16.02.2013 ►Jaisalmer Fort ►7 Jaina Temples

Posted: 30.05.2013
Updated on: 01.04.2014

If only I had not laughed when a friend told me that it was raining when she visited Jaisalmer some years ago. That was what I was thinking in the eve when the grey clouds coming up in late afternoon finally emptied rather continually to be replaced by new ones only. My friend also had been there in February and left after two complete days of rain. Undismayed we made our plans for next morning to visit the Jain Temples in the Fort. Jag, born and raised in Jaisalmer, proprietor of Hotel Australia Blue International where we stayed during our sojourn in Jaisalmer supported our optimism and even forecasted sunshine from noon on. Rain does not stay for long in Jaisalmer, and some years it does not come at all, was his statement. That was why he assumed a visit to the temples next morning very adequate under the actual weather conditions. According to his advice we activated our alarm clock quite early to be allowed to go by three-wheeler before 08:30h just to the central place of the Fort where also his restaurant “8th of July” (Jag’s birthday) is situated. He suggested us to give this destination to the driver. Not far from the temples by foot, and easily to find because of being known to all in Jaisalmer.

The main square in the Fort in front of Rani Ka Mahal, Queen’s Palace, was not very frequented this early morning. It is contact point and staging area for all travel groups ready to visit Jaisalmer Fort and the Jain Temples inside. But before 08:30h we were the early birds. After one wake-up coffee on the roof of a café looking directly on the dark grey clouds we started. Most of the shops were still closed, but in front of the entrance to the temple complex a tall wiry middle-aged man approached us. He presented himself as Vinod Jain and offered his service as temple guide. Our shoes were left in the shop of a befriended shopkeeper, and the information that we are Jains was answered by him with a denying gesture towards his friend, meaning that we probably would not become his customers. Nevertheless, the shopkeeper maintained his kind attitude towards us. The short way to the temple was made on socks, and we were happy to know our shoes sheltered.

 

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Entrance to Jaisalmer Chandraprabha Temple, the first of the temple complex

The temple entrance in sight, it just happened to us what the entrance is meant for. To leave worldly thoughts and sorrows behind and to concentrate on what lies ahead. The complex of Jain temples inside the Jaisalmer Fort consists of 7 temples dedicated to different Tirthankaras.

Jaisalmer Jain Temples:

  1. Jaisalmer Chandraprabha Temple, 08. Tirthankara
  2. Jaisalmer Adinatha Temple, 01. Tirthankara
  3. Jaisalmer Kunthunatha Temple, 17. Tirthankara
  4. Jaisalmer Parshvanatha Temple, 23. Tirthankara
  5. Jaisalmer Shitalanatha Temple, 10. Tirthankara
  6. Jaisalmer Shantinatha Temple, 16. Tirthankara
  7. Jaisalmer Sambhavanatha Temple, 03. Tirthankara

The Svetambara Jain temples have been constructed between 12th and 17th century and continually enlarged in this period also. Jaisalmer’s rise to a commercial centre at the outskirt of the Thar Desert started shortly after its foundation, when trading with Persia, Arabia, Egypt, and Africa overland expanded in 12th century. Jain merchants came into wealth through caravans and financed the ruling Bhati Rajputs of Jaisalmer. In return they got the privilege to practice their religion without constraint and to construct their temples inside the Fort. In the temples were and are many exquisite sculptures of polished marble and sandstone, ornamented with gold, silver, and precious stones.

 

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View from the entrance on the Garbhagriha of the Chandraprabha Temple

 

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Shvetambara Jain nun in front of the Garbhagriha of the Chandraprabha Temple

We entered the temple complex by the entrance of the Chandraprabha Temple. Due to the early hour the travel groups did not frequent yet the entrance hall, where a homey semi-darkness was prevailing. In front of the Garbhagriha a Svetambara nun was paying respect to 08. Tirthankara Chandraprabha, to whom this temple is consecrated. The very amicable nun had chosen this early hour for her dedication. After the exchange of some cordial greetings she rushed away.

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08. Tirthankara Chandraprabha

 

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Corridor behind Garbhagriha

The Chandraprabha Temple is the first of seven temples, which all are connected by a confusing system of colonnades and corridors. By circling the Garbhagriha from left to right one shows one’s reverence and respect to the Tirthankaras. Further the circling is said to be very auspicious. In the Chandraprabha Temple all the way along the corridor surrounding the Garbhagriha dungeons with bars are housing sculptures of Tirthankaras. From Vinod our guide we got to know that about 6666 statues and statuettes are placed in the temple complex. Further in the past there were about 2200 Jain families living in Jaisalmer. Vinod heaped a lot of “tourist information” on us, but also was unable to tell in which of the seven Jain temples we actually went, “Later, later… Come on now.”

 

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Corridor with Toranas, in the background one of the dungeons with statues and statuettes

 

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23. Tirthankara Parshvanath photographed through bars

 

The abundance of depictions as well as the homey semi-darkness were simply very impressive and created awareness for the specialty of the location. However, one should be prepared to the fact that this is a tourist attraction letting no room for own observations and queries. So I lend my ears to our guide Vinod, whereas Christian Geerdes tried to catch the wonderful atmosphere of the location with his camera. Jaisalmer is one of the four holy Jain locations beside Ranakpur, Mount Abu, and Palitana. Therefore it is a renowned Jain pilgrim destination. In international tourism Jaisalmer is a reliable element as well. This results in the intersection of two traveler streams, which made us wish to visit again this wonderful location high above the city, but equipped with our actual knowledge and approved references. In the slide show a great number of marvelous temple motives are available.

 

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From 09:00h on the travel groups arrive, view from upper store down

 

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View from upper store to the cupola

 

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Details of cupola

We just had left the ground floor when the hall of Chandraprabha Temple became peopled with travel groups. Our time advantage as to take photos without having involuntarily lots of people on them consisted in thirty minutes, reason enough to walk speedily across this impressing work of Jain temple art. Breathtakingly beautiful, perfectly designed, even each single Torana a masterpiece of artful stonemasonry.

 

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14 of 108 Parshvanath sculptures in the upper store

In the upper floor of Chandraprabha Temple all along the walls and niches 108 depictures of 23rd Tirthankara Parshvanath are installed. All of finest polished marble, reflecting every ray of light like a glittering star. All statuettes are catalogued, and their code for height, year of origin, and donator is mentioned on the stonework behind their position.

 

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01. Tirthankara Rishabnatha

This depiction of 1st Tirthankara Rishabnatha also is in the upper floor of the first temple. It attracts attention not only by its gilding, but also its cheery colouring. Like most of the sculptures in the Jaisalmer Jain temple complex the statues are very well preserved and seem to conquer the adversities of time. After having visited the ground and the upper floor we went out again to have a look on the other temples as well. To enter this part of the temple complex we had to return to the street again. Here is a choice of the beauties we had the opportunity to admire.

 

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Probably 22. Tirthankara Neminatha

 

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Torana and Tirthankara statuettes

 

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Colonade with Tirthankara statues and statuettes

 

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Tirthankaras in Kayotsarga

 

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Garbhagriha with Tirthankara sculptures

Under the Sambhava temple the Jin-Bhadra-Suri-Gyana-Bhandar-Library is situated. It contains a broad choice of scriptures, miniatures, and floral motives on palm leafs. It is not integrated into the visiting schedule, but is opened on special demand. We were lucky, it was opened for us.

 

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Miniatures with scenes from the life of Tirthankaras and comments

 

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Miniatures of Tirthankaras and floral motives

 

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Detail from above

 

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Detail from below

 

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06. Tirthankara Padmaprabha

 

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23. Tirthankara Parshvanath, l., in Kayotsarga, r., sitting in the Garbhagriha

 

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Meanwhile there were many visitors

 

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16. Tirthankara Shantinatha

 

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23. Tirthankara Parshvanath (Shankat Haran Parshvanath), symbol for success & happy family life

 

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View back from exit

Meanwhile it was noon, and after nothing more than a cup of coffee for breakfast we really were hungry. Our time advantage of 30 minutes was transferred into lunch advantage, and we hurried immediately to Jag’s restaurant “8th of July”. There we choose a table on the terrace with wonderful view on queen’s palace, and had exactly the kind and gentle service one longs for after such an eventful morning. As announced the sun appeared behind the clouds, and Jaisalmer once again was the “Golden City”.

Slideshow: Jaisalmer Fort ►7 Jain Temples

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