership of land in the Ganga period. Variety of crops were grown and the Government evinced keen interest in the promotion of agriculture by reclaiming waste lands, digging wells and tanks and constructing embankments and so on. The urban economy was dominated by several industries and vocational groups who were organized into guilds or Srenis. They must have attained considerable bargaining power by their compact organizational power. they developed their codes of conduct, acted as bankers, participated in the cultural life and in general, gave a boost to corporate existence.

The Brahmins enjoyed a place of honour in society. They were the recipients of most grants for their piety, and for their learning. They were also exempted from certain taxes and extreme punishment. The ruling class which goes by the name Kshatriya also enjoyed certain privileges. The Vaishyas, though considered inferior, had money-power and were organized into guilds. The Sudras suffered their customary inferiority in the social hierarchy. New castes had also came into existence on the occupational basis. Women were considered respectable and the upper class women showed enterprise in politics, war or administration. Educationally too, they had made mark. However, there were prostitutes in the cities and Devadasis in temples, and Sati was not unknown in the Ganga period. The society also nourished certain customs like Sallekhana or suicide by starvation, and voluntary ending of one's life as a token of intense loyalty to the King.

CULTURAL CONTRIBUTIONS:
The Ganga period witnessed the popularity of Jainism and Vedic religion. Scholars like Lewis Rice, S. R. Sharma or M. V. Krishna Rao, believed that the Ganga rulers were Jains, and that a Jaina Acharya, Simhanadi, was instrumental in founding the Kingdom. But it appears that the early Ganga rulers were the followers of Vedic religion, worshipping Vishnu or Shiva, or celebrating Vedic sacrifices. Dr. S. Srikanta Sastri was of the opinion that Durvinita was a Vaishnava. Inscriptions speak of the Kalamukhas, Pasupatas and Lokayatas who flourished in Gangavadi. However, from the time of Shivamara II, the Ganga rulers appear to have embraced Jainism. Perhaps his contacts with the Jaina saints and Philosophers like Toranacharya and Pushpanandi must have contributed to this change in faith. In fact, the Ganga period witnessed the activities of several Jaina saints and scholars like Pujyapada, Jinasena, Ajitasena, Akalanka or Nemichandrasiddanta. Many Jaina basadis were built at Manne, Sravanabelagola and Kambadahalli. The great minister Chavundaraya was a champion of Jainism and the Gomata monolith at Sravanabelagola is a standing testimony to his religious fervour. However, whether the followers of Vedic religion or of Jainism, the Ganga monarchs always remained tolerant in their religious attitude.

Education was imparted in the Agraharas, Brahmapuris, Ghatikas and in Mathas. Vedas, Vedangas, the Dharmasastras, the Smritis and the Puranas were taught as part of religious studies. Among the secular subjects, mention may be made of the six systems of Philosophy, Itihasas, Vyakarana, poetry, medicine, astrology, music, archery and so on. Vocational education was promoted through craft guilds.

The Ganga period was one of brisk literary activity, in Sanskrit, Prakrit and Kannada. Many Kings of this period were Scholars and writers of repute. Madhava II wrote Dattaka Sutra, a treatise on erotics. Durvinita, whose literary prowess is mentioned in the Kavirajamarga, was a great author. He translated Gunadya's Vaddakatha into Sanskrit, wrote a commentary on the 15th sarga of Bharavi's Kiratarjuniya and wrote Sabdavatara, a Sanskrit work on grammar. Sripurusha wrote Gajasastra, a treatise on elephants. Shivamara II was the author of Gajashtaka, a Kannada work on elephant management, and Sethubandha in Prakrit. A number of Scholars of great reputation flourished in the Ganga period. The redoubtable Bharavi is believed to have visited the Court of Durvinita. Pujyapada was the author of Sarvathasiddi and Jinendra Vyakarana. Hemasena or Vidya Dhananjaya was patronized by Butuga II and he wrote Raghavpandaviya. His pupil Vidhibhasimha was the author of Gadyachintamani and Kshatrachudamani. Chavundaraya, the famous Ganga minister, was the author of Chavundarayapurana. He is also believed to have patronized Ranna during his early days and also the Kannada grammarian Gunavarma. Nagavarma, the author of Chandombhudhi, is said to have been patronized by Rakkasaganga. In short, the Gangas offered a very fertile ground for literary cultivation, and it certainly yielded a wholesome harvest.

ART AND ARCHITECTURE:
The Gangas made significant contribution to Karnataka heritage in the realm of art and architecture. Scholars think that there was a considerable impact of the Pallava as well as the early Chalukyan style on the Ganga constructions. It is also pointed out that the Ganga architecture is predominantly Jaina. A number of monuments have survived to mirror the Ganga tradition of architecture. The Kapileswara temple at Manne, the Hanumantesvara temple at Bannur, the Rameswara temple at Narasamangala are some of the monuments of the early Ganga period. The Bhoganandi shrine at Nandi is a beautiful shrine with lovely sculptures and an exquisite tower. Talkad, the Ganga capital has a few temples like the Maralesvara temple, the Arakesvara temple, the Patalesvara temple or the Mahalingesvara temple. In the Tamil country too a few Ganga structures have been identified, like the Koranganatha temple at Srinivasanallur and Mahimalesvara temple at Erode. Among other Ganga temples of importance, mention may be made of the Mahalingesvara temple at Varuna, the Kallesvara temple at Aralaguppe, the Yoga Narasimha temple at Dadiga and Dadigesvara temple at Kodihalli.

The Jaina monuments are mostly centered around the two hillocks namely Vindhyagiri and Chandragiri in Sravanabelagola. Of these, the Chandraprabha basadi belongs to the period of Shivamara II, and is a beautiful structure with a Garbhagriha, a Sukhanasi, a Navaranga and a porch. The Iruve-Brahmadeva temple is a small shrine which belongs to the 9th century A. D. the Chavundaraya basadi (10th century) is one of the largest structures in the area, and is dedicated to Neminatha. Its Vimana has two more storeys, in addition to the lower storey, which is long. The Panchakuta basadi at Kambadahalli is another fine monument of this period. Rajamalla I constructed a cave Jaina temple at Vallimalai in Chittore district.

The erection of free-standing pillars constitutes an interesting feature of the Ganga art. These Jaina pillars are of two types namely, Manasthambas and Brahmasthambhas or Brahmadeva pillars. Manasthambhas, also known as Indrasthamba pillars are those which have a pavilion at the top, which contains the Jaina figures facing four different directions. In the Brahmasthambha, the Jaina figure is substituted by a seated figure of Brahma at the top. The huge Brahmadeva pillar at Chandragiri in Sravanabelagola and the Tyagada Brahmadeva pillar at Vindhyagiri of the same place are the two examples of the free-standing pillars of this period. Dr. Vincent Smith extols their beauty when he says, " In the whole range of Indian art, there is nothing perhaps equal to the pillars for good taste".

The Ganga temples and basadis provide ample evidences to the growing maturity of their sculptural art. Even their inscriptions offer excellent sculptural pieces. The Atkur inscription depicts a scene of fight between a hound and a boar; the Doddahundi inscription depicts the scene of Nitimarga's death, and it has all the elements of dignity and pathos befitting the occasion.

The crowning achievement of the Ganga sculptural art is the statue of Gomatesvara at Vindhyagiri in Sravanabelagola. It is 57 feet high, hardly 10 foot less than the statue of Sphinx of Egypt. It was carved out of the mighty granite outcrop, at orders of the Ganga minister Chavundaraya, and the work was completed in 984 A. D. Entirely nude, this Indian colossus stands erect, facing the north, with square face, curly locks, elongated ear-lobes, broad shoulders and a small waist. The half-closed eyes indicate the saint's meditative mood, while his lips exuding a gentle smile seems to tell us how transient the affairs of the world are.

Gomata stands with an expression wonderfully calm, serene and divinely radiant, silently preaching to the sinning world the basic necessities of detachment, patience and love to attain happiness in this world and beyond. Venkoba Rao has described it as a crowning achievement of Indian art, and the noblest creation of man in praise of God. As Percy Brown has pointed out, through the surge and stress of over a thousand years, this solemn and impassive figure has defied elements, and the high finish of its workmanship still remains. Surely Blake had visions of such a monumental image when he wrote, " Reared his mighty stature; on Earth stood his feet. His naked limbs glittering upon the dark blue sky where the Eagles cry and the Vultures laugh".

to be continued...

Arthikaje
Mangalore.

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