Dec 1, 2009

Footprints of Jainism in Southern India

By: Dr.Pratap Sehgal

There is a blatantly wrong notion prevailing in our country that Jain religion has no significant presence in states like Andhra Pradesh,Karnataka and Tamil Nadu . In order to demolish this baseless myth, prestigious Somaiya Publications Pvt Ltd. has recently published a very important book ‘Spectrum of Jainism in Southern India’. It is edited by Dr. Geeta Mehta and Dr.Kokila Shah. It gives you mines of information regarding Jainism in down south.

According to this book, the Jain history in Southern India can be traced back to 3rd century and Jainism played a significant role in the history of that part of the country up to 14th century A.D are some of the key footnotes which are not very well- known.

The footprints of Jainism can be seen and observed in many ways in states southern states. There is no denying the fact that creative areas like Art, Literature, Architecture are greatly enriched due to over whelming influence ofJainism in South. In his forward, Dr.Shanti Lal Somaiya, who looks after the affairs of Somaiya Publications despite his busy schedule as a top most industrialist of India, said that the aim of publishing this book is to make the early history ofJainism known to the world. He further said,” Jainism exerted considerable influence over the cultural life of India. Jain saints like Acarya Kundakunda, Samanthabhadra etc. compose masterpieces of literature.”

I sincerely feel that ‘Spectrum of Jainism in Southern India’ is a must buy book for all those who are keen to know more on this subject. It has many very scholarly essays on wide-ranging subjects.

In his essay Jaina Temple Architecture in Andhra, Dr.G.Jawahalal said that Andhra Pradesh was the cradle of Jainism. Ancient Relics, inscriptions and traditions indicate that many ruling princes and eminent officials of the state, men of all walks of life came under the influence ofJainism and fervently followed the path of the Jain religion. The presence of innumerable Jaina centers speak abundantly for the powerful influenceJainism had at one time in those parts of Andhra Pradesh.

This book is the outcome of research papers presented at the seminar. It is confined to the study of Jainism in Southern India through ages with reference to its different aspects. Jainism in Southern India has not so far received the attention that it really deserves The Literary and Archeological evidences stand testimony to the rich Jain heritage in South.

In an essay on contribution of the Jains to the Society and Culture of South India, the writer has claimed that as far as South India is concerned,Jainism is little more than a name. ‘In the field of reformation of the society, Jains have played a vital role. The major contribution of theJainism in the upliftment of life and values of life is through spiritual preaching of monks and nuns, who roam about on foot from village to village and from cities to cities to propagate the values like non-violence and for the betterment of life.” -Spectrum ofJainism in Southern India, Editors-Dr Geeta Mehta and Dr.Kokila Shah, prize-Rs 600,pages 219.

-The reviewer is a scholar of Hindi and Sanskrit and teaches in Delhi University.

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