11th century Group of Jain Temples, Palitana, Satrunjaya Mountain, Gujarat. 11th century Group of Jain Temples, Palitana, Satrunjaya Mountain, Gujarat, Palitana was a princely state of India till it merged with India after independence in August 1947. It was the capital of the Kingdom of Rajpipla and Gohil Rajput clan.
Rishabha sanctified the hill where he delivered his first sermon. It was his grandson Pundarik, grandson of Rishabha who received salvation at Shatrunjay, hence the hill was originally known as “Pundarikgiri”. Bharata, the father of Pundarik and half-brother of Bahubali, also came to Shatrunjaya many times; he is also credited with building a temple here.
The Palitana temples were built over a period of 900 years starting in the 11th century. They were destroyed by Turkish Muslims invaders in 1311 AD, when the saint Jinaprabhasuri, who was then 50 years old, presided over the temples. Two years later, the rebuilding began. While some temple building activity took place under Samara Shah, it was only two centuries later that it picked up momentum, when in 1593, Hiravijayasuri (Chief of Tapa Gaccha) organized a major pilgrimage to this location to attend the consecration ceremony of the temple built for Rishabha by Tej Pal Soni, a merchant. Following this, there was proliferation of temples here.
The most important temples are those of Adinath, Kumarpal, Sampratiraja, Vimal Shah, Sahasrakuta, Ashtapada and Chaumukh. Some of them are named after the wealthy patrons who paid for the construction. Most of them which are now present date to the 16th century. In 1656, Shah Jahan’s son Murad Baksh (the then Governor of Gujarat) granted Palitana villages to the prominent Jain merchant Shantidas Jhaveri, a Svetambara Jain, in 1656, and subsequently when all taxes were also exempted that the temple town further prospered. It was brought under the control of the Kalyanji Anandji Trust in 1730 to manage not only Palitana temples but also many other temples of Svetambara Jains, since the Mughal period.
It is said that sculptors’ skills and capacity to carve with abrasive chords (not tools) the intricate designs was paid on the basis of the marble dust that they had collected every evening after their hard labour. Kumarpal Solanki, a great Jain patron, probably built the earliest temples.
History also make a mention that Lunia Seth Tilokchand, a merchant from Ajmer led a very large contingent of pilgrims to the Shatrunjaya temples when he heard that there were some disturbances at the Angarshah Pir on the hills. But he continued his pilgrimage and pleased the Pir by his offerings. This tradition is followed to this day by his descendents by offering an expensive cloth to cover the dome of the shrine.
Many of these temples are kept in “mint” condition with large donations provided by the rich Jain merchant community.
The Palitana temples of Jainism are located on Mount Shatrunjaya, by the city of Palitana, in Bhavnagar district, Gujarat, India. The city of the same name, known previously as Padliptapur, has been nicknamed “City of Temples”. Along with Sammet Shikhar, earlier in Bihar state, now of Jharkhand, the two sites are considered the holiest of all pilgrimage places by the Jain community. As the temple-city was built to be an abode for the divine, no one is allowed to stay overnight, including the priests. Every Jain believes that a visit to this group of temples is essential once in a life time to achieve nirvana or salvation.
The Jain’s sacred site of Shatrunjay contains hundreds of Palitana temples. There are approximately 863 marble-carved temples on the hills. It is said that 23 Tirthankara (a human being who helps in achieving liberation and enlightenment), except Neminath (a liberated soul which has destroyed all of its karma), sanctified the hill temples by their visits. The main temple is dedicated to the Rishabha, the first Tirthankara; it is the holiest shrine for the Svetambara Murtipujaka Jain sect who are worshipers of images of gods. The Digambara sect of Jainism has only one temple here.
Palitana viewed from Satrunjaya Hill
The Gulf of Cambay is to the south of the Shatrunjaya Hills, and Bhavanagar town is to the north of the hills with the Shetrunji River flowing in between. Palitana, a city in the Bhavnagar district of Gujarat, is 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) away. The Palitana Temples are situated at the twin summits and the saddle linking them. The temple complex is located 56 kilometres (35 mi) southwest of Bhavnagar, a major pilgrimage centre for Jains. The summit is situated at an elevation of 7,288 feet (2,221 m). Reaching it involves climbing over 3,750 stone steps. However, during the monsoon season the temples are closed for devotees.
It takes approximately two hours to make the 3.5 kilometres (2.2 mi) climb. There are multiple routes. The shortest one goes around the outer walls of the temples on the hilltop and passes Angar Pir, the shrine of a Muslim saint who is reported to have protected the temples on during Muslim invasions. A second route goes around the foot of the mountain. A large number of pilgrims take part in a third route in the month of Phalguna (February/March), which passes five sacred temple sites over a distance of 45 kilometres (28 mi). Elderly pilgrims who cannot climb the stairs are carried on a doli (swing chair) carried by porters and charged based on the pilgrim’s weight.
From the top of Shatrunjaya are views of the Gulf of Cambay and the rugged, drought-affected landscape. The narrow streets or lanes in the temple complex are similar to the ones found in the medieval cities of Europe. The high walls surrounding the temples give the appearance of a fort. Important features include the Ashok tree, the Chaitra tree, Jaytaleti, four-mouthed idol of Bhagawan Mahavir, Hingraj Ambikadevi (known as Hinglaj Mata, the presiding deity of the hill), Kumarpal, Vimalshah and Samprati.