NEITHER SIDE RELENTED. Even as the dispute raged on for months, the devotees of Bhillamāladeva went on a hunger strike and said they would fast unto death if the land was not released to the temple. The Bhaktas of Bhagavati responded in kind.
Sensing that the impasse would eventually lead to a dangerous conflagration, some sensible Vārikas (Archakas) of the Bhillamāladeva temple evolved a compromise formula. The formula was actually a Vyavasthā: meaning, a legal decision based on a Sthiti or decree. In Sanatana jurisprudence, a Stithi is an order imbued with a permanent character, i.e., once it is ratified by both parties, it becomes irrevocable.
But what made this Vyavasthā unique and special is the fact that it emanated directly from Bhillamāladeva himself and he delivered it to the Vārikas who in turn offered it to the Maṭhikā. In other words, Madhusudana had offered this divine decree of compromise to Devi Bhagavati. The devotees of both the deities acquiesced.
These were the terms of the Vyavasthā:
The Maṭhikā of Bhagavati Devi should pay forty drammas (silver or copper coins) to Bhillamāladeva and his Vārikas as Śrōtaka (rent) for the land in the wrongful possession of the Maṭhikā.
The Śrōtaka should be paid annually on the auspicious occasion of the Dīpōtsava-bhaṅga, i.e., at the end of the Deepavali festival. The day chosen was highly appropriate given that Deepavali is held on the Amāvāsya of the āśvina or Kārtika month in the honour of Parvati or Bhagavati.
The drammas had to be minted solely at the mint of a Śrēṣṭhi named Gambhuvaka. This in turn shows that private merchants like him enjoyed royal sanction to mint currency on behalf of the monarch.
If any devotee or group of devotees of Bhillamāladeva demanded an increase in the amount of Śrōtaka in the future or created trouble by threatening to commit suicide, such people should be regarded as street mongrels or donkeys, even if they died due to suicide. This clause applied to devotees of all Varnas.
If a merchant created the aforementioned trouble, his entire property — movable and immovable — must be confiscated. The status or wealth of the merchant was immaterial.
Likewise, if the Maṭhikā failed to pay the Śrōtaka on time, those responsible for it were to suffer the same shame — i.e., of being regarded as a street dog or donkey. This clause was also applicable to the members of the Maṭhikā’s Parishads who threatened to or actually committed suicide.
Overall, the dispute was resolved on an amicable and solemn note and offers us invaluable insights into the spirit that characterised temple management in that era. Above all, it is an illuminating study of the intrinsic temperament of the Hindu society of the period.
First, we need to recall that the Vyavasthā was made as an offering (akin to a Naivedyam) to Devi Bhagavati by the Vārikas Bhillamāladeva. In other words, this was a legal decision that emanated from the deity, Madhusudana, and not from any administrative or judicial authority. This has enormous significance given the fact that the Maṭhikā and its Bhagavati Devi temple was directly commissioned, sponsored and built by powerful Rashtrakuta governors. Thus, nothing prevented their descendants from using brute political authority to ”settle“ the dispute by ratifying the encroachment of the Bhillamāladeva temple land. Instead, they humbly submitted to this divine decree and signed the Vyavasthā document. These are the closing words of the Vyavasthā: “Bhillamāladeva favoured this document and the royal donors put their signature to this charter.”
And today, we have Supreme Court judges who lose no chance to indulge in novel-length, toxic pontifications about a sublime and profound spiritual heritage of their own land, the ignorance of which does not deter their confidence bestowed by a black British robe. But to offer an honourable whisper of wisdom to Their Honours: not every temple dispute is a “court case.”
The inscriptional evidence presented in essays like this is just a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of an inexhaustible wealth of lived jurisprudence of Sanatana Dharma which is not only just but also ennobling. It is justice which brings joy and not merely satisfaction. Indeed, such inscriptions are the real-life illustrations of the clear distinction between spiritual authority and temporal power, and why our civilisation always subordinated the latter at the altar of the former. Few can equal Ananda Coomaraswamy’s sweep and power on this topic:
Indeed, Anrta is precisely what we are witnessing throughout a large portion of the globe which is being colonised and cannibalised by the woke epidemic. But we digress.
Second, on a deeply fundamental plane, the Vyavasthā, which emanated from Bhillamāladeva can be regarded as a profound device to settle the dispute. This device was a heartfelt appeal to the divinity within all of us regardless of Pantha or Mārga. Which is why it instantly resonated with the devotees of Bhagavati. The dispute was essentially a sectarian conflict — between Vaiṣṇavas and śāktas, and it was settled by emphasising the essential Darshanic unity that binds all Sanatana sects. This is unthinkable in both Christianity and Islam where full-scale wars were fought and genocides committed due to sectarian differences. Indeed, the origin of what is known as secularism is found in a dispute between a German monarch whose denomination differed from that of the church in his domain. The barbarian and Sunni fanatic Mahmud of Ghazni launched a campaign dedicated to eliminate Abu’l-Fath Da’ud, the Shia governor of Multan, whose “heretical sect” had injected “impurity in his heart.”
This contrast is also the fundamental difference between Sanatanis and Mlecchas.
BOTH THE BHILLAMĀLADEVA AND THE BHAGAVATI TEMPLES now exist only in these inscriptions. But in its heydays, the Bhillamāladeva temple was a prestigious centre of Hindu pilgrimage. The inscription of Krishna III gives a rather long list of people hailing from various Dēśas visiting Samyāna or Sanjan on a pilgrimage. In no order, these are some of the Dēśas, identified by names of cities and towns: Madurai, Ramanathapuram, Tirunelveli, Thanjavur, Tiruchirapalli, Ceylon, Orissa, Vengi (Krishna and Godavari belt in Andhra), Jodhpur, Alwar, Bharatpur, Gujarat and Malava.
If you are either from Bhinmal or Sanjan, this was how profoundly your ancestors were connected. And by the way, the Rashtrakuta capital was at Manyakheta. Today, it is known as Malkhed, around forty kilometres from Kalaburgi.
The Dharma Dispatch is now available on Telegram! For original and insightful narratives on Indian Culture and History, subscribe to us on Telegram.