History & Culture

On how Jains were won over

When Sri Ramanuja was persecuted by the Chola king, he went to present day Karnataka, which was then ruled by King Vitala Deva Raya, who was a Jain. His daughter was overpowered by an evil spirit and the King tried all remedies at his disposal, but in vain. By the grace of Ramanuja, she was cured and the family was delighted. They prostrated before Ramanuja and requested him to initiate them into the Srivaishnava faith. Ramanuja named the King ‘Vishnuvardhana Raya’.

When the Jains, who had been earlier the preceptors of the King, came to know about this incident, they arrived at Thondanoor and confronted Ramanuja. They challenged him to a scholarly debate, which he accepted. Ramanuja asked his disciples to put up a screen between him and the Jain scholars. Behind the screen, he took the form of the thousand-hooded Adishesha and engaged in a debate with the thousands of scholars individually, and simultaneously, through his thousand hoods, and in due course, defeated them. The scholars were totally convinced by the divine words of Ramanuja, and many of them ultimately became his disciples. These accounts are given in detail in the Guruparampara text.

An interesting incident involving Srivaishnavas and Jains is recorded in the inscriptions in the Jain bastis (places of worship) in Karnataka. During the reign of King Bukka Raya (1368 AD) a dispute arose between Jains and Bhaktas with regard to the Jains using their five great musical instruments and kalasa. When the Jains represented the matter to the king , he entrusted the protection of the Jains to the Vaishnavas. He decreed that Srivaishnavas of the eighteen naadus or districts including the Acharyas of Srirangam, Tirumala, Kanchipuram and Melkote were responsible for protection of the Jains and their faith. The King also decreed thus: “The Jain creed is, as before, entitled to the five great musical instruments and the kalasa or vase. Any loss or benefit to the Jain creed should be looked upon by the Sri Vaishnavas as loss or gain to their own creed. The Srivaishnavas will to this effect kindly set up a saasana or inscription in all the Jain bastis of the kingdom. For as long as the sun and moon endure, the Vaishnava creed will continue to protect the Jain creed. Tatayya of Tirumala, will, out of the money levied from every Jain house throughout the kingdom, appoint twenty servants as bodyguards for the God at Belagola and repair ruined Jina temples. He who transgresses this decree shall be a traitor to the king, a traitor to the sanga and the samudaya.”

This inscription is found in three Jain bastis of Karnataka according to Epigraphica Karnatica Vol.II (344). The striking feature of this inscription is that it opens with a verse (the fifth verse of Dhati panchka stotra) in praise of Sri Ramanuja. The verse is as follows:

paashandasaagara mahaabadabaa mukhaagnih

srirangaraaja charanaambuja muladaasah

srivishnuloka manimantapa maargadaayee

raamaanujo vijayate yatiraaja raajah.

(A great fire to opponents of his philosophy, devotee at the lotus feet of Sri Rangaraja, one who shows the path to the mani mantapa of Paramapada, the king among ascetics, Ramanuja be victorious).

These inscriptions are valuable documents of history.

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