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Project Description

Jainism in Karnataka: History, Architecture and Religion

Alongside Hindus and Buddhist, the Jainas represent one of the oldest religious groups in India. The numerically relatively small community of the Jainas developed an entirely distinct culture (religion, art, architecture, philosophy) and looks back upon more than 2500 years of changing history. In the modern south Indian state of Karnataka, the Jainas experienced a period of great political and cultural flourishing from about the 5th to the early 12th century CE, a period during which many kings and their ministers were Jainas. In the early 12th century, their influence allegedly came to a sudden end. The reasons for this abrupt and forceful change, however, have never been examined in detail.

In this interdisciplinary research project, political changes as well as their immediate effect on religion, art and architecture will for the first time be studied together. Historically, the main questions will concern the reasons for the sudden loss of power and the procedures employed to depose the Jainas. From a religious studies point of view, the influence this had on the beliefs, the philosophy and the ritual of the Jainas will be of major concern. Art historically, the further development of certain Jaina pilgrimage centres, even after the loss of power on the one side, and the forcible conversion of Jaina into Hindu temples on the other, will also be analysed and interpreted in the light of the other two disciplines. Through a combination of results from the three different subject areas, this intriguing and so far widely neglected period in the history of south India will for the first time be presented in a more holistic and complete way, explaining the lasting importance of the Jaina community in Karnataka today.

 

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