Article: Mount Śatruñjaya

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

Other routes and holy spots

Local people hold up a colourful contemporary map of Shatrunjaya hill, prepared by a local artist. One of the most popular pilgrimage sites, Mount Shatrunjaya in Gujarat boasts around four thousand steps leading up to nearly a thousand temples.

Contemporary map of Shatrunjaya
Image by Nalini Balbir © Nalini Balbir

The first aim of all pilgrims to Shatrunjaya is to reach the principal Adishvar Temple and worship its main image. Then they will take the tour of the Nine Enclosures. Besides these two main routes there are paths that are generally less frequented. These tend to be taken by pilgrims who have more time and want to do a full tour or by those who practise special fasts or rituals. These other routes lead to remote areas on the hill that are also sacred.

These quieter holy places include those described in the table.

Other routes and holy places on Shatrunjaya

Route

Description

Gheti pag

A short route leading to a small hamlet at the northern foot of the mountain. One gets there by descending a little after the main Adishvar Temple. Footprints of the first Jina are enclosed in a small shrine said to have been built in 1156 CE.

‘Dodh gau’

Covering about 3.5 kms, this route is ‘a circumambulation of the main temple complex on a path a little below the summit, connecting the main route with the Gheti pag route as a semi-circle’ (Luithle-Hardenberg 2010: 370).

‘Tran gau’

This is a longer route than the direct path to the top of the southern summit, site of the Adishvar Temple.

‘Cha gau’

A 12-mile tour covering a full circumambulation of the hill, going east from Ram-pol, this is the longest and most difficult route. It includes the following holy places:

  • the temple of the six sons of Devaki, wife of Vasudeva and mother of Kṛṣṇa, who reached final emancipation there
  • Ulka-jal, a pond now artificially filled but said to have been originally fed by the water used for bathing Ṛṣabhanātha or Lord Ṛṣabha
  • a small temple to the second Jina, Ajitanātha or Lord Ajita, and the 16th Jina, Śāntinātha or Lord Śānti
  • Chilan or Chandan Talawadi – ‘the silver pond’ – the water of which is said to be extremely pure, since Chilan Muni, a pupil of the first Jina, performed a miracle to slake the thirst of the group accompanying him to see the main image of Ādinātha
  • a cave containing a ‘diamond image’ of Ṛṣabha
  • the footprints of Shamba and Pradyumna, Kṛṣṇa’s sons, who attained salvation on Bhadava Hill, a smaller summit on the south-western slopes of Shatrunjaya
  • ‘Siddhawada’, a very old banyan tree under which many saints are said to have reached final emancipation
  • Atpur, a village offering refreshments and toilet facilities for pilgrims.

 

Shatrunjaya timeline

The main Svetāmbara pilgrimage site, Mount Shatrunjaya, is one of the most famous Indian temple-cities. Almost a thousand temples cluster on the hill, most of them completed in the 18th and 19th centuries, though the site has long been considered holy

Mount Shatrunjaya temples
Image by Amre Ghiba © CC BY-NC 2.0

There is a sharp contrast between the antiquity of the legendary figures connected with Shatrunjaya and relatively recent historical inscriptions and monuments.

Today Mount Shatrunjaya is a real temple-city – all the general views of the place show a crowd of temple spires. But this is the result of progressive development, with a clear increase during the 18th and 19th centuries. Building activity is a sign of the liveliness of the site. In recent years, even though no temple has been added to the top of the hill, construction continues in the locality of Palitana.

The chronological stages of the site can be distinguished and are summarised in the table.

Periods of building activity at Shatrunjaya

Date

Activity

6th century onwards

  • The main Adishvar Temple is completed
  • It is restored in 1157 by Vāgbhaṭa, a minister of the Solanki dynasty

1006

Image of Puṇḍarīka is installed and a preaching monk set up by a merchant in honour of his guru (Shah 1987: figure 177; Dundas 2002: 223)

1075

Image depicting a prosperous lay man is unveiled (Dundas 2002: 223)

13th and 14th centuries

Completion of:

  • Vaghan-pol – ‘Tigress Gate’
  • Keshavji Nayak Temple
  • Shantinathji Temple
  • Kumarpal Temple
  • Chipa Vasahi
  • Marudevi Temple
  • Panch Pandava Temple

1593

Hīravijaya-sūri, the leader of the Tapā-gaccha monastic order, leads a massive pilgrimage and then the ‘probable consecration by him of the temple dedicated to Ṛṣabha by the merchant Tejpāl Sonī’ takes place (Dundas 2002: 223)

1656

The Jain community, represented by businessman Śāntidāsa Jhaveri from Ahmedabad, is exempted from tax by the Muslim governor of Gujarat. The businessman is granted supervision of Palitana (Dundas 2002: 223)

18th century onwards

Ānandji Kalyānji nī peḍhī takes charge of Palitana and Shatrunjaya, beginning an active period of construction.

19th century

  • Construction of numerous new temples in a period of massive renovations. There are many legal disputes over site ownership in this period.
  • Several wealthy lay Jains donate money to the site, and the enclosures are called after them. Numerous inscriptions bear witness to these gifts.

20th century

  • Some new structures at the bottom of the hill are completed, such as the Agam Mandir in 1942 and Samavasaran Mandir in 1986.
  • The Nutan Jinalaya is built on the southern summit in 1972.

Shatrunjaya in writing and song

Jain holy places draw homage, devotion and praise from believers. Traditionally, such places are not written about in neutral terms or merely described. Even the numerous booklets about individual sacred places published today do not just describe the physical place. Descriptions usually include all the legendary events or signs that create the meaning and sanctity of a holy place.

Since Shatrunjaya represents something eternal for Jain followers, it is natural to expect traces of it going back to high antiquity. The few mentions found in Śvetāmbara canonical scriptures of Sattuṃjaya – the Prakrit form of the name – underline the main characteristic of the site. This is the association with emancipation, which is gained by various heroes after they have performed the ritual of fasting unto death. The Pāṇḍava brothers are among them.

There are two principal types of writings in or about Shatrunjaya. At the site itself there are many inscriptions, many of them dating back centuries. These record significant events and perhaps the names of important individuals associated with these events. The other main type of writing is the blend of descriptions and legends called kalpas and māhātmyas. These often elaborate works combine a guide to the site with associated legends, and often contain material that is useful to historians of the place.

Jain hymns frequently refer to places believed to be sacred. These devotional songs are chanted during pilgrimages, whether to the place itself or as a mental pilgrimage. As a key pilgrimage site, Shatrunjaya is the subject of hundreds of hymns.

Interesting material about Shatrunjaya can be found in the large numbers of DVDs and books produced in modern times. These mix descriptions of what the visitor sees with historical detail and information a pilgrim would need, such as the right hymn to sing at a certain shrine.

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