Jainism in South India

Author:  Image of Bal PatilBal Patil
Published: 14.11.2009
Updated: 30.07.2015

The Jains scattered across Tamil Nadu are originally from Mysore, senior writer Ham Pa Nagarajaiah said on Tuesday. Some of the manuscripts published in TN recently have traced the origins of the community settled there to Mysore, which, he said, is being discussed in academic circles.

Speaking after inaugurating a day-long meet on Jainology hosted by the University of Mysore, Hampana stated: some 89 manuscripts have been published in TN recently of which 85 relate to Jains. According to one of the manuscripts, Jains travelled to Tamil Nadu from Mysore. The city was then known as Yermayanadu.

Tamil Nadu and South India are truly the archeological treasures of Jainism. In Studies in South Indian Jainism M.S. Ramaswami Ayyangar and B.Sheshagiri Rao (Madras, 1922) the authors have noted:

"The vast Jain remains in south India of mutilated statues, deserted caves and ruined temples at once recall to our mind the greatness of the religion in the days gone by and the theological rancour of the Brahmins who wiped it out of all active existence. The Jains have been forgotten: their traditions have been ignored: but the memory of theat bitter struggle between Jainism and Hinduism, characterised by bloody episodes in the South, is constantly kept alive in the series of frescoes on the wall of the Mantapam of the Golden Lily Tank of the famous Minakshi Temple of Madura. These paintings illustrate the persecution and impaling of the Jains at the instance of the arch-enemy of Jainism, Tirujnanasambandara. As though this was not sufficient to humiliate that unfortunate race, the whole tragedy is gone through at five of the twelve annual festivals at the Madura temple. It is indeed sad to reflect that, beyond the lingering legends in secluded spots and the way side statues of her saints and martyrs, Jainism in south has left little to testify to the high purposes, the comprehensive proselytizing zeal and the political influence which she inspired in her fiery votaries of old." (Pp.79-80)

The authors Studies in South Indian Jainism attribute the Jain influence in idol worship and temple buidling on a grand scale. “The essence of Brahminism was not idol worship. How came it then that the Dravidians built large temples in honour of their gods? The answer is simple. The Jains erected statues to their Tirthankaras and other spiritual leaders and worshipped them in large temples. As this method of worship was highly impressive and attractive, it was at once imitated. Especially after the advent of Appar and Sambandar, a period of miracles and piety was inaugurated and it was at this time that the whole country was studded with temples. (n.Tamilian Antiquery, No.2, p.23) It is further curious to note that, in the temples so constructed, a niche was given to each of the saints who in any way contributed to the revival of Saivism. In the great temple of Madura, as many as sixty-three Nayanars or Saiva devotees have been given a niche, each of them. One wonders if the saivaites had not borrowed this custom from the Jains who worshipped their saints in the way described, long before these Nayanars flourished. By far the most important of the Jain influnces that led either to the intellectual or moral uplift of the Dravidians was the establishment throughout South India of Matams and Patasalas to counteract the effect of Jain centres of learning and propagandism.” (Ibid. Pp.77-78)

The authors also note that the period immediately following the age of Kural is characterised by the growth of classical literature, mainly under the Jain auspices. “This age is generally called the Augustan age of Tamil literature, the period of the predomancne of the Jain in intellect and learning though not in political power. It was during this period second century A.D. that the famous Tamil epic Silappadikarm is supposed to have been written.” (p.46)

The great Tamil classic Kural by Saint Tiruvalluvar, as noted by the authors: ”Almost every religionist has claimed the author as belonging to his faith. Tamil literary tradition attributes the authorship of Kural to to Valluvar; but there are strong reasons for believing that the author was a Jain…One other evidence in favour of the Jain origin of Kural might be adduced. The commentator of Nilkesi, a Jain work, calls Kural, Emmottu our own Bible. That shows that the Jains generally believed that Valluvar was a member of their community.”

Prof. A. Chakravarti, an eminent Jain scholar and commentator on Kural has identified the author of Kural as no other than the great Jain Muni Elacharya Sri Kund Kunda, well-versed in Sanskrit and Prakrit who propagated Jainism in the in about first century A.D. Tamil land. From the Pattavalis edited by Hoernle and Klatt (Indian Antiquery,Vols. XX and XXI) the date of Kunda Kunda can be ascertained as Ist century A. D.

As regards the far-reaching influence exercised by the Jain scholars on ancient Tamil literature the authors note: “The Jains had been great students and copyists of books.

They loved literature and art for their own sake. The Jain contribution to Tamil literature forms the most precious possesion of the Tamils. The largest portion of the Sanskrit derivatives found in the Tamil language was introduced by the Jains. They altered the Sanskrit words which they borrowed in order to bring it in accordance with Tamil euphonic rules. One great pecularity of of Jain Tamil literature is that in some of the works which have become classical, Kural and Naladiyar, for example there is no mention of any God or religion. Not only Tamil literature but Canarese literature also owes a great deal to Jains. In fact they were its originators. ‘Until the middle of the the twelfth century it is exclusively Jain and Jain literature continues to be prominent for long after. It includes all the more ancient and many of the most eminent of Canarese writings’ Thus Rev.f. Kittel.” (p.76 Ibid) Not only in literature but also in vegetarian way life, idol worship and temple buidling the Jains influence in South India is evident. As noted by the authors “How far this Jain respect for the life of living beings, a respect shown in daily practice, has influenced the Vedic rites and ceremonies can be seen from the fact that animal sacrifice in certain religious functions were completely stopped, and images of beasts made of flour were substituted for the real and veritable ones required in conducting Yajnams. Tamil poets have received inspiration in this matter from the Jains and passages might be cited from Tamil literature to indicate the extreme abhorrence with which Dravidians, a large section of them at any rate, regard eating of flesh.” (Ibid.p.77)



Even more significant is the assimilation of the Jaina motives by the Shankaracharya mathas as shown by the eminent historian K.A. Nilkanta Shastry and V. Ramasubramaniyam 'Aundy' in their article The Ascendancy and Eclipse of Bhagwan Mahavira's Cult in the Tamil Land published in the Mahavira and His Teachings (under the Chief Editorship of Dr.A.N. Upadhye, former General Editor of Moortidevi Granthamala of Bharatiya Jnanpith (assisted by Bal Patil) on the occasion of 2500th Mahavira Nirvana Anniversary, 1974). The authors state: "It is necessary at this stage to state briefly what a Sankara mutt was and how it copied the Jaina church in its technique of organization. It was a legally constituted body, Pitha, headed by a bachelor hermit (Brahmachari sanyasin) exercising absolute control over all the Hindu hermits of the entire quarter. This pontif and his local representatives, practising asceticism themselves,were to tour their respective regions supervising the religious rites (Samskaras) and daily practices (Dinacharyas) of the four varnas...But the most important and epoch-making innovation was their advice to all performers of Vedic sacrifices to substitute vegetable offerings for live animal victims. The 'Manimekhalai' one of the five great Tamil epics, tells us that some orthodox Brahmins of that age were performing sacrifices, involving the killing of many animals, including the cow. One Brahmin boy, it is said, successfuly set free a cow,an intended victim, and he was, therefore, hounded out of the locality as well as the community by other Brahmins. Where actual blood had been spilt in certain atharvanic rituals, the Sankara-mutt recommended coloured mineral water (aarati) and breaking of cocoanuts and ash-gourds. Where intoxicants such as soma juice, had been used, they substituted 'panchagavya' and 'madhuparka'. In food habits too, vegetarianism and prohibition were strictly enforced, with penalties of ex-communication for other transgressions. Ahimsa, satya, triple baths every day and free teaching of Sanskrit were rewarded with ecclesiastical honours and grants. Except for the doctrinaire difference, the pattern of the mundane aspects of the mutt was but a replica of the Jaina church." (pp.329-30)

It is pertinent to quote Edward Thomas to show the arch-influence of the Jain Mathas since pre-historic times. The deeper impact of Jainism right from the term "matha" which has a peculiar Jaina connotation is explained in his unique scholarly paper entitled JAINISM or THE EARLY FAITH OF ASOKA (Ibid. op.cit.)in which describing the etymology of the term Mathura as an ancient seat of Jainism. Edward Thomas explains" The modern version of the name of the city on the Jumna is Mathura. Babu Rajendralal has pointed out that the old Sanskrit form was Madhura (J.A.S. Bengal, 1874, p.259),but both transcriptions seem to have missed the true derivative meaning of Matha ("a monastery, a convent or college, a temple, etc. from the root matha ‘to dwell,’ as a hermit might abide in his cave. The southern revenue terms have preserved many of the subordinate forms, in the shape of taxes for ‘Maths’. Rajputana and the N.W. Provinces exhibit extant examples in abundance of the still conventional term, while the distant Himalayan retain the word in Joshi-Math, Bhairav-Math etc" Further Thomas states: "This said Mathura on the Jumna constituted, from the earliest period a ‘high place’ of the Jainas and its memory is preserved in the southern capital of the same name -Madura- of Ptolemy, whence the sect, in aftertimes, disseminated their treasured knowledge, under the peaceful shelter of their Matams (colleges), in aid of local learning and the reviving literature of the Peninsula." (pp.3-4) In a Note on the above E.Thomas mentions quoting Caldwell from his Grammar of the Dravidian Languages: "The period of predominance of the Jainas (a predominance of intellect and learning -rarely a predominance in political power) was the Augustan age of Tamil literature, the period when the Madura college, a celebrated literary association, appears to have flourished and when the Kural the Chintamani and the classical vocabularies and grammar were written." With such glorious heritage all that remains of Jainism in South India at present in the words of the authors: “The vast Jain remains in south India of mutilated statues, deserted caves and ruined temples at once recall to our mind the greatness of the religion in days gone by and the theological rancour of the Brahmins who wiped it out of all active existence. The Jains had been forgotten; their traditions have been ignored; but, the memory of that bitter struggle between Jainism and Hinduism, characterised by bloddy episodes in the south is constantly kept alive in the series of frescoes on the wall of the Mantapam of the Golden Lily Tank of the famous Minakshi Temple at Madura. These paintings illustrate the persecution and impaling of the Jains at the instance of the arch-enemy of Jainism, Tirujnanasambandar. As though this were not sufficient to humiliate the unfortunate race, the whole tragedy is gone through at five of the twelve festivals at the Madura temple.”(Studies in South Indian Jainism by Ramaswami Ayyangar & B.Sheshgiri Rao.p.79)


KALABHRAS (3rd Century AD) PALLAVAS (575 AD to 882 AD)

During the rule of Kalabhra kings, Jainism attained supermacy in Tamil Nadu. As followers of Jainism they prohibited animal sacrifices in rituals. Pallavas (575 AD to 882 AD)

During the Pallava period also Jainism flourished in Tamil Nadu. Kanchipuram, the capital of Pallavas was the centre of learning for all Indian religions. A part of Kancheepuram was called Jina Kanchi. Great Jaina Acharyas such as Sri Vamana~charya and Sri Pushpa~dantha Acharya were the leading lights of Jaina teachings at Kanchipuram. During this period Jains made a great impact on the northern parts of Tamil Nadu by constructing temples and educational centres. Such educational centres were called "samana pallis". Reminescent of the glorious past even today the school in Tamil is called "palli".


The earliest inscription about Chera kings are found in Pugalur, wherein it is learnt that the Chera kings of Sangam period ordered making of stone beds for the use of Jain monks, who as an ascetic vow sleep only on barren floor. The Tamil epic "Silap~padhi~garam" was written in this period by Illango adigal, the prince and brother of Chera king Senguttuvan. During chola rule also Jainism continued to flourish. Early Chola rulers contributed generously to the upkeep of Jain temples by gifting land and money. A university exclusively for women was established (730 AD) by Jain nuns at Vedal in Thiru~vanna~malai district. Great Tamil works on literature and grammar were authored during this period.

In Pandia kingdom also innumerable Jain cave temples, stone beds and dwellings for monks, inscriptions and stone images of worship were created, the remains of which are still seen in and around Madurai and south Tamil Nadu. During 6th and 7th century AD, religious conflicts resulted in systematic extermination of Jains and decline of Jainism in southern parts. However, in northern parts, Jainism didnot face such harsh conditions and continued to subsist.


This is originally a Jain temple converted by Ramanujam/Sankaracharya around 8th century A.D onwards along with 1000s other dravid temples.

Complete idol is covered to hide its original identity. Balaji has been photographed on many occassions without Jewellary and it is found to be a Jain Standing Tirthankara Neminath which many brahmins believe and admit. Archaelogical scientists, honest historians have proved this to be a Jain temple.

Millions of people visit Balaji temple but no one know reality about this temple. It is truly a Dravid temple, which is confirmed by Archaelogical department as Jain temple. Many brahmins silently believe and agree that it is originally Jain temple converted by Ramanujam and Sankaracharya as 1000s of other dravid Jain temples converted, rechristened by Avatar philiosophy. No Historian can ever claim that there was any god by name Lord Venkateshwara.

Many historians world wide believe - any given old temple in southern part of India is originally a Jain temple. However it may have changed its name. Archaeological Senior officers (who chose not to comment much due to political dominance) firmly believe that originally complete dravid population was Jain who were not fighters like aryans, and believers of Ahimsa, whose heritage was stolen by cunning aryans who came to India around 3500 years ago. For example Thirukural was product of dravid civilization (written by Jain Saints) but later it was labelled as Hindu literature at the time Hinduism was not known with its present name around 1st century B.C.when sacrifice of animals and vaidic religion was in vogue.

To conclude Tirupati balaji temple is wonderful temple belonging to all devotees, it can be run the way it is going. But at least its true history and identity has to be made known.

Most of gods elsewhere in Hinduism whose abhisekham is performed in public view, same way Tirupati's rituals need to be done in open with public view. As we all believe god are not property of brahmins alone, but they belong to devotees.

Why Tirupati Lord venkateshwara's face has to be hidden. When no face of Lord Rama, Lord Krishna, Lord siva, Lord brahma, Lord Ganesha are hidden. This looks quite weird hiding face of god to mislead its real identity.

We would all love to have our god let it be Brahmin or Jain, it has to be in open for everyone.
Let us ask those brahmins to perform all pooja, abhisekham openly, not to hide with curtains or by closing doors. There is absolutely no need to keep God in private if this is real.

This is one of reason only 2 % of complete structure is visible to devotees, which doesn't happen with Lord Krishna, Lord Rama, Lord Hanuman, Lord Ganesha in other parts of India. God's identy is hidden only in such temples when temple would have been converted from Jain temple and their naming is done on fabricated, non-historical avatars.

Can we request temple authorities to reveal its true identity and to see full face and posture of god Can we have real photograph without artificial projected hands, face and other parts.

From ages Dravid history has been mutilated, wrongly potrayed by so called responsbile vested interests of society, politics and even government. It is Aryans whose history, mythology and wrong facts are superimposed over dravid history, who were immigrants to India. Dr Santhalingam, senior director of Archaelogical survey and his assistant, and ASI has unpublished researched facts which clearly state that, Every old temple in south was once jain temple, presently known with different identity created by brahmins, few such examples out of 1000s of dravid jain temples converted to Brahmin temples are:

  1. Madurai Meenakshi temple
  2. Kanchipuram kamakshi temple (Kanchipuram has more than 100 temples)
  3. Varadaperumal temple (kanchipuram)
  4. Thiruvanmalai Arunachalam temple
  5. Mylapore kapaliswara temple
  6. Nagaraja temple nagercoil
  7. Thirumala Balaji temple, (total resemblance to thirumalai jain temple in Arni district)

Dr. Santhalingam expressed that due to political circumstances these facts cannot be disclosed or published, but facts remain same. He also said Thiruvalluvar was a Jain saint who wrote the famous Tamil classic Thirukural He has done enough research but unable to publish same.Even Tamil was evolved from Dravid Jain civilization born out of Brahmi language. Enough evidences are avaialable from epigraphyAccording to him Aryan Brahims invaded jain temples and converted them as their source of livelihood.

However, it is most unfortunate that much of such Jain archeological treasure is lying in ruins crying for restoration by the Archeological Dept. and sometimes converted into Hindu deities as noted by Mr.T.S. Subramaniam’s article in The Hindu, July 4, 2007 Metamorphosis of a Mahavira image: How a seventh century Jain sculpture became an Amman idol in rural Tamil Nadu published in the Hindu today. The Jains with a rich cultural, religious and historical heritage owe a debt of gratitude to him and Mr.K.T. Gandhirajan for discovering this precious heritage. Permit me to provide some important historical evidence on this topic as follows.

There are umpteen instances of Hindu conversion of Jain heritage.The famous Jagannatha temple is another instance. As Edward Thomas,Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society, London has noted in his JAINISM OR THE EARLY FAITH OF ASOKA Lecture delivered at the Royal Asiatic Society on Feb.26, 1877, notes: "Incidentally it may be mentioned that the title of "Jagannatha is an appellation given by the modern Jainas to their Tirthankara Parswanatha in particular."Edward Thomas has quoted Dr.Stevenson how the famous Vithoba at Pandharpur in Maharashtra is a converted Jain image.As noted by Thomas:
"Dr.Stevenson, in a subsequent article (J.R.A.S. Vol.VII 7 p.5) followed up his comparison of the later images of Vithoba with the normal ideals of of the Jaina nude statues. One of his grounds for these identifications is stated in the following terms: "The want of suitable costume in the images in the images (of Vithoba and Rakhmi), as originally carved, in this agreeing exactly witgh the images the Jainas at present worship, and disagreeing with all others adored by the Hindus" - who, "with all their faults, had always sense of propriety enough to carve their images so as to represent the gods to the eye arrayed in a way not to give offence to modesty."

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"The author (Dr.Stevenson) then goes on to relate how the Brahmanists of later days appropriated the sacred sites and adapted the very images of the local gods to their own purposes. His description is most graphic of the way in which the nude statues of Vithoba and Rakhami at Pandarpur, were clothed in apopropriate Hindu garments and made to do duty for the Brahmanical Krishna and Rukmini" (Pp.14-15).

Madurai Anai Malai edited

Sri Jinaya Namah: Madurai - the capital of the Pandyan Kingdom-Tamil Nadu was a great, famous Jaina centre from 3BCE to 13 CE.
Great Jain Munis (Ascetics wrote Tamil Epics such as Seevaka Chinthamani, Silappathikaram, Etc, Grammars, etc. The ve...

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