Remnants of 12th century Jain temples in plantations in Wayanad

The flow of time probably got stuck inside two coffee plantations at Puthangadi near Panamaram in Wayanad district where two ancient Jain temples stand in stoic grandeur bearing marked signs of dilapidation.

Offering a peek into an age bygone here are relics of huge granite stones engraved with beautiful sculptures, moss-infected forms of deities, dilapidated roofing with intricate designs, and ditches made by treasure hunters.

In their complete form, the temples were called Krishnagudi and Janardhanagudi and built in the period between 12th to 14th centuries.

The monuments are reminders to a flourishing civilisation that existed in and around the area centuries ago, before human interventions erased it to plant cash crops and other moneyed yields.

Recent studies and entries in Jain literature have shown that Wayanad was part of the Hoysala kingdom, which ruled Karnataka in the 12th century AD.

The place thus came under the sway of Jainism, the Hoysala rulers being Jains. Manikyapuram, in Wayanad, was a prominent centre of trade in gems and pearls which in course of time, came to be known as Muthangadi and now as Puthangadi.

Going by this history, the Jain temples in Puthangadi may have been built during the reign of the Hoysala kings or the Vijayanagara dynasty. Standing proof for this is the style of the sculptures and the presence of old Kannada script on a stone edict on a wall of Janardhanagudi. The Karnataka touch is visible in the huge stone pillars of both the monuments too,

M.R. Raghava Varier, historian who studied the sculptures, says.

Both the monuments now are in a depressingly bad state, years of neglect and rampant human intervention having taken their toll. Amidst all the aura of the ancient around the structures, lie empty bottles of liquor and beverages left by anti-social elements even inside of the sanctum sanctorum of the temples. The life-size sculptures and intricate designs engraved on the huge granite pillars of the monuments also show marks of having borne much of time’s onslaught.

Yet there are nearly 300 carvings on huge stone pillars that have survived the passage of time. They includes a sculpture of a fishing man, a primitive war scene featuring tuskers, other such war scenes, a few erotic sculptures, a stone edict in old Kannada script, figures of Jain deities and sculptures of the ‘Dashavathara’.

Talks on moves to preserve the monuments have been doing rounds since four years ago. In 2009, the Union government had announced its intention to declare them as national monuments along with 25 such monuments in the country.

Union Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs V. Narayanasamy, then in charge of the Culture Ministry, had made announcement in the Lok Sabha.

But the sources in Archaeological Survey of India, Thrissur circle, say the office had no information on the announcement.

The office had, however, submitted all the documents related to the monuments, including their history and architectural value as well as the revenue details of the land, to ASI’s Director General recently. Based on the Ancient Monument and Archeological sites and Remains (Amendment and Validation) Act, the ASI Director General should be issuing two notifications for acquiring the monuments. The ASI, Thrissur circle, officials expect the first notification to come soon.

A.C. Shyamsundar of Puthangadi, whose family owns the coffee plantations, says the ASI authorities had approached him for negotiations on the property before sending their proposal to the Centre.

He had agreed to provide the property free if the temples would be declared protected monuments.

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