Jainism has had a continued presence in Kerala since pre-Christian times. At present, Jainism in Kerala has a small following, mainly descendant of the original Jains of Kerala, and the migrant Jain business community.
Jainism came to Kerala in the third century BC soon after Chandragupta Maurya (B.C. 321-297), accompanied by the Jain monk Bhadrabahu, travelled to Shravanabelagola near Mysore (in present day Karnataka). Their followers are believed to have journeyed further south, into present day Kerala and Tamil Nadu, in search of suitable places for meditation. By the start of the Christian era, Jainism was well established in Kerala. Ilango Adigal, author of the Tamil epic Silappatikaram, was among the notable royal patrons of the Jain religion in Kerala. He lived in Trikkanaa-Mathilakam which attained fame as a centre of Jain culture and learning.
There were many Jain temples spread over Kerala in ancient times. Koodalmanikyam Temple in Irinjalakuda is believed to have been among them. The belief is that it was dedicated to Bharatheswara, a Digambar Jain monk (his statue can be seen in Shravanabelagola). Jainism declined in popularity in Kerala during the Saivite and Vaishnavite resurgence, and many Jain shrines, among them Koodalmanikkyam, became Hindu temples.