India is a land of many cultures, and true to this sentence, Indians have an extremely rich history of spirituality. Jainism is believed to have found its roots in India, and the magic that we can find at some of these beautiful temples is truly worth the travel.
I being a Jain, have visited quite a number of Jain Temples or Derasars as we call it, since I was very young. I have always been fascinated by derasars. Not only because they are ancient and have religious importance, but are usually in some of the remotest destinations in India – atop hillocks or in caves.
As long as I can recall, the first time I had ever been to derasar of archeological as well as religious significance, it has to be Palitana.
One of the most sacred Jain pilgrimage spots, Palitana in Gujarat has around 3000 ornately carved derasars within its complex. These derasars, built over generations starting from the 11th century are located on the Shatrunjaya hills. For one to reach the complex, it is required to climb a path of about 4000 stone steps, a difficult feat to achieve; but this does not deter thousands of devotees from thronging to the complex every year. the derasars are mainly dedicated to the Svetambara Jains.
Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh
While this is a World Heritage Site, it has gained prominence for its provocative statues that adorn many of its temples, it also has a number of derasars that were built over a thousand years ago.
The Jain derasars are located in the eastern section of the town, and are a good example of medieval Indian Architecture. The temples were built over a period of 200 years, from 950 to 1150. Khajuraho used to be home to a large and flourishing Jain community that lived on the eastern part of the town.
While Khajuraho is a small town, it has many different temple sites to see and all are very well maintained, so it is worthwhile taking a few days to explore them properly.
Ranakpur Temple, Rajasthan
Have visited this place twice, and honestly it’s the most beautiful place I’ve been to. The temple is designed as chaumukha i.e. with four faces. The construction of the temple and quadrupled image symbolize the Tirthankaras conquest of the four cardinal directions and hence the cosmos.
Local legend has it that Dharma Shah, a local Jain business person, started construction of the temple in the 15th century following a divine vision. The temple honors Adinath, the first Tirthankar and founder of the Jain religion. The town of Ranakpur and the temple are named after the provincial ruler monarch, Rana Kumbha who supported the construction of the temple
The architecture and stone carvings of the temple is based on the Ancient Mirpur Jain Temple at Mirpur in Rajasthan.
Hanumantal Bada Jain Mandir, Madhya Pradesh
Bara Mandir is a historic Jain derasar in Jabalpur. The derasar appears like a fortress with numerous shikhara and 22 shrines (vedis), making it the largest independent Jain temple in India.
This derasar is the only one that still contains an image of the Jain Goddess, Padmavati, that is still worshipped in central India. It is the main Jain derasar in Jabalpur, the annual Jain procession on the birthday of Lord Mahavira starts from here and terminates at Bada Fuhara.
Gomateshwara temple, Karnataka
|Source: Temple Advisor|
Located in the town of Shravanabelagola in Karnataka, this Jain Derasar has a massive black granite statue of Gomateshwara, which stands 17 metres tall. The statue is dedicated to the Jain god Bahubali, the second son of Rishabhanatha, the first Tirthankara of Jainism.
He is said to have meditated motionless for a whole year in standing posture because of which climbers grew around his legs. After one year of meditation, Bahubali attained Kevala Jnana (omniscience) and became an omniscient being.
Every 12 years, pilgrims flock to this mountain for Mahamastakabhisheka, an important Jain Festival, where the statue is bathed and anointed with milk, saffron paste and dusted with powders of turmeric, sandalwood and Vermillion.
Dilwara Temple, Mount Abu
|Source: Remote Traveler|
Located just about 3 kilometres away from Mount Abu, Rajasthan’s only hill station, the Dilwara group of temples are world renowned for the stunning use of marble in its build. Some even consider it to be the most beautiful of the Jain temples in the world.
They are simple, yet fascinating and situated in the midst of the forest. There are five temples in the area, each of unique architectural splendor. One can spend a number of hours just noticing all the sculptures and carvings done so carefully and artfully on the structures.
Each of the five temples were built in honour of a different Tirthankara, and include images of Jain saints, beautifully detailed pillars and even a hall with 360 miniature idols of Jain Tirthankaras.
Lal Mandir, New Delhi
Located just opposite the massive Red Fort, the Shri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir is the oldest and best known Jain derasar in Delhi. This derasar is dedicated to Parsvanatha, the 23rd Tirthankara and also houses the Avian Veterinary hospital that is run in a building behind the temple within the compound.
The architecture of the temple is complete with elaborate engravings and paintings which only enhances the beauty of this ancient temple.
Originally built in 1526, the temple has undergone many alterations and additions in the past and was enlarged in the early 19th century. The imposing red sandstone temple is also known as Lal Mandir.