Thursday, September 8, 2011

Jainism in South India

Ennaayaram Malai, Tamil Nadu
No, this is not a post about one religion versus another. This is about history of Jainism in India's Southern regions and to discover the patronage it received in the South. The Bhakti Movement in the South is very well known, so is the presence of Jains, Buddhists and Ajvaiks in the South. However, the extent to which Jainism reached prominence is mentioned only by some authors and historians. The book "Jainism in South India" b Prof. S.K.Ramachandra Rao narrates the patronage Jainism received by dynasties and individual Kings in the South. His sources are good. K.A.N. Sastri's books are listed in his notes and bibliography.  I used Prof S.K.Ramachandra Rao's book and KAN's monumental work "A History of South India" to write my crude summary. I highly recommend both books. My only grudge with Prof. S.K.Ramchandra Rao is his position on Tirukural - the tamil literary classic. He cites legends to narrate it as a work of the Jaina monk - Kondakunda. His views are if that legends are incorrect, Tiruvaluvar - the sage to whom Tirukural is now attributed -  could have been a Jaina monk himself. Or he was heavily influenced by Jainism. In his defense the Professor does say the debate on this subject is hot. Other than that, I thought it was a marvelous book.

Note: I don't cover the copious Sanskrit, Prakrit, Kannada, Tamil and Telugu literature that were written or influence by Jaina monks and Kings. You will have to pay me to read about all that give you nice summary, because I would have to take some time off my day job.

Happy reading, and keep your Wikipedia and Atlas nearby.

Jainism in South India
Jainism, during the 10th century, was widespread in the Indian peninsula. It was one of the four prominent Indic traditions, the other being Saivism, Buddhism and Vedic Hinduism. Jainism came to the South India before Buddhism, and first came to the present Karnataka region before spreading to Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andra Pradesh.

K.A.N.Sastri writes
 “Jainism had more influence than Buddhism on the life of the people, particularly in Karnataka and in the Tamil country owing to the striking contributions made by Jaina authors to the literature of Kannada and Tamil”. 
This could be because Jainism had more in common with Hinduism than Buddhism. Several rituals and beliefs were common to Hindu and Jain systems.

As per legends sage Bhadrabahu came to Sravanabelgola , Karnataka in South India circa 300 B.C. As per certain legends Bhadrabahu was the eighth teacher in succession after Mahavira. The exact date and teacher-pupil lineage of Bhadrabahu differs according to different Jaina traditions.  A legend speaks of the famous Chandragupta Maurya coming along with Bhadrabahu to South India. The Svetambaras believe Bhadrabahu migrated to Nepal and not to the Mysore region in South India.

Gomateshwara, Sravanabelgola, Karnataka

Early Prominent teachers

Original community leaders: 37 B.C. – 75 A.D.

Bhadrabahu II was the leader of the Jain community from 37 BC to 14 AD.  Some hold the view that this Bhadrabahu was the one that migrated from the North. The dates of this Bhadrabahu is also close to the division of Jaina community into Digambara and Svetambara sects circa 79 A.D as per South Indian accounts. The North Indian traditions maintain this division occurred around 82 A.D.  Bhadrabahu II was followed by Lohacharya who led the community from 14 A.D. til 38 A.D. He was followed by Arhadbali, then by Maghanandi and Dharasena. Again there are slight differences in the guru-sishya lineage. Arhadbali organized the Jaina communities into Sanghas to ward of hatred in his times. Dharasena compiled the Shatkhandagama-Siddhanta which was the authoritative volume for a very long time.

Kondakunda (a.k.a Kundakunda)
Kondakunda is the earliest author of philosophical treatises who is well recognized among both the Digambaras and Svetambaras. He is associated with the Dravida Sangha. He is considered so great, different regions of the South claim his nativity. As per one account he hailed from a village near Guntkal. Some hail him from the Karnataka region, while he was very active in Kanchipuram – the capital of Pallavas. Tiruparuttikunram near Kanchipuram is known as Jina-Kanchi and was well renowned Jaina learning center. Kondakunda is supposed to have established the Dravida Sangha in Madurai.

Kondakunda was also known as Padmanandi and Elacharya and was prolific writer in Prakrit. He wrote several treatises and philosophical postulates that are widely held in respect by the South Indian Jains. He wrote a commentary on Dharasena’s work. Some legends describe him as the author of Thirukural, while other legends consider Thirualluvar, the author of Thirukural, as the disciple of Kondakunda. In any case, some school of thought considers Thirukural to have been influenced by Jainism.

Umasvami (a.k.a Umasvati)
Umasvami was the student of Ghoshanandi, who was the pupil of Kondakunda. Umasvami was a prolific writer too. His work Tattvarthadhigama Sutra deals with logic, psychology, ontology and ethics. He wrote several more texts and helped establish Jainism in South India.

Balakapichha was the student of Umasvami; and Samantabhadra was a student of Balakapiccha. One legend places him as the son of a Chief of Uraiyur (near Trichy). He is also said to have been initiated into Digambara sect near Kanchipuram. He wrote commentaries on Umasvami’s works. The Kadamba rulers were considered to be his followers.

Devanandi (a.k.a Pujyapada)
The dates and lineage of Devanandi is shrouded in confusion. He was a outstanding writer, scholar, grammarian, mystic, poet and Yogi. He was considered one of the eight great grammarians of the country. And people perceived he had Mahavira’s mind. He was born in a Brahmin family near Mysore. He wrote a commentary on Umasvami’s Tattavartha-Sutra. He is associated with the Ganga Dynasty.

The South Indian Jain Sangha established by Kondakunda had fallen in to disarray around early 7th century. Vajranandi, a pupil of Pujayapada, revived the Sangha in Madurai around 604 A.D. Vajranandi was ably helped by other disciples of Pujayapada. Akalanka, a logician, was a product of this revival. He studied Buddhism and debated with Buddhists and defeated them near Kanchipuram. He is credited to have driven the Buddhists to Srilanka. He is associated with the Rashtrakutas; and his nativity is around Sravanabelgola. He wrote commentaries on Umasvai and Samantabhara’s works. He is considered the last great Jaina giant in South.

Monarchs and Dynasties who supported Jainism

Mysore region and other parts of Karanataka came under influence when Bhadrabahu migrated to Sravanabelgola. The Western parts of Karanataka was under Jaina influence much later.

Many of the earlier Western Ganga rulers followed Jainism. The Western Gangas ruled parts of the present day Karnataka between 350-1000 A.D.

King Bukkaraya of the Vijayanagar dynasty helped the Jainas when they complained prosecution by the Vaishanavite.  Bukkaraya brokered peace between the groups where in both followed their practices without interference from the other.

Kadamba Dynasty (345-525 A.D.) was Hindu but encouraged Jainism as well.

Under Chalukya and Rashtrakutas, Jain temples and monasteries were built all over their kingdoms. The Chalukya Dynasty (419-1156 A.D.) began as feudatories to the Kadamba Dynasty, patronized Jainism. The Rashtrakuta Dynasty (757-933 A.D.) helped spread Jainism in the Deccan region.

Hoysala Kings (1006-1250) were zealous Jaina Kings who contributed to fine monuments in the Mysore region. The Vijayanagar Empire and the Wodeyars of Mysore continued to support Jainism. The Vijayanagar Kings were devotees of Siva and Vishnu but encouraged Jainism. The Wodeyars along with several chiefs in the Mysore region continued to patronize Jainism.

Tamil Nadu
Jainism is supposed to have entered Tamil Nadu circa 80 A.D. The Sangha initiated in 420 A.D. was a model for the Tamil Sangam poets. Kanchipuram and Madurai were important Jaina towns. Bhutabali (66-90 A.D.)

Mahavira statue, Thirakoil, Tamil Nadu

Pallavas, who were Hindus, rose to power circa 300 A.D. but keenly supported Jainism.  Jainism suffered its first blow under Pallavas when Mahendravarma (600-630 A.D.) converted to Saivism  under the influence of the Saivite saint Tirunavukkarsar (a.k.a Appar). Tirunavukkarsar himself was a convert to Saivism from Jainism.

The Pandya King Arikesari Parankusa Maraarma (670-710 A.D.) was a Jaina King with a Queen from the Chola Dynasty – who were Saivities. Arikesari under the influence of Sambandar converted to Saivism.
The Cholas were Saivites but who tolerate Buddhism and Jainism in their Kingdom. They donated Hindu, Buddhist and Jaina temples and viharas.
Karanthai, Tamil Nadu
Andhra Pradesh
Andhra Pradesh first came under the influence of Buddhism from the days of Asoka. Asoka’s grandson Samprati did for Jainism what Asoka did for Buddhism. Samprati repaired and built Jaina temples throughout the Indian sub-continent. He sent missionaries to not only Kalinga but down to the Southern parts of India as well.

The Kalinga King, Kharavela was an enthusiastic Jain who introduced, encouraged and spread Jainism in Andhra. Kharavela was the grandson of Khemaraja of the Chedi dynasty.
The queen of the Eastern Chalukya King Vishnuvardhana (624-641 A.D.) built a shrine and monastery near Vijayawada.

The Prince of Vemulavada Baddegaraja II built Jaina temples. He ruled parts of the present day Karimnagar District of Andhra Pradesh.

Ammaraja II (Vijaaditya) of the Mudigonda Chalukya dynasty also patronized Jaiism. He was a Saivite however his wife was a Jaina supporter.

Vimaladitya Bhima III (1011-1022 A.D) an Eastern Chalukya King, who was a Saivite, converted to Jainism and supported it with tremendous zeal.

Rajarajadeva III (1253 AD) supported Jainism in the Vishakapatnam area.
Kolanpuka Temple, Nalagonda, Andhra Pradesh

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