Article: Mount Śatruñjaya

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

Shatrunjaya in visual art

This paṭa or cloth wall-hanging shows eight major pilgrimage centres and their associated events. In the centre is the 24th Jina, Mahāvīra, in Pāvāpurī, where he was liberated. The other major Jinas are also represented, as are the pilgrims who visit.

Worlds of gods and saviours
Image by San Diego Museum of Art © CC BY-NC-ND 2.0; Edwin Binney 3rd Collection

As a famous Jain holy place, the sight of which is said to secure karmic merits, Shatrunjaya draws large numbers of pilgrims. But it can also be represented in any temple outside the site or even in private houses. These representations take the form of:

  • bas-reliefs or sculptures on temple walls
  • metal plaques or panels
  • cloth-hangings on temple walls or in houses – paṭas
  • mural paintings from all periods, including the contemporary period.

One important instance of relief carving is in a temple at Ranakpur in Rajasthan, showing a combination of the temple-cities of Shatrunjaya and Girnar. It has stylised carvings of temples, standing Jinas, chariots and ponds. The peaceful atmosphere is symbolised by a snake and a peacock, which are normally natural enemies (Jain and Fischer 1978: plate XXXIb).

Depicting pilgrimage destinations in any medium is a way of guaranteeing the presence of these holy sites at all times and for all followers. These artworks are also surrogates for the physical journey of pilgrimage. In addition, they feature during rituals or religious commemorations connected with the holy place that is depicted. For example, the 17th-century Shatrunjaya paṭa preserved in the Ānandjī Kalyāṇjī nī Peḍhī in Ahmedabad is used for worship during the festival of Paryuṣaṇ (Hawon Ku 2007: 145). During their sermons, mendicants point out the sacred spots and their related legends to the listeners gathered in the temple.

The most significant type of artwork associated with Shatrunjaya is the paṭa. A large wall-hanging made of cloth, a paṭa is a very detailed map, though not one that is intended to help someone reach a certain place. Paṭas frequently depict images of the universe, a crucial concept in Jain cosmology or major temples and pilgrimage sites. Shatrunjaya is a favourite subject for this western Indian art form. Popular since at least the 17th century, paṭas of this site are so popular that a form called the Śatruñjaya paṭa has developed.

An unusual paṭa is preserved in Ladnun, Rajasthan (Sheth and Balbir 2010). It does not represent Shatrunjaya but each of the 24 Jinas. Divided into 24 sections, the accompanying text narrates stories of heroes in the time of each of the Jinas who reached final emancipation on Mount Shatrunjaya.

Śatruñjaya paṭas

This unusual paṭa or cloth wall-hanging of Mount Shatrunjaya depicts worldly life on the right, with green background, while the left-hand side shows Shatrunjaya. Mntal pilgrimage completed by meditating on a paṭa is considered equal to a physical journey

Paṭa of Mount Shatrunjaya
Image by Brooklyn Museum Collection © no known copyright

Early paṭas often represent holy places, especially Girnar and Shatrunjaya, by showing their main temple, for example the Adishvar temple for Shatrunjaya. However, murals and cloth-hangings depicting Shatrunjaya only have become a specific form of art often called Śatruñjaya paṭas. These can be compared with similar paintings for the Hindu sites of Nathdwara in Rajasthan and Puri in Orissa. Stylistically, they have developed over the centuries, with their own iconography that takes account of the changes at the site.

One of the oldest Shatrunjaya paṭas dates back to the 17th century. Made chiefly in Gujarat or Rajasthan, the art form developed extensively in the 18th and 19th centuries and remains popular among contemporary Jains. Local artists in Palitana produce Shatrunjaya paṭas when commissioned by rich lay Jains for their houses or by temple organisations. Their size ranges from around 1 metre in height and width to 3 metres in height. Their format is either that of a tall vertical composition or a horizontal one where the temples are spread out (figures 30 and 31 in Granoff 2009: 278–281).

The paintings may be accompanied by unique captions or inscriptions at the bottom, some of them bearing a date. In the vast majority of cases, iconography is the only means to identify temples and holy spots. Shatrunjaya paṭas can be recognised from three features (Hawon Ku 2007: 136ff.), namely:

  • hills and wildlife indicating a remote place with a special atmosphere, though vegetation and animals can be shown in a rather more realistic manner
  • a peacock and a snake, which are emblematic animals in the legends associated with Shatrunjaya and represented on the main Adishvar Temple. A pair of traditional enemies, they symbolise the general reconciliation of all beings when they listen to Jinas preaching in the samavasaraṇa
  • depiction of the five Pāṇḍava brothers, who are believed to have reached final emancipation on the hill.

Other striking elements that are commonly found are:

  • the main Adishvar Temple, generally represented as much larger than its real size and shown on the top of the painting, along with the image of the first Jina
  • the locality of Palitana in the lowest part of the painting
  • a yellow path showing the pilgrims’ routes
  • gates showing the entrance to temple complexes
  • various four-faced images of Jinas – caturmukha or caumukha figures.

The idea behind these motifs is to emphasise that the whole of Mount Shatrunjaya is a holy site, which gains its sanctity from its landscape and temples.

Comparing the older paintings with the new ones, it is clear how the style has changed to meet contemporary Indian tastes. But these paintings can also be used as historical documents to see how new elements have been added to Shatrunjaya over time. The visions are not frozen, repetitive representations of a mythical Shatrunjaya, but often incorporate images of recent constructions. These new elements create a more realistic picture and fulfil the believer’s desire to see the place as it is, not as an abstraction. Contemporary paṭas are cumulative and crowded, with no empty spaces – they depict older temples and newer ones side by side. By including new temples, the paintings mirror the involvement of the Jain lay community, who act as patrons of the site and contribute to its ever-increasing growth.

Although lacking orientation and scale, the paṭas can be extremely detailed and accurate topographical maps, showing the various routes and all the holy spots of the site. They often include the locality of Palitana. Thus the viewer sees both the sacred hill and its context, exactly as the pilgrim will first reach Palitana and then climb the hill.

When the paintings are more detailed, they depict Jina images in temples that are often close in architectural style to the real thing. Earlier paintings tend to show them in a stereotyped way.

The painters of the paṭas, whether small or huge, also intend to convey that Shatrunjaya is not just a place with monuments – it is a place of worship performed by living beings. Most of the paintings give the impression of liveliness and bustling religious activity, showing crowds of pilgrims climbing the hill, worshipping at temples and holy spots, and filling temple courtyards. Jain lay followers and mendicants are shown, but foreign visitors are also recognisable from their clothing and faces. As they visit the place in ever increasing numbers, they make up a rising proportion of Shatrunjaya visitors. Depending on the time when a paṭa was created, the dress codes vary.

Celebrations at Shatrunjaya

A large rangoli with oil lamps ready to be lit for Dīvālī – the 'Festival of Lights'. A rangoli is a pattern on the ground symbolising welcome and auspiciousness, and may be quite simple or, as here, colourful and quite intricate. Traditionally made of co

Dīvālī rangoli at Palitana
Image by liketearsintherain – Tommy © CC BY-SA 2.0

Shatrunjaya is a busy place when it is open to pilgrims, especially because it is believed that greater merit is gained from rituals performed there than elsewhere. Festivals act as magnets for even larger crowds. Even during the rainy season, when the hill is closed to religious visitors, plenty of mendicants and lay people draw inspiration from being near the holy site.

During the pilgrimage season, parties of travellers are constantly seen going up and down the hill. Inscriptions and manuscript colophons show that the organisation of pilgrimages to Shatrunjaya was always a favourite activity of wealthy businessmen, who gained the title of saṅgha-patis. More generally, patronage for the development of Shatrunjaya has grown up. This was especially noticeable during the 18th and 19th centuries, which saw several prominent men personally involved in the renovation or construction of buildings.

In addition to the pilgrimage season, there are special occasions in the year which coincide with Jain festivals. At these times Shatrunjaya attracts large crowds, led by community leaders.

All dates connected with the life of the first Jina, Ṛṣabhanātha or Lord Ṛṣabha, that are potential celebrations are marked with great pomp in Shatrunjaya, which is the main site associated with him.

Events in the life of Ṛṣabha celebrated at Shatrunjaya


Date in traditional calendar

Event in the life of Ṛṣabha


Vaiśākha Bright 3

first fast-breaking after the year-long varṣītap fast

Phālguna Bright 8

stays in Palitana for 99 pūrvas

Phālguna Dark 8

birth and later initiation into monkhood


Māgha Dark 13


Jyeṣṭha Dark 6

consecration of Ādinātha’s image in the main Adishvar Temple in 1530

Significant events in the lives of other figures associated with Shatrunjaya are also commemorated on certain dates.

Events in the lives of legendary figures celebrated at Shatrunjaya



Phālguna Bright 10

Nami and Vinami, two kings who were contemporaries of the first Jina, reached final emancipation

Phālguna / Phagan Bright 13 – February / March

Kṛṣṇa’s sons, Shamba and Pradyumna, reached emancipation in Shatrunjaya. This is commemorated by the footprints carved in the small shrine on Mount Bhadava, a small hill on Shatrunjaya.
A fair is held annually on this date and attracts about 40,000 pilgrims.

Phālguna full moon

Puṇḍarīka, the first pupil of the first Jina, started fasting unto death

Caitra Dark 8

Puṇḍarīka reached final emancipation

Caitra Bright full moon

Nami’s 64 daughters reached final emancipation

Kārtika Pūrṇimā – October / November

Emancipation of Dravid and Vakhil, two of Ṛṣabha’s grandsons.
On this day Shatrunjaya opens for pilgrimage, after the rainy season, and Shatrunjaya paintings – the paṭas – are publicly worshipped.

Māgha full moon

Anniversary of the Marudevī temple

Jñāna-pañcamī – ‘Knowledge Fifth’

Tod (1839: 295) reports that the ‘literary riches’ preserved in the temple-library of the main Adishvar temple are brought out to groups of pilgrims

Shatrunjaya is the first choice for any Śvetāmbara Mūrti-pūjak Jain wishing to perform ritual or special observances, as it is said that they bring many more merits than when performed anywhere else. The navanū – ‘99fold’ – pilgrimage is one of the hardest and most demanding ones. It requires a total of 108 pilgrimages to the Adishvar Temple, in this context each pilgrimage being a journey from the foot of the hill. It includes additional mandatory visits to the main temple and other ones, and a set of moral and dietary restrictions in daily life (see Luithle-Hardenberg 2010).

During the rainy season, climbing up the hill is not permitted. But numerous monks and nuns spend the four months of the rainy season in or near Palitana, wishing to be close to Shatrunjaya. A lot of Jain devotees do the same and can benefit from the mendicant presence during this period.

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