The Jain contribution to Tamil literature forms the most precious possesion of the Tamils. The largest portion of the Sanskrit derivatives found in the Tamil language was introduced by the Jains. They altered the Sanskrit words which they borrowed in order to bring it in accordance with Tamil euphonic rules. One great pecularity of of Jain Tamil literature is that in some of the works which have become classical , Kural and Naladiyar, for example there is no mention of any God or religion. Not only Tamil literature but Canarese literature also owes a great deal to Jains. In fact they were its originators. ‘Until the middle of the the twelfth century it is exclusively Jain and Jain literature continues to be prominent for long after. It includes all the more ancient and many of the most eminent of Canarese writings’ Thus Rev.f. Kitt
Not only in literature but also in vegetarian way life, idol worship and temple buidling the Jains influence in South India is evident. As noted by the authors “How far this Jain respect for the life of living beings, a respect shown in daily practice, has influenced the Vedic rites and ceremonies can be seen from the fact that animal sacrifice in certain religious functions were completely stopped, and images of beasts made of flour were substituted for the real and veritable ones required in conducting Yajnams. Tamil poets have received inspiration in this matter from the Jains and passages might be cited from Tamil literature to indicate the extreme abhorrence with which Dravidians, a large section of them at any rate, regard eating of flesh.” (Ibid.p.77)
It is necessary at this stage to state briefly what a Sankara mutt was and how it copied the Jaina church in its technique of organization.
the most important and epoch-making innovation was their advice to all performers of Vedic sacrifices to substitute vegetable offerings for live animal victims. The 'Manimekhalai' one of the five great Tamil epics, tells us that some orthodox Brahmins of that age were performing sacrifices, involving the killing of many animals, including the cow. One Brahmin boy, it is said, successfuly set free a cow,an intended victim, and he was , therefore, hounded out of the locality as well as the community by other Brahmins. Where actual blood had been spilt in certain atharvanic rituals, the Sankara-mutt recommended coloured
mineral water (aarati) and breaking of cocoanuts and ash-gourds. Where intoxicants such as soma juice, had been used, they substituted 'panchagavya' and 'madhuparka' . In food habits too, vegetarianism and prohibition were strictly enforced , with penalties of ex-communication for other transgressions. Ahimsa, satya, triple baths every day and free teaching of Sanskrit were rewarded with ecclesiastical honours and grants. Except for the doctrinaire difference, the pattern of the mundane aspects of the mutt was but a replica of the Jaina church." (pp.329-30)
The deeper impact of Jainism right from the term "matha" which has a peculiar Jaina connotation is explained in his unique scholarly paper entitled JAINISM or THE EARLY FAITH OF ASOKA (Ibid. op.cit.)in which describing the etymology of the term Mathura as an ancient seat of Jainism. Edward Thomas explains" The modern version of the name of the city on the Jumna is Mathura. Babu Rajendralal has pointed out that the old Sanskrit form was Madhura (J.A.S. Bengal, 1874, p.259) ,but both transcriptions seem to have missed the true derivative meaning of Matha ("a monastery, a convent or college, a temple, etc. from the root matha ‘to dwell,’ as a hermit might abide in his cave. The southern revenue terms have preserved many of the subordinate forms, in the shape of taxes for ‘Maths’. Rajputana and the N.W. Provinces exhibit extant examples in abundance of the still conventional term, while the distant Himalayan retain the word in Joshi-Math, Bhairav-Math etc" Further Thomas states: "This said Mathura on the Jumna constituted, from the earliest period a ‘high place’ of the Jainas and its memory is preserved in the southern capital of the same name -Madura- of Ptolemy, whence the sect, in aftertimes, disseminated their treasured knowledge, under the peaceful shelter of their Matams (colleges), in aid of local learning and the reviving literature of the Peninsula." (pp.3-4) In a Note on the above E.Thomas mentions quoting Caldwell from his Grammar of the Dravidian Languages: "The period of predominance of the Jainas (a predominance of intellect and learning -rarely a predominance in political power) was the Augustan age of Tamil literature, the period when the Madura college, a celebrated literary association, appears to have flourished and when the Kural the Chintamani and the classical vocabularies and grammar were written." With such glorious heritage all that remains of Jainism in South India at present in the words of the authors: “The vast Jain remains in south India of mutilated statues, deserted caves and ruined temples at once recall to our mind the greatness of the religion in days gone by and the theological rancour of the Brahmins who wiped it out of all active existence. The Jains had been forgotten; their traditions have been ignored; but, the memory of that bitter struggle between Jainism and Hinduism, characterised by bloddy episodes in the south is constantly kept alive in the series of frescoes on the wall of the Mantapam of the Golden Lily Tank of the famous Minakshi Temple at Madura. These paintings illustrate the persecution and impaling of the Jains at the instance of the arch-enemy of Jainism, Tirujnanasambandar. As though this were not sufficient to humiliate the unfortunate race, the whole tragedy is gone through at five of the twelve festivals at the Madura temple.”(Studies in South Indian Jainism by Ramaswami Ayyangar & B.Sheshgiri Rao.p.79)
uring the rule of Kalabhra kings, Jainism attained supermacy in Tamil Nadu. As followers of Jainism they prohibited animal sacrifices in rituals. Pallavas (575 AD to 882 AD)
During the Pallava period also Jainism flourished in Tamil Nadu. Kanchipuram, the capital of Pallavas was the centre of learning for all Indian religions. A part of Kancheepuram was called Jina Kanchi. Great Jaina Acharyas such as Sri Vamana~charya and Sri Pushpa~dantha Acharya were the leading lights of Jaina teachings at Kanchipuram. During this period Jains made a great impact on the northern parts of Tamil Nadu by constructing temples and educational centres. Such educational centres were called "samana pallis". Reminescent of the glorious past even today the school in Tamil is called "palli".
HERA, CHOLA AND PANDYA RULERS
The earliest inscription about Chera kings are found in Pugalur, wherein it is learnt that the Chera kings of Sangam period ordered making of stone beds for the use of Jain monks, who as an ascetic vow sleep only on barren floor. The Tamil epic "Silap~padhi~garam" was written in this period by Illango adigal, the prince and brother of Chera king Senguttuvan. During chola rule also Jainism continued to flourish. Early Chola rulers contributed generously to the upkeep of Jain temples by gifting land and money. A university exclusively for women was established (730 AD) by Jain nuns at Vedal in Thiru~vanna~malai district. Great Tamil works on literature and grammar were authored during this period.
In Pandia kingdom also innumerable Jain cave temples, stone beds and dwellings for monks, inscriptions and stone images of worship were created, the remains of which are still seen in and around Madurai and south Tamil Nadu. During 6th and 7th century AD, religious conflicts resulted in systematic extermination of Jains and decline of Jainism in southern parts. However, in northern parts, Jainism didnot face such harsh conditions and continued to subsist.
Mr.Bal Patil said...
Congratulations for lifting the curtain on one of the great pre-historic contribution of the Jain religion. I would like to refer to my paper: The Rise, Decline And Renewals Of Sramanic Religious Traditions Within Indic Civilisation
With Particular Reference To The Evolution Of Jain Sramanic Culture
And Its Impact On The Indic Civilization
(A Paper presented in the Conference on Religions in Indic Civilisation in New Delhi, December, 18-21, 2003, Organised by the Centre for theStudy of Developing Societies in collaboration with International
Association for the History of Religions and India International Centre.
Thank sir i am very happy for your encouragement.mano