Jain Festivals (Parva) & Jain Pilgrimage (Teerth yatra) - (B) Pilgrimage

Posted: 09.07.2008
Updated on: 02.07.2015

Jain Festivals (Parva) & Jain Pilgrimage (Teerth yatra)

B. Pilgrimage

As Jain philosophy emphasizes purity of thought and soul, so from absolute viewpoint tīrtha is defined as the efficient cause for achieving emancipation i.e. elimination of the birth-deathbirth cycle called sańsāra. Thus activities and characteristics such as ten virtues (dasa lakşaņa), 12 types of austerities, self-restraint, and right-faith-knowledge-conduct are called tīrthas. However from practical viewpoint, places where the five auspicious events (pańca kalyāņakas) of the twenty-four tīrathańkaras or any special event in their life or of the other monks who attained omniscience are called tīrthas. In this paper we shall talk of tīrtha places as tīrthas as this is the common meaning assigned by laity. Going to these places is called pilgrimage and spending time there and is an extremely important activity in a Jain’ s life.

As seen above, by definition, tīrtha is a holy place. It signifies purity, simplicity, holiness, knowledge and bliss all put together. When we go there we start feeling these attributes also. In fact the idea of going there and starting the pilgrimage itself gives a feeling of renouncing the world and enjoying the eternal benevolence of holy people. This is the whole purpose of going on a pilgrimage. Jains go to tīrtha quite often, especially the middle aged and the elders and stay there for extended periods of time to acquire more religious knowledge, practicing rituals and giving up worldly activities. In a way we can say that pilgrimage is like going on a vacation but with the objective of feeling and being holy and peaceful and cleanse the soul as against just the physical rejuvenation in vacations. Pilgrimage provides us the opportunity to devote full time for spiritual purposes and hence enables us to advance in our path of spiritual purification.  

Broadly, tīrtha can be classified in four categories as follows:

  • Place of attaining emancipation, Nirvāņa. Siddha kşetra
  • Place where some divine or other religious event happened. Atiśaya kşetra.
  • Place where any of the five auspicious events of tīrthankars took place. Kalyāņaka kşetra.
  • Place of art/ architecture. Kalā kşetra.

Let us briefly review each:

Siddha kşetra:

There is very limited number of such places in India. Sammeda śikhar or Pāras Nātha in the state of Jhārkhanda is the place from where twenty out of twenty four tīrthankars have attained Nirvāņa. Thus it is the holiest one and is frequented by almost all Jains at least once in their lifetime. Then there are Pāvāpuri (Mahāvīra), Campāpuri (Vāsapujya) in Bihāra, Giranāra (Nemi Nātha) in Gujarāta and Mount Kailaśa (now in Tibet) for Ādi Nātha that belong to this class. There are other places identified also where other omniscient attained Nirvāņa (mostly in the states of Mahārāştra, Gujarāta, Bihāra and Madhya Pradeśa).

Kalyāņaka kşetra.

There is a limited number of such places again. Ayodhyā with maximum number of kalyāņakas (first five tīrthankars), Hastināpura with four kalyāņakas of three tīrthankars, both in UP and Pālitāna in Gujarāta are important places. There are many others such places primarily in UP, Bihāra, Madhya Pradeśa and nearby states.

Atiśaya kşetra

Almost all other tīrthas numbering approximately 200 fall in this category. They are spread throughout the country. Due to some auspicious event happened earlier, people start believing in divine powers in such places and visit them primarily to have their worldly needs fulfilled. SriMahāvīraji and Tijārā in Rājasthāna are most visited ones. They are mostly in Rājasthāna, Mahārāştra, Gujarāta, Bihāra and Madhya Pradeśa and Karnātaka.

Kalā kşetra.

These are the places where important Jain art and architecture, idols are found. Devagarh and Gwālior fort, Elephantā cave, Ajantā Ellorā caves, Sravanbelgolā, Mount Abu Dilawārā temple, Ranakapura and many caves and temples in southern India are famous places for their Jain art. Jains when they visit such places, normally undertake a walking trip to different temples at the place visited, performs worships, attend religious sermons, practice vows and study holy texts.

Other tīrtha:

Now a days a number of ācāryas have started building centers of worships (temple complexes), institutes of learning for Jainism and call them as tīrtha. Further we find new constructions at different places as a result of finding Jain idols there (which were worshipped earlier but buried due to political or other invasions). At such places temple complexes are built and categorized as Atiśaya kşetra.


References

  • JAINISM by Kurt Titze and the map attached.
  • Jain Sidhanta Sabda Kosa by Jainndra Varni vol 2 pages 363.
  • Dicovery of Videha and Airavat by J.D.Jain Jaipur CD

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