It is now an undisputed
fact that Jainism entered into Karnataka and south India during the days
of Emperor Chandragupta Maurya when Bhadrabahu, the distinguished leader
of Jainas and the last of the Jaina saints known as sruta-kevalis, after
predicting twelve years famine in the north India, led the migration of
the Jaina Sangha to the South. Thus it is stated that the Jaina
history in the South commences from the 3rd Century B.C. as according to
all Jaina authors the death of Acharya Bhadrabahu took place in 297 B.C.
at Shravanabelagola. But in this connection it is strongly asserted from
further historical researches that this Bhadrabahu tradition is the
starting point of a revival and not the commencement of the Jaina
activities in south India and hence regard that Bhardrabahu was in fact
the rejuvenator of Jainism in south India. In this regard, it is argued
that if south India would have been void of Jainas before Bhadrabahu
reached there, it is least conceivable that an Acharya of Bhadrabahu's
status would have led the Jaina sangha to such a country and for
the mere sake of dharma-raksa, that is, protection of religion.
Again, in this relation various archaeological, epigraphic and literary
evidence are brought forward to prove the antiquity of the Jainas in south
India and it is asserted that Jainism had reached south India long before
In any case Jainism
prevailed in south India in 3rd Century B.C. and it continued as a popular
faith for more than one thousand years of the Christian Era and it is
significant to note that up to the 14th century A.D. Jainism played an
important role in the history of south India.
The Kadamba Rulers
The Kadamba rulers of
Banavasi (from the 3rd to the 6th Century A D.) were essentially
Brahmanical in religion. Yet the royal Kadamba family gave a few monarchs
who were devout Jainas, and who were responsible for the gradual progress
of Jaina religion in Karnataka Eventually Jaina religion became a popular
religion in the Kadamba Empire.
The Ganga Rulers
The Ganga Rulers (350 to
999 A.D.) of Talakada in Karnataka patronized Jaina religion to a great
extent. In fact the Ganga kingdom itself was a virtual creation of the
famous Jaina saint Acharya Simhanandi and naturally practically all Ganga
monarchs championed the cause of Jainism.
The Chalukya Rulers
During the reign of
Chalukya Rulers of Badami in Karnataka (500 to 757 A.D.). the Jaina
religion was more prominent and many Jaina Acharyas were patronized by
Chalukya kings including Pudakesi II.
The Rastrakuta Rulers
Many of the Rastrakuta
emperors and their feudatories and officers were staunch Jainas and hence
the period of Rastrakutas of Malakheda in Karnataka (757 to 973 A.D.) is
considered as the most glorious and flourishing period in the history of
Jainism in the Deccan.
The Western Chalukya
From the 10th to the 12th
century A.D. the Western Chalukya rulers of Kalyan in Karnataka regained
their ascendancy after the fall of the Rastrakutas and preferred to show
the same liberal attitude to Jainism which the Kadambas, the Gangas and
the Rastrakutas had shown.
The Hoyasala Rulers
The Hoyasala rulers during
their reign from 1006 to 1345 A.D. over their kingdom of Halebid in
Karnataka did strongly extend their support to Jaina religion. In fact
like the earlier Ganga kingdom, the Hoyasala kingdom in the 11th century
also owed its creation to a Jaina saint by name Acharya Sudatta. Further
it has been specifically reported that many of the Hoyasala kings and
their Generals extended their patronage to Jainism and that they very
carefully looked after the interests of the Jainas.
Kalachuri of Kalyan
In addition to these major
dynasties and their rulers it has been emphasized that the Kalachuri
rulers (from 1156 to 1183 A.D.) of Kalyan were Jainas and naturally
in their time Jainism was the state religion.
On the same lines the Alupa
kings of Tuluva (i.e. modern South Kanara district of Karnataka) showed
leanings towards Jainism and the inscriptions reveal that Jainism was
patronized by these Alupa kings. Further, Jainism was the state religion
of the minor states of Punnata of the Santaras, the early Changalvas, and
the Kongalvas, as testified by their inscriptions. Similarly, the Rattas
of Saundatti and Belgaum and the Silaharas of Kolhapur were Jainas by
Thus from early ages
various royal families came forward as champions of Jainism and it is no
wonder if their example was followed by their feudatories.
In Andhra and Tamilnadu
In the far South, Tamilnadu
discloses traces of Jaina domination almost everywhere and on many a
roadside. a stone image of Tirthankara may be seen either standing or
sitting cross-legged. From the ancient and important sangama literature
and other archeological and epigraphic sources it is evident that Jainism
flourished in the Tamil country from the earlier times intelligible with
our present means. Jaina epigraphs have been discovered in Anantapur,
Bellary, Cuddapah, Guntur, Krishna, Kurnool, Nellore, North Arcot, South
Kanara, and Vizagapattam districts of former Madras Province. These Jaina
epigraphs and other Jaina relics clearly indicate the larger vogue that
Jainism once had in that part of the country.
Thus the whole of south
India comprising the Deccan, Karnataka, Andhra and Tamilnadu was a great
stronghold of Jainas, especially Digambara Jainas, for more than one
thousand years. Apart from the provincial capitals, Shravanabelagola in
Karnataka was the center of their activities and it occupies the same
position even up to the present day.
Jainism, however, began to
decline in south India from the 12th century due to the growing importance
of Srivaisnavism and Virasaivism.