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Apr 7, 2008

Jaina relics in Kerala

By - Padmanabha

Buddha and Jaina relics in Kerala show that Kerala too came under the influence of Jainism and Buddhism. They remind us of the far off days when these faiths were practiced by men and women.

KARUMADI is a small village near Alappuzha. There is a mutilated image of three ft high set on an ordinary pedestal on the bnaks of the back water and the people call it Karumadikuttan. People go ashore to make offerings. Archeologists believe that Karumadikuttan is an image of Buddha seated in the yogasana posture. Traces of the upper cloth passing over the chest in thias image are a distinguishing feature of Buddhist iconography.

The department of Archeology had excavated four more images of BUDDHA. They are,

1. At Mavelikkara: It was found in the premises of a house. People lit lamps and offer coconuts.

2. At Bharanikkavu: located five miles north-west of Mavelikkara, the images excavated was elegantly carved.

3. At Pallikkal: seven miles from Adoor, this image was head less.

4. At Karunagapalli: in a temple tank, this image is the best ever found.

Last two images are exhibited at the Thiruvananthapuram Museum.

All these images were found in the central Travancore. When exactly Buddhism faded cannot

There are many temples which are of Jaina origin. THE rock temple at chitharal, kallil Bhagavathi temple at Perumpavur, and the Nagaraja temple at Nagercoil are of the Jaina origins.

The famous Jaina temple is at Chitharal. There is a cave temple atop a craggy hill. (When we started trekking we never realized that it was that steep. Somehow we reached there.)

Chitharal is a tiny unpretentious village located 4 miles north east of Kuzhithurai. This antique and historically significant rock shrine was in days of yore a place of pilgrimage sacred to the Jains. It was converted into Hindu temple in 1250AD, and an image of Bhagavathy was installed.

At the summit of Tirucharanathu Malai a craggy hill in Chitharal is a natural cave formed by an overhanging rock resting upon another. The imposing ruins of this temple perched atop the hill evoke sacred and austere memories.

On the northern side of the overhanging rock is sculpted many exquisite images which are avowedly Jainistic in origin, distinguished by hanging earlobes, a tier of three umbrellas over the tonsured head, in the sitting and standing postures. The images have broad shoulders and thin waists with contemplative expressions. Between these images of Jain Theerthankaras are inscriptions in Vattezhuthu. Most of them are seemed to be the replica of the Jain Theerthankaras, namely Parsvanatha and Mahavira, inside the central shrine. The Hindus however consider this as the image of Mahavishnu.

The central shrine is divided into three chambers-one for the Goddess another for Mahavira and the third one for Parsuanatha which is in the standing posture and nude as required by the manasara. The term Thirucharanathu malai means the hill holy to the charanas. The chudamani nighantu says that charanas are the eight class of samanas who have attained the siddhi of concealing themselves in flowers, water or sky. It also means a place where Jains lived in large groups.

On the top of the overhanging rock just above the central shrine is a brick gopuram. The three storied pagoda had images of Mahaviras. It was destroyed in lightning in 1908.

Jainism declined in the 11th century during the Chola dynasty. It is said that when Chandra Gupta Maurya along with a Jain ascetic Badrabhahu reached Sravanabalgola in 298 BC their disciples reached here to spread Jainism and chose this hillock for meditation.

Inscription on a huge rock exposed to the elements hence badly damaged throw light on the religious and cultural history of the State. There is a pond in front of the shrine down a flight of steps. On ascending the Chitharal rock one can enjoy the charming landscape around. At a distance the jagged outline of the Western Ghats enveloped by clouds can be seen .Below gleaming pale green lakes, fields, winding rivers, clusters of pretty villages nestling amidst coconut and Palmyra plantations, the tall spires of churches, the lofty gopurams enchant us.

This spot a confluence of history and religion is an ideal place for enjoying a quiet holiday. The most greatly prized amenity granted exclusively by nature here is peacefulness.

The Nagaraja temple at Nagercoil also is of Jaina origin. It continued to do so till 1522. Six Jaina images, three of which are -seated figure of Mahavira Tirthankara, one seated figure of Parswanatha, and another of the same in the standing posture. One of the Maharavira image is carved on a pillar in the Mandapa, in front of the central shrine and two others in the central shrine itself. The images of Parsvanatha and Padmavathidevi are seen on the pillars in the same mandapa.

Kallil Bhagavathi temple at Perumpavur, too is of Jaina origin. The shrine is a huge overhanging rock. Inside on the back wall of the cave is sculpted in half relief, the image of Mahavira, and to its left is the Padmavathidevi, now worshipped as Bhagavathi.

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