DVD documents all ancient Jain settlements across Tamil Nadu

Chennai (Tamil Nadu), November 28, 2015: Although Tamil Nadu has more than 450 Jain sites, only a few have been properly documented. Many sites lie abandoned and neglected, giving room for vandalism.

Six years ago, when K Ramesh Kumar, a research assistant with the French Institute of Pondicherry, climbed a hill which had abandoned Jain sites, he never thought he would go on to photo-document all the sites in the state. With the help of a team of experts from the FIP, Kumar has now produced a DVD containing more than 8,000 photographs of Jain sites for the firts time.This is the first time a DVD is coming up with photographs and basic details of all the sites.

Nalini Balbir and Karine Ladrech of Paris University, and N Murugesan, researcher of the FIP, were the other members in the team that worked on the DVD titled “Jain Sites of TN.”

“I have documented 459 sites, including 79 sub sites, comprising structural and cave temples, rock beds, inscriptions, converted sites and stray sculptures. Special emphasis has been laid on the iconography of the 24 Tirthankaras and associated gods, Jain rituals and festivals and their role in the development of Tamil language,” said Kumar.

Jainism was once a major religion in Tamil Nadu and other parts of India. But now Jains comprise a minuscule 0.13% of the state’s population. “The Jains played a key role in the development of Tamil culture since the 3rd century BCE. But many Jain monuments are in ruins, and they are disappearing due to lack of maintenance. and care. So the need was felt to document all the existing Jain monuments by undertaking a comprehensive field survey and preserving for posterity an important aspect of the country’s culture, at least through digital archives,” he said.

Tiruvannamalai, Villupuram and Kancheepuram districts have the most Jain sites, though Madurai tops in the number of important Jain monuments (more than 15). While some of the abandoned or neglected sites are taken care of by the ASI, many are preserved by heritage enthusiasts and Tamil Jains.

“Many Jain sites lie in remote areas. Exploring them was my first challenge. The main idea is to show the growth and development of Jainism in TN. We have including basic materials about the rituals and festivals of Jains in the DVD. The spatial distribution of Jain temples and rock cut caves are located on a map of Tamil Nadu with GPS points,” he said.

There are three ways one can search the Jain monuments on the DVD. One is through the ‘Site’ option by entering the district, taluk or name of the site. Another way is through ‘Map’ which provides a geographical overview of the sites. The third option is ‘Search’ by entering the key word. The icons are grouped into layers such as Temples, Rock shelters, Converted sites, Sculptures, Associated Sites and Inscriptions. There are also sections for ‘monuments’, ‘rituals’, and ‘festivals’. The photo gallery on this page can be browsed by clicking on the left and right arrows on either side of each photo. There is also a gallery button in the main menu which allows one to browse the entire set of photos.

Although Tamil Nadu has more than 450 Jain sites, only a few have been properly documented. Many sites lie abandoned and neglected, giving room for vandalism. Six years ago, when K Ramesh Kumar, a research assistant with the French Institute of Pondicherry, climbed a hill which had abandoned Jain sites, he never thought he would go on to photo-document all the sites in the state. With the help of a team of experts from the FIP, Kumar has now produced a DVD containing more than 8,000 photographs of the Jain sites. This is the first time a DVD is coming up with photographs and basic details of all the sites.

“I have documented 459 sites, including 79 sub sites, comprising structural and cave temples, rock beds, inscriptions, converted sites and stray sculptures. Special emphasis has been laid on the iconography of the 24 Tirthankaras and associated gods, Jain rituals and festivals and their role in the development of Tamil language,” said Kumar.

Jainism was once a major religion in Tamil Nadu and other parts of India. But now Jains comprise a minuscule 0.13% of the state’s population. “The Jains played a key role in the development of Tamil culture since the 3rd century BCE. But many Jain monuments are in ruins, and they are disappearing due to lack of maintenance and care. So the need was felt to document all the existing Jain monuments by undertaking a comprehensive field survey and preserving for posterity an important aspect of the country’s culture, at least through digital archives,” he said.

Nalini Balbir and Karine Ladrech of Paris University, and N Murugesan, researcher of the FIP, were the other members in the team that worked on the DVD titled “Jain Sites of Tamil Nadu.”

Jainism flourished all over the state, predominantly in Villupuram, Kanchipuram, Vellore, Tiruvannamalai, Cuddalore and Thanjavur districts. “Many Jain sites lie in remote areas. Exploring them was my first challenge. The main idea is to show the growth and development of Jainism in Tamil Nadu. We have including basic materials about the rituals and festivals of Jains in the DVD. The spatial distribution of Jain temples and rock cut caves are located on a map of Tamil Nadu with GPS points,” he said. There are three ways one can search the Jain monuments on the DVD. One is through the ‘Site’ option by entering the district, taluk or name of the site. Another way is through ‘Map’ which provides a geographical overview of the sites. The third option is ‘Search’ by entering the key word. The icons are grouped into layers such as Temples, Rock shelters, Converted sites, Sculptures, Associated Sites and Inscriptions.There are also sections for ‘monuments’, ‘rituals’, and ‘festivals’. The photo gallery on this page can be browsed by clicking on the left and right arrows on either side of each photo. There is also a gallery button in the main menu which allows one to browse the entire set of photos. – News Courtesy: Times of India

Post Author: JHC