A question on Jain temples

Palaniappa Palaniappa at AOL.COM
Sun May 24 16:06:31 UTC 1998

In a message dated 98-05-24 01:44:29 EDT, zydenbos at FLEVOLAND.XS4ALL.NL writes:

<< In the course of time, a certain class of persons developed within the
Jaina community in South India (I am now speaking about the living practice in
Karnataka and southern Maharashtra) who were considered ritual specialists,
and in time these people assumed what we can call brahminical traits: they
considered themselves a separate section of the community, did not intermarry
with other Jainas, etc. etc. (The origins of this group are not quite clear:
whether they were converted brahmins or non-brahmins who imitated brahmins, or
both. But it is one of the things about which I constantly question people, so
give me some more time and I may come up with a definite answer.) This class
of people is called by various names in different regions. Vaidika brahmins
look down upon them as inferior and phony, but in lifestyle, learning and
traditional functions in the community they are hardly distinguishable from
the Vaidikas. But of course the Jainas are not 'Vaidika', and they find th!
 e study of the Vedas useless.

 The official position of these priests is more a matter of tradition than of
doctrine. They are highly respected for their specialistic knowledge, but do
not hold any exclusive right or authority in religious matters.

 Temples are generally administered by boards of trustees who are Jaina
laypeople. As a rule, each Digambara temple (and all the older, indigenous
Jaina temples in South India are Digambara) has a more or less formal
association with one of the nine still active ma.thas, and the ma.thaadhipati
has an important say in critical decisions (e.g., appointing new priests).

In my research on the word "pArppAr" (which is usually interpreted as
referring to brahmins but, based on etymological grounds, I consider to be
referring to priests in general), I have come across two Tamil inscriptions of
9th century which together seem to offer positive evidence  for a group of
people called "pAppAr cAn2ROr" who were involved in a Jain temple (paLLi).
SII, vol. 14, no. 40 refers to a gift of 50 sheep to maintain a lamp in the
resthouse erected by one vELAn2 of irumpATu at a place called perumpazanci.
Another inscription registers a gift of land by the same person as
"paLLiccantam" to the "paTarakar at tiruviruttalai-aruvALam". In both grants
the responsibility for maintenance was taken up by "pAppArcAn2Ror". The second
inscription even has a a Tamil verse at the end of the record, stated to have
been composed by the donor himself. This verse contains an exhortation to all
to offer worship  to arhant. At the end of the sections outlining the grant
the words "zrI cilaccikari"  are found.

The inscriptions are found in Nanguneri taluk of Tirunelveli District in

Given the date of the inscription, 9th century, when the antagonism between
the zaiva-vaiSNava bhakti movements  and non-vedic Jainism and Buddhism was
still strong, I doubt if any Hindu brahmin group would be involved in the
preservation and maintenance of Jain temples. While the rulers may have shown
tolerance towards all religions, the followers of zaivism and vaiSNavism could
not be expected to be this tolerant.

The form we have in these Jain inscriptions "pAppArcAn2ROr" is composed of
"pAppAr" and "cAn2ROr". The literary form "pArppAr" is found in inscriptions
as "pAppAr" as in SII, v.14, no. 36. "cAn2ROr" means respected/exalted ones
and has been used to refer to officials/employees of Hindu temples also.

Unless there is evidence of Hindu brahmins participating in Jain temple
affairs in that timeframe, we have to assume that here we have a positive
evidence of the word "pArppAr" referring to priests or "persons who praise" in
general. "pArppAr" does not mean "seers". The Tamil inscriptions seem to refer
to some respectable ritualists involved in Jain temples of 9th century.

I am looking forward to hearing more from Zydenbos on this. Thanks a lot for
all those who gave valuable information.


S. Palaniappan

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