Jain religion was brought to the South in the third century B.C.
by Chandra Gupta Maurya (321-297 B.C.) and the Jain saint Bhadrabahu,
according to Jain traditions. These men came to Sravanabelgola
in Mysore. Later more Jain missionaries came to Tamil Nadu
and converted many Cheras to their religion. Prince Ilango Adigal,
the author of Shilappadikaram, is believed to be a Jain.
The Jains came to Kerala with the rest of the Chera immigrants
starting in the sixth century. The only evidence of their
presence in Kerala is the incontro-vertible fact that some Hindu
temples of today were originally Jain temples.
Matilakam was a famous Jain temple which Hindus shunned as late
as the fourteenth century according to Kokasandesam, though at
present it is a Hindu temple. Today, the presiding deity
of Kudalmanikkam Temple near Irinjalakuda is Bharata, the brother
of Rama; originally it was Bharateswara, the digambara Jain saint.
Kallil, near Perumbavur, has a rock-cut cave in which we can still
see the images of Parswantha, Mahavira, and Padmavati; the local
Hindus worship Bhagavati in this temple today. Several places
in wynad have Jain temples -an indication that North Malabar was
once a flourishing center of Jainism.
believe that the decline of Jainism started about the eighth century
during the Aryanization period of Kerala when Vaishnavism and
Saivism were active and aggressive. Jainism seems to have
completely disappeared from Kerala by the sixteenth century; the
foreign visitors from Europe do not mention the Jains at all.
One lasting contribution of Jainism to Kerala, according to wi'lliam
Logan, is that the architecture of the Hindu temples and the Muslim
mosques of North Malabar was influenced by the architecture of
the Jain temples.
I may add here that there are some old Jain families in the Wynad-Kasargod
area even today.