Lord Mahavir is said to have turned into an ascetic at the age of 30 after giving up all worldly pleasures. In the past, when he was preaching Jainism, he taught people the values of nonviolence, modesty, and honesty—values that Jains today still adhere to.
Jain temples are frequently located on hills and mountains and are a part of bigger temple cities, such as Sonagiri in Rajasthan, Mount Abu in Rajasthan, and Girnar in Gujarat. When you enter one, the elaborate wall carvings, huge domes, and tall marble pillars will take your breath away. Here are a few of India’s most stunning Jain monuments.
Lord Gomateswara temple, Karnataka
Shravanabelagola, a town in South Karnataka, is well-known for being a Jain pilgrimage place. Its distinctive feature is the 18-meter-tall statue of Lord Gomateswara, which is also known as the Bahubali temple and is thought to have been carved out of a single piece of granite. Chavundaraya, an official and commander of Karunadu, or the Western Ganga Dynasty of ancient Karnataka, gave the order to build it around 983 CE. The statue is anointed with water and sandalwood paste once every twelve years, as part of the Jain celebration known as Mahamastakabhisheka. Be prepared to climb 700 steps if you want to see the statue up close and personal. If not, at least you’ll know the statue can be seen from up to 30 kilometers distant.
Ranakpur temple, Rajasthan
According to legend, the Ranakpur temples were constructed in the 15th century by a Jain merchant named Dharna Shah with the help of the ruler of Mewar at the time. The temples were erected based on Dharna Shah’s vision of a celestial vehicle after he had a dream about one. The four-faced Chaumukha temple, which is one of the most significant in the collection of temples, is devoted to Lord Adinath, the first Tirthankara of the Jains. Adinath’s idol, a dancing theater with pillars, and a courtyard are all inside. The magnificent sanctuary has about 400 columns, 80 domes, and 24 halls covered in elaborately carved pillars.
Palitana temples, Gujarat
This complex of about 800 shrines and temples is scattered throughout the Shatrunjaya hills in Gujarat’s Bhavnagar region. It is thought that work on the buildings first started in the 11th century CE. The temples suffered significant harm over the years, but they were later repaired to their present state. The most sacred building in the complex is the main temple, which is devoted to Rishabhanatha or Adinath. There are more than 3,000 steps to climb in order to get to the temples. The Shatrunjaya hills are thought to have been frequented by Adinath himself, who is also credited with sanctifying the location by preaching there for the first time.
The Sonagiri temple
For Digambar Jains, the Sonagiri temple compound is a sacred place that includes over 100 temples on the hills and in the nearby town. The temples, which belong to the ninth century, are thought to have been the location where countless ascetic saints found liberation. Saints and devotees seeking to develop self-control and find salvation visit the complex. From a distance, the complex’s towering white spires can be seen, and it is a sight to behold. The 11-foot-tall statue of Lord Chandraprabhu, the eighth Tirthankara, is located in the 57th temple, which is the most important building in the complex.
The Dilwara temples
The Dilwara shrines in Rajasthan, constructed between the 11th and 16th centuries, are just over 2 km from Mount Abu. Bhima Shah, a minister in the Gujarat dynasty, was responsible for the construction of the complex’s oldest temples. The five white-domed temples are surrounded by gently sloping hills of lush greenery, which give the area a feeling of tranquility. According to legend, the temples were constructed with blocks of pure white marble that were shipped to Mount Abu from the Gujarati village of Ambaji’s Arasur hills. According to legend, those who labored to erect the sanctuaries were compensated with gold equal to the quantity of marble dust they removed from the walls.
Because 20 of the 24 Tirthankaras are believed to have achieved salvation here through meditation, the Shikharji site in Jharkhand is regarded as being extremely sacred. The 18th century Shikharji temple is situated atop the Parasnath hill, and the idol inside is probably even older. In order to finish their holy pilgrimage, visitors to the temple travel around the hill twice, passing through the Madhuban forest.
Shri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir
The Red Fort is a well-known red icon in Chandni Chowk in Delhi, but the Shri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir is also a significant red building there. The temple was constructed during Shah Jahan’s reign as Mughal ruler. According to legend, a Jain soldier kept a statue of the tirthankara in his tent, and other Jain officers eventually started going there to worship. A shrine was eventually constructed there, and this became the location where Lal Mandir first appeared. The temple has three towering, bright red peaks and a huge dome made of the same red sandstone that was used to build the Red Fort. Tirthankara idols are kept inside three rooms, and on the second floor, a sizable balcony overlooks the busy Chandni Chowk.
Since before 250 BCE, pilgrims have flocked to Girnar hill in the historic Gujarati village of Junagadh. A group of Jain temples can be found on a ledge on the hill after ascending about 3,800 steps; the peak is still a few hundred feet distant. The Neminath sanctuary, which honors the 22nd Tirthankara, is the biggest of the local temples. According to legend, he found salvation on Mount Girnar’s highest summit. Devotees travel for the Girnar Parikrama or journey each November. Only a small number of pilgrims ascend to the summit, where the final hill temple is still standing.