Archaeologists find new evidence

Did the 24th Tirthankara Vardhamana Mahavira visit Machilipatnam Port? Did Jainism spread to Andhra Pradesh directly from North India or did it come from Karnataka as it is popularly believed? These are some of the questions that are trying to be answered by a group of archaeologists chosen by the city-based Sree Shankheswar Parshwanath Giriraj Trust to make a study on Jainism.

Addressing a press conference here on Monday representative of the trust Dharmchand Binayakiya said the panel of experts had found some new evidence to suggest that Jainism spread to Andhra Pradesh directly from North India rather than via Karnataka, considered a major centre for Jainism.

Mr Binayakiya said the archaeologists found Jain Sallekhana (religious ritual of voluntary death by fasting) stone beds in remote village of Srikakulam district.

State Archaeology Department former Deputy Director and author of ‘Studies in Jainism – As Gleaned from Archaeological Sources' G.Jawaharlal said Jain Sallekhana stone beds were found in rock caverns on the hills near Dannanapeta and Chittivalasa villages of Amudalavalasa taluk in Srikakulam district.

Sallekhana stone beds were earlier reportedly in the State only at Munula Gutta of Kapparaopeta in Karimnagar district. The hills in which the Jain Caves were located were known to the villagers as Pandavula Metta as there were five stone beds.

Mr Jawaharlal said the Sallekhana beds of Dannanapeta and Chittivalasa were different from the stone beds of Jain caves in Tamil Nadu. They were different even from the beds of Kapparaopet. While the stone beds in Jain caves of Tamil Nadu were flat, the beds in Kapparaopet were curved.

Though no inscriptions have been found near the beds as yet Mr Jawaharlal said the Dannanapeta beds could be of a date earlier than Kapparaopeta. Since the Kapparaopeta caves belonged to the 3rd century BC these beds could be of the 2{+n}{+d} century. If Jainism was prevalent in Andhra Pradesh in the 2nd century itself it was possible to construe that it spread directly to Andhra.

According to a Jain rock edict Mahavira visited the Machilipatnam port. So there was every possibility of Jainism spreading directly to Andhra Pradesh, Mr Jawaharlal said.

Another member of the panel and freelance archaeologist K.Venkateswara Rao said the capital of Kalinga Empire Dantapura was located very close to these Jain caves. There were several inscriptions that said the kings of Dantapura adopted Jainism and patronised it as their State religion. But most of the Digambara Jain munis of the time were reclusive and lived in forest caves. Sallekhana vrata was often the final stage in their spiritual journey.

Nagarjuna University Archaeology Researcher and member of the panel S. Murali Mohan was present.

Keywords: JainismArchaeology

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