Article: Pilgrimage

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

A pilgrim’s experience

The 17th-century writer Banārasīdās casts his poem 'Navarasa' on the waters of the river Gomati after he rediscovers the Jain beliefs of his family. Banārasīdās later became regarded as the leader of the Adhyātma lay movement of northern India

Banārasīdās throws away his poem
Image by unknown © unknown

All Jain pilgrims experience the key moment that a pilgrimage represents in an individual’s life and spiritual development.

In the middle of the 17th century the Jain merchant Banārasīdāsas, who became a leading figure in the Adhamātya movement, reported his own experience in his memoirs. The party of pilgrims visits different holy sites during this single pilgrimage. Banārasīdāsas's response is representative of the general experience Jain pilgrims seem to have.

Vardhaman Kunwarji, a broker, had collected a company to go on pilgrimage; Banarasi joined the company of pilgrims. The pilgrimage was to Ahichhatrapur and Hastinapur. Banarasi left one early morning, taking his mother and wife with him. They sat in the carriage, all three, in a state of unbroken devotion for the entire journey. In Samvat 1675, at an auspicious hour in the month of Paush, they offered puja at Ahichhatrapur. Then they moved to Hastinapur, where they paid homage to the tirthankar[s] Shantinath, Kunthunath and Aranath. In honour of Shanti, Kunthu and Aranath, Banarasi composed a verse which he would recite every day with great devotion. […] After the pilgrimage, Banarasi’s heart filled with gladness. The company of pilgrims then turned towards Delhi.

Half a Story
translation by Chowdhuri, page 243, stanzas 579 ff.

This account describes simply the various stages of the spiritual and physical journey that form a pilgrimage.

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