Sixteen Great Gifts (Shodasha Mahadana) as mentioned in Kannada Inscriptions

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Shasanoktha shodasha mahaadaanagalu – Sixteen Great Gifts (Shodasha Mahadana) as mentioned in Kannada Inscriptions

Author:  S. Somanatha Rao

Place: Shimoga, Shivamogga, Humcha, Maavali, Hasan, Chikka Kadaluru, K. R. Pete, Kaigondanahalli, Heggada Devana Kote, Srirangapattana, Maddur, Nagamangala, Devalapura, Mysore, Gundlupete, Pandavapura, K. R. nagara, Melukote, T. Narasipura, Kannambadi

In this essay, the author explains the meaning of sixteen (Shodasha) mahadanas or great gifts and lists references to them from Kannada inscriptions. He explains their political, religious and social significance. Almost all the Puranas deal with these great gifts, but the list of great gifts mentioned in Matsya Purana is referred to in our inscriptions. The great 16 gifts are

(1) Tula Purusha Daana
(2) Hiranya Garbha Daana
(3) Brahmanda Daana
(4) Kalpavriksha Daana
(5) Gosahasra Daana
(6) Hiranya Kamadhenu Daana
(7) Hirany ashwa Daana
(8) Hirany ashva ratha Daana
(9) Hema hasti ratha Daana
(10) Panchalaangala Daana
(11) Bhoo Daana
(12) Vishwachakra Daana
(13) Kalpalatha Daana
(14) Saptha Sagara Daana
(15) Rathnadhenu Daana
(16) Pancha-Bhootha- Ghata Daana

A study of the inscriptions in Mandya, Mysore, Kodagu and Hassan districts is made here. There are references to few of the great gifts in the inscriptions of Shivamogga region such as Humcha inscriptions which belong to the period of Rashtrakuta and Kalyana Chalukyas. But in southern districts, only from Vijayanagar period, we find plenty of references to Shodasha Daanas from the begining of the dynasty to its fall. There inscriptions contain praises and titles of the kings and their lineage and refer to every king as the performer of great sixteen gifts. But some of the inscriptions carry the information in particular about the performance of great gifts and gifts of villages in this context. They refer to any one of the sixteen gifts. After Vijayanagar, the Mysore Wodeyars also continued the practice of making these great gifts. They are referred to till the beginning of the 20th Century. Today, the practice of the great gifts has vanished, but the shadow of these great gifts is still in practice, in new form. Gifts of rice, jaggery, sugar etc., of the weight of a person are made to the temples and Mathas.


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  1. compliments

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