Chennai (Tamil Nadu), December 30 2016: If we want to understand the recorded history of Tamils, one probably has to start with Jainism in Tamilnadu, for such has been its influence on the land and its history, said Chennai 2000 Plus Trust president R Rangaraj, while delivering the Professor T Balakrishnan Nayar Memorial Endowment lecture here on Thursday in the quaint and beautiful circular Centenary Exhibition Hall of Egmore Museum.
Bemoaning the fact that research on Jainism in Tamilnadu was scanty, he stressed that there should be extensive studies of Tamil literature – as the contribution of Jains has been phenomenal in this field – to understand Tamil culture, society and history per se. Rangaraj touched upon the rise and fall of Jainism in Tamilnadu with appropriate quotes from eminent historians and scholars and corroborated it with Tamil literature, including the epics and Saivite, Vaishanvite literature.
Taking up the literary contribution of Jains to Tamil, he traced it from before Sangam period. In fact, the word Sangam itself was taken from a Jain system of organising Sangams, he said. He reminded that three of the five epics of Tamil are the works of Jains and said, without ‘Samanars’, there was no Tamil literature. They have contributed to every branch of Tamil literature like poetry in Sangam literature, lexicography, grammar and didactic works. There is even a undercurrent of thinking that Tiruvalluvar was a Jain, said Rangaraj.
Though Tamilnadu has failed to document and record the history and contributions of Jains, he said, in a pioneering effort, the French Institute of Pondicherry has completed the photographic documentation of Jain sites throughout Tamilnadu. The aim of the project is to describe Jains’ cultural and religious heritage in Tamilnadu through a study of Jain sites and temples which cry for attention, he said. The DVD is set to be released in January 2017.
The lecture drew a lot of interest among Jains and the head of the Mel Sittamur Jaina mutt, Lakshmisena Bhattaraka, was present and spoke about how man should live on the basis of ahimsa – the bedrock of Jainism – and that Jainism teaches ways to make a human being live like a human being.
The director of Museums and Commissioner of Archaeology, Government of Tamilnadu, D Jaganathan, said Rangaraj had produced a voluminous study on Jainism in Tamilnadu and they were constrained to shorten its length for the endowment lecture. His lecture was produced as a 28-page bulletin and released by K Sekar, assistant director, Technical, Museums, at the end of the lecture. Chennai 2000 Plus Trust promotes awareness of history and antiquity of the metropolis and Tamilnadu.
The Prof T Balakrishnan Nayar Memorial Endowment was created by Maitreyi Ramadurai in memory of T B Nayar, as the former professor of History, Presidency College, and part-time curator of the museum, was known. The lecture on Jainism was the 14th endowment lecture in the series. Brinda, curator of the Zoology section of Egmore Museum, proposed the vote of thanks. – News Courtesy: News Today