Article: Maṇḍapa-line temples

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.

Building elements

The main hall – maṇḍapa – of the Ādinātha temple at Ranakpur, which is renowned for its beauty and artistry. Like most Jain temples, regardless of size, it uses three chief architectural elements – porch, hall and image-chamber.

Hall of Ādinātha temple
Image by Antoine Taveneaux © CC BY-SA 3.0

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.

Temple platform

The Odegal Basti at Shravana Belgola. It is notable for its tall platform or terrace – jagatī or vedī. The terrace raises the temple structure above the ground and creates an upward approach towards the icons inside. This symbolises the path to liberation

Terrace of the Odegal Basti
Image by Anks.manuja © CC BY-SA 3.0

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.

Porches and halls

To enter a Jain temple, visitors go up the steps built at the front or cut into the terrace at the entrance. Larger temples usually have a porch leading to a hall.

The generic term for a temple hall Is maṇḍapa while a porch is commonly known as an ardha-maṇḍapa.


The small 12th-century Akkan Basti is in the pilgrimage town of Shravana Belgola. Especially prominent in this temple, the porch is a central element in most Jain temples.

Akkan Basti
Image by HoysalaPhotos © CC BY-SA 3.0

A porch is a roofed structure outside a building's entrance, attached to the external wall and projecting outwards from it. A porch may have open or closed sides and more than one storey. Porches are essentially very small, simple halls and provide access to shrines and larger maṇḍapas. Porches create spaces for people to pause before entering or leaving the building proper.

Porches are frequently called ardha-maṇḍapas but other terms can be used, depending on the region and style of the porch. Amongst the most common are:

  • agra-maṇḍapa
  • prāggrīva
  • balana-maṇḍapa
  • balānaka
  • mukha-maṇḍapa
  • mukha-catuṣkī
  • mukha-catuṣkya.

Porches provide shelter against sun and rain and allow devotees to prepare themselves for the religious experience inside the temple.

In addition to the main entrance, through a porch, many temple halls have two side entrances, which frequently also have porches. Clear examples are the Sambhavanātha Temple at Sravasti in Uttar Pradesh and the Ādinātha Temple at Kulpak in Andhra Pradesh.

Temple hall

The colourful Digambara temple in Thirupanamur, Tamil Nadu. Although Jain temples vary greatly in style, most are constructed from three main architectural elements. Here, the wide, open-sided porch leads to the hall, where religious rituals take place.

Thirupanamur temple
Image by Rishi Vandavasi © CC BY-SA 3.0

The temple hallmaṇḍapa – is a fundamental element in Jain religious buildings. It can take different forms, including being several storeys high or a free-standing structure. All temple halls in maṇḍapa-line temples, however, lead the devotee to the sanctum at the heart of the building, which contains the main image and is the centre of worship.

Larger halls can be open – raṅga-maṇḍapa or nr̥tya-maṇḍapa – with columns marking their boundaries at the sides. Such halls are particularly typical of central India, where they can be seen in the Caubārā Dehrā at Un. Looking into pillared halls from the outside, they are airy and flooded by sunlight.

Halls can also be closed – gūḍha-maṇḍapa – rooms, with walls at the side. Light and air is only admitted to such halls through one or several porches. A good example is the Pārśvanātha Temple at Khajuraho.

The space inside the halls, whether open or closed, is usually pillared. The pillars support the roof and structure the internal space into distinct areas. There are specific terms for halls with certain numbers of pillars or bays, such as the popular nine-bayed halls, referred to as trika-maṇḍapa, nava-caukī and nava-catuṣkī. Examples include the Mahāvīra Temples at Osian, Ghanerao, Sewadi and Kumbharia, all in Rajasthan.

There are also multi-storeyed temple halls – meghanāda-maṇḍapas – connected to raised image-chambers. These can be seen in the Ādinātha Temples at Ranakpur in Rajasthan and in the Bālā Bhāī Tunk on Mount Shatrunjaya in Gujarat as well as in many of the Jain temples in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.

Noteworthy are the detached open halls – sabhā-maṇḍapas. A prominent example can be seen in front of the Pārśvanātha Basti at Halebid, Karnataka. Although they are free-standing, they visually extend further the line of elements that are arranged along one axis in large maṇḍapa-line temples.

Temple halls create an approach to the shrine and house additional religious statues and ritual paraphernalia. They are used for ritual activities – pūjā – and the recitation of sacred texts. During larger gatherings, the devotees sing hymns and watch ceremonial dance performances in the temple hall.

Image-chamber and vestibule

The plain appearance of the Jina figure contrasts with its ornately carved image-chamber in the Digambara temple at Lakkundi, Karnataka. The principal temple icon is within the image-chamber – garbha-gr̥ha, literally 'womb chamber' – the holiest area.

Jina figure in the image-chamber
Image by Dinesh Kannambadi © CC BY-SA 3.0

The innermost sanctum in which the main icon of a temple is housed is referred to as the garbha-gr̥ha – 'womb chamber'. In temples with more than one shrine, the main image-chamber is usually referred to as the mūla-garbha as it contains the principal statuemūla-nāyaka or adhi-nāyaka.

The cella of maṇḍapa-line temples is usually square and has no windows that let in natural light. In its simplicity and dimly lit state it resembles a cave inside a mountain, a model which the superstructure of the temple aims to copy.

Based on perceptions of ritual purity, sometimes not all devotees are allowed to enter the shrine, which is the purest and most sacred area of the temple. For this reason, a small vestibule – antarāla or kapilī – sits between the image-chamber and its adjacent hall. Worshippers can stand in this intermediate compartment to:

  • perform the rite of darśana – gazing at the icon
  • communicate with a priest
  • make offerings
  • follow the rituals conducted within the shrine.

Spatial layout of maṇḍapa-line temples

The 9th-century Narayana temple at Pattadakal is a maṇḍapa-line temple. In this type of temple the porch, hall and shrine are in a line from the front entrance to the main shrine at the opposite end, which houses the main temple icon.

Maṇḍapa-line temple
Image by Dinesh Kannambadi © CC BY-SA 3.0

In maṇḍapa-line temples, the porches, halls and shrines are arranged to create a straight line from the front entrance to the main shrine at the opposite end. This line may be stronger in large temples, which may be composed of several examples of such architectural elements. Other architectural elements may be used to lengthen the main alignment. Such additions to a simple original temple may have been made over centuries. However, areas where Jains enjoyed wealth and protection may have intricate maṇḍapa-line temples that were designed from the beginning to have many elements.

The maṇḍapa-line temple is characterised by an axis of clearly aligned architectural elements that echoes the ritual movement of devotees and priests into the temple. It is a journey from light, openness and abundant stimulation of the senses towards the darkness and simplicity of the confined inner space of the shrine at the far end.

The simplest form of a maṇḍapa-line temple consists of a single small entrance hall that gives access to a vestibule before the cella or immediately to the shrine. All major Jain pilgrimage centres in India have ample examples of this simple architectural form, as may be seen on the sacred mountains of Sona-giri in Madhya Pradesh and Shatrunjaya in Gujarat and at Karkal in Karnataka.

Larger temples of this type, however, have:

  • a front porch
  • more than one hall, of which often at least one is open and one is closed
  • at least one shrine projecting from the end farthest from the main entrance porch.

The closed halls often have side entrances. Such central halls with side openings leading to side porches or subsidiary shrines are known as ‘large halls’ – mahā-maṇḍapas. These are particularly popular in north-western and central India. See, for instance, the temples at Kumbharia and Mount Abu in Rajasthan.

Developed Jain temples of the maṇḍapa-line type usually consist of large numbers of architectural elements aligned along a main axis. This arrangement of temple elements – halls and porches – serves the functions of:

  • creating an approach to the sacred icon
  • providing clearly defined spaces for the celebration of rituals
  • hierarchically structuring holy space.

Completely detached platforms, halls, gateways – toraṇas – or water structures can be added to further lengthen the line of architectural elements. Two examples are the detached platform at Phalghat in Kerala and the line of gateways at Patan in Gujarat.

Often, Jain temples started simply but were enlarged by adding elements, such as additional halls and supplementary shrines, thus developing impressive dimensions over time. Most Jain temples combine building components from various centuries up to the present day. The older a temple, the more often it has usually been modified and enlarged.

During periods in which Jainism flourished and was supported by influential patrons, however, more elaborate temple constructions were also designed and built from the outset. Examples of such periods are the reigns of the:

  • Solaṅkī dynasty in north-western India during the tenth to 13th centuries, which saw the building of the temple complex at Mount Abu, Rajasthan
  • Hoysaḷa Empire in the south, lasting from the 11th to 13th centuries, with examples at Halebid, Karnataka.

Multiplicity in maṇḍapa-line temples

Probably the best-known Dharmanātha temple, the Hutheesing temple in Ahmedabad was completed in the 19th century. Named after its patron, the two-storey temple is famous for its intricately carved white marble. The main image is of Dharmanātha, 15th Jina

Hutheesing temple
Image by Kalyan Shah © CC BY-SA 3.0

Multiplicity is an important issue in Jain temple architecture in general. In maṇḍapa-line temples, there can be multiple free-standing or interconnected shrines and many image-chambers. These may be arranged on both a horizontal level and on various vertical layers added to the building. This reflects Jain religious practice, and is related to the diverse objects of veneration housed inside the temples and to distinct Jain cosmological issues.

It is characteristic of Jain temples to accommodate large numbers of figural icons – of the Jinas and of gods and goddesses – as well as more abstract symbols. The latter can be:

These are found inside the multiple shrines and halls on the ground floor, which form the typical spatial layout of developed Jain temples. Often there are further subsidiary image-chambers and interconnected levels of halls on additional levels inside temple structures. These can be raised sanctums as well as some which have been sunk into the ground. The most complex temples combine raised with subterranean layers.

Multiplicity is also created by surrounding these often very complex maṇḍapa-line temples with small shrines and subsidiary temple structures. These can be free-standing.

However, a typical architectural feature is to connect large numbers of small shrines, consisting of porches and image-chambers only – deva-kulikās or deva-koṣṭhas – to line or form the compound walls of a temple at the top of the tall terraces. Often, the walls between the individual shrines have been removed to create passages – bhamatīs or bhramantikās – used for the sacred rite of circumambulation – pradakṣiṇā. Such lines of interconnected deva-kulikā shrines surround the well-known Jain temples on Mount Abu and the Ādinātha Temple at Ranakpur, all in Rajasthan. Deva-kulikās too can be double-storied and may be linked to the central temple buildings on several levels, producing spatial patterns of great complexity.


  • Hall of Ādinātha temple The carved marble pillars in the main hall – maṇḍapa – of the Ādinātha temple at Ranakpur are renowned for their beauty and artistry. Like most Jain temples, regardless of size, the Ādinātha temple is chiefly built from the three principal architectural elements of porch, hall and image-chamber.. Image by Antoine Taveneaux © CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Terrace of the Odegal Basti The Odegal Basti at the pilgrimage site of Shravana Belgola. It is notable for its tall, prominent platform or terrace – jagatī or vedī. A key part of the architecture of Jain temples, the terrace raises the sacred temple structure from the dusty ground and creates an upward approach towards the holy icons housed inside. This symbolises the long, difficult path to liberation.. Image by Anks.manuja © CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Akkan Basti The small 12th-century Akkan Basti is in the pilgrimage town of Shravana Belgola. Especially prominent in this temple, the porch is a central element in most Jain temples. Temple porches shelter devotees from the weather, mark the boundary between ordinary and sacred space, and help worshippers ready themselves for the religious experience inside the temple.. Image by HoysalaPhotos © CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Thirupanamur temple The colourful Digambara temple in Thirupanamur, Tamil Nadu. Although the styles of Jain temples vary greatly, most are constructed out of three main architectural elements. Here, the wide, open-sided porch leads to the hall, where religious rituals take place. These include performing ceremonies, reciting holy texts, singing hymns and dancing.. Image by Rishi Vandavasi © CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Jina figure in the image-chamber The smooth, plain appearance of the standing Jina figure contrasts with its ornately carved surroundings in the Digambara temple at Lakkundi, Karnataka. As the principal temple icon, the statue is sited within the image-chamber – garbha-gr̥ha, literally 'womb chamber'. The purest, holiest part of the temple, the sanctum or image-chamber is the focal point of worship, although not all worshippers are allowed inside. Worshippers may carry out some religious ceremonies while standing outside, in the vestibule – antarāla or kapilī. . Image by Dinesh Kannambadi © CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Maṇḍapa-line temple The ninth-century Narayana temple at Pattadakal is an example of a maṇḍapa-line temple. In this type of temple the porch, hall and shrine lie in a straight line from the front entrance to the main shrine at the opposite end. Larger maṇḍapa-line temples may have several porches, halls and shrines, but all these rooms or spaces lead from the entrance to the image-chamber housing the main temple icon.. Image by Dinesh Kannambadi © CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Hutheesing temple Probably the best-known Dharmanātha temple, the Hutheesing temple in Ahmedabad was completed in the 19th century. Named after its original patron, the two-storey temple is famous for its intricately carved white marble. It demonstrates the multiplicity and repetition characteristic of Jain temples. The main image is of Dharmanātha or Lord Dharma, the 15th Jina.. Image by Kalyan Shah © CC BY-SA 3.0



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:

  • 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.


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.

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