Article: Padmāvatī

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

Temples

Ninth-century carving of the goddess Padmāvatī in the wall of a Jain cave temple in Tamil Nadu. A serpent canopy surrounds her head and she holds the ankuśa, a noose, a lotus and a fruit in her four hands. She is the yakśī of Pārśva, the 23rd Jina

Padmāvatī
Image by Nalini Balbir © Nalini Balbir

Although Padmāvatī is popular throughout India, her worship is especially strong in southern India. There are scores of temples dedicated to her in southern India, particularly in Karnatak. Indeed, Padmāvatī is so popular in Karnatak that she is associated with other Jinas as well as Pārśvanātha or Lord Pārśva.

Among Digambaras, Padmāvatī is associated in particular with Hombuja or Humcha in the Shimoga district of Karnatak and with Shravana Belgola in Karnatak. The growth of these centres of pilgrimage is entwined with Padmāvatī's rise as an individual figure of worship.

Hombuja

Eleventh-century bronze maṇḍala of Padmāvatī. Sitting on a lotus throne with a nimbus behind her, the goddess is flanked by attendants, underlining her status and power. Padmāvatī is particularly popular in Karnataka and southern India.

Padmāvatī maṇḍala
Image by Walters Art Museum © CC BY-SA 3.0

Padmāvatī's link with Hombuja – also known as Humcha – dates back to an old legend told in the Padmāvatī-māhātmya by Padmanābha, in Kannara (Zydenbos 1994: 138). It might have been composed in the 17th century in this form but may well be older than that.

About 1300 years ago King Jinadatta reaches Humcha after fleeing from north India. As his guru has advised, the king carries a statue of Padmāvatī to protect him. The goddess herself appears to him at Hombuja and says that she will not travel any further. Jinadatta becomes king of the local tribal people, clears the forest and builds his new capital city. Padmāvatī becomes the presiding deity of the place and the city grows wealthy and powerful, as any bar of iron she touches turns to gold (for example, see Zydenbos 1994: 138; Titze 1998: 39–41; Cort 2010: 347). When Jinadatta offers to build her a temple, she agrees only after he promises to build a temple for the Jina whom she attends, namely Pārśva. Thus she demonstrates her respect for the Jina (Zydenbos 1994: 142).

Hombuja became a major pilgrimage place, especially for Digambara Jains. It houses a temple to Pārśva and one to Padmāvatī as well as temples dedicated to other Jinas. Bhaṭṭāraka Devendrakirtiji managed the site until his death in 2010. In November 2011 a new young bhaṭṭāraka, Dharmakirti, took charge.

Shravana Belgola

Padmāvatī is also a focus of devotion in Shravana Belgola (Cort 2010: 349), along with the goddess Ambikā or Kūṣmāṇḍinī, who is also a yakṣī.

Particularly noticeable is the image of Padmāvatī in the Kattale Basadi on Candra-giri, the small hill. This temple has come to be known as 'Padmāvatī Basadi' on account of her importance.

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