History of Religion in Kerala — Part 1 (From the book by A Sreedharan Menon)

Nature Worship

  • People from ancient Kerala followed Dravidian practices that were not based on any particular religion.
  • Main worship activities included worship of nature and worship of objects or animals that are believed to have spiritual significance.
  • In the Sangam age (3rd Century BC to 4th Century AD), both Chera kings and their followers were believed to be worshippers of War goddess Kottavai.
  • Early Dravidians believed in ancestor-worship.
  • Tree worship was also common and Banyan tree was treated as the home of gods.
  • No evidence of Naga or Ganapati worship was evident in the Sangam age.

Entry of Jainism (321–297 BC)

  • Jainism, Buddhism, and Brahmanism entered Kerala prior to the beginning of Christian era.
  • It is believed that Jainism got introduced to South India through Chandragupta Maurya when he left his throne in the 25th year of his reign and reached Mysore with a Jain monk.
  • His followers visited other parts of South India and were in search for a peaceful place for Meditation and under these circumstances, Jainism got introduced in Kerala.
  • Several Jain temples in Kerala were built at that time in places like Mathilakam, Perumbavoor and is believed to be converted to Hindu Temples later on.
  • Most of the Bhagavati temples in Kerala now are considered to be evolved from Jain centres.
  • Influence of Jain architecture is visible on mosques in Malabar too. E.g. Thalankara mosque.
  • Jainism started to decline by 8th century A.D when Shaivism (Shiva worship) and Vaishnavism (Vishnu worship) movement started.

Nature Worship

  • People from ancient Kerala followed Dravidian practices that were not based on any particular religion.
  • Main worship activities included worship of nature and worship of objects or animals that are believed to have spiritual significance.
  • In the Sangam age (3rd Century BC to 4th Century AD), both Chera kings and their followers were believed to be worshippers of War goddess Kottavai.
  • Early Dravidians believed in ancestor-worship.
  • Tree worship was also common and Banyan tree was treated as the home of gods.
  • No evidence of Naga or Ganapati worship was evident in the Sangam age.

Entry of Jainism (321–297 BC)

  • Jainism, Buddhism, and Brahmanism entered Kerala prior to the beginning of Christian era.
  • It is believed that Jainism got introduced to South India through Chandragupta Maurya when he left his throne in the 25th year of his reign and reached Mysore with a Jain monk.
  • His followers visited other parts of South India and were in search for a peaceful place for Meditation and under these circumstances, Jainism got introduced in Kerala.
  • Several Jain temples in Kerala were built at that time in places like Mathilakam, Perumbavoor and is believed to be converted to Hindu Temples later on.
  • Most of the Bhagavati temples in Kerala now are considered to be evolved from Jain centres.
  • Influence of Jain architecture is visible on mosques in Malabar too. E.g. Thalankara mosque.
  • Jainism started to decline by 8th century A.D when Shaivism (Shiva worship) and Vaishnavism (Vishnu worship) movement started.