Article: Mount Śatruñjaya

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

Ownership of the site

A pilgrim prays at Mount Shatrunjaya, one of the most important Śvetāmbara holy sites. Kneeling on the ground, the white-clad monk holds his mouth-cloth near his face while he prays

Pilgrim prays at Mount Shatrunjaya
Image by Marina & Enrique © CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Despite the existence of a unique Digambara temple to the west of the main Adishvar Temple, the predominance of Śvetāmbara Mūrti-pūjaks in Shatrunjaya is not disputed. It has long been accepted that the place is strongly associated with this sect. The Digambara temple has no life of its own.

As spiritual leaders, monks and nuns have always had a strong presence at the site. This is indicated by the statues, footprints, shrines and inscriptions honouring prominent mendicants. In addition, the lay part of the fourfold community has been involved in Shatrunjaya for a long time. The extremely high standing of Shatrunjaya among Jains has long attracted donations from affluent patrons, some of whom are commemorated in art or in the name of a feature.

Down the ages the rich income from so many pilgrims and the interest of wealthy lay families has contributed to struggles over ownership of the site. Periods when Jains managed the site alternated with times when local rulers asserted ownership. This led to a spate of well-known legal cases in the 19th century, although the site has been managed solely by the Ānandjī Kalyāṇjī nī Peḍhī since the 1920s.


The presence of the Śvetāmbara Mūrti-pūjak monastic orders at the site of Shatrunjaya is conspicuous from two angles, namely the:

  • inscriptions with details of names, monastic affiliation and spiritual genealogies
  • images or footprints of prominent mendicants.

The inscriptions feature very frequent mentions of Kharatara-gaccha and Tapā-gaccha members whereas Añcala-gaccha mendicants are specified far less.

The images and footprints of leading monks and nuns are particularly associated with the Tapā-gaccha order.

Some significant artefacts relating to Tapā-gaccha mendicants

Mendicant artefact


statue of Hīravijaya-sūri

A 16th-century Tapā-gaccha leader who was instrumental in granting free disposal of the site to the Jain community. After he led a large-scale pilgrimage to Shatrunjaya in 1593 to 1594, the place underwent a revival in the following decades.

footprints of Hīravijaya-sūri

In 1595 Vijayasena-sūri consecrated the footprints of his predecessor, who had died the same year, according to an inscription.

small shrine to Vijayānanda-sūri

A seated statue of a 19th-century teacher who had first been initiated into the Sthānaka-vāsin monastic order under the name Ātmarāmjī. He is said to have realised that worshipping a Jina image is worshipping the Jina, which caused him to leave the Sthānaka-vāsins and become a Tapā-gaccha monk. This can be viewed as a way of justifying the abundance of images and temples at the site.

Lay patrons

This 1868 photograph from 'The People of India' shows a Jain banker in northern India. Jains do not have jobs that involve violence. As part of the fourfold community, lay Jains make donations to temples and give alms to mendicants.

Nineteenth-century Jain lay man
Image by J. Forbes Watson & J. W. Kaye © Smithsonian Institution

The identity and social position of many lay followers who acted as patrons for temples or images are similarly visible. Favourite methods of commemorating their activities are naming buildings or infrastructure after them, inscribing details and creating statues.

Many of the enclosures, which were built in the 19th century, were named after the lay Jains who paid for their construction. Examples include:

  • Moti Tunk after Sheth Motichand Amichand
  • Balabhai Tunk after Balabhai, an accountant who worked for Motichand.

Several water tanks are named after their patrons, who are named in the inscriptions as rich merchants or businessmen from Ahmedabad, Bombay and other major trading centres, who were engaged in the growing trade of textiles, spices and perhaps also opium.

Several statues can be identified as portraits or stereotyped representations of donors or lay patrons, mainly from inscriptions. The dates of these artefacts point to the involvement of lay patrons throughout the development of Shatrunjaya as a holy site.

Artefacts associated with patrons of Shatrunjaya




1006 CE


The figure on the lower panel at the base of a Puṇḍarīka image is probably of the donor of the image (Shah 1987: figure 177; Laughlin: 76)

1075 CE

Śreṣṭhī Nārāyaṇa

A statue that probably represents the businessman was donated by his sons (Laughlin: 77).

14th century


A businessman commissioned five portraits, of which three can be clearly identified as:

  1. Desala and his wife
  2. his elder brother Āśādhara and his wife Ratnaśrī
  3. his younger brother Lūṇasiṃha and his wife.

19th century

  • Moticandra and his wife
  • Rūpabāī, a lay woman
  • Narasī and his wife Kurabāī

In this period, portraits of influential lay men involved in the renovation and expansion of the site became more common (Laughlin: 78).

In the 19th century in particular, individual patronage exercised by donors who were keen on displaying their wealth was commonplace. Wealthy donors formed a network based on family bonds and commercial activity (see Hawon Ku 2011).

Even in the 1820s, Tod (1839: 293–294) reports that Shatrunjaya was a rich endowment ‘managed by a committee of wealthy lay-votaries from the chief cities, [such] as Ahmedabad, Baroda, Patan, Surat etc.’ who were in charge of receiving the offerings and managing the treasury.

Later, around 1880, there was a shift as the management and distribution passed entirely to the hands of the Ānandjī Kalyāṇjī nī Peḍhī. This organisation became the sole authorised patron of the site, with exclusive authority to decide on proposed new constructions.

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