Yashwant. K. Malaiya
Fort Collins Colorado, USA
Kundalpur is a famous tirtha in Damoh district in Madhya Pradesh. It is about 20 miles North East of Damoh. In the past several decades it has become a very popular tirtha that attracts pilgrims from all over India. This article traces the history of its emergence as a major tirtha during the past 300 years.
The nuclear temple in Kundalpur contains a very large and impressive idol about 12 feet tall, which is affectionately termed Bade Baba. There are many legends about the Bade Baba idol and several miracles are attributed to it. The compound of the main temple is enclosed within tall walls like a fortress. There are several other temples within this compound. There are numerous other temples on the same hill, which is covered by a forest of teak trees. The name “Kundalpur” is said to be derived from the shape of the semicircular hill. There are many temples also at the bottom of the hill besides a beautiful lake named Vardhmana Sagar. Kundalpur has a very picturesque and peaceful setting.
There is small cell-like shrine near the lake, which may have been constructed in the Gupta period. It is now under the care of the Archaeological Survey of India. With the exception of his shrine, the Bade Baba temple is the oldest temple in the tirtha. The idol of Bade Baba has been estimated to be from 6th century AD by some scholars.
The history of the main temple is shrouded in mystery. Nothing is known about the name of its builder or the exact time it was built. There are several legends about the rediscovery of the idol. One fascinating legend is that the idol was discovered by a trader from Patera (nearby village about 2 miles from Kundalpur). He was divinely instructed to load the idol on a bullock-cart so that he can take it to Patera, but along the way he should not look back at the idol. However while passing over a hill, the trader could not control himself and turned back to take a glance. The idol then refused to budge and hence since has stayed on the hill.
A legend of historical significance is recorded in the Shri Bharatvarshiya Digambar Jain Directory published in 1914 AD 1. The work on the directory was initiated in 1907. This account represents the earliest of the modern publications about the Kundalpur tirtha. The account mentions that a Bhattaraka named Mahendrakirtiji was visiting Hindoria (about 11 miles from Kundalpur). He wanted to visit the ruins of Viratanagar nearby. He lost his way and found himself in Patera. The Bhattarakaji had taken a vrata that he would not eat until he had had a darshan of a Jina idol. At that time there was no temple in Patera. He has to fast for two days. The third night he saw in a dream that in a cave on a mount, there is an immense idol. The next morning he asked the shravakas in the villager, but they know nothing about such an idol. Luckily an old Adivasi, who used to wander around in the forests, remembered having seen this place and took the Bhattarakji there. The Bhattarakji was delighted. He has the forest growth and the rubble cleared and entered the temple, which had become like a wild cave. Thus the ancient temple ws brought to light again.
Sometime shortly after the discovery, the Bundela king Chhatrasal, who was hiding out in the forests from the Mughal army, visited the temple. He was impressed by the temple and the discourses of the Bhattarakaji. Later eventually he established his capital at Panna. He then had the temple restored and he donated chhatra, chamar and other implements to the temple. Maharaja Chhatrasal had an annual fair started at Kundalpur. Thus Bhattaraka Mahendrakirti and Maharaja Chhatrasal are jointly credited with restoring fame to Kundalpur.