PALITANA JAIN TEMPLES,GUJARAT
. Temple Architecture
. How to Reach
The Palitana Temples of Gujarat are located in the Shatrunjay(which is said to have 108 names) hills in the city of Palitana in the Bhavnagar district of Gujarat. In ancient times Palitana was called Padliptapur. It is one of the holiest places of pilgrimage for the Jains. The Shatrunjaya hills are at a height of 2121 feet above sea level and are on the banks of the Shetrunji River. It means hills of victory and was originally called Pundarikgiri as Pundarik the grandson of the 1stTirthankar Rishabhdeva attained salvation here. Lord Rishabha gave his first sermon in the temple on the hill top hence the hills are considered extremely sacred and visited by Jain pilgrims from all over the world. There are approximately 863 marble carved temples on the hills. It is said that the hills have been sanctified by the visits of 23 Tirthankars(except Lord Neminath).Reaching the summit involves climbing of more than 3750 steps. The temples are generally closed for devotees during the monsoon season. The spires of the temples is visible from a far distance. The Shatrunjaya hills offer a beautiful view of the surrounding scenery. Bathing in the waters of the Shatrunjay River is said to cure various diseases and confer merit to the pilgrim. From this hill the Gulf of Cambay is also visible.
Bharat, the son of Lord Rishabhdeva and the father of Pundarik is said to have visited the Shatrunjaya hills many times and also built a temple here. Starting in the 11th century the Palitana temples were built over a period of 900 years. They were destroyed by Turkish invaders in the 14thand 15th century and later rebuilt. Most of the temples are named after the wealthy patrons who paid for the construction. There are frequent renovations and new temples continue to be built here.
To make the 3.5 kms climb it takes approximately two hours. One can take any route to go up. The shortest route is the one which goes around the outer walls of the temples on the hilltop and passes the shrine of a Muslim saint Angar Pir who is said to have protected the temples during Muslim invasions. Some pilgrims take the route which goes around the foot of the mountain. In the Phalgun month of Feb/March many pilgrims take the route over a distance of 45 kms which passes five sacred temple sites. Pilgrims who are weak and elderly are carried on a swing chair by porters for payment. Descent must begin before it is evening as during the night no one can remain atop the mountain. Generally the pilgrimage is done by fasting throughout the journey.
The temples are built in clusters known as tunks or sacred enclosures. The temples are arranged in systematic groups with variation in space and height. They are carved in white marble to symbolise purity. They are grouped in nine separate Tuks or wings with each wing having a separate Central shrine or temple with minor shrines surrounding it. They have the features of the Chaumukh temple that is four sided buildings with doors so that the images would be visible from all four directions or sides. These temples have plenty of openings and they have marble halls with columns and towers. Surrounded by high fortified walls they are situated in separate enclosures. Many of the temples are very small buildings with Jain emblems. There are intricately carved interiors with geometrical lace design ceilings clustered together to form a canopy.
The Adinath Temple is the grandest and the main temple in the complex and is dedicated to Adinath or Rishabdev the first Tirthankar. It has ornate architectural motifs with a large jewellery collection. There are a series of domes with high spires with prayer halls and a balcony giving a scenic view of the temple complex. There are three Pradakshina routes associated with this temple. The image carved in fine marble is 7ft 1 inch in height and has crystal eyes. The Adishvara Temple was built in the 16th century and its main image is that of Rishabhdeva. In front is the temple of Pundarik Swami. There is a Jal Mandir with an idol of Lord Adishvar standing in deep meditation. There are other temples like the Chaumukh temple, Vimal Shah, Samavasaran with 108 life sketches in sculpture. The Dilwara temple has the image of Suparshvanath, Adinath and Parshvanath in the different layers of the column. In front of this is the Parshvanath temple. There is a mini Shatrunjaya with nine peaks. It is said that pilgrims who cannot climb the mountain can bow down here. The temple of Saraswati Devi near the Samavasaran temple was installed in 1860 and school going children are brought here to pray to the beautiful idol of the Goddess on the swan to help them in their education. Besides these there are a number of Tunks and temples leading up to the summit.
On the full moon day of the month of Kartika(Oct-Nov) there is a special festival day known as the ‘Chha Gau Teerth Yatra’. After four months closure due to monsoon pilgrims assemble in large numbers on this day at the temple complex on the hills. This is a great event in the pilgrim’s lifetime as he circumambulates the Shatrunjaya hills on foot covering a distance of 21.6 kms to offer prayers to Lord Adinatha on the Kartik Poornima Day.
Mahavir Jayanthi, the birth anniversary of Lord Mahavira is also celebrated in the temple complex. Images of Mahavira are made in huge decorated chariots accompanied by religious ceremonies. Pilgrims practice fasting and give charity to the poor.
How to reach
By road: State transport buses and private luxury coaches give an easy connectivity to Bhavnagar. It is situated 791 kms from Mumbai via Ahmedabad and 200 kms from Ahmedabad via the State Highway.
By rail: It is on the Western Railway Line. It is 777 kms from Mumbai via Ahmedabad.
By air: Various domestic airlines connect Bhavnagar with Mumbai and Ahmedabad.
There is no accommodation option in the temple complex. One can find several accommodation options in Palitana city. There are budget, mid-range and luxury hotels in the city. The hotels are fully booked during the months of October to February and it is advisable to book rooms in advance.
The place is referred to as ‘Siddhakshetra’ as it is said that it confers moksha on those who come here and pray devoutly. The hills are believed to have the largest concentration of temples anywhere in the world. Thousands of ascetics and great souls are said to have attained supreme salvation here. The most devout also make the ‘Navanu Yatra’ or visiting this holy place 99 times. Many pilgrims perform the Varshee Thap(one full year of penance) on Akshaya Trithiya day at this holy place. Reaching the top of the Shatrunjay hill and seeing hundreds of temples with their splendid architecture and beauty all worldly anxieties fade away and the faith and devotion of the pilgrims increase. The beauty, peace and holiness that pervade the atmosphere helps in the spiritual quest of the pilgrims leading them onward to enlightenment and bliss.