May 8, 2008

Conversion of Jains to Islam

Two well known academicians of Kerala - Prof KMBahauddin, former pro-vice chancellor of AligarhMuslim and Osmania universities, and Dr MSJayaprakash, professor of history at Kollam - throwsome deep insights into the dark history of India......

Prof. Bahauddin recalls the strong reasons to believethat a large section of Jains had embraced Islam: 'Thespread of Islam in Tamilnadu can be considered inthree or four stages. Islam spread in Kerala andTamilnadu when Jainism was under pressure (650-750AD). The new religion was received withoutresistance.. Since Islam considers every human beingwith equality Jainism and Buddhism had no conflictwith it. When Muhammad ibn Al-Qasim attacked Sindh,the Buddhists supported him because they were facingannihilation at that time. A similar situation wasprevailing in South India during 650-750 AD.. Muslimsin Tamilnadu are called Anchuvanthar, Labba (teacher),Rauthar, Marakar (sailor) or Jonakan (Yavankan). TheAnchuvanam is the guild of traders and groups ofartisans. The Muslim mohallas of 'Anchuvan Vamsagar','Anchuvanathar', etc. are scattered all over Tamilnaduand seem to be the en bloc conversion of Jain guildsengaged in different activities, especially weaving.Those who ran away from Tamilnadu settled down inSravanabalagola and Gomatheswaram in Karnataka. And,those who could not leave due to their economicinterests converted to Islam. If we analyze the bodystructure, food, language, dress, ornaments, customsand habits of Anchuvanthar, it could be see that thoseare a continuation of Jain way of living and customs.

Till recently, the weavers in such Muslim mohallaswill not eat at noon or night, and take only one mealbefore dusk. This was a continuation of Jain habits.There is a separate place in such villages called'Odukkam' where Jain Munist used to sit in prayer. Onthe last Wednesday of the month called 'Odukkathae'Wednesday, the Muslims gather together to singreligious songs, which is also a Jain tradition. Whenreligious functions like Maulood, Rathif, etc. areorganized in the house, a white cloth with lotussymbol on it called 'Mekett' is tied, which resemblesthe 'Asmanagiri' of the Jains.. The architecture ofMuslim stone mosques are completely of Jainarchitecture. The pillars of earlier mosques havepractically no difference with the Jain templepillars. The close relationship between traders andweavers had probably cemented by conversion to Islam.During 950-1200 AD, there were large number of Sufis,Fakirs, wandering poets, singing minstrels, etc. amongMuslims all over Tamilnadu. Nadirshah with 500disciples settled down in 'Trichinopoly' during 1000AD. Aliyar Shah and his disciples made Madurai astheir centre. Baba Fakhruddin travelled all overTamilnadu. Nagur became another Sufi centre. TheMuslim religious literature of Tamilnadu of thatperiod was least different from those created by Jainsand Hindus during the 'Bhakti' movement.'

Prof. Bahauddin recounts the spread of Jainism andBuddhism in Kerala, thus: 'Jainism spread in NorthKerala around 200 BC. The Jain architectural remainsin Canara and Malabar are not available anywhere elsein South of Nepal. While Jainism entered North Keralavia Mangalore, Salem, Coimbatore and Wayanad, itentered Southern Kerala from Tirunelveli, Kanyakumari,Nagercoil, Chitharal, etc. The hill near Anamala,which was an important Jain centre, is still called'Jain Durgam'. The close-by Kurumala was also a Jaincentre. From Anamala through Munnar, Devikulam,Kothamangalam, Perumbavoor, etc. they reachedNeryamangalam, Kothamangalam, Perumbavoor and otherplaces. The 'Kallil Kshetram' in Perumbavoor is animportant Jain monument as also the 'Jainmedu' inVadakethara village of Palakkad district. Kerala'scave temples at Chitharal, Kallil, Trikur,Erunilamkode (Thrissur district) and Thiruveghapuram(Palakkad district) were constructed during the periodof Jain King Mahendra Verman-I (610-640 AD). Templerecords of Rameswaram, Sucheendram, Poothadi(Wayanad), Keenalur (Kozhicode) , etc. show that theywere part of 'Kunavai Koottam' during 10-11thcenturies. 'Koottam' is the place of living for JainSanyasis. Temple records show that all thesepresent-day Hindu temples were Jain religious placestill 11th century. Place names with Kallu, Poothan,Aathan, Kotha, Palli, Ambalam, etc. were all Jaincentres. Spread all over Kerala, names of these placesshow that Buddhism and Jainism were widespread. Thefamous Kalpathi in Palakkad district was aBuddhist-Jain centre. The 'Ratholsavam' there is akinto the 'Kettukazhcha' of Buddhists. The presentBhagavati temples were also Jain temples. The group,'Adikal', had a prominent position among Jains whobecame 'Pisharadi' after absorption of Jainism inHinduism.'


Sujlana said...

Hi Thanks for the information, we wants you to share the information on the all religious portal

A website for all religions.

pravin said...

It seems like an interesting theory, but needs a lot more research before coming to the conclusion. Jain communities could have converted to Islam, but having empathy towards another religion that promotes equality is no way the only reason to abandon your philosophy. One needs to investigate further to understand why there was not a single Muni or Sadhu left in many regions forcing people to convert. if the Philosophy was entrenched deep in the society, conversions like this on a mass scale could not have happened. Historically, mass conversions happen only because of either promise of social upliftment/allurement or force. Islam promotes animal sacrifices which goes against the basic tenets of Jainism. You also allude to Sindh region Buddhists & give an impression that Islam was sort of savior for these two great Indian philosophies. This is far from truth as it was because of Islam that Buddhism & to a large extent Jainism was wiped out in many parts of our country.

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