Jainism in South India

In South India, Jainism is little more than a name. Even serious students of religion in India paid little attention to it. In a population of nearly 60 crores of people, Jainas may constitute nearly some 3 million people . But the influence it wields, its contribution to the development of Indian couture, commerce and industry is out of proportion to their population. Jainological material is so rich and varied and so much extended in time it is impossible to write about it in few pages. Because of this limitation the paper will be simply a fringe study and a general survey.

In this brief paper an attempt is made to trace the rise of Jainism as religio-philosophical system, its contribution to Indian Philosophy, Religion, Metaphysics and Logic, Art and Architecture, languages and literatures, and also a brief summary of its history in Andhra Pradesh.

The Jainas claim hoary antiquity for their religion. Vishnu and Bhagavata Puranas also mention this fact. The tradition says that during the time of the Mahabharata War Jaina order was led by Neminatha, the 22nd Thirthankara and he belonged to Yadava family. The order gained strength during 8th century B. C., under Parsvanatha, the 23rd Thirthankara.

In Parsvanatha we have the first historical beginnings of Jainism. Mahavira was born in the middle of the 6th century B. C. It appears he was influenced to a great extent by Gosala and the followers of Ajivaka sect also. According to one tradition there were 5 heretical sects. They are :

  1. Akriyavadins of Purana Kassapa,
    2. Anuvadins of Pakuda Kaccayana,
    3. Ajivakas of Makkhali Gosala,
    4. The materialists of Ajita Kesa Kambalin, and
    5. The sceptics of Sanjaya Belattiputta.

All these systems including Buddhism and Jainism were considered as Non-Brahmanic or Sramanic systems. The common feature of these systems are :

  1. They challenged the Vedas
    2. Admitted all members to their community
    3. Observed a set of ethical principles
    4. Practiced detached life to get liberation
    5. Accepted renunciation.

These sects indicate there were two trends of thought, Brahmanic and Non-Brahmanic even from earlier times and these two trends influenced Indian Philosophy and Religion equally.

The records of the Buddhists and Jainas about the philosophical ideas of those days are of great importance to the historian of religions. The similarity between some of those heretical doctrines of the one side, and Jaina or Buddhist ideas on the other, favours the assumption that the Buddha as well as Mahavira owed some of their conceptions to these very heretics.

Contribution to the development of Languages :

The Jainas have played a very important role in the linguistic development of the country. Sanskrit has all along been the medium of sacred writings and preachings of the Brahmanas and Pali that of the Buddhists. But the Jainas utilized the prevailing language of the area for religious purposes. Thus they developed Prakrit and other regional languages.

Of late rich literature produced by the Jainas came to light. The literature in Apabhramsa is worth mentioning. This language is a link between the Sanskrit, Prakrit, the classical languages on the one hand and modern Indian languages on the other. It is surprising to note that the earliest literature in Kannada and Tamil is also of Jaina authorship.

Jaina Ethics :

Contribution of Jaina ethics to Indian ethical theories is also note worthy. It is different from the Bhakti Marga of the Bhagvatas, Jnana Marga of the Vedantins and Karma Marga of the Mimamsakas. Jainism holds that all the three must coexist in a person, if he is to walk along the path of salvation. Taking the analogy of medicine, faith in its efficacy, knowledge of its use, and the actual taking of the medicine. All these three are essential to effect a cure. Similarly the suffering soul can be cured by Ratnatraya, the three principles of Right faith, Right knowledge and Right conduct. The doctrine of Ahimsa though found in the epics, was preached on extensive scale, by the Jainas and Buddhists. Ahimsa must be observed both by the saints and the laymen according to Jainas and Buddhists, where as in classical Hindu tradition it was meant only for the Sanyasis.


The tenets of Jainism are not always easy to grasp mainly due to two reasons. Firstly on account of our relative unfamiliarity with the ancient background and secondly on account of highly complex and perplexing system of innumerable divisions and sub divisions in the Jaina order.

In metaphysics there in some general likeness between Sankhya and yoga on the one hand and Jainism on the other. Dualism of matter and Soul is accepted by all these systems. Souls are like substances like Monads and they are characterized by intelligence. The actual difference between the souls is caused by their connection with the matter. Jainas and Sankhyas believe matter to be of indefinite nature and it can become anything.

The summarize Jaina philosophy the living and the non-living, by coming into contact with each other forge certain energies which bring about birth, death and various experiences of life. This process could be stopped and energies already forged destroyed by a course of discipline leading to salvation. a close analysis leads to 7 propositions :

  1. There is something called living
    2. Something called non-living
    3. the two come into contact with each other
    4. The contact leads to production
    5. This process of contact could be stopped
    6. The existing energies could be exhausted
    7. The salvation could be achieved.

These seven propositions are called seven tattvas or realities by the Jainas. “The first two great truths are that there is a jiva or soul and that there is an ajiva or non-soul. These two exhaust between them all that exists in the Universe.

Contribution to Literature :

The contribution of the Jainas to Sanskrit and other Indian languages is noteworthy. Dr. Winterniz says that there was a close connection between Jaina nd post Vedic literature. The story of Jajali and Tuladhara (M. bh. XXII, 261-64) the fable of the Hunter and the pigeons (M. bh XXII, 143-49) and the legend of Mudgala in Mahabharata (V, 23-40) indicate this close relation.

Prof. Hertel has shown that their contribution to narrative and story literature is much. He says that the Jainas have preserved much of Indian tales that otherwise would have been lost to us. They have also compiled great collection of tales. Kathakosa by Subhasilagani, Kathankakosa by Jinesvara, Kathamahodadhi by somachandra (1448 A. D.) Katharatnakara by Hema Vijaya (1600 A. D.) are some of them.

They wrote many charitas and Prabhandas. The charitas are legendary biographies of the Thirthankaras, Chakravartins and Rishis. Prabhandas contain stories of famous monks and laymen of historical times. Sthaviravalicarita, Prabhandhacintamani of Merutunga and Prabandhakosa of Rajasekhara gives us a glimpse of the social and cultural history of those times.

Some of the novels are Somaraiccakaha of Dhanavala (romantic epic in Apabhramsa) and Somadeva Suri’s (959 A. D.) Yasastilaka are of this type. It has also been shown by Prof, Hertel that the popular recessions of Pancatantra are the works of the Jainas. Dhananjaya Srutakirti wrote to prove his mastery in sleshas by writing Raghavapandaviya (1123-1140 A. D.)

The Jainas have some books written in drama style also. Mohaparajaya of Yasopala narrates the story of Kumarapala’s conversion to Jainism. Many of the poetical works are written in the apabhramsa dialect. The Jainas also have lexicographical writings. Their contribution to grammar is also noteworthy. According to some scholars the grammatical writing Siddha-Hemachandra by Hemachandra is in many respects better than that of Panini’s Grammar. The oldest Prakrit lexicon is the work of a Jaina scholar, Paiyalacchi Namamala of Dhanapala (972 A. D.)

Jaina’s philosophical literature is rich. Umasvati whom Prof. Suali would place as early as 300 A. D., in his Tattvarthanthigama Sutra expounds the doctrine of categories and theory of Pramanas.

Siddhasena Divakara in his Nyayavatara wrote for the first time a treatise on the means of proof (pramana) and the methods (Naya) of comprehending things from particular stand points. Devasuri (1086-1169 A. D.) wrote Syadvada Ratnakara. Even in 17th century we have great logician in Yaso Vijaya Gani who wrote great number of works on Logic.

Another commendable thing is some of these Jaina philosophical works is their liberal attitude towards other religious beliefs. A study of Shaddarshanasamucchaya reveals this. They dealt about many of the sciences and even on politics Jaina contribution is noteworthy. Somadeva Suri, the author of Niti Vakyamrta can be compared well with the classical Indian Niti writers like Kautilya and Sukra.

Arts and Architecture :

The Jaina have a due share in the development of Arts in the country. In honor of their saints they erected Stupas as the Buddhists with their accessories of stone railings, umbrellas, decorated gateways and pillars and statues. The Gomateswara statue at Sravana Belagola (10th Century), the colossal relief’s carved on the rock face near Gwalior (15th Century A. D.), the Hathi Gumpha caves in Orissa, Pava Puri, Rajagiri in Bihar, Girinar and Palitana in Kathiawar, possess temples and architectural monuments of different ages. The Jaina marble temples at Mount Abu in Rajasthan belonging to the eleventh century and later. carry to its highest perfection the Indian genius for the invention of graceful patterns and their application to the decoration of Masonry.

Andhra’s Contribution to Jainism :

For the spread of Jainism the south played a vital role. We find evidence for it in Jaina literature. During the reign of Chandragupta Maurya (4th Century B. C.) Magadha was ravaged by a 12 year long famine. Some Jainas under the leadership of Bhadrabahu came to the South and by that time Jainism was a flourishing religion in the South.

In “Hari Bhadriya Vritti” it is written that the King of Kalinga who ruled during the time of Vardhamana Mahavira was a friend of Vardhamana’s father and Mahavira came to Kalinga and preached his religion.

Dharmamrita, a classic of 12th century A. D., mentions that even during the times of 12th Thirthankara, Vasupujya Jainism was prevalent in the Andhra country. Tradition also says an Anga king come with his three sons to Vengi who later became Jainas and built a city known as Pratipalapura which is some where near modern Bhattiprolu.

The Jaina tradition also mentions that Asoka’s grandson Samprati became a Svetambra Jaina and spread the religion in Kalinga. The Andhra and the Kalinga countries might have been strongholds of non-vedic religions for long, for Bodhayana says that whoever goes to Kinga must perform Prayschitta .

During the regime of Kharavela (2nd century B. C.), Jainism spread into many regions of Northern Andhra and Orissa. The rock caves at Khandagiri and Udayagiri bear testimony to the same . The Satavahana rulers of Pre-Christian era who ruled a vast territory which now comprises of Andhra, Maharashtra and Karnataka states were also influenced by Jainism. ‘Kalakasuri prabandha’ writes that one of the Satavahana rulers of Pratistanapura used to attend a Jaina monk’s discourse.

Article by G. V. Raju.


  1. Nice to see an article on at least part of the music scene around here. Damn hard to arrange good equipment, even harder to get it to work right. Chimera and Sand Monkey are legends, somewhat forgotten in Manipal though. It’s been a long while since Manipal’s had a good metal gig showcasing Manipal bands. We’ve had some good bands come from outside, but there are very few bands that take performing seriously, and fewer stages with a decent sound system/sound guy.

  2. Hey guys!! Heavy Metal is still very rampant. Eccentric Pendulum ( my band) have played there earlier, dont know if you guys remember this “Caution”..http://manipalblog.com/2011/04/caution-eccentric-pendulum-fractalline-live-in-manipal/.
    Well, we guys will be playing there in your town, again, this Sept 25th at this place called EDGE!! DO check us out on FaceBook to know how serious we are about our music.
    Just spreading the news fellas!! Cheers to Manipal

  3. The article mentioned the difficulty in organising gigs. While my band was lucky enough to participate in a few gigs that were organised, the severe lack of gigs lead us to organise a couple of our own gigs along with other bands that were active at the time. Thought I’d pitch in with my two cents and rate some of our experiences with the venues in Manipal for metal shows (from my limited experiences playing there till a few years back) in case anyone’s interested.

    1. Edge – tiny venue (usually jam packed with people), sound is normally not great and is a bit muddy.

    2. Valley View Chaitya Hall – Large space, oddly shaped as a long narrow rectangular hall, awful echoey sound when near empty, great sound when near full

    3. Valley View Lawns – Great sound overall, great location and lots of space, VV will not let you play there any more without significant restrictions on timing and volume in order to prevent disturbing the guests

    4. Enigma – Great sound, small(ish) venue

    5. MIT Quad – Awful sound, usually because of cheap audio equipment and inexperienced mixing technicians, large space

    6. Westind Country Club – Slightly remote, decent venue, good sound. Don’t normally care too much about timing or volume restrictions

    7. Shanthala Grounds (Is that what the grounds parallel to MIT’s main road between KC and Quad are called?) – Brilliant sound, large venue (caveat emptor this was during Campus Rock Idols with professional equipment)

    *8. Also attended a gig at KMC Greens – Great sound, open space, great location, though expensive and tied to the university (if I remember right, though I could be wrong)

    These are my personal opinions of course and should be treated as such.

    Cheers and may the eternal horns of imaginary dark deities fly high in Manipal forever.

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