The Emergence of Kundalpur Tirtha


Bhattaraka Mahendrakirti of Kundalpur & Hirdaynagar


Bhattaraka Mahendrakirti mentioned in the BDJ Directory account is a historic person. Several idols in the region mention him as the presiding Bhattaraka. He is specially associated with the Pateriaji Tirth temple 9 where idols installed by him in sam. 1839 and 1844 are present. The temple at Pateriaji is also thought to have been his residence, at least for some time. There was a gaddi (seat) in a room of the temple signifying official residence of the Bhattaraka. According to the legends, some miraculous events at Pateriaji are associated with him. During the pratishtha of sam. 1939, a kunda (well) was dug according to his instructions. The water of that kund had miraculously turned into ghee. A column near Pateriaji temple is said to have been blessed by Mahendrakirti. It is believed that embracing the column cures fevers.


In Chhatarpur, three brass idols of sam 1835, a Parshvanath idol in the crown of goddess Padmavati, a meru with 16 Jinas and a manastambha,  mention installation by Mahendrakirti 10.


It is clear that Bhattaraka Surendrakirti was the reigning Bhattaraka when the temple at Kundalpur was rediscovered and rebuilt. Thus Mahendrakirti cannot be the Bhattaraka who discovered the temple.  It may have been Bhatttaraka Surendrakirti himself who had discovered the Kundalpur temple, or it may have been one his pupils, perhaps Brahma Dharmasagar. 


The Kundalpur region was once in the domain of the Kalachuri kings. Jainism was quite popular during the long Kalachuri rule, many Jain idols from the Kalachuri period have been found. However after the Kalchuri rule, very few Jains stayed in the region. Jain temples were abandoned and forgotten. After the Kalchuris, the power passed to the Gond kings. The Bundela king Chhatrasal wrested this region from the Gonds. Before his death in sam. 1787, he bequeathed a two-thirds of his lands to his two sons and and one third to the Peshwa (leader of the Maratha confederacy). As a result around sam. 1787 the region came under Maratha rule. Many of the administrators who came with the Maratha forces were from the Jain communities of the Bundelkhand region. Enforcement of a single administration over a wide geographic area encouraged many Jains to emigrate to Damoh-Jabalpur region.


The shift in trading activity may have caused decline of Chanderi as a commercial center, which may have caused the decline of the prestige of the Chanderi seat. In any case, increasing numbers of Jains settling in Damoh-Jabalpur region caused rekindling of religious activity in the region.


While Bhattaraka Mahendrakirti may not have been the person to discover or rebuild the Kundalpur temple, it does seem that he was responsible for transforming Kundalpur into a major tirtha. He probably spent prolonged periods in both Garhakota (formerly called Hirdaynagar named after Bundela ruler Hirdeshah, son of Maharaja Chhatrasal). The BDJ Directory gives a complete list of temples at Kundalpur with the names and towns of the builders. It mentions that some of the builders at Kundalpur lived in Hirdaynagar.  Thus it appears that both Kundalpur and Hirdaynagar were both in the domain of Bhattaraka Mahendrakirti. In Kundalpur, traditionally the first temple on the hill visited is called the Chhaigaria temple. It was built by Maniram Chhaigaria of Hirdaynagar. Pt. Mohanlal Kavyatirth 11 estimated that it might have been built about 250 years ago. It contains two charana-padukas in addition to 9 idols 1. Maniram Chhaigaria also built another shrine containing another charan-paduka. It is believed that the charan-padukas represent the bhattarakas who administered over the Kundalpur region. It is likely that one of them belongs to Bhattaraka Mahendrakirti.


None of inscriptions mentioning Mahendrakirti give the name of his predecessor, with the exception of a  vijay-meru at Kundalpur dated sam 1842 1. It mentions bhattarakas Mahendrakirti and Surendrakirti. It appears that Mahendrakirti was successor of a Bhattaraka named Surendrakirti. There are two inscriptions mentioning a Bhattaraka Surendrakirti of sam. 1833, one in Chanderi, the other in Kundalpur 8. Both are identical metal idols of Lord Chandraprabh. It is unlikely this Surendrakirti was the same Surendrakirti mentioned in Br. Namisagar inscription of sam. 1757, because that would make his duration from sam. 1744-1833, an unusually long duration. It seems that the Surendrakirti of sam. 1833 was actually Surendrakirti of Chittor-Amer-Jaipur seat 12. Manju Chaudhari, a Parwar shravak born in Bundelkhand, had risen  to become representative of the Maratha Bhonsle court of Nagpur in Orissa in sam. 1807 13. In sam. 1836 he had invited a Bhattaraka Surendrakirti to Katak where he had composed Jyeshta-Jinavar-Puja-Vrata-Katha. This Surendrakirti is considered by Dr. Jyotiprasad Jain to be a Bhattaraka of Chittor-Amer-Jaipur seat.. It is possible that Bhattaraka Mahendrakirti was a pupil of this Surendrakirti, who had arrived with his guru but had stayed in Garhakota-Kundalpur area to fill the vacuum created by the decline of the Chanderi bhattarakas. Nothing is known about any successors to Bhattaraka Mahendrakirti. Further research is needed to identify the predecessor and the successors of Bhattaraka Mahendrakirti with certainty.


It should be noted that another Mahendrakirti belonged to the Chittor-Amer-Jaipur line of Balatkargana-Sarasvatigachchha was inaugurated Bhattaraka at Delhi in sam. 1792. He was succeeded by Kshemendrakirti in 1815. This Mahendrakirti cannot be thus the Mahendrakirti of Kundalpur and two Bhattarakas are distinct.