How Bodhidharma and his Buddhism disappeared from Tamil Nadu?

The Tamil film 7 am arivu has evoked much interest about Bodhidharma. The story of the film revolves around this Buddhist monk who preached Buddhism, martial arts and medicine in China.

Bodhidharma was a Tamil prince born in Kancheepuram, the Pallava capital in 440 AD. After learning Buddhism, he travelled to China to spread the true Buddhist way of life.

Buddhism – a school of thought in philosophy, as a religion was born in Northern India but evolved and spread to Tamil Nadu and from there it crossed the seas to Sri Lanka and Indonesia. In the 5th and 6th centuries Buddhism thrived in Tamil Nadu.

When Bodhidharma landed in China as a Buddhist monk, he was invited with honour to the court of Emperor Wu of the Liang dynasty. The dialogue of Philosophy was a practice of many Tamil kings in those days. We have history of Tamil Kings getting converted to another faith after a convincing conversation with the god men. It happened in China too. Bodhidharma too is known to have had a philosophical conversation with Emperor Wu. Later on, Bodhidharma stayed in China and he is considered a philosopher of Zen Buddhism and an expert who framed the rules for the physical training of monks which transformed into martial arts in China.

The question is why he is unknown in his place of birth?  If he was born and brought up in Tamil Nadu and was practicing Buddhism here, what happened to the ancient Buddhist religious establishments in Kancheepuram? Why there is no Buddhist temple or monastery in Kancheepuram?

We have to look back in History.

Buddhism disappeared from Kancheepuram to give way to indigenous religious practices interwoven with vedic religions. In fact many practices, customs and stories believed now in Hinduism are adopted from Buddhism. We come to know about this from the book Bouthamum Thamizhum by the research scholar Mylai Seeni Venkatasamy ( MSV) (1900 to 1980). The book  reveals some startling details. We share what we learn and the facts inferred from this book briefly.

The following seven were adopted by the Hinduism from Buddhism

1.Hindu religion accepted Buddha as one avatar of Thirumal

2.The mini dheivams and village angels of buddhism were absorbed

3.The animal sacrifice was abandoned by caste Brahmin priests and they converted themselves to vegetarian food for defending their profession

4.The Bodhi tree worship of buddhism was accepted as it was popular among people

5. Maths were established following such practice by Buddhists

6.Adi Sankara adopted Soonyavadha of Buddhism to get Mayavadha

7.The Buddhist Jataka tales were also accepted

We need to know the following to understand how it happened in Tamil Nadu:

1.Originally there was Tamil religion in Tamil Nadu, where Maayon, Seyon, Vendhan, Varunan were worshipped (refer Tholkappiam period dated BC). The absence of other (later additions) gods of Hinduism in Tholkappiam shows the practice of Tamil Religion in pre-Aryan age. In Tholkappiam age and Sangam age, the arrival of Aryans and their rituals can be spotted not on a mass following of a vedic religion but as arrival of unorganized individual Aryans and their influence on Tamil Society.

2. Buddhism came to Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka during the rule of Asoka in BC time. At the same time the other religions of Jainism, Vedic Brahminism and Aasivaham came to Tamil Nadu and commenced their philosophic fights and priestly contests and competitions to gain popularity among the rulers and the people and to create assets for their religions. We have references for all these religions in Silappathiharam and Manimehalai which represent a later period than Tholkappiam.

Initially Buddhism got popularity among people of Tamil Nadu as is evident from reading Manimegalai. But Buddhism as a religion fell by itself as the followers fought among themselves by divisions.

3.Jains replaced the Buddhists in Tamil Nadu. The Buddhist temples were converted into Jain temples and the caves, where Buddhist monks were living, were occupied by Jains. The Jains set a precedent of capturing Buddhist temples which was followed by Vedic/Hindu priests.

4.When the Jains were powerful in Tamil Nadu among the followers including the traders and ruling class (between about 500 AD to 900 AD), the Vedic religion got mixed with the Tamil religious practices and cults in Tamil Nadu, made compromises of accepting the gods and goddess of Tamil Nadu, including festivals etc, organized itself into Saivism and Vaishnavism by Bhakthi movements and began a fight against Jain religion and succeeded (definitely not by following Ahimsa principle.)

While the Saiva and Vaishnava had to fight it out with Jains, as ample evidences are available through Appar, Sambandar…., it seems that it was easy to capture the Buddhist temples as they were already under ruin for lack of patronage.

5. The Bhakthi Movement washed away, cleared, Jain and Buddhism from entire India. Further it went on to propagate itself positively in the South East Asian countries.

Regarding the temples the researcher says:

1. In Kumbakaonam Nageswaran thirumanjana veedhi, there was a buddha statue called bagavarishi. The Nigandu says that Buddha was called by the name Vinayaka. In later periods many Buddha temples were converted as Vinayaka temples.

2. The Chinese traveller who visited Kancheepuram in 640 AD, has recorded that Kanchi was having hundred Buddha temples and thousand monks.

3. According to Ananatha nayinar (1932 ), in Kanchi Kacheeswar temple Buddha images were found in the foundation base of the gopuram. The lake on the west of the temple was called as Buththeri and the street as Buththeriththeru. But when I visited that temple those stones could not be identified. I could see Buddha images only in the pillars.

4. I visited Pallavapuram near Kanchi on 15.7.1946. Nearby in Kinikiluppai, a Buddha statue was found on the banks of a lake in the same village, I could find the base of the Buddha statue very near the Vinayaka temple. There was also a standing stone with Dharma Chakra. They had constructed Vinayaka temple by demolishing Buddha temple.

Mylai Seeni Venkatasamy has collected many more information in his book describing evidence of the existence of Buddha temples and the conversion of those temples into Jain or Hindu temples.

………..Originally Kamatchi amman temple was a Buddhist temple.There were many Buddha images in this temple. One of the images of Buddha, a 6 feet standing statue is now in the Chennai Museum. The statues of Buddha found in the temple tank could not be found now. Once I myself saw some other stone statues of Buddha in good condition in this temple. Later I found the same images broken into pieces.. Now I could not trace the same………

……….Manimehalai, Sambapathi, Tharadevi were the deivams worshipped by Buddhists in Tamil Nadu. Later these goddess were taken over by Hindus and renamed as Kali, Pidari and Throubathai. Researches say that the Annapoorani amman in Kamatchi Amman temple is actually Manimehalai, who attained Veeduperu at Kancheepuram and the Kamatchi Amman temple is actually Tharadeviamman temple belonging to Buddhists.

Therefore it cannot be said that the wisdom of Bodhidharma or Manimehalai are forgotten. They live in some other forms or in some other names.

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63 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. Bodhidharma was great

  2. where r the generations of bodhidharmas family living

  3. Its good

  4. b cvjjv fhm

  5. fazyzabziixz wixx si. is xiz

  6. tru

  7. china people consider bodhidharma as god .. y we not considering. ( my god is bodhidharama)

  8. bodhidharma was great person of india.

  9. I love to be Indian which have real ancient believe I love my country

  10. nice story

  11. i”m proud to be an indian

  12. Bodhidharman oru tamilan

  13. bodhidharman is a father of koug fu i like it

  14. Like Bodhidharma we had treassure of great philosophers rishis all over in India( Bharatham). But unfortunately our people have little knowledge and not eager to understand or study about them. Our ancient books are precious and informative and eternal. Books from ancient Dravidians and Aryans are both precious.

  15. I Don’t buy any of the Dravidian Toilet trash literature. To Tamils, everything is made by them. To Tamils they are first and they are also the last. This Tamil Chavenism is much like Nazism. Be proud to be an Indian first and then tamil.

    Bodhidharma was a Brahmin. Brahmins have their origin in the North Western part of South Asia , guessing it to be Gandhar where the Shaiva culture was so popular. Though we don’t have caucasian gene yet we do have Northern European Y DNA R1A1A with South Asian local component due to mixing. Whether we like it or not but we can’t change our genes. There were many brahmins who converted to Budhism.
    You can read many Buddhist literature where it clearly mentions that Brahmins married outside their caste to bring about social equality yet there were other Brahmins who prefered not to mix in order to preserve their original genetic makeup.

    • “I Don’t buy any of the Dravidian Toilet trash literature”- they can be expensive.
      “To Tamils, everything is made by them.” – Not really. We give credit to others- sometimes.
      “This Tamil Chavenism is much like Nazism” – No. JUST NO.
      “Be proud to be an Indian first and then tamil” – thanks for the tip, we Tamils appreciate your wisdom. Maybe, tomorrow you can tell us what to wear, what to think, what to speak. You know like a Nazi?
      I think you have inferiority complex, and all the anger you express in your post is fear of what you perceive to a better culture. Well, sir/madam don’t worry I as a Tamil-like most Tamils-believe everyone is equal! Including you!
      Basically what I am trying to say is -you are pathetic, and you represent everything that is “un-Indian”.
      With love(not really), Tamilan

      • Well Said, These guys dont apperciate anything else which they dont belong to. and Mr. BodhidharmasC , You wont be able to buy Dravidian Toilet trash forget abt Tamil literature

  16. Please Don’t buy any Dravidian Toilet trash. For Tamils, everything is made by them. Wrong
    Bodhidharma was a Brahmin. Brahmins have their origin in the North Western part of South Asia guessing it to be Gandhar where the Shaiva culture was so popular. Though we don’t have caucasian gene yet we do have Northern European Y DNA R1A1A with South Asian local component due to mixing. Whether we like it or not but we can’t change our genes. There were many brahmins we converted to Budhism.
    You can read many Buddhist literature where it clearly mentions that Brahmins married outside their caste to bring about social equality yet there were other Brahmins who prefered not to mix in order to preserve their original genetic makeup.

    • What chutzpa a clown like you with the absurd handle, BodhidharmasClan, has manifesting the downright stupidity of North Indians?. FYI, during the 4th to 5th centuries, the Pallavas who ruled from Kancheepuram and Mamalapuram was the only Kingdom worth talking about, and King Narasimha burnt the capital Vadhabi of the Pulikesi of Chaulukya Kingdom. Read ZEN CULTURE by THOMAS HOOVER where he talks about Bodhidharma in greater detail.

  17. Bodhibarma was a useful trut a budda temple the exait not tonder in china

  18. I AM PROUD TO BE A TAMIZAN

  19. Buddhism was existed in south india even its remaings can be seen in Tamilnadu n kerala,n hinduism n its religion got fake idols n myth books ,bt vedas r real truth ,n budda was nt a idol worshiper,admit that budhism temples r destroyed during that period,peace

  20. I AM PROUD TO BE A TAMIZAN

  21. THIS IS A FANTASTIC MESSAGE

  22. my dear friends plz think deeply why the budhdhism was expelled from india where it was born and ruled thousand years who are beneficiaries by expelling budhdhism from our country what really budha taught to us plz think buddha said dont beleive anything until u r experienced budha was a rationalist and scientist phylosophist psychologist yoga, karate pshychology belong to budhdhism in budhist aramas there were scintific experments were going to educate people against superistitiions and budha created castless selfishless society it was brought up ladies also some people who want to be top on the caste system and who want to keep people in darkness were expelled buddhism and they copied all the and buddha teachings in to their sanskrith language and ruined all budha monastries they wrote law of manusmriti to avoid education to mass people they pathanjali converted yoga charaka and shshrutha converted the medicine from jeevaka who was the desciple of budha and creat masacre was conducted against buddhists they converted all temples as their gods temples cruelly plz regain it but other countries embraced and patrionized it this top caste people propagating the budhist culture as their culture plz condemn it thankyou

  23. realty it is exciting to read the book written by mylai seeni vengadasamy.Many of the bud dist temples were converted as Hindu temples and the Buddhism once mostly followed by pal-lava kings and his citizens were completely wiped out by
    Hindu religion mecilesly

  24. proud to be an tamilan …….and thanks to a.r murugadoss for making the tamilans to understand our culture and history

  25. i wanted bodhidharma histry in tamil pls

  26. Buddha origin is India, but Indian people do not practice Buddhist way. Now gradually overcome by Muslin.

  27. According to Professor Peter Schalk, Buddhism does not have a presence beyond 4th century AD in Tamil Nadu. It was always the native religions, Vedic religion and Jainism that dominated the classical period, never Buddhism.

    • Hello friend

      According to professor Peter Schalk, Buddhism didn’t presence on 4th century AD in Tamil Nadu, but Bodhidharma was born on 5th century AD and other thing is during on that century Buddhism was established by King Ashoka tribal groups on Tamil Nadu.

  28. I am very ashamed. though we are tamilians we don’t know the value of ours culture . better make these valuable stories in the education and teach the students…

  29. I proud to be a Tamilan

  30. I Proud to be indian. Bodhi dharman india laye irunthurukalam

  31. he is marvellous

  32. He is great man of tha world

  33. india is great.

  34. INDIANS will proud .the famous bodidharma was born in india but,indians are foolish

    • you are right

      • yes, indians are selfishness and money minded people. we have lot of knowledge but we are using it in other countries. They need not developement of our country.
        “DO SOMETHING FOR OUR COUNTRY” (if u r humanbeings)

      • @Anil Chandra

        Don’t wait for changes do it.
        I think you too are a human being

      • Friend’s

        single man can never change the every human life.
        But every human think it that we can change our path in unity though may changes come.
        Bodhidharma was a monk of Buddhist and he was long age lived man in our tribal.

  35. proud to be an Indian…!!! I saw 7 am Arivu movie really such a geart movie…!!! I think must do the remake of this movie in bollywood hindi film it must will be a hit movie…!!

  36. proud to be an Indian…!!! I saw 7 am Arivu movie really such a geart movie…!!!

  37. I am very happy be an tamilan bodhidharma generation is there or not

  38. Bodhidarma is great. We can proud to be in his tradition, as an indian.

  39. Its anazing man in kunfu, i wante to lourne kunfu

  40. he is grt man. we are really pround of iwe are
    indian and tamlian .bodhidharma is grt man man …………………………………..

  41. this is the very sad to read that how tamil nadu peoples converted bhagvan budhas vihar in temple , what was doing theres government have protect each cast .
    whole world people sleeping time take care of there legs not on side of india budha borne in india only .

    bhudhushim is very nice and way of peace there is no space of spirit .never anyone will come to u out of 36 crore & solve your problems with strength.
    only u can solve your problems with love to each human of nearest.

  42. this is god and ilearned many thing from this many have to know about the martial arts and about the medicine which is very important in the life

  43. it is a good msg for ever, by this v can knw abt our history

  44. i d.krishnakumar very interesed in this if yu have any suggestions pls send mails to my emailid:

  45. it is a very good message what i saw was . i like it.
    .

  46. All these people shut up. bodhidharma is a nice person. dont fight among you people and get wasted. WHo are you guys ???: Dai dai

  47. our govt should understand this type of medicines and cure peoples diseases.

    • ok.. It wil be coming soon..

  48. this is fantastic message. Thanks to who post this, i hope all the indians are proud to be the buddha was lived here. i think he is great scientist not a god, but our people metioned as a god even MGR J etc god for our people.
    What to Do ?

  49. Please get your facts right(this person bodhidharma existed i do believe that and i am quite proud of the fact that he came from India)…………………..there was no Aryan Invasion……………..this story had been concocted by the british to rule over us and keep us divided along caste lines and as aryans and dravidians(it has been proved genetically too that we do not carry caucasian genes) ——buddhism and jainism originated in India and the source was hinduism.Brahmins did not eat meat………..you can also search for vamdeva shastri in google…………….Indians should know about this aryan invasion conspiracy

    • yes ….. you are true … but realy sad when people are ignoring this

  50. @Ronin – not sure what it is you want to say. The philosophies of Buddhism are home-grown as such there nothing sorry to feel about or think of brining anything back from the East :). India has been the home to brilliant philosophies each of which has given birth to religions that essentially propagate the same belief albeit in different ways. Obviously, the aim of all Indian theologies have been to present a “choice” for each person to make a democratic choice and hold on to it unlike the Abrahamical religions. As long as you understand this and are able to subscribe to one philosophy the goal of these religions is achieved.

  51. @Siddharth, I often feel sorry that the “wisdom of Buddhism” has been forgotten in Tamil culture. I agree that’ is the symbols are there in the historic artifacts.But how much of the wisdom is there in our day to day life?..Specifically the 4 basic noble truths

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theravada#The_Four_Noble_Truths

    The primary principle behind the 4 truths is “Change”..That change is permanent and unavoidable. And that normal human nature is to attach ourselves to snapshots of time and inertia to change..That is somehow lost in Tamilnadu’s spiritual psyche..Obviously we see/ask astrology, god and karma to intervene in this process in our current religious psyche..If there was a way to encourage a revival of Buddhist ideas(not necessarily the religion) again in our knowledge search, it would be a wonderful thing..Unfortunately it has been boxed away as a religion practiced in other countries..

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