Jainism in Tamil Nadu
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Jainism in Tamil Nadu is about the origin, flourishment and present status of the religion in the state.
Early Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions in Tamil Nadu date to the 3rd century BCE and describe the livelihoods of Tamil Jains. Inscriptions dating back to eighth century CE were found in Trichy narrating the presence of Jain monks in the region.
Tamil Jains are Digambara Jains residing in Tamil Nadu. They are a microcommunity of around 85,000 (around 0.13% of the population of Tamil Nadu). Tamil Jains are predominantly scattered in northern Tamil Nadu, largely in the districts of Madurai, Viluppuram, Kanchipuram, Vellore, Tiruvannamalai, Cuddalore and Thanjavur.
The Pandyan kings were Jains in their early ages but later became Shaivaites. Strabo states that an Indian king called Pandion sent Augustus Caesar "presents and gifts of honour". Sittanavasal Cave, Samanar Malai were built during the reign of Pandyan dynasty
Cholas patronised Hinduism, however, Jainism also flourished during their rule. Construction of Tirumalai cave complex was commissioned Queen Kundavai, elder sister of Rajaraja Chola I. Tirumalai cave complex consist of 3 Jain caves, 2 Jain temples and a 16 metres (52 ft) high sculpture of Tirthankara Neminatha which is the tallest idol of Neminatha and largest Jain idol in Tamil Nadu. Thirakoil and Mannargudi Mallinatha Swamy Jain Temple were built during the reign of the Chola dynasty.
Influence on Tamil literature
Parts of the Sangam literature in Tamil is attributed to Jaina authors. The authenticity and interpolations are controversial, because the Sangam literature presents Hindu ideas. Some scholars state that the Jain portions of the Sangam literature was added about or after the 8th-century CE, and it is not the ancient layer.
Tamil Jain texts such as the Cīvaka Cintāmaṇi and Nālaṭiyār are credited to Digambara Jain authors. These texts have seen interpolations and revisions. For example, it is generally accepted now that the Jain nun Kanti inserted a 445 verse poem into Cīvaka Cintāmaṇi in the 12th-century. The Tamil Jain literature, states Dundas, has been "lovingly studied and commented upon for centuries by Hindus as well as Jains". The themes of two of the Tamil epics, including the Silapadikkaram, have an embedded influence of Jainism.
Silappatikaram, the earliest surviving epic in Tamil literature, was written by a Samaṇa, Ilango Adigal. This epic is a major work in Tamil literature, describing the historical events of its time and also of then-prevailing religions, Jainism, Buddhism and Shaivism. The main characters of this work, Kannagi and Kovalan, who have a divine status among Tamils, were Jains.
There are 26 caves, 200 stone beds, 60 inscriptions, and over 100 sculptures in and around Madurai. This is also the site where Jain ascetics wrote great epics and books on grammar in Tamil.
The Sittanavasal Cave temple is regarded as one of the finest examples of Jain art. It is the oldest and most famous Jain centre in the region. It possesses both an early Jain cave shelter, and a medieval rock-cut temple with excellent fresco paintings comparable to Ajantha paintings; the steep hill contains an isolated but spacious cavern. Locally, this cavern is known as "Eladipattam", a name that is derived from the seven holes cut into the rock that serve as steps leading to the shelter. Within the cave there are seventeen stone beds aligned in rows; each of these has a raised portion that could have served as a pillow-loft. The largest stone bed has a distinct Tamil-Brahmi inscription assignable to the 2nd century BCE, and some inscriptions belonging to the 8th century BCE are also found on the nearby beds. The Sittannavasal cavern continued to be the "Holy Sramana Abode" until the 7th and 8th centuries. Inscriptions over the remaining stone beds name mendicants such as Tol kunrattu Kadavulan, Tirunilan, Tiruppuranan, Tittaicharanan, Sri Purrnacandran, Thiruchatthan, Ilangowthaman, Sri Ulagathithan, and Nityakaran Pattakali as monks.
Royal patronage has been a key factor in the growth as well as decline of Jainism. The Pallava king Mahendravarman I (600–630 CE) converted from Jainism to Shaivism under the influence of Appar. His work Mattavilasa Prahasana ridicules certain Shaiva sects and the Buddhists and also expresses contempt towards Jain ascetics. Sambandar converted the contemporary Pandya king to Shaivism. During the 11th century, Basava, a minister to the Jain king Bijjala, succeeded in converting numerous Jains to the Lingayat Shaivite sect. The Lingayats destroyed various temples belonging to Jains and adapted them to their use. The Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana (c. 1108–1152 CE) became a follower of the Vaishnava sect under the influence of Ramanuja, a Tamil Brāhmin, after which Vaishnavism grew rapidly.
According to a Shaivite legend, an alleged massacre of 8,000 Jain monks happened in the 7th-century which is claimed for the first time in an 11th-century Tamil language text of Nambiyandar Nambi on Sampantar.
Jain Caves and Stone Beds
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