Location: Palitana, near Bhavnagar (Gujarat)
Number of Temples: 863
Founded In: 11th to 12th century (initially) and 16th century
(the present ones)
Dedicated To: Jain Tirthankaras
The ancient city of Palitana is situated in Gujarat, at a distance of
approximately 51 km to the southwest of Bhavnagar. Known for its amazing
Jain temples, the city forms a part of the Saurashtra region. Palitana
Jain temples are believed to be the largest cluster of Jain temples in
the whole of India. There are a total of 863 temples in the city, which
are found spreading from base of the Shatrunjaya hill to its peak. You
will have to climb almost 3950 steps, spanning 3.5 km, to reach the Jain
temples of Palitana.
All these temples do not date back to the same time. Rather, there were
built in two different phases, with the first one starting from the
11the century and ending somewhere in the 12th century. This period also
served as the revival time of the temple architecture all over India.
The second phase started from the 16th century onwards. The reason for
the two different phases is that Muslim invaders destroyed the temples,
which were built in the 11th century, during the 14th and 15th century.
Thus, the temples were rebuilt in the 16th century and it is these
reconstructed temples that we see today. There is no single person who
can be credited with the construction of the Palitana Jain Temples. In
effect, these temples reflect the effort and devotion of the wealthy
Jain followers. With time, the successive followers of the Jain
community started designing their own temples. They cleared the ridge of
the hill for the purpose, leveled it into terraces, built the temples
and walled them, covering a large area in the process.
Almost all the Palitana Jain Temples have been constructed on a common
plinth. With each successive temple, the spire above the ceiling goes
higher, giving the look of rising mountain peaks. The spires of the Jain
Temples at Palitana have been beautifully festooned and sculpted with
geometrical and floral ornamentation. The marble used for making the
spires was brought from Rajasthan and then, block-by-block, it was taken
uphill and the carvings were done on the site.
However, the architects as well as artisans working on the temples had
to come down from the sacred hill before sun down every day, but were
allowed to work in the rains. A number of the smaller temples at
Palitana have chief walls built of white plaster, while the marble has
been used for domes and spires. All the temples are dedicated to the
Jain Tirthankaras and are believed to be one of the most sacred Jain
pilgrim destinations in India. Nobody is allowed to visit the temples
after dusk, not even the priests.
The temples are surrounded by strong walls and have been grouped into
nine enclosures. Each of the enclosures has a central temple in the
middle, which is surrounded by a number of minor temples. One of the
most significant temples of the group is the Chaumukh Temple, which
enshrines a four-faced deity of Adinathji. The deity has been placed on
a marble pedestal and the shrine is open on all the four sides. The
temple dates back to the early 17th century and stands divided into
smaller structures, each of them crowned by a dome.
The structures that fall the innermost form a cross and are symbolical
of the five hills sacred to the Jains. The most magnificent as well as
the most profusely decorated Jain temple at Palitana is the Adishwar
Temple. The ornate pillars and roofs of the temple are adorned with
delicately cut marble, in the shape of dragons. Other significant Jain
Temples of Palitana include Sampriti Raja Temple, Kumarpal Temple, and
Rampal Temple. One must also visit the Muslim shrine of Angar Pir
situated near the Adishwar temple.