Moodabidri (also called Mudabidri), an ancient center of Jain learning, is a small town about 37 km. northeast of Mangalore, in Karnataka. It is situated at a beautiful spot in the midst of hills. Moodabidri was a center of Jain religion, culture, art, and architecture during the 14th – 16th centuries. It is famous as the “Jaina Kashi’’ of the south. Jains from all parts of India come here to worship in the famous 18 Jaina basadis that are dedicated to thememory of the Tirthankaras.
Moodabidri witnessed an unprecedented growth as a center of Jain Religion, culture, art, and architecture during 14th to 16th centuries and more than 18 Jain temples, known as Basadis, were constructed during this period. The most famous among them are Guru basadi, Tribhuvna Tilaka Chudamani Basadi and Ammanavara Basadi.
The Guru basadi is believed to be the earliest of the Jain monuments of this place (714 AD). It is also called Siddhantha Basadi and Hale (Old) Basadi. Lord Parshwana-tha the 23rd Tirthankar of Jainism is the presiding deity of this temple. A beautiful stone idol of Parshwanatha, about 3.5 meters tall, is installed in the sanctum of this basadi. It is in this basadi that the rare Jain palm leaf manuscripts of 12th century AD known as ‘ Dhavala texts’ were discovered.
The Tribhuvana Tilaka Chudamani basadi is the largest of its kind in Coastal Karnataka and is considered to be the most ornate of the Jain temples of this region. Due to the large number and variety of pillars in this basadi it is known as a thousand pillared temple (Savira Kambada Basadi). The Jain tombs and Nyaya basadi at kodan-gallu, in the outskirts of Moodabidri are monuments of great historical interest.
There are beautiful images of Jain Tirthankar, Yakshas and Yakshis in every Jain basadi of Moodabidri. Moodabidri was a center of Jain literature too. Ratnakara Varni, the doyen of medieval Kannada literature and the author of Bharatesha Vaibhava belonged to this place. The famous Jain canonical texts known as Dhavala texts and also a number of palm leaf manuscripts of immense literacy value are in the possession of the Jain monastery here. During Mughal assaults, the old Jain texts were shift-ed from Shravanabelagola to the safer Moodabidri.
Moodabidri was also the seat of Chowta’s a local Jain ruling family, who were originally ruling from Putaige, a village about 5 km from here. This area was ruled by the Jain Chautar dynasty for about 700 years. Moodabidri still maintains its old charm as an important Jain Centre in coastal Karnataka. The city has a large population of Jains who keep the spirit of Jainism still alive. Many jains festivals are also being celebrated here throughout the year.
Moodabidri continues to be the most sought-after pilgrimage center of the Jains from all over the country.