Article: Mount Śatruñjaya

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

The Śatruñjaya-māhātmyas

In golden colours, this manuscript painting shows Ṛṣabha. The first of the 24 Jinas, Ṛṣabha takes the lotus position of meditation. His jewels and headdress show he is a spiritual king, stressed by royal symbols, such as the elephant and parasol.

Worship of Ṛṣabha
Image by Victoria and Albert Museum © V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Celebrations of the Greatness of Śatruñjaya is the generic name of several works written mainly in Sanskrit. The most famous of them is Dhaneśvara-sūri’s version, probably written in the 14th century (see Weber) and which has remained the main source for stories relating to the holy hill. Visiting the place in the 1820s, the Briton James Tod reports that the Jains who were his guides had a portion of Dhaneśvara’s work with them. Modern compilations published in India about the history and legends of Shatrunjaya draw extensively on this text as well.

The Śatruñjaya-māhātmya is not a straightforward work, but rather a network of hagiographies and stories featuring the Jinas and other mythological figures. They stress, at least to some extent, their connections with Shatrunjaya and expand the tradition of this holy place. The texts have two chief purposes. One is to indicate that Shatrunjaya is extremely ancient, having been frequented by the first Jina Ṛṣabhanātha or Lord Ṛṣabha and his son Bharata, for instance. The other is to show that it has a history and a development. This aim underlies the significance of the chapter of the ‘16 Renovations’ of Shatrunjaya, a topic which has since become commonplace.

The author’s statue is housed in a small shrine in the principal enclosure, to the right of the entrance to the main Adishvar Temple.

Hymns of praise

There is a strong tradition of devotional songs about holy places, which extol either a place itself or the particular Jina image associated with it. These hymns are chanted on pilgrimages to these places or when models and paintings of the places are seen on daily visits to the temple. Given its importance, Shatrunjaya has inspired an infinite number of hymns in vernacular languages, especially Gujarati.

Among the notable examples of this genre is one in Prakrit, which is included in the category of Śvetāmbara scriptures known as Prakīrṇakas – ‘Miscellany’. This is the Sārāvalī in praise of Puṇḍarīka-giri, alias Shatrunjaya, a song that seems to date to a time when the site ‘was beginning to gain major prominence as a holy spot’ (Dundas 2002: 222). It features Nārada, a sage who reached emancipation on the hill. Like the other hymns, the Sārāvalī emphasises the site’s holiness by referring to the mythological figures who have given it sanctity, mainly by reaching final emancipation, and praises the merits gained from worshipping there.

Modern books and media

The temples at Mount Shatrunjaya are so numerous that they are usually described as a temple-city. There are nine compounds or enclosures – tunks or tuks – made of high walls with ornate gates. Each houses a main temple and smaller shrines.

Temple domes
Image by Marina & Enrique © CC BY 2.0

Books or DVDs produced today by the Jains are another source of knowledge about Shatrunjaya. In Gujarati, Hindi or English, they combine visual and textual material especially for pilgrims. Mixing features of a guidebook with religious practice, they are often called bhāva-yātrās – mental pilgrimages – to Shatrunjaya.

Thus they follow the pilgrim’s ascent to the top of the hill and his tour of the temples. They contain:

  • detailed descriptions of each and every spot, footprint, shrine and temple
  • summaries of traditional stories
  • indications of religious formulas or mantras to be recited at various places in the process of caitya-vandana – ‘salutation to the temples’
  • hymns of praise to the first Jina or to other figures, to be sung at their respective temples.
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