Jainism - or, more properly, the Jain Dharma - is one of the oldest religions of its homeland, India and indeed of the world. 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 concept of nonviolence either in principle or practice. It upholds non-violence as the supreme religion (Ahimsa Paramo Dharmah) and has insisted upon its observance in thought, word, and deed at the individual as well as social levels.
Pilgrimage plays an important part in Jain life for Digambaras and some Svetambaras, although there are no compulsory pilgrimages. When lay Jains go on a pilgrimage, they take on some of the lifestyle and attitudes of a Jain ascetic (a monk or nun). Jains may visit any number of temples or other locations that are associated with the lives and deeds of the Tirthankaras. One of the most famous and holy sites of pilgrimage for Jains is in Shatrunjaya in Gujarat. It is one of five holy mountains and contains many temples. However, below are listed some of the most visited and popular Jain temples in India.
Notable for its construction, the Jain Temple is a fine example of a marvellous architecture. The temple was constructed using opulent Rajasthani marble 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 5. 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. This is how the Shree Shankheshwar Parshwanatha Jain Temple came to be built. The statues that were unearthed here were those of the Tirthankaras’ like Lord Parshwanatha. The religious figures were depicted as seated in the mudra of ‘Ardha-Padmasana’. These statues were dated and found to be more than 2000 years old. They were thought to have belonged to the Mauryan Dynasty that ruled this part of India.
The word Basadi means a shrine or temple belonging to the Jain faith that is widely used in Maharashtra. The Ellora Jain Cave Basadi are a fine example of the Jain legacy and heritage in India and are found in the city of Aurangabad and are recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, numbering 34 caves in all. These exemplary caves are a timeless testament to the craftsmanship. 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. There are two main caves and two unfinished caves among the five. These caves date back to the 9th and 10th centuries and belong to the Jain sect called Digambara.
Karnataka is a state where there are a large number of Jain temples and pilgrimage sites. Due to the historical association of this religion in the state, it flourished under the patronage of many powerful rulers across different dynasties in different centuries. Of these places, Sankighatta is one of the most important places in this state. This is where you will find the Dallina Vardamana Mahaveera Jain Temple. This temple is dedicated to the 24th and last Tirthankara, Mahavir Bhagwan. The date of the temple has been traced back to the 11th century. It was built by the Emperor Narasimha I who ruled under the Hoysala Dynasty. The patronage of the temple was given over to the Settru family members whose descendants are still keeping the tradition alive and intact, although they have given over the care of the temple to the Tahsildar of Magadi Taluk in the year 1950.
The Shantinath Jain Teerth is also called the Shri 1008 Shantinath Digambar Jain Mandir. This is situated in the state of Maharashtra in the town of Indapur, which is located in the district of Pune. It is also popularly called the Golden Temple because of its attractive and imposing golden façade. 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 Thirthankara of the Jain faith. This idol is made of granite and is 27 feet in height. The height of the temple shikhar itself is 31 feet. The Shantinath Jain Teerth temple is one of the few Jain temples in North India which is built by following a South Indian temple architecture pattern. The shape of the shikar is quadrangular and is golden in colour. The temple has three main vedis, or shrines where the idols are kept. The vedis in this temple aremade of rich marble. They are adorned with sculptures and intricate carvings that depict the events surrounding the birth of the Thirthankara. 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.
The Shri Mahavirji Jain Temple is situated in the district of Karauli in Rajasthan. The main deity here is that of the last and 24th Jain Thirthankara, Mahavira Bhagawan. This was established more than 200 years ago; thus, it holds special significance for those who follow the tradition of Digambar in Jainism. The principal deity of Lord Mahavira which is established in this temple was originally found on a mound, where it miraculously appeared. The villagers excavated the idol only because they noticed a cow (a special Kaamduhadhenu) pouring its milk on the mound every day. When the villager grew curious they excavated the mound and were surprised at the appearance of the idol of Lord Mahavira. It was when the wishes of people who prayed to this deity started getting answered, a temple was constructed for the idol by Shri Amar Chand Bilala of Jaipur. This was later renovated in the 17th and then 19th century. 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.
The Karandai Jain temple is a Digambara Jain temple located in a small village Karanthai, in the Thanjavur district of the state of Tamil Nadu. This temple is one of the famous Jain temples built more than thousand years ago. Shri Adinath Swami is the main deity of this famous Jain temple. Goddess Padmavati Yakshi popularly known as Dharmadevi Yakshi, Nava Griha and Bramadever Yakshan are other deities who are being worshipped in this holy place. This temple also contains idols of Tirthankars made up of alloy. Twenty-four jinars small and big stone icons are also being worshipped in this place. The temple is built of hard rock and has the images such as the Yakhshini and Ambika inscribed on the structure.
The Thirupanamoor Jain temple was built by the local Jains in the fifteenth century AD. This temple is located in the village of Thirupanamoor in the Tiruvannamalai district of the state of Tamil Nadu. The architectural structure of this temple is composed of a corridor that is surrounded by a compound wall. 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 Tirthankaras. The middle portion of the corridor is known as the Vedi block. The sanctum of the holy area is composed of two stages, one containing viman with shikhara and the other containing a kalash. The first stage has four Tirthankaras in the sitting posture situated in the four directions. The second stage consists of the four Tirthankaras in the standing posture. The vedi pedestal consists the idol of Shri Pushpathanthar. The idol is made up of lime mortar having eight features of Samavasaran Jinar. Then there is an Arthamandap. This place contains all the idols of Tirthankaras that are made up of metal.
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 Tirthankara, Rishabhanath. 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.
Samosaran Mandir is built at the foot hills of the Shantrunjaya Hills in the city of temples, Palitana, Gujarat. Samovasaran Mandir is a modern temple situated at the base of the main temple complex. Samosaran Mandir consists of a large figure of Mahavira 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. Another famous shrine is situated just opposite to the Adishwara temple.
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. This is one of the most famous ancient Tirthas of Tamil Nadu and the main idol worshipped here is of Bhagawan Mallinathar. The other idols that are being worshipped include the idol of Saraswathi devi, Jawalamalini Amman, Padmavathy Devi and Dharma Devi.
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. It is said that a temporary structure to house a Jain temple was being permitted to be built during the Mughal period. The main deity was of Tirthankara Parshva. The temple then consisted of three marble idols that were kept under the supervision of a Jain officer who belonged to the Mughal Army.
The Jain temple of Ranakpur is situated in the heart of the Aravalli hills. The temple is a fine specimen of art and culture that makes it a treasured site of Rajasthan that is to be cherished. The construction of this temple was started in the year of 1446 and was completed in the year 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. Apart from this, there are seventy-six small in size domed shrines, four assembly halls, four principal shrines situated in the four directions along with many subsidiary shrines. There are four unique Meghananda Mandapa that have elegant designs. The pillars are of forty feet height with delicate carvings all around. Giving support to magnificent domes with studded. Precious stones, these pillars make one of the main attractions in the temple. The domes also hold radiant images of the Gods and Goddesses. On the west side of the Meghananda Mandapa is situated the images of Dharanashah, who was the initiator of this temple and of Deepak who designed this temple, both facing the image of the Lord.
Bhagwan Sheetalnathji Jain Temple in Kolkata is popularly known as Shri Badrinath Jain Swetambara Mandir. This temple is one of the famous Jain centres of pilgrimage. The main temple is known as Paraswnath Temple. It was built in the year of 1867. This temple complex is subdivided into four parts, Shitalnathji Temple is one of the four temples. It is a beautiful temple with designs intricate. The main temple is dedicated to Bhagwan Shitalanath. The idol has diamond studded forehead which is the main attraction. This temple is now managed by a private trust. The temple has wonderful architectural structure. The entrance gate of the temple has a plaque with the name Rai Budree Das inscribed on it, he is the founder of this famous temple. Just beside the gate is the statue of a woman with long hair standing on a tile. The sculpture of the woman is that of wearing a gown with a flaming torch in one hand. This light is used to depict the silent testimony of the contemporary world.
The Vasai Jain temple is located in the village of Bhadreshwar, which is in the district of Kutch in the state 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 the 555 AD. The Vasai Jain temple at Bhadreshwar was an important and thriving center for Jainism in those days. It was a very popular pilgrimage site among the Jain devotees in the 12th and 13th centuries. In the 17th century it fell to the pillages of marauding invaders and nearly destroyed. This temple is considered to be the oldest of the Jain temples in the Indian subcontinent. 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.
Jainism offers a quiet, overwhelmingly serious way of life, a cultural insistence on compassion, a society of ethics that has dramatically changed the world and will continue to effect change. Jainism is an ecologically responsible way of life which paves way for a perfectly friendly co-existence of all the worldly beings.