History is one of the most important parts of our future because it shows us the efforts made by those in the past. As such, our own efforts to protect it must be upheld at all costs. This is especially true of religious sites around the world because they not only evoke strong feelings from believers of associated religious followings, but they are a great way to document the evolution of society and culture in general.
The problem is, religious sites can be among the most difficult to keep safe because of so many conflicting beliefs and politics, and adversaries who believe in other religions or spiritual realities. Jains have reason to rejoice, however, as the Jain rock carvings in the Villupuram district have been declared a protected monument.
The monument depicts the icon Bahubali, a figure often revered among the Jains. Bahubali was the son of Adinath and brother to Bharata Chakravartin. Although he had an attachment to these other important Jain figures from history, he achieved much himself. The stories say that he spent a year meditating while standing. And those stories don’t mention breaks, either. So it goes that plants began to creep up his legs as time went on.
When Bahubali finally completed the entire year of meditation and eventually passed away, he was supposed liberated from the moksha–the cycle of births and deaths. This is the goal of all Jains, who are reincarnated until they achieve enough earned karma to liberate the soul from the world that we know.
The icon of Bahubali in Villupuram is important to Jains because it proves that their religion thrived a long time ago–not just today. The Tamil Nadu Ancient and Historical Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act will hopefully prevent vandals from doing any damage to this small piece of history, and furthermore should prevent businesses from conducting themselves with potentially damaging consequences in the immediate region. Each of the Jain temples that have been passed down through antiquity has the same idol within their walls.
This is the 21st Jain site protected by the same state government, and with luck, another 48 will be soon to follow. Although this is certainly a step in the right direction, more work remains to be done: there are a total of 135 known Jain sites situated around temples within the state, all with similar depictions and images. Some of these sites are over 2,000 years old, an impressive feat worthy of protecting for another 2,000 years.