Article: Jain holy places

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

Delhi area

Hastinapur is a prehistoric site Jains consider holy because it is associated with events in the lives of four of the Jinas:

  • Kunthunātha or Lord Kunthu
  • Aranātha or Lord Ara
  • Śāntinātha or Lord Śānti
  • Ṛṣabhanātha or Lord Ṛṣabha.

Over the last 40 to 50 years Śvetāmbaras and Digambaras have developed it in different directions and now it occupies a prominent spot on the map of Jain religious geography. In recent decades it has become particularly well known as a Śvetāmbara destination for the Akṣaya-tṛtīyā celebration. Commemorating the fast-breaking of the first Jina Ṛṣabha, the festival draws thousands of pilgrims to witness the completing of the varṣītap fast.

Central India

Huge statues at Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh of the 24 Jinas, whose teachings show the path to liberation from the cycle of birth. Cut into the rock face, the figures were carved in the 15th century and may have been designed to survive the end of the world

Jinas at Gwalior
Image by Werner Van Der Cruyssen © CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

In Madhya Pradesh Digambara Jains are more prominent. They have left their imprint in several sacred sites of historical importance, as monuments and archaeological remains show.

Khajuraho and Deogarh have a special significance with regard to the history of art and architecture from the ninth century onwards.

Gwalior is known for its gigantic statues of Jinas carved in the stone of the fort. In particular, it demonstrates a glamorous Jain presence in the 15th century, thanks to the combined impact of Jain mendicant communities, literary figures such as Raïdhū and royal patronage.

Mahavirji, Sonagiri and Shivpuri are examples of three smaller sites that have gained wider exposure in recent times.

Maharashtra

The temple-city of Mukta-giri is, unusually, set in a valley in a mountain range instead of on a hilltop. Set around a waterfall, the 52 temples are Digambara, some of them dating back to the 15th century

Mukta-giri temple-city
Image by mAhEsH bAseDiA – Mahesh Basedia © CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

In this central Indian state the main Jain sacred places are chiefly Digambara. Among the many sites of religious importance in Maharashtra are Ellora, Karanja and Muktagiri.

The site of Ellora with its ancient Jain caves is an old site with important archaeological remains. The cave temples and their surrounds demonstrate rock-carvings and elaborate architecture.

In contrast, places such as Karanja and Muktagiri are living holy places with famous temples.

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