The “99fold” Pilgrimage to Shatrunjaya

Posted: 25.01.2011
Updated on: 30.07.2015

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The “99fold” Pilgrimage to Shatrunjaya

A case study of young women’s embodiment of Jaina tradition

 

Introduction

On occasion of this felicitation volume for Professor Hampanaji, who has dedicated his life’s work to the study of Jainism, I would like to raise the question how this age-old and apparently austere religion is continued by the younger generations. As a social and cultural anthropologist I would like to address this matter by discussing the religious practices, values and ideas of the contemporary, mostly urban Jaina youth. In particular, this paper describes how young metropolitan Shvetambara women with Marvari and Gujarati origins experience their religion. In my account on their contemporary religious attitudes and practices I focus on the so-called “99fold” pilgrimage to Shatrunjaya, navanu. This pilgrimage has not received much scholarly attention, neither by social and cultural anthropologists, nor by indologists.[1] According to my data this extraordinary strenuous religious practice is regularly performed by Shvetambara lay people, among them also a number of young and unmarried women.

For the description of this pilgrimage I am referring to data collected during an ethnographic fieldwork, which I conducted between September 2001 and June 2003 in Gujarat, mainly in the pilgrim town Palitana and on Shatrunjaya. I first give an overview of the collective performances, ascetic restrictions, liturgical rituals, and prescribed routes of the pilgrimage to Shatrunjaya in general and the navanu pilgrimage in particular. Next I introduce some case studies of young unmarried women in their late teens and early twenties who performed navanu in the winter seasons of 2001/2002 and 2002/2003. Finally I offer an interpretation of these practices by arguing that these extreme bodily experiences of navanu have performative effects on the participants. I argue that in the cause of this pilgrimage the young people embody Jaina ideas and values and thereby re-establish a connection with their religious community. Thus, the scope of this paper is limited to the Shvetambara urban middle class and does not consider the various “kaleidoscope images“ of Indian youth.[2] Moreover, while referring to an extraordinary situation like navanu many questions regarding the every-day lives of the Jaina youth is left open. However, by taking into account the experiences of young Shvetambara women in Palitana and on Shatrunjaya, we might get a better clue of the Jaina youth’s aspirations, skills and perspectives.

 

Shatrunjaya

In order to approach the subject we first have to address Shatrunjaya’s crucial importance for the Shvetambara community. Today, among the supra-regional pilgrimage centers of the Murtipujak Shvetambara, the holy mountain Shatrunjaya together with the adjacent pilgrimage town of Palitana, is the most significant in both ritual and social terms. According to the estimation of an officer employed by the managing trust, Anandji Kalyanji Pedhi, every year at least 400,000 pilgrims undertake the pilgrimage to the holy mountain in order to worship Adishvar, the way Adinath or Rshabha, the first fordmaker, is called locally. In accordance with the traditional obligation for pilgrimage (tirtha yatra) as enlisted within the eleven duties for the lay person,[3] many Shvetambaras come regularly, even several times a year. In no other place one encounters such a concentration of Shvetambara temples of great importance and nowhere else are so many pilgrim hostels established which reflect the plurality of local Shvetambara communities. Elsewhere I therefore argue that the pilgrimage to Shatrunjaya is a central aspect in the construction of a distinct Shvetambara identity.[4]

What, however, does this mean for the younger generation, especially for the young people who live in metropolitan cities like Mumbai, Bengalaru, Kolkata or Chennai, which are at least a day’s journey away? In fact, most of the Shvetambara youngsters of today belong to the middle or upper classes of these and some other urban centers. We would rightly expect them to attend a business school or a university class rather than a sermon of an Acarya and we are more likely to meet them in cyber cafés or shopping malls than in a temple. These youngsters wear fashionable clothes, communicate mainly in English and watch American TV serials or cosmopolitan music programs like MTV. On first sight they do not seem to be interested in establishing a lasting connection with their respective local Jaina community. Nevertheless, during my fieldwork I had the opportunity to observe and interview several Shvetambara girls and boys in their late teens or early twenties who took part in the so called “99fold” pilgrimage (navanu) to Shatrunjaya. These repeated pilgrimages are accompanied by extraordinary ascetic practices, which are continued over a period of two months. Thus, within the Shvetambara community a lot of people refer to navanu as the hardest austerity a lay person can take on, even harder than other ascetic practices such as updhan[5], the „one year of fasting“ (varshi tap)[6], or one month of a complete fasting (mahashkaman).[7]

Interestingly, the prospect of extreme physical hardships does not frighten off those youngsters, who decide to take a two months leave of their worldly commitments in their comfortable urban residences in order to impose a rigorous ascetic practice on themselves. According to one of the officers of the Anandji Kalyanji Pedhi, an average of about 3000 lay pilgrims perform navanu every year. [8] At least 50% of them are lay women between 40 and 65, and about a half of these women are attended by their husbands. Typically these navanu pilgrims put their grown up married sons and their daughters-in-law in charge of their personal affairs back home. Usually these elderly women claim that they were intending to perform navanu since a long time, but were not able to accomplish their plans previously. Married women and men below the age of 40, who have unmarried or small children, very rarely perform navanu, as their daily business and household affairs does not allow them an absence of two months. However, according to my estimation about 15 % of the navanu groups, i.e. annually about 450 people, are under the age of thirty and unmarried. Out of these, about one third are diksharthis or candidates for the ascetic initiation. In this group girls are, in the clear majority, reflecting the fact that about two third of Shvetambara ascetics are women. The dikshartis, women and men alike, perform navanu mainly in order to prepare themselves for the ascetic wanderings. The rest of the unmarried navanu participants below the age of 30 are almost exclusively women. They often perform navanu because they are told to do so by elder relatives, who want to prepare them for their religious duties as wives and mothers. Some of them, however, have chosen navanu on their own initiative or have been convinced by a friend to accompany her during the 99 fold pilgrimage.

Despite these diverse social motivations all pilgrims agree that navanu is performed in remembrance and as a humble emulation of Adinath’s 99 purva [9] pilgrimages to the eternal mountain Shatrunjaya. According to various myths and legends[10] (which are repeated in the various pilgrim’s almanacs and retold by many pilgrims) Adinath himself once established the pilgrimage to Shatrunjaya. Therefore, the holy mountain is particularly important in connection with the life of the first fordmaker, Adinath or Rshabha. As commonly known, Adinath („the first Lord“) generally plays the vital role of a cultural hero in Jaina mythology. He first established the Jaina community and Jaina kingship before renouncing it and becoming the first Jaina ascetic of our era.[11] Thus, in the context of pilgrimage (yatra) to Shatrunjaya, devotees always refer to Rshabha as “Adinath“ or “Adishvar“, thereby stressing this fordmaker’s role as the ‘first’. Accordingly, during the period of his ascetic wanderings Adinath also performed the first pilgrimage to the eternal mountain Shatrunjaya. It is said that he performed the pilgrimage to Shatrunjaya as many as 99 purva times and that he delivered sermons on every occasion.[12] His example inspired some of his own descendants to undertake the same. The most famous of them is Adinath's grandson Pundarik, who came to Shatrunjaya as his first disciple. He was also the first of countless saints, who are said to have attained salvation at the very spot.[13] However, to be precise, for the Shvetambara this deed alone did not bring about the fame and uniqueness of Shatrunjaya as the “king of pilgrimage places” (tirthadhiraja). In fact, the exceptional importance of Shatrunjaya rather stems from the idea that the mountain is shashvat, literally meaning “eternal” and indestructible. Within a vast and constantly changing universe[14] Shatrunjaya is considered the only eternal place accessible to human beings in our “dark age” (kali yug). Therefore it is believed that only those people who collected sufficient spiritual merits in their previous lives are able to complete a pilgrimage to Shatrunjaya and that a successful pilgrimage guarantees salvation after some rebirths. Thus, Shatrunjaya is seen as a ford to salvation in a very literal sense, because even though the Jaina doctrine holds that it is impossible to gain salvation in the current era of time, a successful pilgrimage is very effective in bringing a pilgrim closer to that remote goal.

When asked about the purpose of their pilgrimage, many pilgrims, not only the navanu participants, offer an interpretation of the very name of the holy mountain. Shatrunjaya literally means “the conqueror of enemies.” For the pilgrims, this metaphor alludes to the difficult fight against the so- called “inner enemies”, namely the four cardinal passions (kashaya), which are the main cause for karmic bondage, and the major obstacles to the command of non-violence: greed (lobh), fury (krodh), ego (man), and hypocrisy (maya). Thus, pilgrims generally claim univocally that their pilgrimage was nothing but an effective way of striving for the purification of their souls by getting rid of karma and thereby getting a little closer to salvation. As in many other Jaina contexts, the purification of the pilgrim’s soul is considered to be basically a material process, because the karmic matter (pudgala) is believed to be a substance, which is attached to the soul (jiva) by the cardinal passions (kashaya).[15] Consequentially it is necessary to take physical action against the karmic matter.

In accordance with that premise the motto of many pilgrims is: “The bigger the physical efforts during pilgrimage, the greater the spiritual progress and the closer one comes to salvation”, as Joshika, a twenty years old navanu-pilgrim put it. The average lay pilgrim usually resides in a comfortable urban home and avoids to walk long distances in his or her everyday lives. However, when climbing the top of the mountain on foot everybody, not only the navanu participant, has to endure unfamiliar strains during his or her pilgrimage (yatra) to Shatrunjaya. [16]

 

The 99fold pilgrimage (navanu)

The physical efforts are considerably enhanced during the two months long navanu pilgrimage. While in general all pilgrims - not only navanu pilgrims - perform liturgical rituals and adhere to certain restrictions during their pilgrimages, only the navanu pilgrims (navanu yatriks, navanu aradhaks oder navanu tapasvis) are ritually bound by a pledge (paccakkhan) to a number of rules and restrictions over a period of two months. Thus all navanu pilgrims have to adhere to the following four sets of obligations: 1. The compliance with the so-called “six restrictions (cha’ri palit)”, 2. The repetition of five liturgical rituals during each pilgrimage, 3. The performance of six alternative routes, and 4. The observance of a two or three days complete fast. First of all the navanu observances involve the mandatory six restrictions (cha’ri palit) of pilgrimage.[17] The strict adherence to these brings the daily routine of a navanu pilgrim very close to the ascetics’ mode of life. They imply: (1) strictly abstaining from all kind of forbidden food (sacitt parihari), such as roots, bread with yeast or tinned food, (2) limiting the intake of food to once a day (ekasan), (3) walking barefoot and not to use any other mode of transport but one's own feet (pad cari), (4) sleeping on the floor (bhumi santhari), (5) observing celibacy (brahmacari) with regard to deeds as well as thoughts and (6) performing the pratikraman-ritual twice a day.

The second set of rules refers to the daily repetitions of pilgrimages on the main route: All in all a navanu yatrik has to complete the pilgrimage to the main temple of Adishvar on the peak of Shatrunjaya 108 times. According to the pilgrims they perform 99 times in remembrance of Adinath’s 99 purva pilgrimages, and 9 times for one’s own spiritual protection (sva jiv daya). Furthermore every single pilgrimage implies obligatory liturgical rituals at the five prescribed sacred sites on the route to the main temple of Adinath.[18] Therefore it is mandatory to visit the following sites during every single pilgrimage on the main route: The first place of worship is located at the northern foot of the hill, which faces Palitana. At the so-called Jay Taleti (“praising the foot”) Jaina devotees worship a non-iconical piece of rock in a way which is usually reserved for the images of fordmakers. This rock represents the eternal, sacred mountain itself, which is considered to be tirthadhiraja, the king of all pilgrimage places. Furthermore the pilgrims worship Adinath, whose footprints are installed in several shrines around the Taleti rock. Sometimes, the Taleti rock itself is said to symbolically represent the feet of the first fordmaker.

Starting from Jay Taleti a pilgrim reaches the walled city of temples on the summit of the mountain Shatrunjaya only after at least an hour’s strenuous ascent. Here, all the other four obligatory destinations are situated within the compound of the main temple of Adinath, which covers the south-eastern part of the peak. In fact, despite the great number of temples and shrines, the vast majority of pilgrims focus on these places only while performing their pilgrimage. This main route also entails the second mandatory destination, the Shantinath temple. A sanctuary of the 16th fordmaker is included into the main route because this Jina is considered to have spent eight rainy seasons meditating on the summit of Shatrunjaya while observing a complete fast.[19] The third site is a small shrine which is situated under a rayana tree and harbors huge footprints of Adinath. This is believed to be the very spot were the first fordmaker delivered his sermons during his many pilgrimages. Therefore, the tree itself as well as its leaves and fruits are an object for veneration. The fourth sanctuary on the main route is dedicated to Adinath’s grandson and first disciple (ganadhara) Pundarik, who was the first to have attained salvation on Shatrunjaya in our era of time.[20] The entrance of the Pundarika temple faces the gate of the main temple of Adinath, which is the fifth and last destination and the goal of pilgrimage. This temple is addressed by the pilgrims as “Dadanu Derasar” after its miracle-working image “Dada Adishvar”.[21]

At all five destinations, the pilgrims have to perform a liturgical worship (caityavandan) of the main image present in each temple. The singing of hymns (stuti) and devotional songs (stavan), in which the pilgrims refer to myths and legends related to the holy mountain and to the first fordmaker Adinath, forms the core of these rituals.[22] Also, any liturgical worship can be accompanied by the “worship of eight substances” (astaprakari puja), which includes the bathing and decorating of the image.[23] All in all the navanu pilgrimage implies at least nine astaprakari pujas to Dada Adishvar.[24]

As I stated elsewhere,[25] by progressing on the pilgrimage route, every pilgrim regresses in time: the foot of the eternal hill serves as a gate from whence the pilgrim goes back in mythological time. With every step s/he passes an earlier phase of our age until s/he reaches the temple of Adinath and the origin of the Jaina community, doctrine and practice represented by the first fordmaker. However, while an average pilgrim quickly leaves Palitana and goes back to the linear time of everyday life, a navanu pilgrim repeats the journey to mythological eras as many as 108 times and over a period of two months. Thereby s/he moves back and forth between everyday linear time and the cyclic time of the myths. The severe austerities and the resulting physical strains of the pilgrimage are considered to strengthen the ability of a navanu pilgrim to overcome the transience of everyday life and approach the eternity ascribed to the sacred mountain.

In enduring physical pain the navanu pilgrim clearly imitates the wanderings and daily routine of the ascetics, which were once initiated by Adishvar himself. [26] Whereas an average pilgrim - after having performed one yatra only - usually spends the rest of the day in his/ her hostel, a navanu pilgrim, is constantly away from sunrise until the late afternoon. S/he performs as many pilgrimages as s/he can and returns to his/her hostels not before 4.00 p.m, when s/he listens to the daily sermon of his/her ascetic preceptor. Afterwards s/he hurries to take the only meal of the day before sunset. The day is brought to an end by the collectively performed pratikraman ritual. Soon after the exhausted pilgrim goes to bed and sleeps early.

In order to complete the whole course 108 pilgrimages on the main route in two months only, navanu pilgrims have to adhere strictly to that schedule, which enables them to perform an average of three pilgrimages a day. I also observed that the number of pilgrimages on the main route increases in the course of their stay. Thus, at the beginning they are usually able to complete only one or two pilgrimages a day but once they have gained some practice they may be able to climb the mountain as many as five times a day. In this way they gain some additional time which they need in order to observe a third set of navanu rules. According to these rules every navanu pilgrim has to include in his/her routine six additional and extensive pilgrimage routes, which I will describe below.

Last but not least the navanu pilgrims have to observe special rules of fasting in order to complete their pilgrimage. Usually they eat only one meal a day, but in the course of their two months long stay every navanu pilgrim must also completely abstain from all food and drink for at least two or three days. During this time they cannot take rest but have to perform seven or eleven pilgrimages respectively.

In general I perceived a strong mutual control among the pilgrims concerning the proper observance of these rules and rituals. They frequently explained this behavior by saying that their sat sangh - “true companionship”-requires reciprocal support. In their view, the strict observance of a rule or the thorough performance of a mandatory ritual inspires others to do the same and guarantees the success of the pilgrimage. Breaking a rule or neglecting a ritual is, on the other hand, considered to be a temptation for other pilgrims to do the same. Such behavior is, therefore, not only believed to reduce or destroy the karmic success of the pilgrimage, but believed to bring bad karma (pap) to the wrongdoer. In this sense, mutual control serves to ensure one’s own as well as the others’ spiritual progress.

Accordingly, most of the pilgrims are convinced that the navanu observances are much easier to follow when they are performed in a group. These navanu groups consist of at least 50 people and can be composed of as many as 1000 participants, but mostly have a size of 150-400 people. As with every larger pilgrimage group, all navanu groups are sponsored and organized by wealthy lay people - the sangha pati (“head of the group”) - who invite members of their own local community to perform navanu, while they bear the expenses of all the participants. [27]

From the first preparations to the actual performance of the pilgrimage, the sponsors and all the other lay participants are constantly supervised by at least one Acarya and his disciples, who belong to the ascetic branch which is affiliated with the respective local lay community. During the two months[28] sojourn time in Palitana all navanu participants stay in one of the 83 pilgrim hostels.[29] Generally, the sponsor of a navanu pilgrimage prefers to book a hostel which is run by a trust of his own local community. This preference corresponds with a general practice that regardless of the actual - mostly urban - place of residence, every pilgrim favors a hostel, which is linked to his or her family by regional affiliation and which is particularly defined by the family’s place of origin (mul vatan)[30] and sometimes even limited to a certain local caste.[31]

However, if the hostels which comply with these preconditions cannot host all navanu pilgrims of his group, a sangha pati might also choose a bigger hostel associated with a different local community. At any rate the pilgrim hostel of a navanu group functions as an independent unit: In the assembly hall, the pilgrims listen to lectures given by ascetic preceptors and regularly elaborated pujas are performed here. In larger groups the pilgrims might also gather for the sermons in the inner yard, where for that purpose huge canopies are installed. At the same place each morning and evening the male lay pilgrims collectively perform pratikraman with the male ascetics, while the lay women join the female ascetics in their quarters for the same purpose. In the eating hall, all lay pilgrims eat together according to the strict Jaina dietary rules.

Some days before the end of the rainy season the lay people of a navanu group usually take a private car or bus from their urban residences in order to reach their hostel in Palitana. Traditionally, all pilgrims of a navanu group jointly commence with the first of the 108 pilgrimages on the early morning of the full moon day of the month of Kartik (October/November), which is called “Kartika Punam” in Gujarati. [32] That day marks the end of the rainy season (comasu/ caturmas), during which the ascetics discontinue their itineraries and stay at one place in order to prevent the hurting of the abundantly thriving flora and fauna. For the same reason, ascetics and devoted lay people do not perform the pilgrimage to the top of Shatrunjaya hill during this season. Nevertheless Palitana is frequently chosen as so-called comasu quarters for Acaryas (and their disciples), who might afterwards continue their stay to supervise a navanu group of lay people, affiliated to their own particular ascetic branch. During the days, which precede the beginning of navanu, the Acaryas start to prepare the lay people of their particular navanu group for the ongoing austerities with daily sermons and presiding over elaborate rituals, pratikraman-rituals and long processions from their hostel to the foot of the hill. Thereby the daily shared routine in the hostels creates an exceptionally intensive interaction between all participants, lay people as well as ascetics.

 

The case study

The above exemplification of rules and rituals has shown that navanu is an extraordinary expression of lay religiosity, which imitates the ascetic mode of life yet places great emphasis on collective mutual support. I will now elucidate how these rituals, regulations and restrictions were perceived by a group of girls, who performed navanu in the winter season of 2001/ 2002 and 2002/ 2003 respectively, during which I met them regularly for interviews in their hostels. I also accompanied them during some of their pilgrimages, even though, I have to admit, I never completed 99!

In my case study I focus mainly on four girls who were between 18 and 21 years old: Priti,[33] Neepa, Joshika, and Latika. They belonged to a friendship circle of Marvari girls from Bengalaru. One of them, 20 year old Priti, had decided to perform navanu and consecutively convinced her best friends, Neepa and Joshika, to join her. Though Priti was the most experienced of the three friends with regard to ascetic practices,[34] Joshika had turned out to be the unofficial leader and spokeswoman of the group. She was also the one, who established contact with me soon after the girl’s arrival in Palitana. Before that she had talked her younger sister Latika into accompanying her, Priti and Neepa to Palitana. Joshika also invited her cousin Vidhya, who was in her late twenties and already married, to join their pilgrimage. This helped her to receive her parent’s approval of her plans because this cousin could act as a kind of “governess” and guarantee for the modest appearance of her comrades. Vidhya, however, rather acted as a silent observer than as a bossy elder sister and did also not complete navanu herself.

The friendship circle belonged to a larger navanu group of 400 participants, who jointly performed navanu in the winter of 2001/ 2002 and stayed in one of the biggest hostels in town, the Kacch Vagad Dharamshala. That particular group was sponsored by a sangha pati of Marvari origin and was lead by the Acaryas Kanakratnasuri und Jayshekharsuri of Mohansuri Samuday. Besides the case study of these five young women from Bengalaru I will also include some observations regarding another 21 year old navanu pilgrim, Charita from Mumbai, who was more or less dragged by her mother’s mother to perform navanu in 2002/ 2003. In the beginning she reluctantly joined a navanu group of 150 participants, which was sponsored by a sangha pati of Gujarati origin, led by Naivardhansuri of Ramcandrasuri Samuday and stayed in the Sabarmati Bhavan.

When meeting these girls the first time some days before the beginning of navanu they appeared to me as very typical young Jaina women, resembling those whom I had met earlier in different Indian towns and suburbs. They stepped out of the air conditioned bus which had brought them a long distance from their metropolitan homes, dressed in well-tailored and fashionable salvar kamiz, and looked a little out of place on this dusty road in front of their hostel in Palitana. During our first meetings on the next days they acted according to my expectations: They were just “normal” young middle class urban women, well educated, fluent in English, interested in fashion and Bollywood movie stars. Their conversational topics were quite the same as those of other girls, whom I had met in their urban homes. For example, though none of them was already engaged they frequently indulged in discussions about future marriages. However, when I asked them whether they had decided to perform navanu pilgrimage in order to find a suitable husband, they hurriedly answered in the negative. Like many other pilgrims they argued that in contrast to Hindu pilgrims, they do not give a vow (manta) that connects the pilgrimage with a mundane aim, such as finding a good marriage partner, gaining prosperity for the family, or ensuring health. Somewhat precociously Priti explained to me that […] the only motivation of pilgrimage is to get rid of karma. This is only possible while performing aradhana, ascetic practice.”

While I secretly wondered, if she knew what she was talking about, or if she just had repeated what she had heard, this first conversation shifted quickly to less severe topics. For instance, I learned that two of them had widely travelled through India and abroad, but all of them claimed that they missed their family at home already after the first day. At the same time I got the impression that while being away from home they enjoyed a kind of freedom which was new to them.

However, most strikingly, they were highly ambivalent with regard to the ritual routine. For example, the four friends used to sit on the veranda in front of their shared room joking with each other thereby almost forgetting to attend a sermon or one of the elaborate rituals in the assembly hall that lasted for hours during the preliminary days. Some of the older lay pilgrims felt it necessary to reprimand them repeatedly for doing so. Moreover, female ascetics regularly paid visits to their room, in order to remind them of the very reason for their stay in Palitana. The female ascetics also gently pushed them to join the morning and evening pratikraman in the sadhvi’s quarters. Several times I witnessed how these girls courteously and decently received these advices, often with an open show of honest acceptance or even abashed regret.

Though the girls showed a more or less carefree attitude in the beginning, I never observed them to violate the rules which were regulating their stay in Palitana. For instance, in accordance with the strict vow of celibacy, I never saw them talking even casually to any men, except for their brothers or fathers who had accompanied them to Palitana and later regularly came to visit them. The girls clearly cherished the special measures which were meant to guarantee the careful segregation of sexes, for example by setting up fences in the tents of the assembly. Although they, according to their own reports, were used to a relaxed coeducational atmosphere in their colleges, the girls welcomed these measures because they were considered to prevent sexual harassment and thereby promote a relaxed atmosphere within the whole group. As Joshika expressed it: “It is like sitting in the ladies compartment constantly!” Moreover, the girls emphasized that they have to take a special precaution in avoiding male ascetics, as the presence of young unmarried women is usually seen as a severe threat to the younger ascetics’ vow of celibacy.

Even though the girls tried to adhere to the many rules and regulations, they did not show much enthusiasm for the Acarya’s sermons, which were meant to prepare the navanu groups for their pilgrimages. With the exception of Priti, who had initiated the navanu project among their friends and now continuously tried to motivate them, the girls rather anxiously listened to the stern instructions given by the Acaryas regarding the manifold navanu restrictions. If the young women talked to me or to each other about the upcoming challenges of navanu, they mostly expressed their fear of not being able to meet the expectations. For example, during the three daily meals which were served in their hostel, they enjoyed eating high calorie dishes and usually discussed the coming abstinence of culinary pleasures with a clear sigh of regret. Furthermore, they very hesitantly got used to abandon their footwear and even before starting the actual pilgrimages they spent a lot of time to treat their feet with cold cream in order to better prepare them for the anticipated strains.

 

The first pilgrimages: Enduring physical strains

When the big day of Kartika Punam 2001 had come, the girls, like all the other pilgrims, got up very early, at 4:30 a.m. When I met them at 5:15 a.m. in front of their hostel, shortly after they had performed the morning pratikraman, they still looked bleary. While the group proceeded to Jay Taleti, the foot of the hill, they seriously joined in singing devotional songs, but were carefully tip-toeing around stones and holes, in order to prevent their bare feet from being hurt on the unpaved road.

Arriving at Jay Taleti, the northern foot of the mountain Shatrunjaya, which faces Palitana, all the six girls got very excited in view of the huge masses of pilgrims, which had come for performing their first pilgrimage to the top of Shatrunjaya after the end of the rainy season. Moreover Kartika Punam is a holiday dedicated to Dravid and Varikhil, two other grandsons of Adinath, whose spiritual liberation on the mountain Shatrunjaya is remembered and celebrated on that day.[35] In addition to the navanu pilgrims as many as twenty to thirty thousand people climb the sacred mountain on this occasion. Even for Indian standards the rush was immense. It was hardly possible to find enough space for performing the twenty one ritual prostrations (ekvis khamasmana),[36] which are a mandatory part of the caityavandan ritual on that day. Though the four girls from Bengalaru earnestly tried to follow this important ritual with devotion, at least three of them appeared strained even before commencing the actual climbing.

When starting the pilgrimage on the steep and stony stairs of the main route, the girls could not move freely, but constantly had to watch one’s own steps in order not to push other pilgrims, nor to lose the grip on the floor. Due to the mass of pilgrims the ascent to the mountain was even more tiresome than on other days. As a consequence two of the girls got exhausted before having completed one third of the route. Very early they complained about suffering stitches in the side. Latika, the youngest, even burst out into tears and felt completely discouraged. Catching her breath, she asked her mates: “How will I be able to complete 108 when I am not able to complete one?” I must admit I secretly asked myself the same and got worried about her. However, her friends did not allow her to take a rest or to drop behind. They firmly took her in the middle, holding her hands and telling her to go on. This companionship is typical for all navanu pilgrims, who usually prefer to walk in the company of other members of their navanu group. According to their sex, age, stamina and pace they form smaller units, which often stay together for the whole period of two months. Sometimes, one of them may proceed a little faster or slower, but in general they try not to lose sight of each other and always take care for each other’s wellbeing.

While slowly continuing on their first pilgrimage the four girls of my case study openly expressed their admiration for the younger and well trained male and female ascetics, who literally sprinted up the hill on a small alley that was reserved for them. These ascetics usually ascended the mountain by taking two steps at a time and in double pace when compared to most other pilgrims.

During this very first navanu pilgrimage of the girls from Bengalaru even I was able to overtake them easily and after a while I admittedly got impatient. I left them before reaching the top of the hill as I did not want to miss the rituals, which took place in the compound of the main temple of Adinath on that day. When I paid the four friends a visit on the evening of the same day, I found them lying on their mattresses, where they had dropped after returning from evening pratikraman. Despite the dazzling neon lights Latika was already fast asleep, but the others were very ready to talk about their experiences. Even though they looked very tired, they were obviously very excited and proud of having successfully finished the first day by performing even two yatras. When I asked them about the hardest task of their first day they univocally explained that they suffered most from not being able to satisfy their thirst. In fact, navanu pilgrims must observe strict rules with regard to drinking. First of all, they cannot drink anything else than boiled water (garam pani). Secondly, they must abstain from drinking water until they have completed one pilgrimage. Thirdly, if they continue their pilgrimages on the same day, they may only take water two more times before returning to their hostel. Moreover, in accordance with the strict dietary restrictions the girls did neither eat nor drink anything after their evening meal of the previous day. As it took them as many as six hours to get down the hill after the first pilgrimage, they did not have water before twelve o’clock on the next day. In order to be able to understand their suffering one must also take into account that in this season of the year it starts getting very hot in Palitana at eight o’ clock. Apart from their thirst they also complained about their paining feet which were swollen and pierced by thorns because they were not used to walk barefoot.

Thus, during this early stage of navanu bodily strains were emphasized by the girls when describing their experiences. Compared to these sufferings spiritual progress was only a random topic. Even when the girls broached the issue of religious devotion, they immediately turned to a discussion about the physical stress they had experienced. For example, they expressed a deep regret that it had not been possible to have a proper darshan of Dada Adishvar in the main temple, because the masses of pilgrims had pushed from behind and prevented them from having a free sight for more than a few seconds.

They also complained that it was very hard to focus on meditative rituals, which are mandatory during every single pilgrimage. Thus, every navanu pilgrim must complete the chain of 108 prayer beads (jap) 10 times, while silently reciting the nokar mantra. Furthermore, they have to perform nine logassa in a standing meditation posture (ka’ussagg) and nine prostrations (khamasamana) for the worship of Shatrunjaya, which are accompanied by yet another liturgical recitation. If one of the girls diverted her attention and forgot a liturgy she was gently reminded by others to start the whole procedure all over again, something which happened to the girls several times because of their physical stress and exhaustion.

When visiting the girls in their hostel during this first week I could observe that the tone of their reports stayed quite the same. Not the religious experiences, but the physical strains formed the center of all their discussions. So they daily complained about not getting sufficient sleep, of suffering from sore muscle, of having chapped feet, and of losing weight as they were allowed to eat only one meal per day. In the evenings our conversations often came to an end when a maid appeared and offered the girls to massage their legs for a small payment. The topics of their conversations also changed in another significant way. Bollywood stars or fashion were no longer of a concern for the girls and in accordance with the strict vow of celibacy the discussion of romantic issues such as prospects of marriage was suddenly strongly disapproved in that group.

 

Getting used to the daily routine: The transforming effect of bodily efforts

After this first week, the girls slowly got used to their new daily routine. They increased their daily pace and after some time were even able to perform three yatras in a relatively short period of time. It came the same time when I was no longer able to keep up with their pace. Thus one day, when they were performing their perhaps 25th pilgrimage, I met them on their ascent to the mountain. Similar to the ascetics the navanu girls from Bengalaru now climbed up the hill effortlessly. They also performed their ritual observances in a focused and proficient manner, knowing all liturgical texts by heart. Their increasing speed enabled the girls to return early enough to attend the daily sermons of Kanakratnasuri und Jayshekharsuri, which started at about 4 p.m. When I joined the girls on these occasions, I noticed that the daily reprimands, which were frequently uttered by the eloquent Acaryas in a humorous style to motivate the lay pilgrims, furthermore encouraged the friends to consciously apply the navanu rules and regulations. Hence, the girls stopped complaining about their hardships and began to look at their physical experience with a sense of black humor. For instance, one day, while combing each other’s disheveled hair Neepa exclaimed: “Gosh, Joshika, I think after having completed navanu all your beauty will be gone! Can you tell me what happened to your hair? I am glad for you that your friends at college do not see you like that! O.K., but I think something has happened to me, too. Have you seen my legs? They are disgusting! When will I find time to pluck the hair? I hardly find time to take a quick bath once a day!”

This kind of conversation also implied an air of surprise about how easy it is to live without all the time consuming beauty care, which shapes the life of an average Indian girl. Thus, the ascetic negligence of the girl’s outer appearance stands in stark opposition to the daily hours of beauty “rituals”, which the girls were used to enjoy at home when taking several baths a day, shaving and peeling their bodies, changing their fashionable clothes frequently, carefully oiling and combing their hair, polishing nails, plucking eyebrows, and abundantly applying scented talcum powder on their skin. It was not new for the girls to be concerned with their bodies, but the way they treated their bodies during navanu was new and even adventurous to them. Apart from the physical strains deriving from the pilgrimages they had to adapt to an ascetic code of behavior that clearly stood in contrast to their everyday lives. To start with, they were only allowed to use three sets of garments, one for performing pilgrimages, one for sleeping and taking meals[37] and one for touching the image of a tirthankara while performing puja. Their dresses during navanu consisted of polyamide salvar kamiz, which did not look fashionable, but were selected because this cloth dries quicker than cotton, does not need ironing and is therefore faster to clean.[38] During navanu, body care is reduced to a minimum, namely to take a bath once a day, to brush teeth immediately after the only meal, and to comb one’s hair. More efforts in beauty care, such as oiling the hair, are denounced as an evidence for vanity, which is an aspect of ego (man) and therefore not in accordance with the code of behavior of ascetics and pious lay people. For the same reason, the four friends and other women of that group rejected the usage of mirrors.

Gradually, I could also perceive a considerable modification of their attitudes towards the challenges of navanu. They actually started to appreciate the diverse austerities. Reports on religious experiences now entered into their conversations with me and other people. Priti, for example, explained to me that the bodily strains of the navanu observances helped her to get rid of a large load of karmic matter. As a consequence, everything, not only the climbing, now appeared easier to her. Her friend Neepa enthusiastically agreed with her and added: “While performing navanu my bhav [devotion] becomes bigger and bigger with every pilgrimage. I am close to Dada Adishvar now. He is giving us shakti [mental and physical strength].” Hence, she added, the highlight of every pilgrimage is the darshan of Adishvar, now easily received by her. Thus, according to these navanu pilgrims, the physical routine systematically enforced by the strict observance of all mandatory navanu rituals and restrictions leads to a quick spiritual improvement. In a later conversation Joshika also explained to me, that performing navanu is not a question of physical stamina, but of devotion and mental willpower. According to her, a bodily weak person with a lot of willpower can easily complete navanu, whereas a physically strong person with less devotion was bound to fail or could not even start with navanu.

In short, a fervent enthusiasm had taken hold of the girls at this time. This became all the more obvious whenever one of them was forced to stay back in the hostel due to her menstruation period, during which she had to observe a strict seclusion for 72 hours in order to avoid polluting the sacred mountain or her fellow pilgrims. Whenever a girl of this group had to interrupt her pilgrimages for that reason she was full of eagerness to get through these three days, instead of being glad to have a chance to rest.

 

Additional routes and fasting observances: Intensifying the transformative experience

Highly motivated the girls now began to include some additional mandatory navanu observances, which even further aggravated their bodily strains and their devotion (bhav). To begin with, they increased the number of daily pilgrimages to five. They also included five of the six prolonged and mandatory routes of pilgrimage into their daily program. These additional routes cover other and sometimes remote parts of an area that is considered to be part of the Shatrunjaya mountain range. While the normal pilgrimage has an average length of about three hours to four hours, the longer routes may take up to eight hours to complete.[39]

Whereas two of the alternative routes, the so-called Ghetipag tour[40] and the dodh gau[41] tour, are short and are therefore performed daily or at least regularly, the other four extend the main route considerably. The first prolonged route includes the attendance of all the 12 main temple compounds (tunk) of both the summits of Shatrunjaya and is known as nav tunk.[42] While most of the pilgrims focus on the Dada Adishvar Tunk on the south-eastern summit and usually ignore the north-western summit opposite of the main temple, every navanu pilgrim has to attend all the 12 temple complexes of Shatrunjaya in one pilgrimage for at least nine times, thereby performing caityavandan in each of the main temples.

The three other routes are usually performed only once during navanu. The so- called tran gau route, which literally means “three gau”, adds about seven and a half km to the main route before reaching the top of Shatrunjaya. It starts at the reservoir of the Shatrunji river close to the hamlet Rohilshala, where the pilgrims have to take a ritual bath with water from the river (not in the river, but taking water from it in a bucket and having a bath in a tent). Afterwards liturgical worship is performed in front of the footprints of Adinath in the nearby hamlet of Dungapur. Though the tran gau route is otherwise uneventful in terms of ritual actions the climbing of the eastern slopes of the hill on an unsecured, stony and thorny path is a challenge even to the navanu pilgrim, who at the time of conducting this particular pilgrimage is usually accustomed to walking barefoot. What about the girls of my case study? They were meanwhile well trained and took the troubles of tran gau with equanimity, neither complaining about the taking an unpleasant bath with cold water, [43] nor lamenting about their sore feet. On the contrary, they even expressed feelings of peace while walking in the wilderness of the most remote part of the mountain, with a grand sight over the Shatrunji reservoir.

They showed the same kind attitude during their pilgrimage on the so-called cha gau route (“six gau”). This route is the longest and most arduous route with about 15 extra km. As the above mentioned routes it can be performed on foot only. [44] Its first part is identical with the dodh gau route and forms half a circumambulation of the main temple complex, a little below of the southwestern summit. Afterwards the route leads to the shrine of Bhadava Hill, a smaller summit on the southwestern slopes of Shatrunjaya, where the footprints (pagla) of Shambha and Pradyumna, heroes of the Jaina-Mahabharata, [45] are located. The two brothers are said to have attained salvation on that spot on Phagan Sud Teras, the thirteenth day of the bright half of the month of Phagan (February-March). Every year on this day the pilgrimage is performed by as many as forty thousand pilgrims, who share the belief that a pilgrimage on this tour frees the devotee from all sins (pap).[46] This route ends in the hamlet of Adpur at another shrine with the footprints of Adinath. The cha gau route also includes five additional caityavandan rituals, [47] as well as an extensive ritual of meditation in front of a large rock, which is situated at the bank of the “silver pond”, Chandan Talavadi. The pilgrims refer to it as “abode of salvation”, Siddhashila, because it is commonly believed that on that very spot thousands of ascetics attained salvation. The girls also explained to me that in the vicinity of the rock a devoted pilgrim can find access to a subterraneous path which leads to the first image of Adishvar. According to a local myth this image is hidden in the roots of the rayana tree behind the main temple and was once installed by Adinath’s son Bharat. Here, at Siddhashila, the girls from Bengalaru, as well as all the other navanu participants, performed at least 12 logassa, while standing or laying in the “motionless” ka’ussaga posture. For many pilgrims this meditation is especially difficult, because it has to be observed at about noon, when they are exposed to heat but are not allowed to drink anything at all. Joshika reported afterwards that under these circumstances she found it quite difficult to focus her mind on that task, and the others agreed with her. However, all in all they proceeded very determined and arrived quite early at the end of the cha gau route in Adpur. While usually this elaborated route of cha gau adds at least another five hours to the main route, the girls completed it within four hours, only slightly later than the young and fast ascetics. Considering the bad physical condition of the girls during their first pilgrimage, this was quite an achievement!

After the completion of 60 to 70 yatras on the main route and after having performed all possible alternative routes on foot, their bodies had adapted to the daily demands of navanu. More interestingly, however, they had also become experts of pilgrimage. They knew the various religious sites on Shatrunjaya, their legends as well as the respective rituals. Yet the demands made on the girls during the navanu pilgrimage were once more increased. The maximum of physical strain as well as of spiritual devotion was reached when the girls observed a complete fast without even drinking water on at least two consecutive days (chath) while still performing seven yatras during this fasting period. This kind of fierce asceticism is said to guarantee salvation after three rebirths only, a privilege which is usually attributed to outstanding Acaryas only. Despite the high motivation for achieving that goal, this practice regularly leads to extreme exhaustion and many navanu pilgrims collapse while performing it.[48]

Unsurprisingly, many pilgrims consider this part of navanu as the greatest challenge of their life and, if successfully completed, as their most important achievement. While performing this kind of extreme austerity the girls again put emphasis on the importance of gaining spiritual bhav. Neepa, to her own surprise, spontaneously decided to perform even three days of fasting (atham) and she managed to complete 11 yatras during these days. On the third day, when she was back in the hostel, she told me about her experiences in a very low voice and with glowing eyes, thereby resembling many other pilgrims whom I talked to after they had performed such extreme austerities. She said: “I pled Dada Adishvar to give me strength for atham and eleven yatras. And I made it! Beforehand nobody, not even me, could imagine that I would be able to do so. At home I never took on a serious fast, not even ayambil. Since I am performing atham, I feel very close to Dada.”

Another young navanu pilgrim, 21 year old Charita, whom I met in 2003, put it vividly:

“[…] when I did chath […] I was crying tears of joy after my seventh yatra. I was praying to Dada, please help me, don’t put me down. […] After the fourth yatra it became very difficult. I was so thirsty and exhausted. I constantly told ‘mane pani piu!’. Then I prayed to Dada and the other yatriks came to support me. They told me ‘Calo ben, beso nahi! Calo, jaldi!’ They told me again and again: don’t sit, get up, hurry up, Adishvar bolave che! [Dada is calling!] ’ Somebody told me to close my eyes to see Dada from inside. Then I saw his pratima from inside and I could feel that he will always be with me. Then I felt as if somebody was pushing me from behind and holding my hand. A voice was telling me: ‘Calo, calo!’ I can tell you, four yatras we have to do ourselves; the last three Dada is holding our hands.”

It follows from this statement that the individual pilgrim not only needs Adishvar’s support, but also encouragement from her (or his) companions. In many instances the exhausted pilgrims have to be motivated by others, who support them, fan air into their faces, put wet cloths on their heads and constantly push them physically and verbally to complete their daily program of pilgrimages. Though I did hear of people who died during that kind of the pilgrimage, I never witnessed any of these pilgrims to be encouraged to give up, nor did I see any pilgrim untimely quit his or her pilgrimage. In fact, any pilgrim who had successfully gone through this experience of total exhaustion but still managed to complete the pilgrimage enjoyed a lot of approval and respect by others. In order to be able to support each other, the pilgrims take turns in performing the hardest part of navanu.[49] Some of the pilgrims, who had performed chath or atham, repeatedly talked about a very special kind of reward, which is said to wait for the earnest navanu pilgrims. Accordingly, only very exceptional pilgrims can get access to the hidden and subterraneous realms of Shatrunjaya, which were already an issue while performing the cha gau yatra. For example Induben, an elderly navanu pilgrim from Ahmedabad, whom the girls (and I) met during the second part of navanu, told us that the austerities experienced while perfoming chath and atham might open unsearchable places for elected pilgrims. She explained:

“Kamalben [another pilgrim] knows a shravika, Urmilaben, who repeatedly […] performed navanu […] Once she decided to go for atham. […] During her eleventh yatra, while performing a pradakshina around the main temple of Dada Adishvar, she suddenly disappeared […]. Later on Urmilaben told that a cave opened up in front of her and a kshetrapal appeared who led her to an enormous subterraneous temple hall with the first pratima of Dada Adishvar. It was so huge that she only could see his feet. […] On her way back she suddenly appeared again at Jay Taleti, bringing flowers which nobody had seen before and with a very delicious scent. […] Some people think, this is a miracle, but the only reason why Urmilaben got there was that she came close to salvation already.

Though the girls themselves never experienced a comparable miraculous incident, such accounts clearly fascinated them.[50] In my view, this story about the possibility of entering otherwise concealed realms by performing fierce austerities can be seen as a symbolic expression of the transformative aspects ascribed to the navanu pilgrimage in general. Thus, physical deprivations were eventually cherished by the four friends from Bengalaru, as well as by other navanu pilgrims, even in view of a possible untimely death. In case someone dies during a pilgrimage, s/he is usually not bemoaned. On the contrary, such a death is considered ideal in the eyes of many pilgrims. Although immediate salvation is considered impossible during our era of time, not even on Shatrunjaya, such a death is nevertheless seen as a kind of guarantee for achieving salvation within the next three rebirths.[51] With other words, death during a pilgrimage is accepted, as a way for accelerating the process of reaching spiritual salvation. Admittedly, a critical mind would rightly argue that the girls surely did not intend to die, nor would a responsible adult of their group have allowed such an effect of their austerities. Nevertheless the possible death is just an extreme form of the real transformation, which the girls actually experienced during the navanu pilgrimage. As Charita put it dramatically, one day after having performed chath:

Physically navanu is very difficult, but every day when I reach Dada I feel happy as never before. I feel that I achieved everything in my life. So if I die now I will do it happily. I make use of my human birth. I come close to salvation. This feeling was extreme when I did chath. […] I thought even if I die on spot I will be happy.

After two or three days of fasting the navanu pilgrim is ritually fed by close family members, who on that occasion comes to Palitana, in order to share the feeling of spiritual success with the daughter, sister or niece. During the last ten days of navanu, all the four friends from Bengalaru continued their pilgrimages while being convinced that they cannot fail any more. After all, the hardest task was already achieved. Therefore, the four of them performed even more than 108 yatras, ranging from 113 to 131.

 

The final days of navanu: The embodiment of tradition

The end of the navanu pilgrimage is marked by several elaborated rituals, but for the sake of brevity I want to refer to them only shortly. [52] The first ritual, the Navanu Prakari Puja, is celebrated two days before Posh Punam, the full moon day of Posh (December-January). On this occasion all navanu groups assemble together at the northern foot of the mountain, Jay Taleti, and “99 substances” are applied to a mobile image of Adinath, which is installed in front of the Taleti rock.

The very last pilgrimage on the full moon day of Posh is accompanied by special observances. Similar to the first pilgrimage, the last is also commenced jointly by all members of a particular navanu group who collectively perform a caityavandan at Jay Taleti. Furthermore, every individual pilgrim has to be engaged in a quite unique “mountain ritual”, the giri puja, which entails the cleansing and worshipping of every single of the 3745 steps of the main route to the temple of Adishvar. As Joshika explained to me in advance, this has to be done as a penance (prayascitt, alocana) in order to ask forgiveness for any ritual fault (ashatna), which a pilgrim might have committed by accidentally trespassing the rules and regulations during the many pilgrimages on the sacred mountain. With this ritual the pilgrims can prevent any harmful consequences to their karma. However, in order to complete the giri puja in one day only, the co-operation of all navanu pilgrims is again required. In smaller groups of 10 to 25 pilgrims they are taking shifts in carrying out the following procedure, which clearly resembles the ashtaprakari puja for Jina images: After bathing the step with milk and water, it is first dried with a white cotton cloth and then decorated with sandalwood paste, as well as a piece of silver or gold foil.[53] At every shrine with images or footsteps (pagla) of the Jinas, which are located on the main route, the pilgrims stop for a short caityavandan ritual. Special attention is also given to the shrines of the protecting deities Hingulaj, Padmavati, Chakreshvari and Kapad Yaksh, who receive generous donations. While previously the pilgrims have performed their yatras more or less silently in order to save energy, they now continuously sing devotional songs about Adishvar or Shatrunjaya. The exceptionally cheerful atmosphere of the last yatra was also mentioned by the girls when they talked to me about this giri puja.

On the last day, when returning from the top of Shatrunjaya in the late afternoon, the navanu pilgrims are venerated by a so called “group ritual” (sangh puja), which is organized by the sponsor of the particular group. The sponsor and his family members take bow down in front of every pilgrim of his group, symbolically wash their feet and give them a coconut and a tilak. For the girls, it was the first occasion ever that they were honored in this way. In the following and very last ritual of the day, the bahuman, it was now their turn to pay “tribute” to the sponsor of the group (sangha pati). In the course of events, the four young women put their worn out garments aside, took a bath and dressed in their best saris or chaniya cholis. As suggested by elderly navanu pilgrims, it was their prominent role to perform an artful stick dance, ras dandia, in front of all assembled lay people of their navanu group. After that skillful performance the same elderly navanu pilgrims, who had to admonish them at the very beginning of the pilgrimage, now praised the young women for having successfully completed all austerities. On a similar occasion Charita from Mumbai, who performed navanu in 2002, expressed her feelings in the following way:

“I feel happy as never before. I feel that I achieved everything in my life. By doing navanu I think I have completely changed my life. In Bombay I never went out without my car. Every day I got up at 12:30 noon! I spent my nights going to the movies. I never went to derasar. I never did pratikraman. […] My parents got worried. They sent me to US. […] They wanted me to get interested in something, not to waste my time. I liked to go for outings. I saw the Niagara Falls, Statue of Liberty and so on. But it did not change my life. […] To send me to Shatrunjaya was my parent’s last hope. I am grateful they did it. This place is incomparable. […] Nobody could believe that I did it [navanu]. People said she will never finish navanu! She will be back in five days! They are very surprised now! Now I don’t want to go back […][to Bombay]. I want to stay in Palitana for the rest of my life! So people ask my parents: How is it possible? They say it is a miracle. I am indifferent to what they think. I am happy that I did navanu. Now they [my parents] are afraid that I won’t marry, but take diksha. I don’t want to marry. When I close my eyes all I see is Dada. […] This place made me change my mind. I want to make use of my time now. When I am back home I will go for derasar every day. I will get up early in order to do so. I will do bhav yatra[54] daily.”

In the same year I also met Priya, a 22-year old woman from Ahmedabad, who only two months after completing her navanu pilgrimage spontaneously decided to become a nun and therefore joined a group of 19 diksharthis who took diksha in March 2003. Somewhat less extreme, but still determined, the four young woman of our friendship circle also felt inspired to continue their spiritual progress by performing special penances such as the „one year fast“ (varshi tap) in the instance of Priti, and the updhan tap in the case of Neepa.

When the last day came, the four friends from Bangalore left with tears, though they said they were looking forward to be with their families and friends again. While the ascetics continued their journey on foot the lay pilgrims entered the bus for their urban places of residence. When later calling me in Palitana Joshika told me that on the day of their arrival her parents conducted a ritual for her which is usually performed to newly initiated ascetics only, the pad prakshal puja, literally “making footsteps”. In this ritual a returning pilgrim steps into a dish with red color before walking over a white cloth. In this way the footprints of a person can be preserved and will be kept in the house shrine of the respective family. This ritual is meant to preserve the enhanced spiritual status, which s/he had achieved during his/her pilgrimage. Like the saints in the mythical and legendary pilgrimages to Shatrunjaya the young women from Bengalaru, too, got transformed by performing navanu. Even if they did not to achieve the ultimate goal of salvation, they still made some steps into its direction. Thus, the pilgrimages of these navanu pilgrims and their presence on the mountain is remembered by their footsteps, which are preserved in their family’s shrines just as the numerous shrines on Shatrunjaya contain the footsteps of those people whose souls were liberated on this sacred mountain.

 

Conclusion

In their everyday lives young urban Shvetambara women are mainly engaged with their bodies in extended beauty care “rituals”. The five girls of our case study, however, took up quite a different task when they decided to perform the 99fold pilgrimages. During navanu the concern with their bodies shifted from beauty matters to spiritual goals. The physical strain deriving from ascetic restrictions, repeated pilgrimages, liturgical rituals and endured fasting rituals was now seen as a catalyst for a spiritual “uplift” and the ability to endure these austerities as an evidence for spiritual progress. In other words the observable physical strains became indicators of spiritual achievements which are again considered to change the body of the pilgrim.

These physical challenges were taken up collectively by the girls who thereby helped to create a religious community, in which they participated actively. The joint commitment to identical and ritualized physical strains on prescribed pilgrimage routes and during particular collective fasts enabled the girls to experience extreme physical deprivation, which was culturally purported and socially orchestrated. Thus, the physical strains endured by the girls can also be taken as an observable expression of the shared identity as Jains.

This connection of individual physical experience and ritualized social practices can be seen as an example of what Connerton calls „incorporated bodily practices“. According to Connerton (1989: 73-74) such practices are used as a very effective technique for linking the memory of a group with the memory of an individual. Applying this idea to the navanu pilgrimage of young women and others, it can be concluded that the socially important values, rituals, myths and legends of Adishvar and Shatrunjaya are remembered by the individual pilgrim, because they are inscribed into the individual memory by the unforgettable sensation of an extreme exhaustion. This effect is of a special importance for the young Jains such as the girls from Bengalaru, whom I presented in my case study. Though leading everyday lives which are quite averted from ascetic ideals and practices, they were able to resurrect their link to the Jaina community by the intense experience of the two months long navanu pilgrimage.

This experience is intimately linked to the sacred centre Shatrunjaya. Especially the final ritual of giri puja clearly illustrates the exceptional relation between the navanu pilgrim and the sacred mountain of Shatrunjaya. This relation is established during the course of navanu as our case study of the four girls from Bengalaru shows. While the girls came as absolute beginners and without any special knowledge regarding their religious tradition, the intense bodily and devotional experience of 108 or more yatras made them adepts of pilgrimage and its rituals, which were quickly learned by heart. In the last pilgrimage of the giri puja not only all the five major places, but literally every corner of Shatrunjaya is worshiped, remembered and internalized in order to be carefully kept in mind and body. Thus, in the end of navanu, every performer becomes an expert in the eyes of other lay pilgrims. For example, whenever I asked a detailed question regarding the pilgrimage or the sacred mountain Shatrunjaya and my interview partner could not answer it, they often excused themselves by saying: „I do not know, sorry. Anyhow, ask my sister. She has performed navanu!“ Similar to an ascetic a performer of navanu is thus attributed with an unquestioned authority.

Strikingly, this extraordinary knowledge of the navanu pilgrims is linked to the potential of overcoming linear time and participating in mythological, cyclic time. Thus, the navanu pilgrim is considered to enjoy a share of the imperishable quality called shashvat, literally meaning "eternal" and indestructible, a quality, which is ascribed to Shatrunjaya. It is believed that Shatrunjaya, even if it expands and contracts in accordance with the ups and downs of the never-ending cycles of time, is one of the few places which never vanishes. Affected by this quality, the navanu pilgrims, while moving on Shatrunjaya for a period of two months and performing diverse rituals which refer to mythological events, transcend linear time and take part in the mountain's eternity. Furthermore, during navanu the transcending of linear time coincides with the crossing of spatial borders. This is expressed by the idea that navanu pilgrims are among those few people who might get access to the otherwise hidden, subterraneous realms of the sacred hill, which are also linked to mythical time by the implied reference to the very first image of Adinath. Thus, even in the eyes of the young pilgrims, the full potential of the sacred mountain is never exhausted, nor completely felt out. Shatrunjaya will never become boring! In the words of Charita, one of the navanu girls:

That is the difference between all the wonders of the world and Shatrunjaya. Disney world you can find everywhere, but for real happiness of life you have to come to Giriraj. This place is unique! Everything will be destroyed, but not Shatrunjaya! It will remain forever. It will be still there when we are gone and forgotten.”

 

 

Selected References

 

Banks, Marcus (1992), Organizing Jainism in India and England, Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Caillat, Colette/Kumar, Ravi (1981), The Jain Cosmology, New York: Harmony Books.

Cort, John (1993), Twelve Chapters from The Guidebook to Various Pilgrimage Places, the Vividha Tirtha Kalpa of Jinaprabhsuri, in: P. Granoff (ed.), The Clever Adulteress and other stories: A Treasury of Jain Literature, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass: 245-274.

Cort, John (2001 [2000]), Jains in the world. Religious Values and Ideology in India. Oxford/New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Cort, John (2004), Jains, caste and hierarchy in north Gujarat, in: Contributions to Indian Sociology (n.s.), Vol. 38: 73-111.

Dhami, Vimalkumar Mohanlal (2000), Siddhagiri tori mahima (Gujarati und Hindi), Rajkot: Pratham Avrtti.

Dundas, Paul (1991), The Digambara Jain warrior, in: M. Carrithers/C. Humphrey (ed.), The Assembly of Listeners: Jains in Society, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 169-187?

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