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In present times, Jainism in Kerala has a small following consisting mainly of the descendants of the first Jains in Kerala and the migrant Jainist community. However, it is important to note that Jainism has had a presence in Kerala since pre-Christian times, and continued to exist in the region until the 15th century. It disappeared from the mainstream in the 16th century.
Origin of Jainism in Kerala
According to belief, Jainism was introduced in Kerala during the third century BC. After the rule of Chandragupta Maurya (B.C. 321-297), Jain monk Bhadrabahu accompanied him and traveled to Shravanabelagola near Mysore, Karnataka, where their followers continued their journey southward to Kerala and Tamil Nadu in search of suitable places for meditation. By the beginning of the Christian era, Jainism was well established in Kerala, with notable royal patrons like Ilango Adigal, the author of the Tamil epic Silappadikaram, residing in Trikkanaa-Mathilakam, which became a center of Jain culture and learning in the south.
However, Jainism faced decline throughout the eighth century due to the rise of the Saivite and Vaishnavite movements, and by the sixteenth century, it had almost disappeared. Some Jain shrines from those times still exist, including those in Jainamedu near Vadakkanthara, Palghat, and Sultan Battery in Wayanad. Many Jain temples were demolished during Tipu Sultan's raid.
In the past, there were several religious belief temples adjoining Kerala, including the Koodalmanikyam Temple in Irinjalakuda, which is believed to have been dedicated to Bharatheswara, a Digambar religious belief monk. Jainism declined in popularity in Kerala during the Saivite and Vaishnavite resurgence, and many Jain shrines, including Koodalmanikkyam, became Hindu temples. The temple at Kallil in Perumbavoor was believed to have been a Jain shrine of Parsvanath, Mahaviran, and Padmavathi Devi, but now it is a Hindu shrine dedicated to Devi, where religious belief pilgrims also offer prayers.
The architecture of many temples in Kerala has been influenced by Jain Vaasthu Silpa, and some present-day Jain temples in Kerala include Shri Vasupujya Swami Jain Temple in Ernakulam, Shri Dharmanath Prabhu Jain Temple in Mattancherry, Kochi, Shri Anantnath Swami Temple in Puliyarmala, Kalpetta, Wayanad, and Sultan Bathery, Wayanad. The Jain temple complex in Kochi, built-in 1960, is sprawled over a large area with various blocks constructed for prayers and offerings, inspired by the Jain temples of Gujarat.
For those interested in Jainism, there are Kerala Jain tour packages available, and one can visit these notable Jain temples in Kerala, witness their architecture, and learn about their history.
Kerala Jain Tourism
Jainism is an ancient Indian religion that emphasizes non-violence and compassion towards all living beings. Kerala, a state in southern India, has a rich Jain heritage and is home to many ancient Jain temples and shrines. If you're interested in exploring Jain culture and history, here are some important points to keep in mind for Jain tourism in Kerala:
Visit the Jain temples: Kerala has several ancient Jain temples, some of which date back to the 8th century. Some of the most famous Jain temples in Kerala include the Ananthanatha Swami Temple in Puliyarmala, the Jain Temple in Wayanad, and the Jain Temple in Mattancherry.
Learn about Jain philosophy: Jainism has a rich philosophy that emphasizes non-violence, self-control, and spiritual growth. Many Jain temples in Kerala offer opportunities to learn about Jain philosophy and spirituality through lectures, classes, and discussions.
Try Jain food: Jain cuisine is unique in that it strictly adheres to the principles of non-violence and non-harm. Jain food is vegetarian and excludes all root vegetables, as well as onions and garlic. If you're interested in trying Jain food, look for restaurants that specialize in Jain cuisine in cities like Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram.
Attend Jain festivals: Jainism has several festivals that are celebrated with great enthusiasm in Kerala. Some of the most popular Jain festivals in Kerala include Mahavir Jayanti, Paryushana, and Diwali.
Explore Jain history and culture: Kerala has a rich Jain heritage, and there are many opportunities to explore Jain history and culture in the state. Some of the must-visit places include the Jain Heritage Centre in Wayanad and the Jain Temple complex in Kallil.
Jain tourism in Kerala offers a unique opportunity to explore an ancient and fascinating religious tradition. Whether you're interested in history, philosophy, or spirituality, there is something for everyone in Kerala's Jain heritage.