Jain Temple Trails – The 24 Tirthankars’ guide to Salvation

Jainism is a religion that originated in the Indian subcontinent. Jains believe that their religion is without a beginning. The twenty-four Tirthankars guided its evolution and elaboration by first achieving, and then teaching the path to salvation. Jain religion is unique in that, during its existence, it has never compromised on its code of conduct to live an ideal life, which comprise of the five vows namely Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truth),  Achaurya (non-stealing),  Aparigraha (non-possessiveness towards materialism) and Brahmacharya (chastity). Jains are strictly vegetarians also excluding certain roots and fruits from their diet thereby causing bare minimum harm to other living beings.  Jain philosophy presents the perspective of equality of souls, irrespective of differing physical forms, ranging from human beings to animals and microscopic living organisms. Humans, alone among living beings, are endowed with all the six senses of seeing, hearing, tasting smelling, touching, and thinking; thus humans are expected to act responsibly towards all life by being compassionate, ego-less, fearless, forgiving, and rational. India has a vast number of Jain temples across the length and breadth of the country.

Gummileru Jain Temple, Andhra Pradesh: The Shree Shankheshwar Parshwanath Jain Temple also called Gummileru Temple is one of the Jain Pilgrimages found in the state of Andhra Pradesh. This temple is located in the district of East Godavari, in a village called Gummileru in the Rajahmundry district. Opulent Rajasthani marble was utilized in the construction without any iron used in the making of the temple. The idols in this temple were discovered in the year 1977 during an excavation that took place as part of the construction of the National Highway.When the local community started worshipping these deities, it was decided to build a beautiful temple in order to give them the proper respect they deserved. Today, the temple lies contently in the midst of lush and well-maintained gardens.The nearest airport to the temple is Rajahmundry, which is about 50 km away.

Ellora Jain Cave Basadi, Maharashtra:  The Ellora Jain Cave Basadi are a fine example of the Jain legacy and heritage in India. The word Basadi means a shrine or temple belonging to the Jain faith that is widely used in Maharashtra. The Ellora caves are found in the city of Aurangabad and are recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, numbering 34 caves in all. The Ellora Jain Caves are five in number and are numbered from 30 to 34. These caves are separated from the other caves by a distance of a few hundred yards.  All the caves have sculptures and once had vibrant paintings on the ceilings as well, some of which can still be seen. There are prominent sculptures of the 23rd Tirthankar, Parshwanath, as well as the last and 24th Tirthankar, Mahaveer. There are also 48 sculptures of Yakshas and Yakshinis who were considered the teachers of the Tirthankars. Also of note is the statue of Bahubali, also called Gomateshwara, who was the son of the first Tirthankar.

Dallina Vardamana Mahaveer Jain Temple , Karnataka : A large number of Jain temples and pilgrimage sites are found in Karnataka due to historical association of this religion. Sankighatta is where you will find the Dallina Vardamana Mahaveer Jain Temple, which like the name suggests is dedicated to the 24th and last Tirthankar, Mahaveer .The main deity is that of Mahaveer and is made of five metals, called panchaloha. This idol is unique in the Jain tradition because the Tirthankar is depicted as a little boy who has a smiling face and is of golden color. This was originally a black stone idol but was damaged and therefore replaced with the metal idol, although the original black idol can still be seen placed behind the metal one.

Shantinath Jain Teerth, Maharahtra : The Shantinath Jain Teerth is also called the Shri 1008 Shantinath Digambar Jain Mandir and is based in Indapur, Pune district, Maharashtra.It is a major pilgrimage site for Jain devotees from around the world due to the main idol which is of Munisuvrata Bhagwan, who was the 20th Thirthankar. This idol is made of granite and is 27 feet in height. Apart from the statue of the Munisuvrata Bhagwan , there are also statues of his spirit protectors, the Yaksha and the Yakshini, as well as that of the Goddess Saraswati. This temple, which was established more recently, in the year 2011, has quickly become one of the most loved Jain temples in the world.

Shri Mahaveerji Jain Temple, Rajasthan : The Shri Mahaveerji Jain Temple is situated in the district of Karauli in Rajasthan. The main deity here is that of the last and 24th Jain Thirthankar, Mahaveer .This deity was originally found on a mound, where it miraculously appeared. The villagers excavated the idol only because they noticed a cow (a special Kaamdhenu) pouring its milk on the mound every day. When the villagers grew curious they excavated the mound and were surprised at the appearance of the idol of Lord Mahaveer. When the wishes of people who prayed to this deity started getting answered, a temple was constructed for the idol by Shri Amar Chand Bilal of Jaipur. The temple has enjoyed the patronage of the kings that ruled Jaipur as they provided generous grants that contributed in the upkeep and maintenance of this holy shrine.

Karandai Jain Temple, Tamil Nadu : The Karandai Jain temple is a Digambara Jain temple located in a small village Karandai, in the Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu. Built more than thousand years ago, Shri Adinath Swami is the main deity of this temple.

Thirupanamur Jain Temple, Tamil Nadu: The Thirupanamur Jain temple was built by the local Jains in the fifteenth century AD. This temple is located in the village of Thirupanamur in the Tiruvannamalai district of Tamil Nadu. The main entry of this temple is east facing and is surmounted by a small tower. The starting location of the corridor has the footprints of twenty four Tirthankars. The temple contains a main mandap or place of worship that is known as the Mahamandap. This mandap consists of the stone idol of Shri Pushpathanthar having eight features, and this idol is used for the daily pooja and worship. The nearest town to this temple is Kanchipuram.

Palitana Jain Temple, Gujarat: The Palitana Jain temple is considered to be the most sacred Jain temple in India. It is located on Shetrunjaya hills in the city of Palitana in Gujarat. There are altogether 863 Palitana Jain temples made up of marble. The main temple is situated at a height that can be reached by traversing about 3500 steps from the foot hills. The main temple is dedicated to the first Tirthankar, Rishabhnath, known as Adinath. The construction of the temples started in the 11th century and is believed to have taken around 900 years to complete. In the 14th and the 15th century these Jain temples were destroyed during the Muslim invasion. The temples are believed to have been renovated about sixteen times since then.These temples have a unique architectural style. The ornamentation is such that in sunlight they appear to have been made up of ivory. The images of the deity are made up of marble and are beautified by gold ornaments studded with precious stones. In this temple beautiful idols of Bhima, Arjuna and Yudhisthir have also been also installed

Samosaran Mandir, Gujarat:  Samosaran Mandir is built at the foot hills of the Shantrunjaya Hills in the city of temples, Palitana, Gujarat. Samosaran Mandir is a modern temple situated at the base of the main temple complex. Samosaran Mandir consists of a large figure of Mahaveer in the sitting position with feet in crossed position. The idol is decorated with gems, jewels, gold and silver. The main temple of Samosaran has an iconic image of Adinath made up of a fine piece of marble and the eyes of the idol are made up of crystals. In front of the temple there is a quadrangle that has been designed elaborately.

Mannargudi Mallinatha Swamy Jain Temple, Tamil Nadu: Mannargudi Mallinatha Swamy Jain Temple is an ancient temple built during the Chola Dynasty in the twelfth century in the small town of Mannargudi in the Tiruvarur district of Tamil Nadu. The main idol worshipped here is of Bhagwan Mallinathar.

Lal Mandir, Delhi : Lal Mandir popularly known as Shri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir is one of the oldest Jain temples situated in Delhi. This temple is located just opposite the famous Red Fort. The temple was originally built in the year of 1658 and it was later enlarged and renovated in the early nineteenth century. Made of impressive red sand stone, it consists of a Manastambha column right in the front; a small courtyard that is surrounded by a colonnade and the main devotional area on the first floor. There are a number of deities in this temple namely Lord Mahaveer, the 24th and  last Jain Tirthankar, Rishabhnath, the first Thirthankar and Parshwanath, the 23rd Tithankar. It is a very peaceful and serene place for offering prayers. The temple is composed of detailed carvings and paintworks. There is also a bookstore situated inside the temple complex that contains books related to the Jain culture and religion from all over the world.

Saavira Kambada Basadi, Moodbidri, Karnataka : The Saavira Kambada temple is a Jain temple located in Moodbidri, a small temple town in the state of Karnataka. This temple is also popularly known as Chandranatha Temple. The town of Moodbidri is considered to have total of about eighteen Jain Temples, the finest being the Saavira Kambada temple. This temple was built in the year of 1430 by Devaraya Wodeyar, the ruler of Vijayanagar. Later on some renovation and additions were done in the year of 1962.The temple is famous because of the thousand remarkable pillars that form an integral part of the shrine. The construction took almost thirty one years to get completed. The Saavira Kambada temple also contains many mantaps,which are supported by the pillars. Carved out of granite, these pillars have unique figures engraved that make them different from the others. There are stone chandeliers in the shrine that reveal the architectural skills of the craftsmen.

Ranakpur Jain Temple, Rajasthan : The Jain temple of Ranakpur is situated in the heart of the Aravalli hills.The construction of this temple started in 1446 and was completed in 1496. It took fifty years for the completion of the temple. It is a three-storey building made up of marble. The structure of the temple consists of four entrances. The main chamber of the temple contains four images of Adinath. The images are sculpted out of white marble and each are around seventy two inches tall and are built in such a way that one image is situated in each direction. Therefore, this temple is also known as Chaturmukh Jain temple. The incredible part of this temple is the multiple number of pillars situated all around the temple. These pillars are unique in nature some being big, some small, some ornate while others are plain.

Sheetalnathji Jain Temple, Calcutta: Bhagwan Sheetalnathji Jain Temple in Calcutta is popularly known as Shri Badrinath Jain Swetambara Mandir. It was built in the year of 1867. This temple complex is subdivided into four parts, Sheetalnathji Temple is one of the four temples. It is a beautiful temple with intricate designs. The main temple is dedicated to Bhagwan Sheetalanath. The idol has a diamond studded forehead which is the main attraction.

Vasai Jain Temple at Bhadreshwar, Kutch, Gujarat: The Vasai Jain temple is located in the village of Bhadreshwar in Kutch district of Gujarat. This is the place where Bhadravati, an ancient city, once flourished. This city is mentioned in the Mahabharata, the renowned mythological epic in India. This temple and the city date back to 555 AD. It was a very popular pilgrimage site among the Jain devotees in the 12th and 13th centuries. In the 17th century, it was nearly destroyed. Even though it had been destroyed many times over the centuries, by both human hands and natural disasters such as earthquakes, today it stands proudly rebuilt and restored to its former glory.The Vasai Jain temple lies in a courtyard that is 48 feet in width.The plan of the temple resembles that of the Dilwara Temples of Mount Abu in Rajasthan. The Vasai Jain shrine is home to three images in white marble. The central image is that of the second Thirthankar, Ajitnath, dated AD 1565. The other images are that of the 16th Thirthankar, Shantinath, and of Parshwanath, the 23rd Tirthankar.

Bawangaja Temple , Madhya Pradesh: Bawangaja temple is located in the district of Barwani in Madhya Pradesh. This temple has the statue of the first Tirthankar, Lord Adinath, which is carved out of the side of the mountains which are in the Satpura range of mountains in the central part of the Indian subcontinent. The statue, which is carved out of one single rock, is impressive in its dimensions, location, and its sculpture. It stands 84 feet tall and is carved right in the middle of the Satpura mountain range at a height of 1300 feet, which is at the base of the mountain. This statue of Adinath is renowned for being the World’s tallest statue of the first Thirthankar. It was sculpted in the early part of the 12th century and still retains its glory and magnificence. At the top of the mountain is the temple called Chulgiri, also known as Siddha Bhoomi. This is a holy place because it is where three renowned Jain scholars as well as countless others meditated on the Divine and attained self-realization.

Dharmanath Temple, Kerala: The Dharmanath temple is situated in the town of Mattancherry, in Kochi, in the southern state of Kerala. Jainism in the state of Kerala can be traced back to the 3rd century. This temple is dedicated to the 15th Thirthankar, Lord Dharmanath, and hence the name. The entire temple and the complex surrounding the temple is impeccable in its architecture and cleanliness. The sculptures and designs of the temple are similar to those of the Dilwara Temple in the Mount Abu, Rajasthan. The interior of the temple is adorned with marble which has sculptures of the different Gods and Thirthankars. The temple is situated in the quintessential Kerala setting of coconut trees and lush verdant greenery. The serenity and tranquility of the place makes it ideal for those who are meditating to attain inner peace or salvation. Right from the imposing temple gates, which have a picture of the beautiful Gajalakshmi on them, to the inner sanctorum where the idol of the Lord Dharmanath is installed, every inch of the temple is designed to create the feeling of peace and devotion in the pilgrim.

Kulpakji Temple, Telangana: The Kulpakji temple is located in a village called Kolanupaka in the Nalgonda district of Telangana in India. The temple dates back to the 10th century. This is situated 80 kilometers from the city of Hyderabad. The deity in this temple is of Lord Rishabhnath, also known as Adinath, the first Tirthankar and is made of jade stone called manikyakallu in the local language, thereby the idol gettings its name as Manikyaswami. Besides this statue, there is also the idol of Lord Mahaveer,the 24th and last Tirthankar and Lord Neminath, the 22nd Tirthankar. Manikyaswami idol was worshipped by none other than the King of Lanka, Ravana’s wife, Mandodari. It was said to be brought and installed to this village by Kalyana’s ruler called Sankar.

Shikharji Temple, Jharkhand : Perched atop Parasnath mountain, this temple is popular among the Jain followers as this is the place where twenty out of twenty-four Tirthankars attained Moksha or Freedom from the Cycle of Rebirth. The name of the temple Shikharji has been given due to its location. Shikharji means the highest peak. The name of the hills where the temple is located is Parasnath which is derived from the name of the 23rd Tirthankar Parshwanath. He also attained moksha at this temple. People visiting this place also enjoy adventure sports activities like parasailing and paragliding. To reach this temple, the pilgrims have to pass through the Madhuban Forest. The area between the summit and the Gandharva nala stream is considered very holy by the Jain followers. The pilgrims go for a parikrama or a round trip, almost 54 km distance on foot or on a doli /palanquin to complete the pilgrimage. Parasnath station is the nearest railway station to reach this temple. It is located in Dumri Jharkhand, almost 25 km away from Madhuban. Kazi Nazrul Islam Airport, Durgapur is the nearest Airport to reach this temple.

Sonagiri Temple, Madhya Pradesh: Sonagiri  means “The Golden Peak.” This temple is unique as this was the site where Nanganag Kumar attained moksha along with his fifteen million followers. Sonagiri has a lot of Jain temples scattered in the area. Ascetic saints and devotees visit this temple to practice austerity and self-discipline. 77 Jain temples are located in the hilly area while twenty-six are located in the village. The temple can be seen from a distance because of its tall spire. The temple houses a 11 feet tall attractive idol of Lord Chandraprabhu. The eighth Tirthankar. Idols of Lord Parshwanath and Lord Sheetalnath can also be seen in the temple. Pilgrims and tourists visiting the temple are left awestruck to see the 43 feet tall Manstambh, also referred to as the column of dignity.

Gomateshwara (Bahubali) Temple, Karnataka : At a distance of around 158 kms of Bengaluru and 83 kms from Mysore, there is a town situated in Karnataka known as the city of ponds and temples – Shravanabelagola. This place is one of the eminent heritage sites in Karnataka. The place Shravanabelagola is famous for its Gomateshwara Temple also known as Bahubali Temple. Shravanabelagola has two hills, Vindhyagiri and Chandragiri. The 58 feet tall  monolithic statue of Bahubali is located on Vindhyagiri Hill. The base of the statue has an inscription which praises the king who funded the effort and his general, Chavundaraya, who erected the statue for his mother. The Bahubali statue is both magnificent and munificent. Magnificent in form, it is a 57 feet high monolithic statue built in around 983 A.D. The Gomateshwara Statue can be viewed at a distance of 30 km. According to the Jain texts, Bahubali or Gomateshwara was the second son of first Tirthankar, Rishabhnath or Adinath. It is said that Adinath had in total 100 sons. When Rishabh left his kingdom, a tussle took place between two of his sons – Bharatha and Bahubali for the empire. Although Bahubali defeated Bharatha in the combat but he was not happy due to the sourness between him and his brother. Thus, he decided to give his kingdom to Bharatha and went to achieve Kevala Jnana (Absolute Knowledge). In the year 2007, this marvelous statue was conferred with the top spot among the country’s seven wonders.

Dilwara Temple, Rajasthan: Dilwara Temple is one of the finest and architecturally renowned Jain temples in India. A large number of visitors and pilgrims visit this temple every day to enjoy a sense of peace and tranquility and experience a divine connect with the ultimate Power. Its extraordinary architecture is its major attraction. Intricate carvings on the marble stone and high-quality craftsmanship of the workers is clearly visible in every aspect of this temple, making it truly unique and distinct. Its opulent entranceway is truly stunning and spectacular. This temple complex has five sections dedicated to five Jain Tirthankars namely Mahaveer, Adinath, Parshwanath, Neminath . The temple displays a lot of images from the Hindu and Jain mythology. The profusion of petals, lotus buds, and flowers carved on the ceilings and pillars lend a distinctive look to the temple. Carved corridors, courtyards, arches, and porticos are other distinctive features of the temple. Located almost 2 ½ km away from Mount Abu, it is very easy and convenient to visit this temple.The nearest airport is in Udaipur, almost 185 km away from Mount Abu.