About Jainism in Tamilnadu
Jainism might have originated in North India. But it has a 1000-year
history in South India, particularly Tamil Nadu. The several monuments
scattered in the peninsular region of the Indian subcontinent only confirm
this. There are many Jain shrines, images, and monasteries carved in the
hills of Tamil Nadu.
Curiously, most of these monuments are concentrated in and around Madurai
There are about 26 Jain caves in Tamilnadu
- in Anaimalai, Alagarmalai, Tiruparankundram,
Muttupatti, Vikramangalam, Karungalakkudi, Kongarpuliyankulam, Mankulam,
Tiruvatavur, and Varichiyur. The caves between the 2nd and Ist centuries
B.C. The names of the monks who lived in these cave-dwellings and the men
who carved them are engraved on these monuments.
The stone beds in these caves prove that they were abodes of the monks.
There are several flat stones in theses caves. One end of these horizontal
rocks is slightly raised as headrest. The upper portions of the caves are
shaped in such a way as to prevent rainwater from entering them. Wooden
poles were driven into holes on the ground in front of these caves, and
thatched roofs were erected on them. These residences were located near
water sources to meet the basic need of the ascetics and Tourist Places to See Jainism
These caves are considered important because they are among the earliest
stone monuments in these regions. They also contain epigraphic records
written in the Brahmi script. It is even said that the Hindu temples in and
around Madurai were fashioned after these caves. Thirunarankondrai, a
village near Ulundurpet, was a famous Jain pilgrim centre. It was also a
seat of learning where monks and scholars from all over India gathered. The
carved images of Paraswanathar, the 23rd Jain Tirthankara, is found on the
top of a hill here. He is portrayed in a standing position, with a serpent_s
hood spread above his head. The people in this area refer to Paraswanathar
as Appandainathar. The support of the kings ensured the fast spread of the religion in Tamil
Nadu. Several Jain monks were great Tamil scholars too. Their compositions
have earned a special place in Tamil literature.
Bhakti Movement in Tamilnadu
However, the Bhakti
movement that gained momentum in Tamil Nadu in the 7th century A.D. revived
the Hindu religion. This resulted in Jainism losing its hold in the region.
However, some shrines, images, caves, and viharas are largely intact, except
for the ravages of nature.