Palitana Symbol of Jainism
I had been planning to visit Palitana temples-the famous Jain temples, in Bhavnagar from many years.
During the summer vacations, I decided to visit Palitana, and called my uncle in Bhavnagar, to inform him of my coming there. He was more than happy to welcome me, and also offered his assistance of taking me to the venue. After 2 days, I was at his place enjoying a cup of coffee.
I started reading about the city of Palitana and its temples. I first wanted to know the history, and the geography of the place.
History of the Palitana
Palitana is a city in Bhavnagar in North Gujarat area called Saurasthra in India. The city is about 50 km southwest to Bhavnagar. It is famous for its Jain’s temples, and is a major pilgrimage centre for Jains. The city has a population of 175,000 as per the latest census of 2011. The history states that it was a princely state, founded in year 1194. History says that Murad Baksh the Mughal king, in year 1656, gave the Palitana village to a Jain merchant called Shantidas Jhaveri. It was later ruled by Rajput kings of Gohil dynasty, and then merged into Independent India after 1947
The Jain Tirthankar Rishabh dev sanctified the Palitana hill, where he had given his 1st spiritual sermon. The hill’s original name is Pundarikgiri from Rishabh’s grandson Pundarik, who got salvation at this place of Shatrunjay Mountain. I also learnt that the Palitana Temples which were built in 11th century were later destroyed by Turkish invaders. The Palitana temples and the mountain are considered as a high sacred pilgrimage place, by the Jain community. There are more than 3000 temples located on the Shatrunjay hills, carved fully in marble. The domes of the temple sparkled in the early morning sun like diamonds, when we went there.
Structure of the temples
The main temple on top of the hill is dedicated to 1st tirthankar-lord Adinath or Rishabdeva. From the foot of the hill to the top, there are more than 3500 stone steps that have been cut to facilitate climbing. The Shatrunjay hills contain about more than 850 temples, carved with marbles and as per the legend, about 23 Jain Tirthankars have visited the hill temple. The Svetambara Jain sect visits this place in great numbers. The Jain temples are known as Derasars.
Early next morning, we started for Palitana. When we reached there, we asked one guy sitting there about some more information on the history of the place. He was very happy to oblige us. He gave us information that some important Jain temples are of Lord Adinath, Kumarpal, Vimal Shah, and Chaumukh. Some of the temples date back to the 16th century. Kumarpal Solanki in early times is credited to build the earliest temples.
Way of the worship
We saw a Jain Sadhu doing a Puja in the temple there. We asked him about how the worship is done. He told us that the temples are built in clusters to help the Jain Sadhus who do pilgrimages on foot, to reduce the distance of foot travel to minimum, to avoid any stress. Because they believe in non violence in any kind, they do not offer open lighted lamps, except the aarti performed with covered lanterns. The pilgrimage also involves fasting, that starts from the journey to the temples up to the hill.
Majority of temples are built in white that demonstrate purity. The temples have been rebuilt or renovated at least 16 times.
General Information About Paltiana
Wow, the temples were indeed huge and beautifully carved. I kept on looking at the carvings and the structure for about 45 minutes, and marveled at the sculpturer’s hard work and patience. Beautifully designed Domes and lines alongside it, added a unique feel to the whole temple. There is also shrine of muslim saint- Angar Pir there, known for miracles.
It is good that we started early in morning to climb the stairs, otherwise we would have got fried due to the intense midsummer afternoon heat. We had enough stock of water to last for us for the day.
Information on Adinath and Digamber Jain temple at Palitana
There is a famous temple called The Digamber Jain temple at Palitana hill, which has 9 shrines and an image of Lord Shantinath stands with 42 inches in Ht, in meditation posture made up of white stone. Other idols on this shrine are Lord Adinath and Lord Chandraprabhu each 26 inch in height, and Lord Arahnath and Lord Ajitnath, each 20 inch in height in meditation posture.
The Adinath temple has series of domes with 1244 pitchers, 20 images of bright colored lions, ten guards, and 32 toranas. We could see a beautiful view of surrounding scenery from Shatrunjay hill. I also saw the river of Shatrunjay famous to bestow cure from various disease. People come here in great numbers on full moon day, and do pilgrimage or worship of the hill covering a distance of about 215 km on foot to offer prayers to Lord Adinatha.
Going back home and the distance to the temples
We were not charged with any entry fees, to visit any temples on the mountain. While coming down, we had our lunch in one of the trusts called Anandji Kalyanji which was good in taste.
We reached our home in Bhavnagar at around 3 P.M and had a satisfied day. I had a much fulfilled day by going on to the Famous Palitana temples and marveling at the beautifully carved temples of Adinath and other Jain Tirthankars.
For those who want to go to Palitana, they can go by:
Road: Bhavnagar is 56 km away from Palitana and Ahmadabad is about 210 Km away.
State buses and private vehicles also travel there from/to Bhavnagar to Palitana and return journey. Buses also operate from Ahmadabad, Talaja city and Saurasthra.
Rail: Trains are available up to Bhavnagar from Major railway stations.
Air: The nearest airport is in Bhavnagar
You can read more about Palitana Temples from here
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