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SHANTALA DEVI (12TH CENTURY)


Shantala was the chief queen of the famous Hoysala King Vishnuvardhana of Dwarasamudra. Among the famous temples she initiated are those at Halebid. Halebid has its origin from the word ‘halebeedu’ meaning old capital. These temples took 103 years to complete and are unique for their exquisite stone carving.

She was a devout Jain. Brought up in a liberal and enlightened atmosphere, she has been eloquently described by poets and others as ‘a brihaspati [Jupiter] in discrimination, a Vachaspati [ruler of speech, a title won by examination] in ready wit…expert in singing, instrumental music and dancing…’. In 1117 she assumed the Crown as Pattamahadevi. The palace had a congenial atmosphere for arts and literature. In 1123 she presented Savati-Gandhavaran Basti and other endowments to her guru Prabhachandra. In Belur she set up an image in the Kappe-Chennagiraya temple and statues of herself and her husband. This testifies to their broad outlook in religious matters. She also earned the titles of ‘crest jewel of perfect faith’ and ‘a rampart of the Jain faith’. It is said that to the king she was ‘the goddess of victory in battle’ and ‘goddess of wealth and fame in peace’. As Vishnuvardhana had no son, he adopted a boy as his heir. In 1131 the young prince died, and the grieving Shantala committed suicide by jumping off a cliff at Shivaganga. Vishnuvardhana was deeply grieved by her death, and though he remarried later on, none could fill the vacuum.
 
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