Contributed by Julia A. B. Hegewald
Temples associated with different faiths in South Asia often share architectural elements and display styles common in a region and historical period. Although Jain temples frequently share the architectural and artistic elements found in temples of other religions, they are distinctively Jain. Their religious buildings are specifically adapted to Jain spiritual ideas and ritual practices. There are three striking features of Jain religious buildings. Firstly, there is usually more than one shrine in a temple. Next, most are surrounded by additional buildings that form part of the religious building. Lastly, temples are frequently clustered together to produce temple complexes or ‘temple-cities’.
A Jain temple may be referred to by many different names. Terms for ‘temple’ used in early Jainism were sometimes unclear because activities such as teaching, worshipping and residing did not have special areas and often happened in the same place. As buildings and rooms in Jain temples became dedicated to certain purposes over time, so the terminology became more precise. The term used in the present day varies according to the region of India and the local language.
There are several distinct architectural types of Jain temple in India. These range from cave temples, stupas, pavilions built to shelter holy footprints and statues through maṇḍapa-line temples, ‘four-faced’ temples – caturmukha temples – and havelī temples to hall temples, domestic house temples and small shrines found inside private homes. The most common type is that of the maṇḍapa-line temple, which has one or more shrines and halls. Also typical of a Jain religious context are mythological and cosmological temples, which reflect unique Jain cosmological traditions. More rarely found temples are the towering kīrtti-stambha mandirs.
Jain temples are found in all parts of the Indian subcontinent, with particularly well-known examples in Mount Ābū, Rāṇakpur, Mount Śatruñjaya and Śravaṇa Beḷgoḷa. Outside India, Jain temples follow the same model of complex multi-shrined buildings.
There are numerous different words among Jains for a temple. Those which derive from early texts, such as the Jain Āgamas, can be quite vague. In the first centuries CE, the same term could be used to describe cave temples and also the residence of an ascetic and a religious school, as the functions were not clearly separated. Only during later centuries did a more precise set of terms develop, when buildings were put up for specific purposes and followed distinctive layouts. These terms describe and clearly distinguish among the individual buildings and their various roles.
A Jain temple is frequently called by the Sanskrit word caitya and its Prakrit version ceia, which can also be used to describe a religious icon. An alternative word is the Sanskrit balānaka – balāṇaya in Prakrit – which appears to describe only part of a temple structure. An expression common throughout the south of India is paḷḷi. This can be used for a temple, the lodgings of a nun, a cave and even a school. Another example of a word for a Jain temple that has other meanings is vihāra, which can mean both a temple and a monastery.
In modern terminology, Jain temples in the south of India, particularly in Karnataka, are referred to as basadi or basti. Terms commonly used in the north are typically compound phrases consisting of jina before a word meaning ‘house’, ‘residence’, ‘seat’ and so on. This results in words such as jinā-laya and jina-mandir, and terms such as jinā-yatana, jina-gṛha and jina-prāsāda. In Gujarat in particular, and anywhere else the Gujarati community has migrated, Jain temples are usually called derāsar or daherāsar. These are derived from the Sanskrit devagṛhā-vasara. Common modern derivatives are dherī and dehrā.
Jain temples demonstrate designs and styles found in many religious buildings constructed for other South Asian faiths. Despite this and the influence of local and historical fashions, Jain temples can often be easily identified because they reflect and support Jain religious beliefs and practices. These unique characteristics include having more than one shrine in a temple and, secondly, several separate, smaller temples or shrines grouped around the central building.
The majority of Jain temples in India consists of three core building elements:
Though these elements vary in number and relative proportions in various temples, all Jain temples are built on a platform. This physically raises the temple above the surrounding land and creates a distinct sacred area. High walls surround the temple compound, further marking off the holy ground of the temple from the ordinary concerns of the householder.
The temple’s sanctum is the focal point of the building and may house a statue of a sacred figure or abstract religious element, such as the eight auspicious symbols, the siddhacakra, the cosmic person, yantras and sacred syllables or mantras. In many cases, the shrine holds large numbers of sacred objects. Most temples throughout India have several shrines. These are connected to a hall.
The halls can have side walls and be closed or may simply have pillars, which leave the sides open. Most halls have a pillared interior because the columns are needed to support the ceiling. Temple halls create an approach to the shrine and house more religious statues and ritual equipment. Halls are used for rituals, the recitation of sacred texts and for larger gatherings that involve singing hymns and performing dances.
Porches are very small, simple halls that provide access to shrines and maṇḍapas.
A fourth element may lie between the image-chamber and its hall. The small vestibule – antarāla – is a space in which worshippers can stand and gaze at the icon or follow rituals conducted within the shrine.
In certain temple types, these elements can become exaggerated. In a courtyard temple, for instance, the shrine is usually very wide and spacious and there is an open court in addition to the halls. In a hall-type temple, one major hall acts as the main temple element and the shrine is often not clearly separated, but only indicated by the pavilions or altars raised above the ground at one end of the open hall.
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.
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.
Sacred enclosure, temple.
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.
The inner room of a temple, where the main image of a Jina sits.
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.
An image of a deity or concept that is worshipped either as a god or as a representation of the deity.
Follower of the 24 Jinas or an adjective describing Jain teachings or practices. The term 'Jaina' is also used although 'Jain' is more common.
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.
State in south-west India.
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.
The ‘cosmic man’ whose standing form represents the upper, middle and lower worlds in Jain cosmology. The middle world of human beings is found at his waist.
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.
A woman who has taken a public vow to withdraw from ordinary life to enter religious life and advance spiritually. Frequently, nuns perform physical austerities or undergo physical hardships in order to progress spiritually.
The petrified footprint of a dead mendicant or holy figure, which is treated as a commemorative sacred object.
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.
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:
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.
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.
The most sacred area of a temple, church or religious building, often where the image of a deity is housed and worshipped. An outdoor space that is associated with a deity may also be considered a sanctuary.
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.
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.
An omniscient soul that has achieved mokṣa. All liberated souls live in the siddha-śilā, at the top of the universe, in perpetual bliss.
Reliquary mound. Although they are common in Buddhism, they are also known from the early period of Jainism.
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.
Sanskrit for 'instrument' or 'machine', a yantra is a mystical diagram used in religious rituals. Yantras are typically formed of symmetrical, concentric circles and may also have the diagram of a lotus in the middle of numerous squares. Containing the names of the Jinas and sacred mantras, such as oṃ, yantras are meditation aids.
British Library. Or. 13476. Unknown author. 1537
British Library. Add. 26519. Unknown authors. Possibly 18th century
With commentary by Pārśva-candra. British Library. Add. 26374. Ratnaśekhara. 1769
With commentary by Dharmameru. British Library. Or. 13456. Śrīcandra. 1812