Exact origins of Jainism in ancient Tamil land is not clear. However Jains have been known to have existed and flourished in Tamil Nadu at least as early as 3rd century BCE. Tamil Jaina tradition however places their origins are much earlier. Ramayana, a Hindu literature mentions that Lord Rama paid homage to Jaina monks living in South India on his way to Sri Lanka. Some scholars believe that the author of the oldest extant work of literature in Tamil (3rd century BCE), Tholkappiyam, was a Jain. Silappatikaram, first epic in Tamil literature, was written by a jain monk, IlangoAdigal. This epic is a major work in Tamil literature, describing the historical events of its time, and also of then prevailing religions, Jainism, Buddhism and Saivism. The main characters of this work, Kannagi and Kovalan, who hold God like status among Tamilians, were Jains. It goes without saying that Hinduism became popular much much later, after the advent of the Saivitesaints. Some scholars believe that Thiruvalluvar, a saint-poet, could have been a Jain. The first kural
The Universe proceeds from Aadibhagavan, similar to the alphabets that proceed from A.Thiruvalluvar-An Ancient Tamil Jain Poet,One important fact that goes against this logic of assigning Tirukkural to Jains is that Jainism does not believe in a creator God and hence no convergence occurs to an unified force as is perceived in the meaning assigned above. Adi-Bhagavan is different from Adinath who was a Tirthankar(a liberated Soul)a kevalagnyani,The first chapter in Tirukkural is devoted to “in praise of God”KadavulVazhthu, which is an absent concept in pure Jainism. Moreover the best commentary on the Tirukkural is that of Parimelazhagar(A Vaishnavite). Moreover Bhagavan in Vedic religion refers primarily to Lord Krishna, Lord Shiva and so on, and now it’s equivalent in English God. The Concept of anekanthvadh in Jaina philosophy cannot trace a focal point in time and it is infinite, so also the vedic thought but Brahman is the focal point of creation through its chetana and hence the concept of identifying a Purusha as Bhagvan. Was Tiruvalluvar familiar with the Bhagavad Geetha? It seems so by his first verse or kural which is an exact replicate of what was revealed through Geetha by Bhagvan(Lord Krishna)to Arjuna Physically(in viraatroop of the focal point)and also metaphysically the Shabdh Brahman-AksharaanaamAkaarosmi!!!I am the lord of the syllables Beginning with A. According to Prof. George Hart, who holds the endowed Chair in Tamil Studies by University of California, Berkeley, has written that the legend of Tamil Sangam (literary assembly) was based on the Jain assembly (Sangham) at Madurai:”There was a permanent Jaina assembly called a Sagha established about 604 A.D. in Maturai.It seems likely that this assembly was the model upon which tradition fabricated the cangkam legend.” Jainism in the region started to decline around the 8th century CE with many Tamil kings embracing Hindu religions, especially Saivism. Moreover, the Chalukyas, Pallava and Pandya embraced Jainism .
Tamil Jain families are found in the Chennai, Thiruvallur, Kancheepuram, Villupuram, Cuddalore, Vellore, Thiruvannamalai and Thanjavur districts of Tamil Nadu. One can find Jain temples constructed in South Indian style in these areas. In many of these temples daily worship takes place.