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Jain Legend : Jain Dharma ka Maulika Itihasa (4): Protection Given To The Minority By Bukkarāya

Published: 19.08.2016

The significant event that took place during the regime of Bukkarāya, the King of Vijayanagara, illustrates his liberal nature and religious tolerance. The incident is the solution brought out to sort the discord between Jains and Rāmānuja. During the reign of Bukkarāya, severe conflicts sparked between Jains and followers of Rāmānuja regarding their respective authority and powers, facilities and religious rituals. Jains who were in minority were tormented by Vaiṣṇavites who were in majority. The Jains approached Bukkarāya seeking justice. He invited the chiefs of both the traditions. Hordes of audience had arrived to the court to listen to the verdict. After listening to both the sides attentively Bukkarāya announced his verdict. The most significant point in it was the entrustment of protection of rights and facilities of the minority and their interests to the majority. In other words it was the royal proclamation protecting the interests of minority people.

Such an incident is not found in anywhere in the history of the world, wherein the conflict between the followers of two different religions metamorphosed into a harmonious arrangement giving justice equally to both the parties. The decision given by King Bukkarāya, who was no less than an emperor, is an illustrious example of his liberal policy and of sharp intelligence. It is an ideal that should be followed by one and all.

This historical decision proved to be very effective. This created religious tolerance and amity among the different sects, classes of people and followers of different religions. The humane decision of Bukkarāya had far reaching effects. Even the successor kings of Bukkarāya followed this sacred humanitarian ideal abandoning the parochial aspects and granted uniform justice to all, irrespective of their class, be it Hindu or of any other religion.

The historians in the light of historical evidences determined the reigning period of Bukkarāya as 1353 to 1377 AD. This event occurred during the 15th year of his reign, in 1290 Śaka Era (1368 AD). Giving his verdict to the Jain and Vaiṣṇavite representatives, Bukkarāya placed the hand of the Jain representative in the hands of the Vaiṣṇavites and said, "You have become friends from today. It becomes your prime duty that either of you should not interfere or create any obstacles in the performance of religious activities. Let each person perform his rites and rituals and spiritual practices with full freedom. Then, the king ordered the Vaiṣṇavites, to inscribe each and every syllable of his verdict in the Vaiṣṇava temples in the territories of Vijayanagara kingdom and to follow it with complete sincerity.

The verdict of King Bukkarāya which made an amiable agreement possible between Jains and Vaiṣṇavites was inscribed on the pillars and rocks of temples. It was also inscribed on a big rock before the temple situated on the mountain in Śravaṇabelagola, the pilgrim centre of Jains, which exists there even today.

As already mentioned Jains had to face several tribulations a number of times countrywide. The first was in early 7th century AD during the reign of Mahendra Varmana, the Pallava King and Sundara Pāṇḍya, the Pāṇḍya king of Madurā, and a campaign against Jains by Tiru Jṅāna Sambandhara and Tiru Appara in the form of reform in Śaivism. The second ordeal fell on Jains between 7th and 8th century AD. First Kumārilla Bhatta and later the victory campaign of Śaṃkarācārya, wherein the first proved most disastrous. It almost rooted out the existence of Jainism whereas the second one was a countrywide crusade that took the form of a cold war which lasted for a long time, though in the second instance, no authentic evidences about the slaying of Jains are available. However by establishing Pīṭhas (religious centres) at various places, far and wide, Brahmādvaita doctrine was propagated in the entire nation in a systematic and organised manner. As a result, Jain religion received severe setback, and propagation of Jain doctrine could not be implemented properly. Consequently, the number of followers decreased considerably.

The third predicament came in the form of aggrandisement campaign of Vaiṣṇava tradition that had been started by Rāmānujācārya around 1110 AD. Between 1130 and 1135 the third predicament fell heavily on the Jains as the Liṃgāyatas became a strong and powerful sect. The campaign of followers of Liṃgāyata sect against Jainism proved perilous just like its counterpart the Śaiva campaign, which was commenced by Tiru Appara and Tiru Jṅāna Sambandhara in Tamilnadu. The campaign of Liṃgāyatas continued in many phases for a long time up to 15th - 16th century AD. The inscriptions engraved by the Chief of Liṃgāyatas on the pillars of Śrī Mallikārjuna temple in Śrī Śailama provide a glimpse of atrocious tales of massacre of Jains by Liṃgāyatas, in the last phase.

The campaign led by Vaiṣṇava sect against Jainism was peaceful as long as Śrī Rāmānujācārya was alive. Jains were neither slain nor forcibly converted into their religion. According to a religious counsel written on cortices of Palmyra leaf by Rāmānujācārya himself, with his own hands, it becomes clear that he instructed his followers to be cordial with Jains and to protect Jain temples just as they protect their Vaiṣṇava temples.

Up to Vikram 1488 majority of Jains existed in Karnataka. They had pronouncing influence on kings and common folk alike. Vīra Pāṇḍya the vassal king of Vidyānagara in Southern Karnataka was an ardent follower of Jainism. But his successors became the followers of Liṃgāyata sect in the last decade of Vikram 15th century and in their religious fervour led a campaign aimed at the obliteration of Jainism.

Thus the fanatical religious campaign started in the 3rd or 4th decade of 12th century AD against the followers of Jainism in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka ended in the last phase of 15th century AD. This vigorous campaign started by Liṃgāyatas continued approximately for 400 years. The ultimate result of this movement was that Jainism was totally wiped out in Andhra Pradesh.

Careful contemplation of above mentioned historical facts gives out a clear picture that from 6 -7th century AD to the end of 15th century AD, Jainism went through a catastrophic period in Southern India, receiving severe blows one after the other.

In spite of these violent and incessant campaigns for about 900 years, Jain doctrine remained in Northern Arcot of Tamilnadu practised by a very small number, compared to other places in Karnataka. With this, it can be inferred that in ancient times, Jain followers were in majority in South in general and in greater numbers in certain parts of South.

The historical events backed by substantial proofs are elaborately described in the chapter under the title "Recurrent Fatal Clouds of Predicament on Jain Religion in South". The following three facts are derived based on it:

  1. Before the violent Śaivite campaign against the followers of Jainism, one third or more than one third of the population in South were Jains. Apart from being patronised by the kings, it was also more or less a popular religion followed by most of the classes in the society. As long as Jain religion remained in its zenith the kings and the people carried out innumerable activities for the welfare of the people, and the country enjoyed peace and prosperity.
  2. Even imagination fails to assess the extent of genocide of Jains and their religious conversion as a result of the campaigns by Śaiva sects, starting from 7th century to 15th and 16th century AD (900 years or so).
  3. Had Bukkarāya, the King of Vijayanagara not provided protection to the followers of Jainism in 1368 AD, probably even the few number of Jains who resided in Karnataka today would not have remained.

Title: Jain Legend: Jain Dharma ka Maulika Itihasa (4)
Acharya Hasti Mala
Shugan C. Jain
Publisher: Samyakjnana Pracaraka Mandala, Jaipur
Edition: 2011
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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Andhra Pradesh
  2. Contemplation
  3. Jain Temples
  4. Jainism
  5. Karnataka
  6. Pradesh
  7. Tolerance
  8. Vīra
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