"Jainism in Tamilnadu - Your guide to Jainism in Tamilnadu. Find out about origin of Jainism in Tamilnadu along with its eventual downfall with the advent of the Bhakti movement in Tamilnadu."

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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.