Article: Mount Śatruñjaya

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

Shatrunjaya – Mount Śatruñjaya – is one of the paramount holy places for Jains, especially the Śvetāmbara Mūrti-pūjakas. A large hill with two summits outside Palitana in Gujarat, 40 kilometres from Bhavnagar, Shatrunjaya has a special connection with Ṛṣabhanātha or Lord Ṛṣabha. Also called Ādinātha or Adishvar, meaning ‘First Lord’, Ṛṣabha is the first Jina and is worshipped in the largest and most conspicuous temple on the site.

Though the site dates back to around the fifth century, it has undergone several major renovations, with the 19th century seeing the most intense period of building activity. In the course of time Shatrunjaya has become a ‘temple-city’, boasting almost a thousand shrines of varying size and importance. Not only the temples but virtually each and every spot on the hill at Shatrunjaya is considered holy, with magical and supernatural beliefs surrounding the whole place. Shatrunjaya is associated with several Jinas and plenty of legendary figures, both underlining and deepening the sacred nature of the site.

As probably the pre-eminent pilgrimage centre for Śvetāmbara Mūrti-pūjaka Jains, Shatrunjaya now attracts about 400,000 pilgrims every year, according to official figures. All festivals linked with Ṛṣabha are celebrated with especial fervour at Shatrunjaya. For example, the main Adishvar Temple is the most auspicious place in which to end the year-long varṣītap fast, which is marked by the Akṣaya-tṛtīyā festival.

Myths and stories connected with Shatrunjaya abound and it has been a favourite topic for musical, literary and visual works of art for centuries. As such a well-known place, it has aroused competing claims to ownership. Nowadays, the temples in Shatrunjaya and Palitana – which boasts numerous temples itself – are run by the Ānandji Kalyānji nī peḍhī.

One of the five Jain holy places

Seeing thousands of pilgrims each year, Mount Sammeta – Sammeta Śikhara – in north-eastern India is one of the holiest places for Jains. Auspicious events – kalyāṇakas – connected with many Jinas occurred here, including the liberation of 20 Jinas

Peaks of Mount Sammeta
Image by CaptVijay © public domain

Shatrunjaya is one of the five holy places which make up Jain sacred geography, according to several medieval and modern or contemporary accounts (see, for example, Tod 1839: 276). The other holy places are:

Sacred nature of Shatrunjaya

Shatrunjaya has several names, which highlight its longstanding importance in Jain sacred history and legends. Its holiness has many sources. The main one is its connection with events in the life of the first Jina, known as Ādinātha or Ṛṣabhanātha – Lord Ṛṣabha – and figures around him. More broadly, Shatrunjaya is linked with several Jinas and legendary figures.

These associations are captured in physical form, which offer focal points for worship. The topography of the site is also considered holy, with natural features such as stones and lakes having become powerful parts of the sacred landscape. The holiness of these features stems chiefly from the presence of the Jinas.

Different names

The hundreds of temples at Mount Shatrunjaya in Gujarat comprise one of the pre-eminent pilgrimage centres for image-worshipping Śvetāmbara Jains.

View of Shatrunjaya temples
Image by Nirajdharamshi © CC BY-SA 3.0

Shatrunjaya is known by a number of names. Most of these names come from legend, unless it is the reverse – a legend coined to explain a name. This is a sign of the respect and value the location has in the eyes of followers as, for example, the Jinas or the Hindu gods may be called by 108 or 1008 names.

A traditional list contains 21 names for Shatrunjaya (Tod 1839: 277–278; Kanchansagar-suri 1982: 28 and so on) but there are variations in the number and also in some of the names. Only a few well-known examples are given here. The term Śatruñjaya means ‘conquering the enemies’ and some legends give the origin of this name in the story of a king. But, in the Jain context, the enemies are also within one’s own soul – in the form of passions, sins and so on – since detachment is the goal of living. This notion certainly also underlies the name of the hill.

Some names underline a specific feature of the site, such as:

  • Siddhācala – ‘Mountain of Emancipation
  • Siddha-kṣetra – ‘Area of Emancipation’
  • Muktinilaya – ‘Abode of Emancipation’.

Association with holiness

The hill of Shatrunjaya has been sacred for centuries. The holy nature of the site has three main foundations. Any place associated with one of the 24 Jinas is considered sacred and the same is true of places connected with significant people in Jain religious belief and legend.

These associations have been made concrete over the years in the form of shrines and relics honouring the Jinas and holy individuals. In addition, advanced spirituality is found in the physical landscape. This holiness bestows supernatural powers on parts of nature such as trees and ponds.

Jinas and holy people

This detail of a manuscript painting shows the first Jina Ṛṣabhanātha or Lord Ṛṣabha as an infant with his mother Marudevī. The births of Jinas are usually depicted in this way in Jain art.

Marudevī and the baby Ṛṣabha
Image by Victoria and Albert Museum © V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London

According to the Jain tradition a number of mythical figures reached final emancipation on this hill. The main ones are:

Numerous mythical kings, princes and ascetics are also associated with Shatrunjaya. Their names and stories are told in writings connected with the place. One of these important figures is Marudevī, the mother of the first Jina. She seems to have been worshipped there since the 12th century if one relies on what the Jain monk Hemacandra writes. Four images of her are found today on the hill. More generally, many legendary figures who were contemporaries of the first Jina journeyed to Shatrunjaya. Many heroes spent some time on the hill in a period of spiritual progress. Several of them are contemporaries of Neminātha or Lord Nemi, the 22nd Jina, and his cousin Kṛṣṇa.

In addition, Shatrunjaya is said to have been visited by many Jinas, who preached there. Śāntinātha or Lord Śānti, the 16th Jina, is said to have spent eight rainy seasons meditating there.

Hence the place is an embodiment of sacredness, which deserves to be called ‘King among Holy Places’ – Tīrtha-rāja or Tīrthādhirāj – or ‘King of Mountains’ – Giri-rāj.

Both on the way to the top of the hill and on the two summits, there are physical reminders of all the main figures connected with the site. These individuals are represented as images housed in shrines of various sizes or in the form of footprints – pādukās. There are, for instance, several images of Ṛṣabha, his first disciple Puṇḍarīka and so on.

Sacred landscape

Mountains and high places are believed to have great spiritual qualities in Indian culture generally. Supernatural acts carried out there are enhanced and the high places also draw part of their magical powers from such miracles. The whole hill of Shatrunjaya has many supernatural qualities that pervade the landscape. The hill abounds in tens of:

  • sacred trees
  • fountains or reservoirs – the pure waters of which can cure illness
  • stones that are supposed to be more or less magic.

Such features partly explain the association of Shatrunjaya with tales of the legendary wizard Nāgārjuna, who is said to have performed miracles and alchemy on the hill. Nāgārjuna was supposedly the pupil of a sage called Pādalipta, which, tradition states, is the origin of the name ‘Palitana’.


Interior walls of the Āgam Mandir in Palitana, Gujarat, are covered with inscriptions of the 45 holy Āgamas of the Śvetāmbara Mūrti-pūjaks. Agam Mandirs were invented in the 1940s to display scriptures for worship

Engravings of the Śvetāmbara Mūrtipūjak scriptures
Image by Nalini Balbir © Nalini Balbir

As a major holy place for Jains, Shatrunjaya sees hundreds of thousands of pilgrims annually. To get to Shatrunjaya the visitor must first reach the small town of Palitana, which is on a vast plain. Since no one is permitted to stay overnight on Mount Shatrunjaya itself, pilgrims stay in the numerous rest-houses – dharma-śālās – built in the town over the last two centuries. The rest-houses line the main street, known as Taleti, but the lands behind have now started to become crowded with new buildings as well. They are usually equipped with dining halls for pilgrims – bhojana-śālās.

The number of these dedicated buildings amounts to a rather impressive infrastructure, without equal in other Jain holy places. Rest-houses of all levels of comfort are found. Some of them are luxurious and well appointed, hosting rich lay Jains settled all over India and abroad. Others are very basic places for pilgrims on a strict budget while many others cater for all levels of cost and comfort in between. The rest-houses are managed by regional communities of specific monastic orders. This is a significant factor when pilgrims select one rather than another.

Many temples are also found in Palitana and their number is always increasing. Two notable ones close to the bottom of the hill are:

  • the temple known as Āgam Mandir – ‘Temple of Scriptures
  • the temple containing a model of the continent of Jambū-dvīpa.

The former was constructed in 1942 at the instigation of the Śvetāmbara monk Ānandasāgara-sūri. The 45 scriptures recognised as authoritative by the Śvetāmbara Mūrti-pujak Jains are engraved on its walls. The second temple explains Jain cosmology in a pedagogical manner and justifies it in a polemical manner with posters.

At the end of Taleti is the official path leading up the hill. On the left side is the Jay Taleti Temple. In front of this temple, underneath it, the base of the hill is visible as a large strip of dark grey stone. A focus of worship for pilgrims before they start climbing the hill, it is regarded as representing the sacred hill itself. It is also considered a surrogate for Mount Shatrunjaya for those who are not strong enough to get to the peak. The top of the stone is covered with gold or silver paper and flowers scattered by devotees.

Visiting Shatrunjaya

Palitana and the hundreds of temples on Shatrunjaya are managed by the Ānandji Kalyānji nī peḍhī, one of the most prominent Śvetāmbara Jain Mūrti-pūjak trusts involved in the preservation and development of holy places. The site is strictly regulated, with the principal rules being that:

  • nobody is allowed to stay overnight on Mount Shatrunjaya
  • pilgrimages cannot be made during the rainy season
  • nothing made of leather or fur can be taken up the hill
  • visitors should enquire about the regulations on photography.

In effect, this means that all visitors have to come down before sunset and Shatrunjaya is accessible only from October to June.

Jain sacred places are usually high up and Shatrunjaya is no exception. Visitors must reach the top on foot or be carried in a kind of palanquin called a ḍolī. Though the path to the top is often steep, many pilgrims go barefoot. On the way up, visitors pass many shrines and holy spots, along with resting places.

There are two main centres of pilgrimage on the hill, which are frequently crowded. The southern summit is the site of the principal temple, the Adishvar Temple dedicated to Ṛṣabhanātha or Lord Ṛṣabha, the first of the 24 Jinas. It is surrounded by smaller temples and shrines. The other chief pilgrimage destination is the ‘Nine Enclosures’. Many temples are found in these enclosures, which are scattered on the northern peak and the valley between the two summits. The other holy spots on the hill can be reached by following less-crowded paths.

Reaching the two summits

The steep path to the temples at Mount Shatrunjaya has around 4000 steps. Most visitors go on foot but those who are unable to climb so far can take a kind of palanquin – ḍolī – carried by two men, commonly called 'doli-wallahs'.

Steps to Shatrunjaya temples
Image by unknown © unknown

The top of the hill is 600 metres above sea level, rising high above the surrounding plain. There are two peaks, both of which can be reached only on foot or in kinds of palanquinsḍolīs. These are seats on which a visitor sits cross-legged, and which is slung on bamboo poles carried by two men.

Pilgrims usually aim to visit the principal Adishvar Temple on the southern summit, where they worship the main idol. They will generally then walk round the major temples sited in the ‘Nine Enclosures’, found on the northern peak and the valley between the two summits.

After going through the official entrance, the visitor walks up a well-maintained but steep path made up of stone slabs and steps. There are four thousand steps. The average time needed to reach the top is two to three hours, but mendicants are often seen elegantly climbing or going down at a very quick pace and can take much less time. They walk barefoot and are sometimes imitated by ordinary people.

The path winds past many small shrines – dehris – altars, and sacred footprints – pādukās – which are dedicated to:

Devotees are thus immersed in a religious atmosphere from the start, preparing them for the all-pervading presence of the first Jina in the main temple. Before reaching the main image at the top of the hill, pilgrims see several idols of Ṛṣabha on the way, for instance in the Babu Temple, which is not far from the start.

As pilgrims begin climbing, they see on the right side a recent three-tired circular building. This is the Samavasaran Mandir, which was inaugurated in 1986 after 14 years of construction. It is a three-dimensional representation of the samavasaraṇa – the general preaching of a Jina. On the left, the Babu Temple is dedicated to Ṛṣabha, the first Jina, also called Ādinātha.

A small shrine is dedicated to Hinglaj Devi, the name given locally to the goddess Ambikā, the female attendant of the 22nd Jina, Neminātha or Lord Nemi. According to tradition, she fought a victorious battle against a local demon, Hingul, who used to frighten pilgrims. The beaten demon asked Ambikā to have enough mercy to keep his name.

The pilgrims can rest on the way at the seven stopping-places, stone shelters which provide shade. Fountains or reservoirs – kunds – provide water. The costs of building these have been borne by wealthy lay Jains over the centuries. The ‘Kumar Kund’ was erected to commemorate King Kumārapāla of Gujarat. Built in 1861, the ‘Iccha Kund’ takes its name from its patron, the merchant Icchachand, while the ‘Chala Kund’ also dates back to the 19th century.

As the pilgrims go higher, they gain an impressive view of the River Shetrunji, which flows across the mostly dry plains around the region into the Gulf of Cambay. In recent years, a dam has been constructed across the river. Plans to reforest the hill around Palitana began with small-scale tree planting in 1997, at the initiative of the Institute of Jainology.

Higher up the stairs, on the right side is the first modern enclosure – the ‘Shri Pujya Tunk’ – from where pilgrims get a nice view of the ‘Nine Enclosures’ at the top of the hill. Then they pass a small shrine housing four black statues of:

  • Dravid and Varikhil – two grandsons of Ṛṣabha, who attained salvation in Shatrunjaya after realising that the massacres resulting from their fight were useless
  • Aimutta – a prince who became a monk as a child, attained omniscience and preached the Śatruñjaya Laghu Kalpa, a text about Shatrunjaya
  • Narada – a contemporary of Kṛṣṇa, who, though he is usually known for his quarrelsome nature in India, is known to the Jains for having reached omniscience and emancipation here.

Another shrine contains black idols of a group of five heroes, who are said to have reached final emancipation on this spot, namely:

  • Ram
  • Bharata
  • Thavacchaputra
  • Shukacharya
  • Shelakacharya.

The shrine dedicated to Hanuman – ‘Hanuman Dehri’ – the monkey-god sits at a fork in the road. Pilgrims are advised to take the left-hand path, to the southern summit, which boasts the main Adishvar Temple. The right fork goes to the ‘Nav Tunk’ – the ‘Nine Enclosures’.

James Tod (1839: 281ff.) gives an almost step-by-step account of his ascent in November 1822, which nicely evokes how pilgrims progressively approach ‘the holy of holies’ – the temple of Ādinātha.

The hill and its temples

One of the holiest of Śvetāmbara pilgrimage sites, Mount Shatrunjaya has nearly a thousand temples. This temple-city outside the town of Palitana in Gujarat has a special connection with Ṛṣabha. The first Jina is worshipped in the main Adishvar Temple.

Temples at Mount Shatrunjaya
Image by JAINA © public domain

The nearly thousand temples that make up the temple-city of Shatrunjaya are distributed over the two summits of the hill, the northern and the southern, and in the valley in between. They are surrounded by a wall, like a fortress. It is impossible to list and describe here each of the temples or holy spots because there are too many. The main ones are organised in tunks, a Gujarati word that means ‘enclosure’ and which refers to the complex formed by a main temple and the subsidiary shrines enclosed within the same wall.

Tod’s account, which gives the names, locations and descriptions of the temples and tunks existing at the time of his visit, is practically the first one in Europe that is reliable and clear. Some decades later came the standard work, The Temples of Śatruñjaya, written by James Burgess, who was director-general of the Archaeological Survey of India. The 1879 book included black and white photographs, which are now all available in the British Library online gallery. Both these accounts provide a precise picture of the condition of the temples at the time of writing. Reprinted in India in 1976, Burgess’s work remains the standard publication, since its quality has not been surpassed by modern pamphlets or books. However, modern publications are, obviously, indispensable as they describe the present condition of the site, corresponding to what visitors can see today.

Southern summit

Pilgrims at Mount Shatrunjaya are both lay people and monks and nuns. Lay people try to live the mendicant life while they are pilgrims. They do not think about worldly concerns, focusing on spiritual matters instead.

Mendicant and lay pilgrims
Image by Carl Welsby © CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The highest point of Shatrunjaya is the southern summit, where the principal Adishvar Temple is. The main enclosure is here, known by a few names, such as:

  • ‘Mūlanāth’ or ‘Dada ni Tunk’, with reference to the first Jina, Ṛṣabhanātha or Lord Ṛṣabha
  • ‘Vimal Vasahi’
  • ‘Marudeva Shikhar’.

In some descriptions of Shatrunjaya it is counted as the first of the 'Nine Enclosures' while in others it is treated separately. Here it is described separately, with details of the Nine Enclosures given under the heading Northern summit and valley.

The main enclosure has four gates through which pilgrims can pass. Inside, there are several shrines and smaller temples in addition to the main temple, which is the foremost site for Jain devotees. Pilgrims are advised to visit the temples in a certain order.

Gates and shrines

Against the inner walls of the main enclosure are smaller shrines and a reservoir. There are four gates to the enclosure, namely:

  • Ram-pol – ‘Ram Gate’
  • Sagal-pol
  • Vaghan-pol – ‘Tigress Gate’
  • Hathi-pol – ‘Elephant Gate’

The principal gate is the Ram-pol – the ‘Ram Gate’. Passing this gate, pilgrims see the ‘Five Shikhar Temple’, a temple dedicated to the 13th Jina, Vimalanātha or Lord Vimala. Following the wall, they come to the next gate, Sagal-pol, and after going up more steps, the Vaghan-pol or ‘Tigress Gate’.

Between the Vaghan-pol and the Hathi-pol – ‘Elephant Gate’ – the pilgrims come across:

  • a temple to Śāntinātha or Lord Śānti
  • a small shrine to Cakreśvarī – the yakṣī of the first Jina
  • a temple to Neminātha or Lord Nemi
  • the ‘Punya Pap ki bari’ – ‘Gateway of Virtue and Sin’ – which is a freestanding room housing a statue of a man mounted on a camel. With very little space to pass between the camel’s legs, it is said that only virtuous people succeed
  • a temple built by King Kumārapāla
  • Suraj Kund – a reservoir of reputedly magical waters, which, after they bathed in it, cured the legendary King Mahīpāla of leprosy and restored to human shape a king who had been transformed into a parrot
  • Veer Vikramshi – a statue commemorating a legendary hero who died fighting a lioness that was frightening people.

The last gate is the Hathi-pol, which takes its name from the stone elephant on each side.

Main temple – Adishvar Temple
The Adishvar Temple is dedicated to the first Jina, often called Ādinātha or 'First Lord'. As the principal shrine at Mount Shatrunjaya, it draws the most pilgrims. It is on the southern summit and, like many Jain temples, is surrounded by smaller shrines

Adishvar Temple
Image by Ark in Time – Asaf Braverman © CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The courtyard where the temple is found is often called Ratan-pol – ‘Jewel Gate’. It has this name because, according to tradition, a pilgrim goes through the gate and first catches sight of the temple, which is like a jewel. Here is the principal Adishvara or Adishvar Temple of Shatrunjaya, one of the most important focal points of worship, located at the highest point of the summit.

The building houses a white marble image of the first Jina, Ṛṣabhanatha or Lord Ṛṣabha, sitting in the lotus position, with his emblem the bull carved beneath. There is a relief of a peacock and a snake, which is an emblematic motif of Shatrunjaya. In the vestibule there is an image of Ṛṣabha's mother Marudevī seated on an elephant, holding in her arms her grandsons Bharata and Bāhubali. Behind the temple is the Surya Kund, a round water tank.

Other places in the main enclosure

All Jain temples are set on high platforms or terraces and when visiting a temple walking around its outside – pradakṣiṇā – is part of the ritual. Pilgrims to the Adishvar Temple are advised to make three circumambulations to discover adjacent temples or holy spots.

In the first circumambulation pilgrims see:

  • the Sahasrakuta – a huge marble slab showing 1024 images of Jinas, including all of them everywhere in the Jain universe
  • 1452 footprints of all the chief disciples – gaṇadharas – of each and every Jina
  • a temple dedicated to Sīmandhar-svāmī
  • an image of the goddess Ambikā.

Walking round the second time, the visitors can see:

  • New Adishvar – a 14th-century temple built by the ministers Vastupāla and Tejaḥpāla
  • the Sammet Shikhar temple.

The third circumambulation displays:

  • the ‘Five Brothers’ temple, built in 1610 by five brothers from Ujjain, containing five Jina images
  • the Neminath Temple, with a seated black image of the 22nd Jina
  • a representation of the legendary mountain of Aṣṭāpada or Ashtapad, where Ṛṣabhanātha or Lord Ṛṣabha attained liberation
  • the ‘Rayan tree’, under which, according to tradition, the first Jina preached his first sermon, leaving his footprints at the bottom
  • a relief of a snake and a peacock, and another one showing a lion and an elephant
  • a temple showing the first Jina in the kāyotsarga position flanked by his grandsons Nami and Vinami
  • images of Ṛṣabha’s sons Bharata and Bāhubali
  • the temple of 14 jewels.

In the main enclosure, pilgrims can also visit:

  • the Nutan Jinalay – ‘New Jain Temple’ – consecrated in 1972, dedicated to the first Jina and built in red stone
  • the oldest image of Puṇḍarīka, first disciple of the first Jina, dating back to the 11th century
  • the small Gandhariya Chaumukh temple, housing four-faced images of the 16th Jina, Śāntinātha or Lord Śānti
  • the Pundarik Swami Temple.

Northern summit and valley

Figure of Neminātha or Lord Nemi, the 22nd Jina. The main Jina image in a shrine is often depicted as four separate yet identical statues. They face the cardinal directions, symbolising the universal reach of the Jina's message.

Four-faced statue of Neminātha
Image by liketearsintherain - tommy © CC BY-SA 2.0

In descriptions of Mount Shatrunjaya the temples and enclosures found outside the southern summit are commonly grouped into the ‘Nine Enclosures’ – ‘Nav Tunk’ in Gujarati. This is the model followed here.

In order to reach these Nine Enclosures pilgrims have to leave the southern summit, go back down to the fork in the road and then take the other branch of the road.

Walking along that fork to the gate leading to the enclosures, visitors pass the ‘Angar Shah Pir’. This shrine of a Muslim saint is of unclear origin.

The first seven enclosures are on the northern summit, the last two in the valley.

In the order of access from the road, they are as detailed in this table.

Nine enclosures of Mount Shatrunjaya






Narshi Keshavji Tunk

1862 to 1864

Of white marble, the main temple has two storeys and is dedicated to the fourth Jina, Abhinandananātha or Lord Abhinandana. It was the most recent construction when Burgess surveyed and described the site.
A temple to Marudevī, mother of Ṛṣabhanātha or Lord Ṛṣabha, in which her image sits on the back of an elephant, marks the place where she reached final emancipation.


Chaumukhji Tunk – also called Khartar Vasi and Sava Somji Tunk

rebuilt in 1618 to 1619

The most imposing structure on this part of the hill, the main temple houses a colossal four-faced image of the first Jina. There is also a shrine dedicated to Puṇḍarīka, the first disciple of Ṛṣabha.
Behind this enclosure a small temple shelters images of the five Pāṇḍava brothers – namely Bhīma, Yudhiṣṭhira, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva – together with those of Draupadī and Kuntī. It is built on the site of an ancient temple, which was renovated in the 18th century.


Chipa Vasi Tunk

built during the 14th century and renovated in 1735

Although the main temple is dedicated to Ṛṣabha, other Jinas are also associated with this spot. It is said that here Nandiṣeṇa composed the famous Ajita-Śānti-stavana, a hymn of praise dedicated to the second Jina, Ajitanātha or Lord Ajita, and the 16th, Śāntinātha or Lord Śānti.


Shakar Shah Tunk


The main temple is dedicated to Chintamani Parshvanath.


Ujambhai Tunk


Nandishvar-dvip Temple has 57 marble miniature temples, each with a four-faced Jina image.


Sheth Hemabhai Tunk


Dedicated to the second Jina, Ajita, the main temple contains a major inscription. It gives the genealogy of a wealthy family from Ahmedabad and an account of its religious activity in Shatrunjaya and other holy places in Gujarat (Kanchansagar-suri 1982: number 160).


Premchand Modi Tunk – also called Prema Vasahi


Found at the highest level, the main temple is dedicated to the first Jina and to Puṇḍarīka, his first disciple.
The ‘Dera ni Jethani Temple’ has a copy of the scene showing the images of a woman and her daughter-in-law found in Mount Abu. This illustrates the defects of lying and of anger.
Going on farther, pilgrims reach the Temple of Adbhutji – ‘the Magnificent’ – which has the largest image of the first Jina on the hill. Cut into the rock, it is 18 feet high and 14.5 feet broad and was installed in 1630.


Balabhai Tunk – also called Balavasi

1836 to 1837

The main temple is the Chaumukh Temple, dedicated to the first Jina.


Sheth Moti Shah Tunk


Built over a ditch between the two summits, the principal temple is dedicated to the first Jina. The ditch had first to be filled in, which required 1100 architects and 300 workers.

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



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



6th century onwards

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


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)


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


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)


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.


Śvetāmbara monks walk down a Mumbai street accompanied by lay men. The monks are barefoot and holding their mouth-cloths and monastic staffs. Jain mendicants live in small bands and travel most of the year in the traditional wandering lifestyle – vihāra

Śvetāmbara monks
Image by Hoorob – Robert Tyabji © CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

More than five hundred inscriptions are found on the pedestals of the images and the walls of temples and small shrines in Shatrunjaya. Some have been collected in Kanchansagar-suri, for instance. Two exceptional inscriptions from the 11th century have been mentioned above. The earliest ones otherwise were written in the 13th to 14th centuries. The majority, however, is much later, with key periods of activity being the 16th to 19th centuries. The language of the inscriptions is predominantly Sanskrit, though Gujarati is sometimes found.

The inscriptions record the following acts or purposes:

  • construction or renovation of a temple
  • installation by an ascetic of an image that has been commissioned by a lay follower
  • long inscriptions may include a full genealogy of lay families or monastic orders.

In Shatrunjaya the inscriptions that name monastic orders include all the main Śvetāmbara Mūrti-pūjak orders, the Tapā-gaccha, Kharatara-gaccha and Añcala-gaccha in particular.

In keeping with the long Śvetāmbara Mūrti-pūjak dominance of the site, Digambara inscriptions are rather isolated. A 17th-century one records the dedication of an image of the 16th Jina, Śāntinātha or Lord Śānti, by an inhabitant of Ahmedabad, a follower of the Digambara monastic leader Padmanandin (Guérinot: number 702).

Inscriptions from the Mughal period give clues to the relationship between the political power and the Jain community. It is also interesting to note that one Gujarati inscription from 1810 forbids the construction of any new temple in the Hathi-pol, the courtyard of the main Adishvar Temple, without the agreement of the entire community.

Kalpas and māhātmyas – oral transmission

Kalpas and māhātmyas are a skilful cross of descriptions and legends, resulting in a ‘site biography’ in an elaborate style. To some extent, they can be said to put into writing material that had traditionally been orally transmitted. At the same time, their content was probably more often passed on by the preaching of monks and temple priests than through direct reading by a large number of people.

Jinaprabha-sūri’s 'Vividha-tīrtha-kalpa'

One of the best-known pilgrimage centres for Śvetāmbaras, Mount Shatrunjaya in Gujarat has nearly a thousand temples dispersed over the two peaks and the valley in between. This temple-city is mainly organised into walled enclosures – 'tunks' or 'tuks'.

Temple-city of Mount Shatrunjaya
Image by liketearsintherain – tommy © CC BY-SA 2.0

The piece on Shatrunjaya opens this collection of texts on Jain holy places written in the 14th century by Jinaprabha-sūri, a Jain monk belonging to the Kharatara-gaccha. Enthusiastically praising the hill and the heroes associated with it, it is also a report on the building or renovation activities some of them undertook, whether they are real or legendary. It is not a guide in the strict sense of the word, but to some extent it follows a pilgrim’s progress, describing the shrines and images he will see on the way.

There is a cave to the north of the image of Ṛṣabha established by the Pāṇḍavas, and even today there is a small pond there; images are seen there due to the instructions of the yakṣa and [the Jinas] Ajita and Śānti also stayed there for a rainy season. To the east are their two temples, and near the Ajita temple is the [water] tank Anupamā.

translation by J. E. Cort in Granoff, 1990, page 250

Although this account cannot be used to draw a map of the temples, it shows some concern for topography, distinctions between past and present states and for all the spots contributing to the holy atmosphere. It draws on Jain mythology but, interestingly, also on recent history. It refers at one point to images broken by those Jinaprabha-sūri calls ‘barbarians’ – the Islamic power dominant in Gujarat at this time:

One cannot omit to praise the religious buildings undertaken by Vastupāla, and made by Pīthaḍa and others. The wise minister Vastupāla, elder brother of Tejaḥpāla, foresaw the destruction by the barbarian minister, and so after arranging for the making of extremely immaculate images with Mammāṇa gems, established images of the first Arhat [= Ṛṣabha] and Puṇḍarīka in the main building. In 1369 of the Vikrama era [= 1312 CE] the image established by Jāvaḍi was thrown down by the barbarians, due to the strength of Kali. In 1371 of the Vikrama era [= 1314 CE], the good blessed Samara restored the main image

translation by J. E. Cort in Granoff, 1990, page 250

Finally, one of the author’s main concerns is to emphasise the immense karmic merits one can gain in Shatrunjaya thanks to its extreme holiness. Overall, he is keen to stress the superior value of any religious activity undertaken there, whether it is meditation or donation.

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.

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.

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.

Legal disputes

View of the temple-city of Mount Shatrunjaya in Gujarat, which is one of the most popular pilgrimage centres for Śvetāmbara Jains. Some of the temples were damaged in 1313 by soldiers in the pay of the Khalji sultan but were later repaired.

Shatrunjaya temples
Image by Audrey Truschke © Audrey Truschke

The 19th century was both an intense and a troubled period for the site of Shatrunjaya, as ‘it went through an extraordinary series of legal cases’ (Hawon Ku 2007: 171ff. for an in-depth investigation of the topic).

These cases set the Jain community in opposition to the local Indian rulers with authority over Palitana. This resulted in the Jains’ presentation of numerous petitions to the British Government in Bombay, which gained high levels of publicity.

The main issues were:

  • who should get the revenues from the site
  • ownership of the hill and its immediate surroundings.

During the Mughal period, the question of revenues had been resolved to the advantage of the Jain community. Agreements between the individual emperors and influential monks and lay followers had been negotiated so that the Jains benefited financially from the pilgrimage centre. But the local Indian rulers in the 19th century claimed authority to tax the land and the pilgrims. The confrontations lasted for many years, yielding a result that the Jains felt unsatisfactory. It even led to the discontinuation of pilgrimages from 1926 to 1928.

British authorities started detailed investigations into the history of ownership at the request of the Jains and the local ruler, and proclaimed that the Jains’ right to the site were based on the ‘religious purpose’ of Shatrunjaya

Hawon Ku 2007: 203

In 1928, it was finally ruled that the Jains would manage the site, through the Ānandjī Kalyāṇjī nī Peḍhī, but that they would have to pay a fixed annual sum for 35 years. After the 35-year period the Ānandjī Kalyāṇjī nī Peḍhī took undisputed control.


  • Peaks of Mount Sammeta Seeing thousands of pilgrims each year, Mount Sammeta – Sammeta Śikhara – in north-eastern India is one of the holiest places for Jains. Auspicious events – kalyāṇakas – connected with many Jinas occurred here, including the liberation of 20 Jinas. Numerous temples scattered among the various peaks of the mountain attract worshippers of all sects.. Image by CaptVijay © public domain
  • View of Shatrunjaya temples The hundreds of temples at Mount Shatrunjaya in Gujarat comprise one of the pre-eminent pilgrimage centres for image-worshipping Śvetāmbara Jains.. Image by Nirajdharamshi © CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Marudevī and the baby Ṛṣabha This detail of a manuscript painting shows the first Jina Ṛṣabhanātha or Lord Ṛṣabha as an infant with his mother Marudevī. The births of Jinas are usually depicted in this way in Jain art. . Image by Victoria and Albert Museum © V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London
  • Engravings of the Śvetāmbara Mūrtipūjak scriptures The interior walls of the Āgam Mandir in Palitana, Gujarat, are covered with plates inscribed with the text of the 45 holy writings or Āgamas of the Śvetāmbara Mūrti-pūjak sect. Temples sometimes house the scriptures in the shape of books, symbols or quotations inscribed on the walls. An Agam Mandir is a type of temple invented in the 1940s containing engravings of the Āgamas, which are intended for worship, or at least darśana – being seen.. Image by Nalini Balbir © Nalini Balbir
  • Steps to Shatrunjaya temples The steep path to the temples at Mount Shatrunjaya has around 4000 steps. Most visitors go on foot but those who are unable to climb so far can take a kind of palanquin – ḍolī. These are seats on which a visitor sits cross-legged, and which is slung on bamboo poles carried by two men, who are commonly called 'doli-wallahs'.. Image by unknown © unknown
  • Temples at Mount Shatrunjaya One of the holiest of Śvetāmbara pilgrimage sites, Mount Shatrunjaya has nearly a thousand temples. This temple-city outside the town of Palitana in Gujarat has a special connection with Ṛṣabhanātha or Lord Ṛṣabha. Also called Ādinātha or Adishvar, meaning ‘First Lord’, he is the first Jina and is worshipped in the largest and most conspicuous temple on the site, called the Adishvar Temple.. Image by JAINA © public domain
  • Mendicant and lay pilgrims Pilgrims at Mount Shatrunjaya are both lay people and monks and nuns. Completing a pilgrimage, which is made outside the rainy season, gains a great deal of merit for Jains. In the run-up to and during a pilgrimage, lay people try to come as close as possible to mendicant life. They do not think any longer about the concerns of worldly life, for pilgrimage is a time to focus on religious discourse or teachings.. Image by Carl Welsby © CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
  • Adishvar Temple The Adishvar Temple is dedicated to the first Jina, often called Ādinātha or 'First Lord'. As the principal shrine at the holy site of Mount Shatrunjaya, it attracts the most pilgrims. It is found on the southern summit of the hill and, like many Jain temples, is surrounded by smaller shrines within its enclosure.. Image by Ark in Time – Asaf Braverman © CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
  • Four-faced statue of Neminātha Neminātha or Lord Nemi is the 22nd Jina, depicted at Shatrunjaya. He can be identified from the emblem of the conch carved into the pedestal, and his name is written above. The main Jina image in a shrine is often depicted as four separate yet identical statues. They face the cardinal directions, symbolising the universal reach of the Jina's message.. Image by liketearsintherain - tommy © CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Contemporary map of Shatrunjaya 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.. Image by Nalini Balbir © Nalini Balbir
  • Mount Shatrunjaya temples The main Svetāmbara pilgrimage site, Mount Shatrunjaya in Gujarat, is one of the most famous temple-cities in India. Almost a thousand temples cluster on the hill, most of them completed in the 18th and 19th centuries. The site has been considered sacred for hundreds of years, however, with the earliest temple dating back to the sixth century.. Image by Amre Ghiba © CC BY-NC 2.0
  • Śvetāmbara monks A group of Śvetāmbara monks walks down a street in Mumbai accompanied by lay men. The monks are barefoot and holding their mouth-cloths and monastic staffs. Jain mendicants live in small bands and travel for most of the year in the traditional wandering lifestyle – vihāra.. Image by Hoorob – Robert Tyabji © CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
  • Temple-city of Mount Shatrunjaya One of the best-known pilgrimage centres for Śvetāmbara Jains, Mount Shatrunjaya in Gujarat has nearly a thousand temples dispersed over the two peaks and the valley in between. This temple-city is mainly organised into walled enclosures – 'tunks' or 'tuks' – which each house a principal temple and smaller shrines.. Image by liketearsintherain – tommy © CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Worship of Ṛṣabha In golden colours, this manuscript painting shows Ṛṣabha being worshipped. The first of the 24 Jinas, Ṛṣabha takes the lotus position of meditation. His jewels and ornate headdress show he is a spiritual king, a status underscored by the elephants, parasol and pedestal, standard symbols of royalty in Indian art. Figures sit or stand around him in attitudes of worship.. Image by Victoria and Albert Museum © V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London
  • Temple domes 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 through which pilgrims pass. Each compound is built around a main temple, which is surrounded by smaller shrines within the enclosure.. Image by Marina & Enrique © CC BY 2.0
  • Worlds of gods and saviours This 15th-century paṭa or cloth wall-hanging shows eight major pilgrimage sites and their associated events. In the centre is the last Jina, Mahāvīra, in Pāvāpurī, where he was liberated. The concentric circles below represent Nandīśvara-dvīpa, the continent where the gods worship the Jinas. In the top left is a red idol in a temple on Mount Śatruñjaya. Below is a temple with statues of the 24 Jinas. Underneath, five pilgrims climb the steep hill to a temple dedicated to Pārśva, the 23rd Jina. He is the green figure with the snake headdress. At the top right is Mount Girnār, sacred to the 22nd Jina, Nemi. His jilted fiancée Rājīmatī stands behind the pilgrims. Beneath them is Sammet Shikara, where 20 Jinas reached enlightenment. At the bottom right, the temple of Jiravala Pārśvanātha shows pilgrims being sheltered and fed.. Image by San Diego Museum of Art © CC BY-NC-ND 2.0; Edwin Binney 3rd Collection
  • Paṭa of Mount Shatrunjaya This unusual paṭa or cloth wall-hanging of Mount Shatrunjaya is probably from the 18th century. Worldly life is depicted on the right, on a green background, while the left-hand side shows Shatrunjaya itself. The river runs down the left alongside the enclosures and temples of the pilgrimage site. Ādinātha, the first Jina, is the large white figure while to his right stand the five Pāṇḍava brothers, who were liberated on Shatrunjaya. The circle on the bottom right may represent the village of Palitana, with the shrines arranged as a samavasaraṇa. Jains can complete a mental pilgrimage – bhāva-yātrā – by meditating on the paṭa of a pilgrimage site. A mental pilgrimage is often considered better than a physical pilgrimage.. Image by Brooklyn Museum Collection © no known copyright
  • Dīvālī rangoli at Palitana 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 coloured rice or powder, rangoli are frequently found at the doors to houses and temples. During the festival of Dīvālī Jains commemorate the final liberation of the 24th Jina Mahāvīra. A small town at the foot of the great temple-city of Mount Shatrunjaya in Gujarat, Palitana also hosts numerous temples.. Image by liketearsintherain – Tommy © CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Pilgrim prays at Mount Shatrunjaya 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.. Image by Marina & Enrique © CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
  • Nineteenth-century Jain lay man This photograph from an 1868 publication, 'The People of India', is of a Jain banker in northern India. Traditionally barred from jobs that may involve violence, historically many Jains have been traders. As part of the fourfold community, lay Jains make donations to temples and give alms to mendicants.. Image by J. Forbes Watson & J. W. Kaye © Smithsonian Institution
  • Shatrunjaya temples View of the temple-city of Mount Shatrunjaya in Gujarat, which is one of the most popular pilgrimage centres for Śvetāmbara Jains. Some of the temples were damaged in 1313 by soldiers in the pay of the Khalji sultan but were later repaired. Most of the hundreds of temples were built from the 18th century onwards.. Image by Audrey Truschke © Audrey Truschke

Further Reading

The Temples of Śatruñjaya: the Celebrated Jaina Place of Pilgrimage, near Pālitāṇā in Kathiawad
James Burgess
Gujarat State Committee for the celebration of 2500th Anniversary of Bhagwan Mahavira Nirvan; Gandhinagar, Gujarat, India; 1976

Full details

Tirthadhiraja Shri Shatrunjaya: Tunk paricaya
M. A. Dhaky
Anandji Kalyanji Pedhi; Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India; 1975

Full details

Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India; 1938

Full details

The Jains
Paul Dundas
Library of Religious Beliefs and Practices series; series editor John Hinnels and Ninian Smart; volume 14
Routledge Curzon Press; London, UK; 2002

Full details

‘Medieval Jain Accounts of Mt. Girnar and Satrunjaya: Visible and Invisible Sacred Realms’
Phyllis Granoff
Journal of the Oriental Institute
volume XLIX: 1–2
Baroda, Gujarat, India; 1999

Full details

Victorious Ones: Jain Images of Perfection
Phyllis Granoff
Mapin Publishing Pvt. Ltd and Rubin Museum of Art, New York; Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India and New York, USA; 2009

Full details

Répertoire d’épigraphie jaina
Armand Albert Guérinot
Imprimerie Nationale; Paris, France; 1908

Full details

Jaina Temple Architecture in India: The Development of a Distinct Language in Space and Ritual
Julia A. B. Hegewald
Monographien zur Indischen Archäologie, Kunst und Philologie series; volume 19
Stiftung Ernst Waldschmidt, G+H Verlag; Berlin, Germany; 2009

Full details

Triṣaṣṭiśalākapuruṣacaritra: Lives of the Sixty-three Illustrious Persons
translated by Helen M. Johnson
Gaekwad's Oriental series; volume 1
Oriental Institute; Baroda, Gujarat, India; 1931

Full details

edited by Muni Jinavijaya
Singhi Jain series; volume 10
Adhisṭhātā; Shantiniketan, West Bengal, India; 1934

Full details

Shri Shatrunjay Giriraj Darshan in Sculptures and Architecture
Aagamoddharakshishu Acharya Kanchansagarsuri
Shree Aagamoddharak Granthmala series; volume 59
Aagamoddharak Granthmala; Kapadwanj, Gujarat, India; 1982

Full details

Re-Formation of Identity: The 19th-century Jain Pilgrimage Site of Shatrunjaya, Gujarat
Kim Hawon Ku
PhD dissertation submitted to University of Minnesota in March 2007

Full details

‘Temples and Patrons: The Nineteenth-Century Temple of Motiśāh at Śatruñjaya’
Kim Hawon Ku
International Journal of Jaina Studies (Online)
edited by Peter Flügel
volume 7: 2
Centre of Jaina Studies, SOAS; 2011

Full details

‘Representations of Ownership: The Nineteenth-Century Painted Maps of Shatrunjaya, Gujarat’
Kim Hawon Ku
South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies
volume 37: 1

Full details

Ārādhakamūrti / Adhiṣṭhāyakamūrti: Popular Piety, Politics, and the Medieval Jain Temple Portrait
Jack C. Laughlin
Peter Lang; New York, USA; 2003

Full details

‘The “99fold“ pilgrimage to Shatrunjaya: A case study of young women’s embodiment of Jaina tradition’
Andrea Luithle-Hardenberg
Svasti – essays in honour of Prof. Hampa Nagarajaiah
edited by Nalini Balbir
Muddushree Granthamala series; volume 75
K. S. Muddappa Smaraka Trust; Bangalore, Karnataka, India; 2010

Full details

‘The Pilgrimage to Shatrunjaya: Refining Shvetambara Identity’
Andrea Luithle-Hardenberg
An Anthropology of Values – essays in honour of Georg Pfeffer
edited by Peter Berger, Roland Hardenberg, Ellen Kattner and Michael Prager
Pearson Longman; Delhi, India; 2010

Full details

Die Reise zum Ursprung: Die Pilgerschaft der Śvetāmbara-Jaina zum Berg Śatrunjaya in Gujarat, Indien
Andrea Luithle-Hardenberg
Manya Verlag; Munich, Bavaria, Germany; 2011

Full details

World Renowned Jain Pilgrimages: Reverence and Art
Mahopadhyaya L. Sagar
Prakrit Bharati Academy; Jaipur, Rajasthan, India; 2000

Full details

Umakant Premanand Shah
Abhinav Publications; New Delhi, India; 1987

Full details

Paṭadarśana (Tīrthaṃkara praṇīta dharmadeśanā antargata Śatruṃjaya māhātmya): The glory of Shatrunjaya as depicted in a 19th Century Jain scroll
Kalpana K. Sheth
and Nalini Balbir
Jain Vishva Bharati University; Ladnun, Rajasthan, India;

Full details

Travels in Western India: embracing a visit to the sacred mounts of the Jains and the most celebrated shrines of Hindu faith between Rajpootana and the Indus, with an account of the ancient city of Nehrwalla
James Tod
Munshiram Manoharlal; New Delhi, India; 1997

Full details

‘The Satrunjaya Mahatmyam’
Albrecht Weber
Indian Antiquary
volume 30

Full details



Second Jina of the present age. His symbolic colour is gold and his emblem the elephant. There is no historical evidence of his existence.

Ambikā or Kūṣmāṇḍinī

The yakṣī or female attendant deity of Nemi, the 22nd Jina. Along with some other yakṣis, she has become an independent figure over the centuries and is worshipped in her own right. Connected with motherhood, fertility and children, Ambikā or Kūṣmāṇḍinī is particularly popular among Jains in Gujarat and is the protective spirit of Girnār and Shravana Belgola, among other places.


Sanskrit term meaning 'destroyer of enemies'. The enemies are the inner desires and passions. It is also a synonym for Jina. An Arhat is a liberated soul who has not yet left his fleshly body, but, as an omniscient being, is 'worthy of worship'.


Someone who withdraws from ordinary life to meditate and practise physical hardships in order to advance spiritually. Jain ascetics or mendicants beg for food from devout lay followers and wander the land.

Also used as an adjective to describe the practice of rigorous, even extreme, physical hardships in the belief that it leads to a higher spiritual condition.


Legendary mountain where Ṛṣabhanātha or Lord Ṛṣabha, the first Jina, was liberated. Mount Kailāsa in the Himalayas is frequently thought to be this mountain.


One of the Lands of Action or Karma-bhūmi in the first continent, Jambū-dvīpa, in the Middle World where humans live. Bharata is also the name of the eldest son of the first Jina, Ṛṣabha, who succeeded his father as king.


The ‘fourfold society’ of Jain tradition, which is made up of ascetics and the laity, and of males and females.


Formally recognised leaders within a religion. The clergy often perform rituals, lead worship and instruct believers in religious principles. Lay men and women usually complete formal study before being initiated into the clergy. Clerics are active among lay believers, often living in society. They may have specific roles or ranks and may progress through a hierarchy to become top leaders of the religious organisation.


Found at the end of a Jain manuscript, a colophon is similar to the publication information at the beginning of modern books. It usually contains the title and sometimes details of the author, scribe and sponsor. The colophons of Jain manuscripts may also include the names of owners, readers and libraries where they have been stored. They frequently have decorative elements and very commonly contain a wish for good fortune for any readers. Written mainly by the scribes who copy texts, Jain colophons are often written in Sanskrit.

Common Era

The period of time starting with the year when Jesus Christ was traditionally believed to have been born. Using CE is a more secular way of dating events in a multinational, multi-religious world.


A ritual in which an item or place is declared to be holy. A person may also consecrate a specific time or activity or be consecrated, which means becoming dedicated to a religious purpose.


A god or divine figure, often with physical powers beyond those of a human and with superhuman abilities.


Not feeling attached to any things, people or emotions in the world, whether positive or negative. Jains believe that detachment from the world is necessary to progress spiritually towards the ultimate aim of freeing the soul from the cycle of rebirth.


An enthusiastic follower of a religion. Can also describe a keen enthusiast of an individual, concept or activity.


Sanskrit for 'meditation', one of the six internal austerities or tapas that help purify the soul of karma. Meditation is deep thought about religious doctrine or mental focus on spiritual matters over a period of time. An important part of many religions, meditation is especially important in Jain belief because it forms key elements of religious practice and spiritual development.


'Sky-clad' in Sanskrit, used for one of the two main divisions of Jainism, in which monks are naked. There are some differences of doctrine or belief between these two sects and to some extent their followers consider themselves as belonging to distinct branches. Divisions can be fierce in practical matters, for example, over the ownership of pilgrimage places, but all sects see themselves as Jains.


An active follower of a religion, especially one who passes on teachings to others.


A donor gives freely. He or she may give alms to a mendicant or money to an institution. This donation may be for specific items or purposes, such as the creation of art. A donor, sponsor or patron may be named or pictured in the artwork.


Giving up or limiting food or specified foods for a period of time, usually as part of a religious practice. Fasting is a key part of Jainism, chiefly because it is believed to:

  • help destroy karmas that bind to the soul
  • gain merit – puṇya.


A public commemoration of a religious ritual. Often a celebration that involves holding a religious ceremony to mark an important event in a religion's history. 


'Supporters of the order'. This term is used for the first mendicant disciples of a Jina. They are able to understand his teachings properly and can pass them on. A gaṇadhara leads his own group of ascetics until he becomes enlightened.


The westernmost state in India, which is a stronghold of Śvetāmbara Jainism.


The language that developed in Gujarat, in western India. It is also spoken in neighbouring states. Also a term for someone or something associated with or coming from Gujarat.


Biography of a saint or holy figure. Hagiographies are often more focused on idealising the subject than providing an accurate historical account.


The most widely spoken group of languages in India, originating in the northern part of the subcontinent. Local dialects and Hindi languages are spoken all over northern India and in surrounding countries. Standard Hindi is used in administration by the central government of India, along with English.


Follower of the majority faith in India and an adjective describing something belonging to Hinduism. Hindus have numerous gods and diverse beliefs and practices, though many believe in the soul, karma, the cycle of births and liberation. Roughly a billion Hindus comprise the third largest religion in the world.


The terms stavan, stavana, stava, stotra and stuti are all used for a prayer, song, chant or hymn to a Jina, a god or any other holy figure. Religious songs are always hymns of praise in Jainism. These devotional songs may be performed during daily rites or on special occasions, such as completion of a fast or a wedding. The hymns may be performed:

  • solo or in groups
  • as a form of meditation
  • as a rite offered as part of worship.


Conventions or rules governing how images, symbols and the placement of elements and figures are used in art to represent ideas and convey meaning. Also the term for the academic study of such artistic conventions.


An image of a deity or concept that is worshipped either as a god or as a representation of the deity.

Indrabhūti Gautama

Chief disciple of Mahāvīra, the 24th Jina. From a brahmin family, he was the first of Mahāvīra's 11 chief disciples. He became enlightened on the day Mahāvīra was liberated. He achieved liberation himself 12 years later.


The monotheistic religion founded by the Prophet Muhammad in the sixth century CE. A believer in Islam, which means ‘peace’, is a Muslim, ‘one who submits to God’ in Arabic. Islamic practices and beliefs are based on the Qu’ran and the hadiths or stories about the Prophet Muhammad. A diverse faith, most Muslim sects accept the Five Pillars of Islam:

  • stating that Allah is the only god and Muhammad his prophet
  • praying five times daily at fixed times
  • giving to the poor and needy
  • fasting
  • making a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca.


Follower of the 24 Jinas or an adjective describing Jain teachings or practices. The term 'Jaina' is also used although 'Jain' is more common.


The innermost island-continent in the Middle World, in Jain cosmology. It is divided into seven continents separated by six mountain ranges. It takes its name - 'Rose-Apple Continent' - from a rock formation that resembles a rose-apple tree, which is found on Mount Meru in the centre of the island.

James Burgess

Born in Scotland, James Burgess (1832—1916) published many volumes on Indian architecture and became director-general of the Archaeological Survey of India from 1886 to 1889. He is best known for his work documenting significant architectural sites in western India between 1871 and 1885 and for establishing the journals Indian Antiquary in 1872 and Epigraphica Indica in 1888.


A 'victor' in Sanskrit, a Jina is an enlightened human being who has triumphed over karma and teaches the way to achieve liberation. A synonym for Tīrthaṃkara, which means 'ford-maker' or one who has founded a community after reaching omniscience through asceticism. The most famous 24 – Ṛṣabha to Mahāvīra – were born in the Bharata-kṣetra of the middle world, but more are found in other continents. There have been Jinas in the past and there will be some in the future.


'Passion' that causes activity, which results in new karma binding to the soul. It must be eliminated by restraints or austerities so the soul can be liberated. Passion may be attraction – rāga – or aversion – dveṣa – and has degrees of intensity. There are traditionally four passions:

  • anger – krodha
  • pride – māna
  • deceit – māyā
  • greed – lobha.

Also one of the 14 'gateways' or categories of investigation of mārgaṇā – 'soul-quest'.


'Absence of concern for the body'. This commonly refers to a standing or sitting posture of deep meditation. In the standing position the eyes are concentrated on the tip of the nose and the arms hang loosely by the body. The individual remains unaffected by whatever happens around him.


Omniscience, enlightenment or perfect knowledge – the highest of the five types of knowledge, where one knows everything wherever and whenever it is. It is extremely difficult to attain, equivalent to the 13th stage of spiritual purity in the guṇa-sthāna. Digambaras believe only men can achieve it whereas Śvetāmbaras believe that both men and women can become enlightened.


Subsect of the Śvetāmbaras, chiefly found in Rajasthan and Mumbai and established in the 11th century. 


One of the best-known avatars of the deity Viṣṇu the preserver, Kṛṣṇa is one of the principal Hindu gods. Since his name means ' dark blue', 'dark' or 'black' in Sanskrit, he is usually depicted with blue or black skin. Often shown as a boy or young man playing a flute, Kṛṣṇa is a hero of the Indian epic, Mahābhārata, and protagonist of the Bhagavad Gītā. Jains believe he is the cousin of Lord Nemi, the 22nd Jina.


Believers in a religion who are ordinary worshippers, not clergy or members of religious orders. In Jainism, lay people are often called 'householders', indicating that they live in houses and have domestic responsibilities, unlike ascetics.


A sacred sound, syllable, word or phrase that is believed to produce spiritual change if recited correctly. A mantra can be recited aloud or silently, and is often repeated. Mantras are closely associated with religions that originated in India, such as Hinduism and Buddhism as well as Jainism. The chief Jain mantra is the Namaskāra-mantra, which is recited daily, while another mantra very popular in Indian culture generally is Auṃ.


An extraordinary event that cannot be explained by natural causes or human effort and therefore is believed to be caused by divine or supernatural powers.


The 'liberation' of the soul from its body and thus from the cycle of rebirth because it has no karma and becomes omniscient. The ultimate aim of Jainism is to achieve mokṣa and become a liberated soul in siddha-śilā.

Monastic order

A single-sex group of ascetics that vows to follow rules set out by a founding religious teacher. They formally renounce the world to become monks and nuns. They usually have a hierarchy of leaders at different levels to govern them.


A man who has taken a public vow to withdraw from ordinary life to formally enter religious life and advance spiritually. Frequently, monks perform physical austerities or undergo physical hardships in order to progress spiritually.


The Mughal Empire lasted from 1526 to 1858, a period noted for its wealth, overall religious tolerance, and cultural and intellectual achievements, particularly in art and architecture. Originally Muslims who swept down from Central Asia, the Mughals' best-known ruler is probably Akbar the Great (1556–1605).


The capital of the state of Mahārāṣṭra, the city of Mumbai is the biggest and richest in India. Formerly known as Bombay, Mumbai is the centre of Indian film-making and commercial activities.


Jains who venerate and worship images of Jinas in temples.


A Muslim, or ‘one who submits to God’ in Arabic, follows the religion of Islam, which means ‘peace’. Muslims believe that Muhammad is the last in a line of prophets. The complete word of Allah or God was revealed to Muhammad in the sixth century CE and set down in the Arabic Qur’an or ‘recitation’. Nearly all Muslims belong to either the Shia or Sunni sects, with Sunni Muslims comprising around 90% of Islamic believers.


Said to resemble the petals of a lotus, the lotus position involves sitting cross-legged with each foot on the opposite thigh. The soles face upwards while the knees rest on the ground. This posture is associated with meditation. Jinas and other enlightened figures are often depicted in this pose.


The petrified footprint of a dead mendicant or holy figure, which is treated as a commemorative sacred object.


A bed or seat attached to poles, which are carried by bearers on their shoulders. The palanquin is usually a closed box or has curtains sheltering the person within.


The five Pāṇḍava brothers are the heroes of the Hindu epic poem, the Mahābhārata, and its Jain versions. The Jain Mahābhārata is quite different from the Hindu version, demonstrating Jain virtues and religious beliefs.


Decorative map of a holy site. A paṭa is used for 'mental pilgrimage'bhāva-yātrā – during which devotees contemplate the paṭa and complete a pilgrimage by moving around the temples in their minds.


A small town in Gujarat that was a capital city in medieval times, a Jain centre of learning and art with beautiful temples. Some of these and remains of other structures can be seen today. Old name: Aṇahilla Paṭṭaṇa.


A journey to a place of religious significance. Some religions encourage pilgrimage as ways to advance spiritual progress and deepen the faith of those who make the trip – pilgrims.


Sanskrit term for the ritual walk around the platform on which a Jain temple stands, called the jagatī or vedī.


Walls around a temple compound that encircle the entire sacred temple area. These are usually free-standing detached compound walls, but they may join up with the walls of neighbouring temples.


A term for any of the dead vernacular languages of ancient and medieval India. It may be contrasted with classical Sanskrit, the language used by priests and the aristocracy. The Jains used a large variety of Prakrits, with the Jain canon written chiefly in Ardhamāgadhī Prākrit.


To deliver a speech on a religious topic, usually given by a prophet or member of the clergy. It may be a formal task of a religious office or open to all believers in a religious faith. Often covering social and moral subjects, preaching may be intended to:

  • remind hearers of religious principles and rules
  • encourage piety
  • persuade non-believers of the correctness of the preacher's religious beliefs.


Sanskrit for 'worship' or 'homage'. All Jains perform rites of honour to the 24 Jinas. Rites of worship take place daily, with more elaborate ceremonies performed on holy days. Mendicant and lay Jains perform different rituals. Some sects worship images – mūrti-pūjaka – and others do not, and different sects have various practices. Focused on images or not, worship can be:

  • external or material – dravya-pūjā – involving offerings of food, drink and precious substances
  • internal or mental – bhava-pūjā – including singing hymns of praise, reciting mantras and meditating.


Sanskrit for a 'right or good action'. Similar to a merit in Buddhism, it helps to reduce karma.

Rainy season

The annual four-month rainy period in India, lasting roughly from June / July to October / November. Heavy rain, strong storms and gale-force winds are very common during this period. Mendicants cannot travel around and must stay in one place to avoid breaking their vow of non-violence and because the monsoon makes travelling on foot difficult and dangerous. It is known as cāturmāsa in Sanskrit, comāsa in Hindi and comāsu in Gujarati.


The largest state in India, in the north-western part of the country.


An avatar of Viṣṇu, the preserver or protector who is one of the three major Hindu gods. Rāma is a prince of Ayodhyā and is often shown with blue skin, holding a bow and arrow. The epic poem Rāmāyaṇa recounts his adventures as he searches for his wife Sītā, who has been kidnapped by Rāvaṇa. Blending Jain values into the story, the Jain Rāmāyaṇas cast him and other figures in the tale as some of the 'great men' of Jain Universal History.


An item from the past that has religious significance and is thus venerated as a sacred object. It is usually something that belonged to or was associated with a holy figure or event, for example a saint's clothing or body part, such as a bone.


A sequence of actions that must be followed to perform a religious ceremony. The set of actions is largely symbolic, for example offering food to statues symbolises sacrificing to a deity. The ritual actions are often accompanied by set phrases.


First Jina of the present age. His symbolic colour is gold and his emblem the ox or bull. There is little historical evidence of his existence. Jains believe that he established many social institutions, such as marriage and the caste system, and introduce crafts and agriculture to the people.


Sanskrit term meaning 'with a home’ – that is, a ‘householder’ or lay Jain. A synonym for a lay person, emphasising that he or she is a member of a household, with responsibilities to the family, community and society that a Jain mendicant does not have.


Someone who is declared by a religious organisation or by popular acclaim to be of outstanding goodness and spiritual purity, usually some time after his or her death. The person's holiness is often believed to have been demonstrated in the performance of miracles. Saints are frequently held up as examples for followers of a religious faith.


The progressive eradication of passions and other negative features in order to reach total spiritual purity. In practice, it is the ritual of fasting unto death.


Literally, Sanskrit for 'universal gathering'. A holy assembly led by a Jina where he preaches to all – human beings, animals and deities alike – after he has become omniscient. In this universal gathering, natural enemies are at peace.


Sanskrit for 'community'. The Jain ‘fourfold community’ is composed of monks, nuns, lay men and lay women.


A classical language of India, originally used by priests and nobility. Sanskrit has a rich literary and religious tradition. With only a few thousand native speakers nowadays, it is predominantly used in Hindu religious ceremonies and by scholars.


The 16th Jina of the present age. His symbolic colour is gold and his emblem the deer. There is no historical evidence of his existence.


Hindu goddess of learning who presides over the teaching of the Jinas, and is worshipped on the day of the festival devoted to scriptures. As goddess of knowledge, music and the arts, Sarasvatī is one of the most popular deities in India and has followers among all the Indian religions.


Set of sacred texts that believers accept as authoritative within a religion. Synonymous with canon.


A speech on a religious topic, usually delivered by a member of the clergy. Frequently a sermon has a moral lesson or is based on a sacred text.


A small structure holding an image or relics, which may be within a temple or building designed for worship. A shrine may be a portable object. Worshippers pray and make offerings at a shrine, which is often considered sacred because of associations with a deity or event in the life of a holy person.


Breaking a religious or moral principle, especially if this is done deliberately. Sinners commit sins or may sin by not doing something they are supposed to do.


A title of respect often used to indicate holiness or divinity. It honours a person or place and is also added to the name of written or sung texts, such as scriptures. It is added before the name, for example Śrī Ṛṣabha.


'White-clad’ in Sanskrit, the title of one of the two main divisions of Jainism, in which both male and female mendicants wear white robes. There are some differences of doctrine or belief between these two sects and to some extent their followers consider themselves as belonging to distinct branches. Divisions can be fierce in practical matters, for example, over the ownership of pilgrimage places, but all sects see themselves as Jains.


A Śvetāmbara mūrti-pūjaka sect, first established in the 13th century and reformed from the 19th century. Today nearly all mūrti-pūjak mendicants belong to this sect.


A building reserved for public worship or prayer, usually dedicated to one religion and run by members of that religion's clergy.


A Gujarati word meaning ‘enclosure’, which is used for a temple compound. Bounded by the compound wall – prākāra – this is a sacred area inside which is the main temple and subsidiary shrines.


The everyday or common language spoken by people in a particular country or region, often contrasting with the literary form or the national or official language. Similarly, vernacular architecture reflects local conditions and conventions more than other considerations, such as national or international design trends, and may be built by non-professional architects.


Often abbreviated, Vikrama-saṃvat is the calendar associated with Emperor Vikramāditya. It begins in about 56 BCE so the equivalent date in the Common Era can be calculated by subtracting 57 or 56. Based on Hindu traditions, it is a lunar calendar often used in contemporary India.


The male attendant of a Jina, one of the pair of guardian or protector gods for each Jina. The śāsana-devatā protect his teachings – śāsana – and can appease evil powers. The yakṣa and yakṣī's closeness to the Jina and their divine powers mean they are popular subjects of worship.


The female attendant of a Jina, also called yakṣinī. One of the pair of guardian or protector gods for each Jina. The śāsana-devatā protect his teachings – śāsana – and can appease evil powers. The yakṣa and yakṣī's closeness to the Jina and their divine powers mean they are popular subjects of worship.

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