The Jain Temples of Palitana

The Samovasaran Jain Temple in Palitana

India is often called the 'Land of Temples' because you will find a temple every few kilometres as you travel through the country. In fact, just the state of Tamil Nadu has over 33,000 temples with some being thousands of years old. The Sri Ranganathasvamy Temple and the Meenakshi Amman Temple are a couple of the most magnificent temples from the southern state. As you travel up north, you will find many other famous Hindu temples - the Jagannath Temple in Puri, the Dakshineswar Kali Temple in Kolkata and the Akshardham in Delhi, to name a few.

Head to the western state of Gujarat and you will find the Somnath Temple and the Dwarakadhisa Temple; both well-known pilgrimage centre for Hindus. Also in Gujarat is Palitana, a major pilgrimage centre for Jains and home to more than 800 temples atop a single hill.

The Jain Temples of Palitana
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The Jain Temples of Palitana

Located in Palitana are the Shatrunjaya Hills. They are also called Shetrunjaya Hills, taking the name from the Shetrunji River on whose banks the hills are located. From the base to the peak of the Shatrunjaya Hills are located over 860 temples, big and small, all dedicated to the 24 Jain Tirthankaras. The path from the base of the hill to the top comprises of nearly 4000 steps and involves a moderately steep, 2 hours (3.5 kilometres) climb. When we visited, it took us 3 hours to climb to the top because of the numerous breaks that we took in between - both for rest and for taking in the views.

Climbing up the Shatrunjaya Hills in Palitana

Tip | Begin your ascent early in the morning, so that you reach the top early and have sufficient time to explore and descend before nightfall. No one is permitted to stay overnight on the hill, so you need to plan your climb with that in mind. Many of the pilgrims whom we met and spoke to at the top mentioned that they had started their ascent in the early hours of the morning, making it to the top just before sunrise!

Tip | There are a number of temples in the city as well and you may want to factor in the time to visit some of these during your stay in Palitana.

As mentioned earlier, there are more than 800 temples of varying sizes dotted across the landscape, from the base of the hills to the top. Many of the smaller temples are simple and grouped together in enclosures while the larger ones have elaborate and intricate carvings and have enclosures of their own.

The Jain Temples of Palitana

The Jain Temples of Palitana

The Jain Temples of Palitana

The Jain Temples of Palitana

According to some records, the first temple was constructed in the 11th century. Over the next several centuries, many other temples were built. Listed below are some of the main temples.

The Samovasaran Temple
This temple is located at the base of the Shatrunjaya Hills and houses idols of Lord Mahaveer, Nakoda Bheruji, Manibhadra Veer and Ghantakarna Veer Dada. The interiors are beautiful with carved columns and ceilings.

The Samovasaran Temple

The Samovasaran Temple in Palitana

The Adishwar Temple
This is the main temple atop the hill and is dedicated to Lord Adinath (Rishabhanatha), the 1st Tirthankara of Jainism.

The Adishwar Temple in Palitana

The Kumarapala Temple
This one is said to be built by King Kumarapala from the Chaulukya dynasty of Gujarat. Kumarapala adopted Jainism towards the end of his reign and is credited with the construction of several temples across Gujarat including this one of the Shatrunjaya Hills.

The Chaumukha Temple
This temple gets its name from the four-faced image of Lord Adinatha located in the central sanctum. Each face of the statue faces one of the four cardinal directions.

Other notable temples are the Sampriti Raj temple, the Vimal Shah temple and the Narsinh Kesharji temple. All of the temples are exquisitely carved; many built only of marble or granite and are a testimony to the great skills and craftsmanship of the sculptors and other artists. Spend a few hours in Palitana and you will surely be inspired by the architecture and the spiritual tranquillity.

The Jain Temples of Palitana

The Jain Temples of Palitana

For the Jain pilgrims, the Shatrunjaya Hills and its temples are a very sacred place and the devout pilgrims undertake the climb to progress on the path of spirituality.

As a traveller, your visit to Palitana is surely going to be an unforgettable experience. But please do be mindful that it is not a tourist attraction rather a sacred place. So, please
- make sure it is okay to use your camera; especially when taking photographs inside the temples or at places where a ceremony or a ritual is in progress.
- make sure you are not wearing anything made of leather, fur or other animal-derived materials.
- dress appropriately.

Tip | For more information on the place, the temples and the philosophy of Jainism, visit the Vishal Jain Museum that is located at the foot of the hill.

How to get to Palitana

Palitana is easily accessible from Bhavnagar. You can travel to Palitana either by train or by road from Bhavnagar. The Passenger trains from Bhavnagar take around 1.5 hours to reach Palitana. If you prefer to travel by road, there are a number of public & private bus services running between Bhavnagar and Palitana or alternately you can hire a car for the entire duration of your trip.

Regular bus services are also available from Ahmedabad, the former capital of Gujarat, to Palitana. Frequent bus services are also run by GSRTC from Ahmedabad to Palitana and the journey time is around 5 hours.

Note | The temples are only accessible from October to June and remain closed during the monsoon season.

The Jain Temples of Palitana

Where to stay in Palitana

There are a number of dharamashalas (guest houses for pilgrims) in Palitana that you can choose to stay at. These dharamashalas offer peaceful ambience and comfortable rooms at an affordable price as well as more luxurious ones at a higher price range. We stayed in one during our visit and liked it. If you prefer to stay in a hotel, I think Palitana offers a good choice on that front too - from OYO rooms to heritage hotels like the Vijay Vilas Palace Hotel where you can stay in well-equipped cottages which also offer lovely views of the Shatrunjaya hill.

Tidbit | If you are a vegetarian, you will love Palitana. It is the world's first vegetarian city, where the sale of meat & eggs, as well as animal slaughter, is totally banned.

1 comment:

  1. Not only a religious destination for Jains but now also a tourist destination for many.


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