Contributed by Julia A. B. Hegewald
Jain temple caves are found throughout the Indian subcontinent and are among the earliest surviving architectural remains of the Jain religion. The variety of names for a place of Jain religious activity comes from the many different uses of the early cave temples, such as religious ritual, ascetic dwelling place or religious school.
Initially, the Jains used natural caves. Without modifications or inscriptions, however, the earliest phase of Jain cave temples is often difficult to date. While the early caves seem to have been used only as ascetic dwellings, later on religious images were often carved out of the natural rock. These caves then became shrines dedicated to the Jinas and their attendants. Enlargements and additions in wood or other materials have also frequently been added to the front of caves.
Despite the rise of dedicated temples built of stone from about the sixth century, cave temples have been used throughout Jain history. Many artificial caves have also been created, up to the present day. Frequently associated with religious and legendary figures, cave temples are often important pilgrimage destinations. Cave temples are still popular today even though there are several types of Jain temple architecture in India.
Some of the earliest dated Jain caves in the north-west of India are the monastic Bāvā-Pyārā Caves near Junagadh in Gujarat. Cut out of the rock, these caves have been firmly linked to Jain activities from the first centuries of the Common Era.
Predating these are the Jain caves at Khanda-giri and Udaya-giri in Orissa, which are among the earliest Jain remains on the east coast of India. King Khāravela’s inscription in the Hāthī-gumphā stems from the second century BCE and indicates the early Jain occupation of this site.
In the south of the country, cave remains in Tamil Nadu and Kerala date from as early as the second to first centuries BCE. Many early Jain caves in southern India were originally dwellings. During the seventh to ninth centuries CE they were altered and decorated, and stayed in continuous use until at least the 11th century.
Although temples built out of blocks of stone were introduced around the sixth to seventh centuries CE, the continued use of these caves shows that the Jains did not abandon their cave sites in favour of constructed temples.
From at least the seventh century, natural caves were often enlarged and entirely artificial ones created. Probably the best-known Jain cave, which is believed to be completely man-made, is the ninth-century cave overlooking the lake at Badami in Karnataka.
At other sites, cavities were extended into the natural rock at the back. One example is the large cave at Mammandur in Tamil Nadu.
From about the ninth century, Jains also created positive architectural shapes by decorating the outside of huge boulders and carving away the surface of entire mountain ranges to create temple structures that are cut into the rock but not caves. The most prominent example is the monolithic temple at Ellora in Maharashtra, known as the Choṭā Kailāśa Temple or Jain cave number 20. It is smaller than the famous Hindu Kailāśanātha Temple – cave number 16 – at the same site, but it follows the same principle of creation.
Many caves had porches of wood or other less durable materials. Good examples can still be seen at Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh and at Kalugumalai in Tamil Nadu. Today, post holes carved into the terraces and facades of many caves are the only signs left of porches made of materials that have been destroyed over time.
In central India especially, many Jain cave temples had porches in stone. Examples can be seen at:
The belief and practice of avoiding the representation of divinities or other religious figures, which may also include human beings or living creatures. Aniconic followers may use images of abstract shapes or symbols, such as pillars, as the focus of religious worship. Aniconic Jains are opposed to the worship of figures of Jinas and deities.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Bordering on the Arabian Sea, Māhārāṣṭra in central India is the third-largest and the richest state in India. Its capital is Mumbai and the official language is Marathi.
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:
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 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 building reserved for public worship or prayer, usually dedicated to one religion and run by members of that religion's clergy.
An intellectual and cultural movement that arose around the mid-17th century in Western Europe. It stressed freedom of thought, reason, analysis and individualism as guides to behaviour and social development rather than the traditional authorities of church and state, which seemed to ask for uncritical acceptance. During the Enlightenment, new ways of thinking about the world – especially scientific approaches and radical philosophies – developed.