The remarkable content of Siribhoovalaya and how the text was composed, lost, found again and retrieved is a story which is quite the same for all the written text produced in the Bharatiya civilization
The treasure of our Bharatiya knowledge is so full of strong and wonderful things that one is just amazed to see them! We get entangled in the riddle of ‘from where did this knowledge come to us?’
Muni Kumudendu, composing Siribhoovalaya
A magnificent text—Siribhoovalaya—is an amazing treatise in the same category written by Jain Muni Acharya Kumudendu. The book pertains to a period when Rashtrakutas ruled Karnataka, there was a long time before Muslim aggressors would arrive and emperor Amoghavarsha Nruptung I was on the throne. It must have been written sometime between 820 and 840 CE. This book was missing for the last 1000 years. It would be referred to in some places, but the book was missing. The story of how this book was found is intriguing.
Retrieving the Text
During the times of Rashtrakutas, a woman named Mallikabbeji, copied this book and donated it to her guru Maaghnandiniji. The copy of the book reached to well-known Ayurveda exponent Dharanendra Pandit after changing many hands. Dharanendra Pandit lived in a small village named Doddabele on Bengaluru-Tumkur railway line. Even though he did not know much about the book, he was aware of its significance. Hence, he would give lectures on Siribhoovalaya with his friend Chanda Pandit.
Chitra Bandh: Chitra-Bandhas in Siribhoovalaya are named after the graphical figure (Chitra) they are associated with. In Chitra-Bandha a particular graphical figure or Chitra (with its cells numbered in sequential order starting from 1) is superimposed on a specified Chakra at a defined position (row and column) to reveal content in those particular superimposed cells on the Chakra in the manner as shown in the image
A young Ayurvedic practitioner from Bengaluru Yellappa Shastri came to know that that book was with Dharanendra Shastri, due to the popularity of his lectures based on the book. Yellappa Shastri had heard a lot about this book. So, he was determined to get the book. Then to get the manuscript of the book by any means, Yellappa Shastri went to Doddabele and married Dharanendra Shastri’s niece.
Later, Dharanendra Shastri passed away in 1913. Since he dedicated his entire time to study, the financial condition of his house was bad. Therefore, his son decided to sell some of Dharanendra Shastri’s belongings. The book Siribhoovalaya was among them. Naturally, Yellappa Shastri bought this book happily. He had to sell jewellery of his wife for this. However, even after getting hold of the book, Shastri could not decipher it. Everything in these 1270 pages of the manuscript was incomprehensible. With the arrival of renowned freedom fighter Karamangalam Shrikanthayyaji to Bangalore in 1927, the door to this book was opened slightly with his help.
It took 40 years to decode the information contained in the book. Kannada Sahitya Parishad published the book for the first time in 1953. The edition of the book was compiled by Yellappa Shastri, Karamangalam Shrikanthaya and Anant Subbarao. Of these, Anant Subbarao was a technician. He was the creator of first Kannada typewriter.
The significance of the Text
What was so important in this book that people were ready to dedicate their lives for it? This book is not written in any script like other texts. A specific book can be read in a specific language. According to the author, Muni Kumudendu, this book can be read in 18 scripts and 718 languages.
This book is an encyclopedia. Many books are hidden in this one book. Ramayana, Mahabharata, Vedas, Upanishads, many Jain texts are contained in this single book. It also allows reading books on some topics like mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, history, medicine, philosophy etc.
The book itself mentions that once it contained 16,000 pages. Of these, only 1270 pages are available as of now. Only three of the 56 chapters of the book could be deciphered till the date of the book. Of the 18 scripts and 718 languages, presently it can be read only in Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Sanskrit, Marathi and Prakrit etc. languages. The format of the book resembles that of a computer encyclopedia. Its main features can be explained only when the whole text of the book is decoded.
We have seen that the book is not written in the script but the numbers. Also, numerals from only 1 to 64 are used. Now, why did Muni Kumudendu use numerals from only 1 to 64? The reason being 64 are the codes of sounds in which there are 27 silent vowels, 25 classified consonants, non-classified consonants like ya, ra, la and va which adds up to 64.
These numerals are places in the rectangle squares of 27 x 27. Now, when these 729 numerals in the squares when written in up to down, down to up, horizontal and vertical etc. manner as given in the book and placed in alphabetical order (e.g. if the digit is 4, it will mean Marathi letter gha as per Ka, Kha, Gha etc.) and book of versed poetry or religious, philosophical, artistic etc. type.
What an astounding thing this is! And how wonderful! We take the help of a computer to create a small square of our Sudoku. And here is a Jain muni, displaying his sharp and amazing intelligence to create an encyclopaedia only through numerals 1000 to 1200 years ago!
All this is beyond logic!! Each page of this book is a big square of 729 digits in 27 x 27. This square is called Chakra. Such 1270 chakras are available as of now. These chakras contain 56 chapters, and the number of total shlokas is more than six lakh. There are nine volumes in this book. The 1270 chakras that are presently available are from the first volume titled Mangala Prabhruta. In a way, this section is just an introduction to other eight volumes. It contains 14 lakh letters in the numeric form that make 6 lakh shlokas.
Every chakra has some bandhas. Bandha means a method of reading or putting a digit in a chakra. In other words, ‘bandha’ is a key to read the shloka or the book. Because of the bandhas, we get to know the pattern of 729 digits in the chakra and the book can be read according to that language. There are different types of these bandhas such as Chakra-bandha, Navmank-bandha, Vimalank-bandha, Hans-bandh, Saras-bandh, Shreni-bandh, Mayur-bandhs, Chitra-bandha etc.