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LETTERS TO EDITOR  
Year : 2020  |  Volume : 62  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 107-108
Asylum for the fearful: A Jain innovation of the early Tamil land


1 Former Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Madras Medical College, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
2 Consultant Psychiatrist, Department of Psychiatry, Schizophrenia Research Foundation, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

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Date of Submission10-Mar-2019
Date of Decision22-May-2019
Date of Acceptance05-Dec-2019
Date of Web Publication3-Jan-2020
 

How to cite this article:
Somasundaram O, Raghavan V. Asylum for the fearful: A Jain innovation of the early Tamil land. Indian J Psychiatry 2020;62:107-8

How to cite this URL:
Somasundaram O, Raghavan V. Asylum for the fearful: A Jain innovation of the early Tamil land. Indian J Psychiatry [serial online] 2020 [cited 2020 Feb 22];62:107-8. Available from: http://www.indianjpsychiatry.org/text.asp?2020/62/1/107/274815




Sir,

Tamil epigraphy plays an important part in understanding the ancient and medieval history of Tamil Nadu, which includes the care of the needy including those of the mentally ill. Up to the beginning of the 21st century, 25,000 Tamil epigraphs have been deciphered.[1] Some of them are about the services to the mentally ill with few particulars on the relevance of Jainism and psychiatry. In the present paper, we propose to highlight their services to the mental health care of the population from an early date in the Indian history when they reached the southern part of the subcontinent.

During 322–298 BCE, Chandragupta Maurya, founder of the Mauryan Empire, accompanied by Bhadrabahu, the eighth master after the passing away of Mahavira, and thousands of scholar ascetics, migrated to Shravanabelagola in Karnataka. The reasons for this migration were severe famine in North India and the split of the Jain religion into two factions, Digambaras (“the sky-clad” or “the naked”) and the Swethambaras (“the white-clad”). Here, Chandragupta Maurya and Bhadrabahu undertook Sallekhana (death by ritual starvation) facing north (the direction from which the Tirthankaras preached).

From this, a group of scholar ascetics entered the Kanyakumari region and practiced their religion. They interacted with the local indigenous people. Their contribution to the Tamil literature and culture is remarkable. Under Jainism, the services to the humanity are considered under four heads, namely (1) Annadhanam (feeding the needy), (2) Abayadhanam (shelter and support for the refugees), (3) Aushadadhanam (distribution of the medicines), and (4) Sastradhanam (education).[2],[3]

The shelter offered to the stressed is called Anjuvaan Pugalidam, literally asylum for the fearful. The asylums were usually adjacent to Samana Palli (Jain religious places). Many of them came under the benevolence of the royalty and rich merchants. Disasters, both natural and human made, such as famines, floods, and battles were periodical and sufferings were of considerable duration. There was no dearth of refugees and panic-stricken men, women, and children. Needless to say, the Jain asylums were very helpful.

We would refer to two such asylums maintained during the medieval Chola period.[4] Prominence is given to the asylum maintained by the famous Jain ascetic Naminadha at Kandarathitha Perumpalli in Palli Sandhal, Thirukovilur Taluk (it is worth noting that the ascetic is named after the 22nd Thirthangara, Naminadhar) [Figure 1]. The Chola affiliation of the mutt is recognizable from the descriptive epithet Kandarathita, the Chola king. The queen mother, Chembian Mahadevi, is a great saivite devotee responsible for the reconstruction of various saiva temples and also contributed to the asylum maintained by the Jains.
Figure 1: An epigraphy found in Thirukovilur describing the presence of an asylum

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In another inscription on the north wall of the first prahara (corridor) of the Vedaranyeswarar Temple in Vedaranyam, Thiruvarur district, there is a reference to the asylum for the fearful.[5] This is the great temple which was sung in the Thevaram hymns by the great saivite deo nayanmars, a revered grand old man, Appar, and a child prodigy, Gnanasambandar.

The evidence and details on the presence of Anjuvaan Pugalidam in the above-mentioned places are known through the various epigraphs collected by the state arachnological department from 1933 onwards.[1] But, more specific details about the sheltered persons and their management including medications are not available in the literature.

The need for Jain innovations continues to date. It is unfortunate that this need continues and probably will increase in the near future. The influx of refugees from the neighboring Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Myanmar is a pointer to us. More studies in this area with reference to Indian psychiatry should be perused by the interested regional historians and psychiatrists.

Acknowledgment

Help rendered by Dr. P Kavitha, librarian, International Institute of Tamil Studies, Taramani, Chennai, is gratefully acknowledged. This work was supported by India-US Fogarty Training in Chronic Non-Communicable Disorders and Diseases Across Lifespan Grant #1D43TW009120 (Raghavan, Fellow; LB Cottler, PI).

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
   References Top

1.
Mahadevan I. Early Tamil Epigraphy from the Earliest Times to the Sixth Century AD. Cambridge: Harvard University Press; 2003.  Back to cited text no. 1
    
2.
Venkatasamy MS. Jainism and Tamil. Chennai: Poobukar; 2009.  Back to cited text no. 2
    
3.
Vivekanandan S. History of Jainsism: In the country of Kumari. Chennai: Kaavya; 2010.  Back to cited text no. 3
    
4.
Ekambaranathan A. Cholar Aatchiyil Samana Samaya Valarchi. Chennai: Jainism Research Society; 1998.  Back to cited text no. 4
    
5.
Raghavan DV, Tejus Murthy AG, Somasundaram O. Treatment of the mentally ill in the Chola Empire in 11th -12th centuries AD: A study of epigraphs. Indian J Psychiatry 2014;56:202-4. [Figure 1]: An epigraphy found in Thirukovilur describing the presence of an asylum  Back to cited text no. 5
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Correspondence Address:
O Somasundaram
Former Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Madras Medical College, Chennai, Tamil Nadu
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/psychiatry.IndianJPsychiatry_149_19

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