– Article & Photos by Nitin H.P., Bangalore
An article about an ancient Jain temple on a small hillock in the midst of western ghats in Chikamagalur district of Karnataka which is unknown to the external world.
Narasimharajapura (N.R.Pura) & Humcha the twin Jain Heritage Centres of central Karnataka are well known to the Jain community and has a huge follower ship world over. Thousands of pilgrims visit these places every day and not many are aware about the Jain Heritage Centres around the region. Uttameshwara is one such place which is not much know to the Jain community. Uttameshwara is not a familiar name in the Jain community neither in Karnataka nor India. Not many would have even heard of this place. Yes that’s right, this is an unknown village in the middle of thick forests of western ghats.
As seen with many Jain temples, even this temple was totally ignored and was uncared for many years. The Tirthankar idol was damaged by miscreants hoping that they might get some wealth by breaking the idol. Adding to this there were no Jain families near the temple except for one young lad who used to look after the temple and had to leave the place due to some personal reasons. As a result of this there were no care takers of this temple and remained uncared for a couple of years.
A Ray of Hope – However, around 8 years back Chandrashekar, a pious Jain shravaka from Belavalakoppa in Horanadu region (about 50 Kms from this region) had to leave his house in search of lively hood and was looking out to buy some land. He happen to buy 2 acres of land at Kalkere near Jayapura in Koppa taluk of Chikamagalur district. Chandrashekar’s arrival at Kalkere at a distance of 4 Kms from the temple was a ray of hope. A few other Jains from the neighboring towns approached Chandrashekar and requested him to look after this temple. A person who came in search of lively hood had to look after the Basadi as well. Though he agreed to look after, it was not an easy task given the economic condition of the Jains in the region. They had to repair the temple, install a new idol and conduct panchakalyana.
Installation of a new Idol – People were not sure about the Tirthankar idol to be installed. They approached Chandraraja Indra, a Jain priest from Padur near Moodabidri for further advice on this. Based on Ashtamangala prashne (questionnaire) it was decided that an idol of Lord Sheetalanath was to be installed here.
Panchakalyana – The 3 days panchakalyana for installing the new idol of Lord Sheetalanath was conducted on 22nd, 23rd & 24th May 2007 under the guidance of His Holiness Swasti Sri Lakshminsena Bhattaraka Swamiji of Narasmharajapura Jain Mutt.
Thanks to the joint efforts of Sri Chandrashekar, Dr.Niranjan Kumar of Sringeri, Dr.Jevendara Jain of Tirthahalli and Shanthakumar Jain of Jayapura they were able to complete the renovation & panchakalayana mahotsava at a cost of Rs. 1.2 lakhs.
Sheetalagiri – Owing to the fact that the temple is located on a small hillock and the main deity is Lord Sheetalanath, the hilock is named as Sheetalagiri.
Temple Structure – The entire temple is built of stone and is built over an elevated small hillock. It has a garbagriha which is around 5 feet X 5 feet and a hall like structure called as navaranga which is around 12X12 feet. A small Sri bali peeta is installed in front of the temple. An 18 inches high idol of Lord Sheetalanath in Kayotsarga (standing posture) is the main deity of this temple. This is installed on a stone platform. Infront of the main deity a Padmavati idol measuring about 9 inches is installed on another platform.
Period of temple’s construction – Though there isn’t any records or inscriptions related to the temple, looking at the architecture and style of construction we can conclude that the temple might be around 500 years old.
Kshetrapala Brahma Yaksha & Paduka – To the right of this temple are found two stones. One of these is worshiped as Kshetrapala Brahma Yaksha and the other stone has the carvings of a Jain monks feet impressions (paduka). It is believed that a Jain monk attained samadhi at this place and the feet impressions are installed in his memory.
Pooja & Rituals – All poojas and rituals are performed here as per the Digambar Jain principles. Apart from the nitya pooja, special pooja is performed on all the 9 days of Navaratri festival and deepotsava during Deepavali. Both Jains and non Jains from the surrounding region visit this temple.
Annual Pooja – The annual pooja of this temple is performed on March 24th every year.
Torch bearers of Jainism – Sri Chandrashekar & his family are the sole torch bearers of Jainism in this region. The produce from 2 acres of land held by the family is the only source of income. The family is striving very hard for their livelihood and to maintain the temple. I am short of words to appreciate the efforts of Sri Chandrashekar. He is reluctant to visit any other places as his absence will lead to discontinuation of daily pooja at the temple which is not recommended as per Jain tradition. Every day without fail he visits the temple at around 7.30 am to perform the nitya pooja. He travels through a distance of around 8 Kms every morning irrespective of the weather conditions in this high rainfall prone region of Karnataka. There are times when rain continues to pour in for days together without a break, inspite of this Sri Chandrashekar will not fail to visit the temple for Nitya Pooja. Chandrashekar’s dedication is highly commendable, kudos to him and his family for this great service to Jainism. Support from Jain community to such families will encourage such dedicated souls to work towards preserving our rich Jain heritage.
Location – Uttameshwara’s Sheetalanath Swamy temple is located a distance of around 9 Kms from Koppa, 23 Kms from N.R.Pura, 43 Kms from Hombuja (Humcha) and 11 Kms from Sringeri. While travelling towards N R Pura from Tirthahalli we pass through Koppa, before entering Koppa we will have to take a right turn towards the Jayapura road and travel around 12 Kms to reach Bhuvanakote circle. From Bhuvanakote circle we will have to take a right turn and travel for another 1.7 Kms to reach a spot with out any habitation around with forests all around. On reaching this spot we will have to walk for around 0.8 Kms in the midst of the forest to climb a small hillock to reach this temple.