Tales of Wayanad's abundant Jain culture

Ramesh Kumar Velamunda

Jain temple in Sultan Bathery | Photo: Mathrubhumi

Wayanad is the first city in south India to have a Jain tourism circuit with the aim is to introduce Jain culture to the next generation. The Jain Circuit was formed by enclosing the Adishwar Jain Temple at Pandikkad, Adiswara Temple at Koyleri, Chandranathgiri at Myladippara in Kalpatta, Ananthanath Swami Temple at Puliyarmala, Santhinath Temple at Venniyode, and the Parasnath Temple at Pallikunnu.

Jainism found its way to Kerala through Karnataka. Historical records suggest that Jainism has been rooted in Kerala since the 8 Century AD. The ripples of this migration can also be found in the wilderness of Wayanad. Wayanad’s divine home consists of rock-cut temples, Jain bastis, and other ancient temple structures. This is the land of Jain temples that indicate a rich culture, agricultural revolutions, and Pazhassi revolts. The known historical facts about this land begin with the antiquity of the ancient Thirunelli temple.

The rock-cut temples and Jain Bastis of Wayanad are textbooks for history enthusiasts. The most important Jain temples are in Sultan Bathery, Varadoor, and Puliyarmala. These centuries-old temples bear witness to the land's rich cultural legacy. The pillars that the architects sculpted, as well as the beams and slabs that were erected on them, still stand tall in the historical remnants. The Jain temple at Bathery, which is architecturally outstanding, is one of the most important medieval Jain settlements. This temple was known as Kidanganad basti back in the olden days. It is built in the Vijayanagara style. Even the name ‘Sultan Bathery’ indicates the importance of this temple.

Jain temple in Sultan Bathery | Photo: Jayesh P/ Mathrubhumi

Centuries of antiquity

Ganapati Vattam was renamed Sultan Bathery with the arrival of Tippu Sultan. History says that Tipu Sultan captured this temple and used it as an armory. Historians say the temple experienced some type of deterioration in the ancient era. The scattered parts of this temple are still found here. Jain Bastis date back to the period when Jain devotees migrated to Wayanad. According to historical accounts, the believers established a base here initially. At the western end of Bathery Angadi sits this temple, which is covered with several enormous stone slabs.

Many of the Jain temples have deteriorated considerably in Wayanad over the years. A handful of remnants are preserved for posterity. The Department of Archaeology is currently in charge of the Bathery Jain temple. According to these accounts, these temples were constructed between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries.

The door and the Mukha Mandapa have been destroyed by treasure hunters and sociopaths. It was first looked after by the Madras Circle Archaeology Department, although not in a different way. This "history textbook," covered in forest, was published after the 1990s. After that, the temple underwent renovations before being made accessible to tourists. The Jains constructed this temple in the fourteenth century. This monument chronicles their migration to Wayanad. The major draw was the Vijayanagara-inspired sculptures and buildings. The primary structures in this temple are Mukha Mandapam, Garbhagraha, Armamandapam, and Mahamandapam. Earlier, the Mukha mandapam and gateways were demolished. The area supported by the remaining stone pillars is now in danger of collapsing.

Marvelous constructions of time

The ancient stone temples of Punchavayal are just a stone’s throw away from Panamaram. Vastu artists sculpted the pillars, and the enormous beams and slabs piled on them are historical artifacts. Janardhanagudi and Vishnugudi will amaze anyone.

Janardhana temple in Punchavayal | Photo: Mathrubhumi

The Archaeological Survey of India has been making headway in acquiring them as National Monuments for a very long period. It is believed that they were built in the 12th and 14th centuries. According to history, the Hoysala rulers who dominated Karnataka began building these stone temples. However, it's also believed that traders who came to the area in the past to trade coral and pearls erected these granite temples. Next to Thirunelli temple lies the Kudhikode stone temple. The exact age of the building is a mystery.

Jain Circuit is arriving

The Jain migration marked a new phase in Wayanad's agricultural history. The Jains reached Wayanad through the banks of the Kabani river. From here, the Jains in many groups moved to different parts of the district. They primarily reside in Mananthavady, Panamaram, Kanyampata, Kalpetta, Venniyoor, Varadoor, and Anchukunnu.

Jain Ride

In 2016, a ride was held under the auspices of the Tourism Society along the Kerala-Karnataka border under the name Jain Ride Season 1. Wayanad hosted the ride's second season. Visitors may encounter 12 different Jain cultures in the present route.

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