Tamil Jains or
Samanar are natives of Tamil Nadu, India.
are a micro community of around 85,000 in number (Around 0.13% of
population of Tamil Nadu). Tamil Jains
belong to the Jain Digambara
speak Tamil in their homes. They are also known as
in Tamil (in Sanskrit: Shramana
). They are mostly scattered in northern
Tamil Nadu, mostly in the districts of Chennai, Kancheepuram,
Vellore, Tiruvannamalai, Cuddalore and Thanjavur. Their mother
tongue is Tamil. They are not to be confused with the other Jains
who have settled in Tamilnadu in the past century, who speak Hindi,
Marwari, Gujarati or other languages.
Samanars or Tamil Jains have a legacy that is more than 2,000 years
old. Early Tamil Brahmi Jain inscription in Tamilnadu are dated
back to 2nd C BCE.According to Mahavamsa
Jainism was present in Srilanka in before the arrival of Thera
. Many of the rich Tamil literature
works were written by
Samanars, such as Civaka Cintamani
Three of the Five great Epics (Aim-perum-Kaapiyangal) in Tamil
literature is attributed to Samanars.
The first kural
"அகர முதல எழுத்தெல்லாம் ஆதி
பகவன் முதற்றே உலகு"
"Agara mudala ezhuthellam aadhi bagavan mudhatrae ulagu"
is a reference to Aadhinathan
(mudhal thirthankarar rishabhar)
According to Prof. George Hart
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
- "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."
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 Dravidian
style in these areas. In many of these temples daily worship takes
Religion, Sects, Titles, Castes or Lack thereof
Samanars are Tamil Jains who adhere to the Digamabara form of
Jainism. They believe in Ahimsai, Satyam and Asceticism. Unlike
other religions, there is no "God"
Instead Jains believe in "Jivan" the divine or pure soul. Although
Mahavira is commonly attributed as the founder of Jainism, Jainism
was present many centuries before Mahavira. Mahavira is the 24th or
the last Thirtankara. Jainism complements and was a contemprory of
Ajivika philosophy. The Thirthankara (enlightened souls) are the
guides, inspiration and model for the path to ascetic life and
moksha. Although the philosophy of Jainism is non-theistic, more
Jains worship the Thirthankaras, increasingly Ammans, along with
Ganesh and also other Hindu Gods.All Samanars are of the Digambara
sect. Tamil Jains or Samanars use various titles
such as Udayar in Senji, Jains in Kancheepuram, Mudaliars in Tanjavur and
Chettiars in the Kumbakonam area.
Another common title is Nainar
. These are merely titles given to Samanars
living in those regions and are not actual caste within Samanam.
Samanam in Tamil denotes the Digamabara sect within the Jain
religion and there is no sub-division under it. The Samanars today
have ended up calling themselves with these titles and also as
Nainaars. Samanars are strict followers of Ahimsa
(Non-Violence) and hence purely vegetarians.
They consider it a grave sin to hurt or kill a living being for any
reason. Samanars in their early history have gone through
"kazhuvetrum" (similar to a holocaust) by the onset of brahmanical
order in Tamil Nadu. During the period of "samanar kazhuvetrum"
(7th century AD), many Samanars had been killed and persecuted.
Many had to go through forced conversion to Hinduism . The Samanar
motto is "Vaazhu Vaazha Vidu"
, translated as
"Live and Let Live"
The occupation of the majority of the Tamil Jain families is
agriculture. Many are teachers. A considerable number of them are
settled in urban areas, they are employed in public and private
sectors. A small population has settled overseas (US, Canada, UK,
Australia and other places).
Tamil Jains are well assimilated in Tamil society without any
outward differentiation. Their physical features are similar to any
tamil (tamil people). Apart from certain religious adherences,
practices and vegetarianism, their culture is similar to the rest
of Tamil Nadu. However, they name their children by the names of
Tirthankaras, characters of Jaina literature. Some of the examples
are Appandai nathan, Aadhi Doss, Athirajan, Parsuvanathan,
Aadhiraj, Virushabadoss, Ajitha Doss,Srisanthinathan, Jeeva,
Arugan, Aruga Dasan, Sambava Doss, Mahaveeran,Nabirajan,
Neminathan, Appandai Rajan, Parsvanathan, Jeevagan, Dhanyakumaran,
Sreyankumaran, Sripalan, Seevagan, Bharatha chakravarthi,
Jinasenan, Vasavadhattan, Gandharvadhattan, Rajamathi,
Vijayamathim,Chakraeshwari,Indirakumar etc.Increasingly they also
name their children with other common Tamil names. Common pet names
being Thambi, Kulandhai and Mani, with adjectives periya, naddu and
sinna.The names of Tamil Jains are similar to other Tamilians, but
different from other jains around India who have Hindi or other
Puja is done in the following old (built several centuries ago) and
new (built in the last 100 years) Tamil Digambara Jain temples (in
- Anumanthakudi,sivagangani dt.(new)
Adambakkam, Chennai Dt. (New)
- Agalur, Vizhupuram Dt. (Old)
- Alagramam, Vizhupuram Dt. (Old)
- Arani (S.V.Nagaram), Thiruvannamalai Dt. (Old)
- Arani, Thiruvannamalai Dt. (Old)
- Arpaakkam, Kanchipuram Dt. (Old)
- Ayalavadi, Thiruvannamalai Dt. (New)
- Cheyyar, Thiruvannamalai Dt. (New)
- Deepangudi, Nagapatinam Dt. (Old)
- Easaakolathur, Thiruvannamalai Dt. (Old)
- Erumbur, Thiruvannamalai Dt.(Old)
- George Town, Chennai Dt. (New)
- Kannalam, Thiruvannamalai Dt. (Old)
- Karanthai, Kanchipuram Dt. (Old)
- Karanthai, Thanjavur Dt. (Old)
- Kolathur, Chennai Dt. (New)
- Kumbakonam, Thanjavur Dt. (Old)
- Mannargudi, Nagapatinam Dt. (Old)
- Melmalayanur, Villupuram Dt. (Old)
- Mettu Street, Kanchipuram (New)
- Mudalur, Thiruvannamalai Dt(Old)
- Nallur, Thiruvannamalai Dt(Old)
- Nanganallur, Chennai Dt. (New)
- Perani, Vizhupuram Dt. (Old)
- Perumandur, Vizhupuram Dt. (Old)
- Ponnur Malai, Thiruvannamalai Dt. (Old)
- Puzhal, Chennai Dt. (New)
- Renderipet, Thiruvannamalai Dt. (New)
- R.Kunnathur, Thiruvannamalai Dt. (New)
- Sathuvachari, Vellore Dt. (New)
- Sevur, Vellore Dt. (Old)
- Sithamur, Vizhupuram Dt. (Old)
- Somaasipadi, Thiruvannamalai (New)
- Thirunarunkundram, Vizhupuram Dt. (Old)
- Thiruparuthikundram, Kanchipuram Dt. (Old)
- Thirupanamoor, Kanchipuram Dt. (Old)
- Thachambadi, Thiruvannamalai Dt. (Old)
- Thatchur, Thiruvannamalai Dt. (Old)
- Thazanur, Thiruvannamalai Dt. (Old)
- Thirumalai, Thiruvannamalai Dt. (Old)
- Thiruvannamalai, Thiruvannamalai Dt. (New)
- Thondur, Vizhupuram Dt. (Old)
- Tindivanam, Villupuram Dt (New)
- Valathi/Valathy, Vizhupuram
- Vandavasi, Thiruvannamalai Dt. (Old)
- Veedur, Vizhupuram Dt. (Old)
- Veeranamur, Vizhupuram Dt. (Old)
- Vellimedupettai, Vizhupuram Dt. (Old)
- Vempoondi, Vizhupuram Dt. (Old)
- Venbakkam, Kanchipuram Dt. (Old)
- Vizhukkam, Vizhupuram Dt. (Old)
- Vijayamangalam, Erode Dt. (Old)
- alagramam, Tindivanam, Villupuram Dt.(old)
Swasti Shri Laxmisena Swamiji
of Jina Kanchi Jain Mutt or madam at Mel Sithamoor (near
Tindivanam, South Arcot District) is the religious head of the
community. He performs the Upadesam ceremony (similar to Baptism)
for Jain children. In the past, this mutt had been the centre for
religious study, guiding and helping the economic activities of its
members, organising religious discourses, mainternance of temples
and such activities. The mutt was able to achieve such multifarious
operations with the help and contributions of its members. At
present the mutt is also maintaining A Gousala (Cows &
The present finance position of the mutt is inadequate for even
day-to-day maintenance. Planting of coconut and mango trees has
been started to increase the revenue of the fund for the purpose of
day-to-day maintenance of the mutt. The car ('Ther
') in the mutt requires replacement of wooden
wheels. Donations are encouraged. The amount can be sent to Indian
Bank, Melsithamoor, Gingee Taluk, Villupuram Dt., TN, India in the
Account of 'Sri 1008 Parsuvanath Jain Trust'.
In additional to the above, a new mutt named Thirumalai Mutt
located at Thirumalai near Polur, Tiruvannamalai district, has been
functioning from 1999 with the name Thavalakeerthi Swamigal. Now in
the mutt more than 100 students are studying from Primary to Higher
Secondary school including Jain philosophy with free boarding and
lodging. Maintenance of the above is done through contributions
There were other Samanar religious institutions which had been
taken over by the Swethambarars due to the lack of Financial
Capacity and interest of Samanars.
Fastings and other religious practices
Full moon days, Chaturdasi (14th day of the fortnight), Ashtami
(8th day of the fortnight) are days chosen for fasting and
religious observations. Women take food only after reciting the
name of a Thirthankara five times. People undertake such practices
as a vow for certain period of time - sometimes even for years. On
completion, Udhyapana festivals (special prayer services) are
performed , religious books and memorabilia are distributed. People
who take certain vows eat only after sunrise and before
Ezhankaapu - On the seventh day of its birth, a new born baby is
adorned with bracelets.
Kaathu Kutthal - Ear piercing and adorning child with ear rings -
This ceremony is mostly performed in either Aarpakkam temple or
Thirunarangkondai i.e.Thirunarungkundram. (Appandai Nathar is name
of the deity).
Ubadesam - Formal induction into religious practices and adherences
is called Upadesam. This is done to both men and women - at around
the age of 15 years. After Upadesam, one is supposed to follow
religious practices with vigour and seriousness.
Marriage - Outwardly Jain marriages resemble Hindu marriages.
However, mantras chanted are of Jaina orientation. There is no
brahmin priest, instead there is a samanar temple priest who is
called as "Koil Vaathiyar" who conducts the ceremonies.
- Most Jain people go on pilgrimage to major Jain temples in the
North of India - Sammedsigarji (sanmesagaram, samaesigaram),
Pavapuri, Sampapuri, Urjayanthagiri and other places in the South
in Karanatka Shravanabelagola (Beligulam), Humbaj
(Ombujam), Simmanagadde and Ponnur Malai in Tamil
Funeral rites - Dead are placed on a pyre and incinerated. Ashes
are disbursed in water courses and ceremonies are performed on
tenth or sixteenth day. Annual remembrance ceremonies similar to
Hindu practice are not performed. But no festivities or functions
are followed that year on the paternal side.
Atchaya thrithiyai - a festival in commemoration of the first
partaking food after many long
years of penance.
Jinarathri - in commemoration of Shri Rishabadeva attaining
Mahavir Jayanthi - festivity on the day of thirthankara Shri
Deepavali - in commemoration of Shri Mahaveera attaining
Shruthapanjami - to worship agamas and scriptures
Avani Avittam - in commemoration of emperor Bharatha acknowledging
true scholars by giving them the sacred thread.
Saraswati Pooja, Varusha Pirappu and Pongal are the other common
festivals celebrated along with other Tamils. Also the festival of
Kaarthikai at the onset of kaarthikai maatham.
- Early Tamil Epigraphy. From the Earliest Times to the Sixth
Century A.D. by Iravatham Mahadevan; and the Department of Sanskrit
and Indian Studies, Harvard University
- http://www.lakehouse.lk/budusarana/2006/09/07/Budu23.pdf A
comparative study in Jainism and Buddhism, Rohan Jayetilleke,
September 07, 2006
- Jaina Literature in Tamil, Prof. A. Chakravartis
- Subramaniyam, Ka Naa, Tiruvalluvar and his Tirukkural.
Bharatiya Jnanpith: New Delhi 1987.
- P. S. Sundaram, The Kural. Penguin Books: London,
The Milieu of the Ancient Tamil Poems, Prof. George Hart