The Decline of Jainism in Odisha

The Decline of Jainism in Odisha April 26, 2015

As part of our series on the relationship of Jainism and Hindusim, here’s an article on how Jainism came to a decline in Odisha.

It was also during the reign of the Imperial Ganga Dynasty and even the Gajapatis that Jainism was not in utter state of decadence in Orissa. It is known that in 1,100 Saka year or in the 11 th regnal year of Anantavarma Rajaraja II of the Imperial Ganga dynasty, one Kannama Nayak a devout worshipper of Jina and a subordinate of Utkal king installed a sacred image of Jina at Remaraniagiri in a temple called Rajaraja Jinalaya.21 Further on the walls of the Khandagiri cave 9 called Trisula Gumpha there aie found relics of Tirthankaras which appear to have belonged to the 15th century A.D. or even later. Of course by this time, the rulers and their subjects were the patrons of Brahmanism and it was then the predominant faith in Orissa. Naturally some Jaina centres might have been victims to its mighty influence and thereby Jainism was gradually eclipsed. There are found a number of Jaina images being worshipped as Hindu divinities.

Thus, Jainism in Orissa prospered for a long time and it continued as one of the religions of Orissa right up to modem times. Although its period of ascendancy came to an end with the opening of the Christian era, it continued to live through the ages as a minor religious sect along with other religions, mainly for its non-antagonistic attitude towards Brahmanism, Sai vism and Saktism. Apart from playing a fascinating role in the religious life of the people, it did contribute a lot to the enrichment of Indian cultural heritage, specially in the realm of art and architecture. Construction of a large number of caves, temples, monasteries and images of Jaina Tirthankaras in Orissa has not only added a glorious feather to the cap of Indian art and architecture but has also contributed largely to the illustrious role that Jainism played in the ecclesiastical realm of our land. Of course human vandalism, coupled with the vagaries of nature, has razed a number of such monuments to the ground. Yet the remnants speak volumes of the impact of Jaina in the history of Orissa.

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