The Jain religion came to Kerala in the 3rd century B. C.
On account of a great famine in North India in 297 B. C. it is believed a large number of
Jains led byChandragupta Maurya (321-297 B. C.) and the Jain Saint
Bhadrabahu came to Sravanabelagola in Mysore. In course of
time they spread all over South India.
Jainism enjoyed high prestige in Kerala in the early
centuries of the Christian era and had royal patrons as well, notably in llango Adikal,
better known for his Tamil epic Silappadikaram. He lived in Trikanama- tilakam, which
became a famous centre of Jain religion and learning. There was several other Jain a
shrine too, which were subordinate to the one at Matilakam.
Even the Kutalmanikyam temple at Irinjalakuda, dedicated
to Bharata is believed to have been originally a Jain shrine. It was converted into a
Hindu temple like several other Jain shrines in Kerala, following the decline of Jainism
which started in the 8th century thanks to the Saivite and Vaishnavite movements. Jainism
seems to have lingered till the 16th century and then it almost dis - appeared. The only
vestiges of Jainism in Kerala today are the Jain shrines at kallil Mundur, Palghat and
Sultans Battery. Besides some old Jain families live in the Wynad and Kasargod area
in north Kerala.