Here is a systematic, thorough and comprehensive
study of the Jain and Buddhist centres in Kerala.
It was the growing strength and prosperity of the
agricultural Brahmin settlements and the shrinking
of long-distance trade under the feudal system,
rather than the persecution by Brahmins that led to
the decline and fall of these groups in Kerala. This is
a fine and authentic presentation of facts regarding
Jainism and Buddhism in Kerala.
Here is a systematic, thorough and comprehensive study
of the Jain and Buddhist centres in Kerala. This was undertaken
by Smt. B. Padmakumari Amma as part of the Ph.D. programme
in the Department of History, Calicut University (1990 -96) under
my supervision. She took up the work with a sense of commitment
not always found among researchers today, with the result that
the outcome is more than a routine academic study.
Apart from the necessary library work, she planned and
executed fieldwork on a large scale, visiting each and every site
from Kasargode to Kanyakumari connected with these creeds in
an attempt to strengthen and supplement the slender database.
She examined the place names, inscriptions, monuments and other
archaeological evidence, and also Tamil, Sanskrit and Malayalam
literary works in order to be able to present an integrated picture.
After a critical evaluation of early studies, she proceeded
to collect information from all available primary sources and review
them in the light of recent studies beginning with the reconstruction
of Kerala history by Professor Elamkulam P.N.Kunhan Pillai and
others in the middle of the last century. The publication of new
source materials in the course of the 20" century made this research
possible and desirable.
Earlier conclusions were formulated at a time when there
was no sound chronological framework of Kerala history, and
therefore the bits of information could not be pasted together in a
meaningful way. It was blindly assumed that the Jains and Buddhists
were the dominant groups in Kerala society until the Kerala
Brahmins somehow gained the upper hand, got the rulers on their
side, and persecuted and banished or suppressed them. Very often
scholars imagined that all the place names ending with "palli"
denoted either a Jain or Buddhist centre. This is not true. Palli in
Tamil and Old Malayalam stood for a small hamlet as in Pali and
other Prakrit languages. This was distinguished from the Brahmin
settlements called agrahara or brahmadeya or simply grama in
inscriptions and literature. It is true that Jain and Buddhist or
Christian or Muslim settlements were established in such hamlets,
but the suffix palli in itself did not prove their existence.
It would appear froma scrutiny of evidence that Jain monks
arrived in Kerala along with traders from different parts of India.
They followed the land routes across the passes in the Western
Ghats, leading to the Vayanad, Palakkad, Idukki and
Thiruvananthapuram districts of the present day. Their shrines are
found on these routes. Available evidence would indicate that they
came only after the arrival and settlement of the Aryan Brahmin
settlers in the 32 original gramas, mentioned in the legendary
Keralolpatti chronicle, and the establishment of the Cera kingdom
of Makotai or Mahodayapuram. As the traders belonged mostly
to the Jain groups, they brought the Jain monks and settled them in
some pockets of Kerala. However, unlike the Vedic Brahmins who
were householders, the Jains were ascetics, and did not have
successors to look after their monasteries and shrines. When the
flow of trade slowed down after the disappearance of the Cera
kingdom in the beginning of the 12" century and the establishment
of a feudal system with nearly self-sufficient villages, the flow of
new Jain monks and ascetics also stopped. There were no new
monks to replace the old ones. The Jain shrines were neglected or
abandoned, and taken over by the Hindu natives as in the case of
Kinalur, Tiruvannur, Irinjalakkuda, Trikkana Matilakam, Kallil,
Citaral, Nagaraja temple etc. The lay followers might have been
absorbed in the local communities and castes. There are no signs
of persecution or struggle either in archaeology or contemporary
The case of Buddhism was slightly different. Contrary to
the assumption of early writers on the subject, researchers found
relics of Buddhism in the form of sculptures only in Kuttanad and
the surrounding area, suggesting that they belonged to the
Srimulavasa Vihara which flourished from the 9" to the 12" century
in the neighborhood of Trikkunnappuzha where the vihara was
most probably located. The vihara was swallowed by the sea
sometime during the 12" or 13" century, and that was the end of
the Buddhist connection with Kerala.
That the foundations of Indian culture were deeply
embedded in Dravidian culture is now an inconvertible fact.
Dravidian culture is one of the most ancient cultures of the world.
Those cultures, slightly contemporaneous to one another, slowly
started fading out. However, the primordial Dravidian culture
continues to thrive without losing its quintessence despite the
apparent changes in systems of dress and address.
Dravidian University is established through a Legislature
Act by the Government of Andhra Pradesh in 1997 with the
extended support of Southern States at Kuppam, a tri-lingual junction
in the south-western part of Andhra Pradesh, 4 km. away from
Karnataka, 8 km. from Tamil Nadu and about 4 hours drive from
Kerala, to promote a spirit of integration among the speakers of
Dravidian languages, thus building a strong path of National
Integration and to advance research and studies in Dravidian
language which are about 27 both inside India and outside like
Baluchistan and to create a strong awareness of the integrated
character of Dravidian Studies, a major branch of Indology.
One of the main objectives of Dravidian University is to
unearth the linguistic, cultural and historical traits common to the
Dravidian languages that have spread across the whole of India
and the neighboring countries. Keeping this in view, the University
and the neighboring countries. Keeping this in view, the University
established the Department of Dravidian and Computational
Linguistics in November 2005. The department carries out research
in the area of Dravidian linguistics and computational linguistics.
Publishing research works in both these areas is another important
activity of the department.
There is no denying the fact that one of the main factors
of unifying India, geographically and culturally is the contribution
of Jainism and Buddhism. The influence they exerted on the
evolution of modern Indian languages is also remarkable. These
two religious precursors made their way to the southern parts of
India and extended their field of activities up to Sri Lanka. They
contributed in their own way, and significantly too to the concept
of finding India as one and strengthened what became a dream-
realization that India is one. The way the religions chose deserves
much praise, almost a revolutionary mode of implementing their
cult through the path of Ahimsa, love and peace. Violence and
compulsion were unknown to them. They went on preaching and
- practicing the basic virtues of humanity and what ever we find as
admirable traits of Indian culture, our religious tolerance and the
principles Gandhi preached and practiced is the contribution of
these basic virtues.
Jainism and Buddhism marked their strong influence in
the South Indian states especially in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka
and Tamil Nadu. We can quote great names like those of
Kundakundacharya who belonged to Jainism and Nagarjuna who
was a Buddhist philosopher. All the same may be due to
geographical factors their influence was not felt much in the land
of Kerala. It is worth a matter of research how much these religions
were able to influence the lives of the people in the Southern most
part of India. A lot of evidence has been wiped off in the merciless
torrent of time.in the name of reforms and revolutions. There fore
it seems that the only way before a historian is to amass what ever
relics and evidences are available and reconstruct ancient history.
Such a study or research would be undoubtedly a praiseworthy
analysis of the development that has occurred not only in the social
life of India, but also in its cultural, literary and linguistic fields.
Dr. Padmakurmari Amma is the authoress of this book.
Her achievement is the result of relentless study tours followed by
collecting valuable materials, analysing them scientifically and
arriving at reasonable assessment. The Dravidian University has:
great pleasure in publishing this research work.
It is with great pleasure and pride that this book is being
presented before inquisitive readers.
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