Contributed by Julia A. B. Hegewald
The most common type of Jain temple construction in India is the maṇḍapa-line temple, raised by followers of the image-worshipping sects. Built by both the principal Jain sects of Digambaras and Śvetāmbaras, these temples are typical of all periods and can be found in all regions of the subcontinent.
In maṇḍapa-line temples the three core building elements – porches, halls and shrines – that form most Jain temples in India are arranged more or less in one long line. This line runs from the entrance to the principal image-chamber at the far end of the building.
While other Jain temple types also combine these three basic architectural elements, they do this in a distinct and not primarily linear fashion. Although other religions in India also use these elements in their temples, the architecture of Jain temples represents distinctive Jain principles and beliefs.
Worshippers enter the temple by ascending the platform on which it sits and going through the porch at the front, then progressing though one or several temple halls to the image-chamber, which is the sacred heart of the building. This may symbolise the journey to enlightenment that is the ultimate goal of Jainism, an aim that is also represented in other aspects of the temple.
Maṇḍapa-line temples are frequently composed of many examples of these three elements, which were often added to the original structure over time. How many entrance porches, halls and shrines a maṇḍapa-line temple has depends on its size, its fame and particular importance, its age and the present or past wealth of the religious community supporting it.
There are often numerous shrines and images as well as the main temple icon, which is housed in the image-chamber. The multiplicity of building elements that make up the temple and the smaller, simpler shrines outside the main structure combine to form an often elaborate temple complex. This mirrors the complex nature of the universe and Jain cosmology, and allows space for the large number of donated images, and more abstract symbols, venerated in Jain temples.
The elements out of which maṇḍapa-line temples are assembled are simple.
The majority of Jain temples in India consist of the three core building elements of:
The followers of other religions in India, such as Hinduism, also use these elements for their own religious architecture, yet Jain temples are designed to support and reflect distinctively Jain beliefs.
The diverse ways in which these three elements can be arranged and multiplied are endless. Jain sacred architecture is particularly well known for its complex arrangements of entrance porches, halls and shrines, all raised on a moulded plinth. This characteristic organisation of building elements leads to a distinct structuring of space in Jain temples.
Religious ceremonies are usually performed within specific spaces in the temple. For example, offerings are made to images of Jinas and deities in dedicated image-chambers while hymns are sung and recitations performed in the temple halls.
All building elements in a Jain temple are elevated above the ground on a platform or terrace – jagatī or vedī – which is normally decorated. The terrace has a symbolic role as well as a functional purpose, underlining the Jain notion of effortful progress towards liberation.
The temple platform, which may be quite low or up to a few metres tall, is usually ornamented with abstract mouldings or floral and vegetal motifs. Especially tall and prominent platforms can be seen in the Odegal Basti at Shravana Belgola, Karnataka, and in the modern Jaina Temple at Bakara Road, Rajasthan. Some plinths are adorned with rows of geese and elephants, processions of horses and riders, battle scenes and lines of dancers and musicians. Such elaborate decorations can be found at the Neminātha Temple at Kumbharia and the Pārśvanātha Temple at Mirpur, both in Rajasthan.
The aim of the terrace is to raise the sacred temple structure from the dusty ground and to create an upward approach towards the holy icons housed inside.
In some instances, the terrace varies in height under different parts of the temple. In these cases the platform is lowest beneath the porch while it rises below the hall, reaching its highest point underneath the shrine. This creates the feeling of a slight upward climb towards the most important image-chamber, which is at the end of the succession of architectural elements. This can be seen in the Neminātha Temples at Nadol in Rajasthan and in the Neminātha Temples at Tirumalai in Tamil Nadu.
The platform may be wide enough to allow worshippers to use it for the ritual circumambulation – pradakṣiṇā – of the temple. See, for instance, the Ādinātha Temple at Kundalpur, Bihar and the Cintāmaṇī Pārśvanātha Temple at Hastinapur in Haryana.
The generic term for a temple hall Is maṇḍapa while a porch is commonly known as an ardha-maṇḍapa.
A term for a Jain temple common in Southern India.
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.
A belief system about the universe that covers its origin, structure and parts, and natural laws and characteristics such as space, time, causality and freedom.
Vision, insight or perception. It works with the quality of jñāna – knowledge in the soul – to gain deep, true understanding and is ever-changing.
Also one of the 14 'gateways' or categories of investigation of mārgaṇā or 'soul-quest'.
A god or divine figure, often with physical powers beyond those of a human and with superhuman abilities.
An enthusiastic follower of a religion. Can also describe a keen enthusiast of an individual, concept or activity.
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.
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 majority faith in India, often called Sanātana Dharma or Eternal Law. With no single named founder, Hinduism has a pantheon of gods and a range of different beliefs. Most Hindu traditions revere the Veda literature but there is no single system of salvation or belief, although many Hindus believe in the soul, karma, the cycle of births and liberation. Large Hindu communities exist in southern Asia, with smaller groups across 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.
The 24th Jina of the present age. His symbolic colour is yellow and his emblem the lion. Mahāvīra or 'the great hero' is his title. His birth name was Vardhamāna, meaning 'ever increasing'. His existence is historically documented but the two main sects of Digambara and Śvetāmbara Jains have slight differences in their accounts of his life.
The hall of a Jain temple. Creating an approach to the inner shrine, the temple hall usually has columns and ritual equipment. It may display idols if the temple belongs to a murti-pujaka sect. The hall is where the congregation gathers for rituals of worship, to hear sermons and readings of sacred texts and to sing hymns and perform dances.
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.
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.
The 22nd Jina of the present age, also called Ariṣṭanemi. His symbolic colour is blue or black and his emblem the conch. There is no historical evidence of his existence.
The Jains hold that Nemi is the cousin of the Hindu god Kṛṣna. The tale of his renunciation and jilting of his fiancée Princess Rājīmati are famous among the Jains.
The petrified footprint of a dead mendicant or holy figure, which is treated as a commemorative sacred object.
The 23rd Jina of the present age. His symbolic colour is green and his emblem the snake. Historical evidence points to his living around 950 to 850 BC.
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.
Sanskrit term for the ritual walk around the platform on which a Jain temple stands, called the jagatī or vedī.
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:
The largest state in India, in the north-western part of the country.
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.
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 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.
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.