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Literature » Philosophy

Contribution Made by Jains to Tamil Literature
By: Dr. V.P.D. Datta , Professor : S. A. College, Ramnad, Tamilnadu

Jainism found its way into the South, especially Tamilnadu, from the third century B.C. It was spread by monks, who led an austere life and who generally lived in rocky caves. The Jain monks learnt the language of the people and attained great proficiency in it. They preached their faith and wrote books in Tamil.

Janism was at the height of its influence in Tamilnadu in the 7th and 8th centuries A.D. Powerful monarchs embraced it and gave a position of privilege and prestige to the Jain monks and religious leaders. Mahendra Varman I, the Pallava ruler of Kancheepuram, and the Pandiya King of Madurai, Ninrasi, Nedumaran, both of the 7th century A.D., were ardent Jains at first till they were converted by the Saivaite saints, Appar and Thirugnanasambandhar respectively.

Their literary output can be divided into four groups namely didactic works, epics, minor poems and grammatical works.

Laying stress always on ahimsa and good conduct they produced works mainly on ethics. The authors of the more important of the class of 18 poems known as 'Pathinen Kilkkanakku' have been Jains.

The contribution of the Jains to the 'Puranas' is not lesser in extension to others. The best among them is 'Meru-manthira Puranam'. It tells the story of 'Meru' and 'Manthira' who lived during 'Vimala Tirthankara's' period. The author of this purana was 'Vamana Muni' who lived in the 14th century. It has thirty divisions and 1405 poems. It is full of Jain philosophy and principles. This purana is published by Prof. Chakravarthi Nainar M.A. His introduction and notes for it are praiseworthy.

In the field of Tamil grammar and Nighantus (lexicography in classified and varified form) the Jain scholars have put forth their best. The most ancient Tamil grammar 'Tolkappiyam' was written by a Jain author 'Tolkappiyar'. There is much controversy about this fact, but if viewed impartially one can find that it is also one of the Jain contributions. This grammar work consists of three great chapters-' Ezhuthu, Sol and Porul'. Each chapter consists of nine sections and 1612 sutras.

Among the minor works by the Jain authors, mention may be made of 'Thirukkalambagam', considered by some to be the earliest of its kind. The magnificent poem of 'Kalingathuparani' by 'Tayankondar' may also be mentioned. As in other cases, there has been difference of opinion about Jayakondar's religion. The other minor works worthy of mention here are 'Thirunurrantadi', 'Appandainathar Ula' & 'Thiru vembavai'. These works are devotional as well as philosophical in their nature.

The Jains have no doubt made rich and vast contributions in almost all fields of Tamil literature. They are responsible for certain reforms and changes in the lives of the people. They too have enjoyed the patronage of the Kings. Even though at later periods the religion lost certain grounds the Jains never failed to follow their religion-doctrine of Ahimsa. Jainism as a discipline has survived thousands of years of the Indian tradition, in spite of persecution and neglect by Hindu orthodoxy. Mahatma Gandhi infused new life in politics through the principle of Ahimsa. Modern scientists have found out the value and scientific advantages of vegetarian food. Prohibition is nothing but one of the main doctrines of Jain philosophy.

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