History – This tirth is known as the eternal tirth. Palitana was previously called by the name Padliptapur. In olden times this mountain was also called Pundarikgiri. Palitana is a city of temples. Pilgrims come to Palitana, take a bath in the river, bow down to the 99 idols and cross the ocean of re-births. Lamenting over misfortunes, be they of personal or of general nature, is not to the liking of believers in Jainism. After the temples on the summit of Shetrunjay were sacked by Turkish Muslims in 1,311 – Muni Jinaprabhasuri, the author of the above quotation, was then in his fiftieth year the first reaction by leading Jains was not the thought of revenge but of how to repair the damage and to replace the desecrated images. True to this determination’, rebuilding began within two years; but most of what one sees on Shetrunjay today is of a much later date.
From the outside the ‘new’ Shetrunjay -.the hill ‘which conquers, enemies’ – looks like a fortress yet apparently there never was a garrison to defend it. ( enemies refers to our vices are meant that cause bad karma).
Climbing the 3750 steps on a bright early morning during the winter months of November to March is in itself already an experience that remains in one’s memory. .Articles of leather or fur must be left behind or deposited at the appropriate places near the entrance. Owners of cameras should inquire whether a written permit to photograph-is still required, and if so where it may be obtained.
For the Svetambar Jains Shetrunjay is the earliest and, next to Sammet Shikhar in Bihar, the most sacred mountain. Traditionally it was Adinath or Rishabhanatha, the first Tirthankara of our age, who is said to have sanctified the hill by visiting it to deliver his first sermon. However, it was not Rishabha, as sometimes stated, who died and attained salvation on Shetrunjay but his grandson Pundarika; thus Shetrunjay is also called Pundarikgiri.
Bharata, the father of Pundarika and half-brother of Bahubali, is likewise credited with having frequented Shatrunjaya and established a tirth about nine kilometres south of Palitana. There, on a hill near the river, a new complex of five temples is nearing completion bearing the name. Hastagiri, meaning ‘elephant hill’. Tradition has it that at this spot Bharata and his elephant obtained release from samsara, the cycle of perpetual rebirth.
Palitana is the name of the township which has, in close proximity, both a bus and a railway station. From here horse-drawn tongas take the visitor through the town and then along a straight road to the Jay Taleti Mandir at the foot of Shetrunjay. The last mile of this long road is lined with Dharmashala, temples, a museum and houses for monks and nuns respectively. In 1656 the Mughal governor of Gujarat, a Muslim, gave custody of Palitana to the Jaina merchant Shantidas Jhaveri.
For pilgrims visiting of foot there are three circumambulatory routes. The shortest leads round the temples along the outer wall; the other follows the foot of the mountain. The third, about forty kilometres long, frequents en route five temple sites where pilgrims may stay overnight before continuing their holy walk. The major event of the year takes place on the day of the full moon in the month of Phalgun (Feb./March) when some ten thousands of pilgrims go round the Shetrunjay hill, the ‘Lord of Peaks’.
In this avasarpinikala (the descending half of the wheel of time), the temple was renovated 16 times as under.
- First Renovation : By Chakravarti Bharata, the son of Bhagawan Adinath.
- Second Renovation : By the King named Dandavirya.
- Third Renovation : By Shri Ishaneshvar in the interim period between the times of the first and the second Tirthankara.
- Fourth Renovation : By Mahendra of the fourth upper world(Devlok).
- Fifth Renovation : By Brahmendra of the fifth upper world.
- Sixth Renovation : By Chamarendra, Indra of Bhavanapatis.
- Seventh Renovation : By Sagar Chakravarti, the second Chakravarti of the times of Bhagawan Ajitnath.
- Eighth Renovation : By Vyantarendra in the times of Abhinandan Swami.
- Ninth Renovation : By King Chandrayasha in the times of Chandraprabh Swami.
- Tenth Renovation : By Chakradhar, the son of Bhagawan Shantinath in the times of Bhagawan Shantinath.
- Eleventh Renovation : By Ramchandraji and Lakshamanji in the times of Munisuvrat Swami.
- Twelfth Renovation : By the five Pandavas in the times of Bhagawan Neminathji.
- Thirteenth Renovation : By Seth Javed Shah of Mahuva in the year 108 of the Vikram era. He spent a million gold mohurs. In exuberance of joy, he died and was re-born in the fourth upper world (Devlok).
- Fourteenth Renovation : By the advisor Bahud in the times of Kumarpal in the year 1213 of the Vikram era.
- Fifteenth Renovation : By Shri Samara Shah in the year 1371 of the Vikram era.
- Sixteenth Renovation : By Shri Karama Shah of Chittor on the auspicious sixth day of the dark half of the month of Vaishakh in the year 1587 of the Vikram era.
The renovations mentioned above, give us a glimpse of the antiquity of the tirth.. The auspicious occasion of bathing the idol in holy water on the mountain was splendidly celebrated. The festival of the last installation of the idol by Seth Rajnikant Mohanlal Zaveri (Devadi) and Seth Shantichand Balubhai Zaveri was celebrated under the inspiration of His Holiness Acharya Vijaychandradaysurisvarji Maharaj Saheb on the sixth day of the bright half of the month of Posh in the year 2047 of the Vikram era in the presence of 27 Acharyas 3200 Sadhu Sadhvis and lakhs of Shravakas and Shravakas. This splendid festival reminded one of the sixteen old renovations and the city of Palitana looked majestic like Indra’s capital. Here in exuberance of joy, the heart of Rajnibhai stopped functioning and he left for a higher state of life. Even today necessary renovations are being made by the Svetambar Jain Sangha and the Anandji Kalyanji Trust. Leader of the Sangha of Mt. Shetrunjay.
On Mt. Shetrunjay, there were many Sangha leaders from Chakravarti Bharat to Samara Shah and even the present times have seen many Sangha leaders. Many sanghs come on foot or in vehicles to pilgrimage this mountain. Pilgrims, who come on foot follow the necessary code of conduct, devote themselves to penance or worship and devoutly reach the sacred place.
From this holy mountain, many infinite souls went and will go to Moksa. Twenty-three Tirthankara other then Neminath put their on feet on land and added to its holiness. Everyone wishes touch the sand made holy by the touch of feet of Adinath in order to get liberated from good and bad karma and attain Moksha. As the navkar mantra is great and beneficent, so Mt. Shetrunjay is great and beneficent.
The Jaytaleti : In the Jaytaleti, there are 28 temples in all. In them, there are 41 foot-idol. Pilgrims visit at least five temples and the first of them is the Jaytaleti. Pilgrims put the sand of this place on their head and go further and bow down to the idol in the Dharmadas Jain Temple. Then of they reach the beautiful and artistic temple with a vast open square. The chief idol there is of Bhagawan Adishwar. In front of the temple, there is a temple of Pundarika Swami. Inside, there is Jalmandir on the left-hand side. There is an idol of Bhagawan Adishwar standing in deep meditation. There is mini-Shetrunjay with nine peaks. The pilgrims who cannot climb the mountain can bow down the idol there.
There is a temple of Saraswatidevi near the Samavasaran temple to the right of the road ascending from the Jaytaleti to the mountain. The serene idol of Saraswatidevi on the goose is very ancient and impressive Here gurus and pundits practiced penance. School-going children are specially brought here. This temple was installed in the year 1860 of the Vikram era. The Jain religion is great and its tirths are spectacular and wonderful. Showing the worship of the worshippers, charitability of the donors, sadhana of spiritual endeavourers and equanimity of Sadhus, these tirths inspire the pilgrims to cross the ocean of samsara.
The Samavasaran temple is the symbol of this aim. It presents many tirths at the same place. The 108 life-sketches are excellent works of sculpture. They are splendid beyond imagination. For scholars who are thirsty of knowledge and for lovers of sculpture, this is a small University. There are idols of Tirthankara facing temple the 108 idols of Bhagawan Parshvanath in the Samavasaran temple. The 108 ft. high on the vast piece of land built near babudera at the height of 81 ft. from the foot of the Mt. was built under inspiration of His Highness Acharya Vijaychandradaysurisvarji. In took 14 year of hard work to build it. Outside, one sees the wall paintings of Jain tirths. They are tons painted in various colors. Above all, the Ashok tree and the Chaitra tree weighing 500 are there. On the gem-pillar, there is a clinches high, four-mouthed idol of Bhagawan Mahavir Swami. It seems as if he is giving sermons.
Going further, one comes to the hado of Hingraj. Ambikadevi is known here by the name of Hingarajmata, the presiding deity on this hill. In ancient times, the pilgrims sometimes lost their way on the hills. They then prayed to Hingarajmata and found their way. This peaceful and lovely place is most suitable for sadhana. Even today, one sees the miracles of Padmavatidevi. On seeing the Tonk of the main temple of Dada and the summits of the nine tonks, one dances with joy. Then passing by the temple of Varikhijj, the Hirakund, the temples of Ram, Bharat and Thavachchaputra, one reaches Hanumandhara. Here, the road to the right leads to navtonk and the road to the left to the tonk of Dada.
On the way to Navtonk, there is an entrance window. Entering the window, one comes to the shrine of Angarsha, the Muslin saint. In the Muslim age, a Muslim King erected it for protection of the tirth.
Then one comes to the Narsinh Kesharji tonk built by Narsinh Kesharji in the year 1921 of the Vikram era. The chief idol there is of Bhagawan Shantinath. Then there is the tonk of Chaumukhji. It is the highest tonk on the mount. It was renovated by Seth Sadasomji in the year 1975 of the Vikram era.
Behind this tonk, there are idols of Pandavas. The Chhipavasahi tonk was built by Chhipa brothers in the year 1791 of the Vikram era. The chief idol is of Bhagawan Adinath. The Sakarvasahi tonk was built by Seth Sakalchand Premchand in the year 1893 of the Vikram era. The chief idol is of Bhagawan Chintamani Parshvanath. The Nandishvar tonk was built by Smt. Ujambai in the year 1893 of the Vikram era. The main idol is of Bhagawan Chandranan. The Hemvasahi tonk was built by Seth Hemabhai of Ahmedabad in the year 1886 of the Vikram era. The chief idol is of Bhagawan Adinath. The Premvasahi tonk was built by Premchand Modi in the year 1843 of the Vikram era. The chief idol is Bhagawan Adishwar. The Balavasahi tonk was built by Balabhai in the year 1893 of the Vikram era. The tonk of Motisha Seth was built by Seth Shri Motisha in the year 1893 of the Vikram era. The chief idol is of Bhagawan Adishwar.
Besides all the above tonks, the vast multitude of temples adds to the glory and grandeur of the mountain. Behind the mountain, there are Pages of gheti (ewe’s feet). There are ancient foot-idols of Bhagawan Adishwar. The road outside the chief tonk, leads there. The return journey to this place, brings a double reward.
Then comes Rampol. It is an artistic and beautiful gateway to Mokshanagar, the city of temples. The road to the left is the round road of 6 gaus. (1 gau = 3.2 kms). To the right of Rampol, there is a water-hut. It is built by Manibhai Lalbhai of the Jivanamani Sadvachanmala Trust. On entering Rampol, one comes to the tonk of Seth Motasha. Then there is a five peaked temple. Then one comes to the three-peaked temple. The Sagalpol is a resting-place for women who carry children to school. The road passing between Sagarpol and the Motasha tonks leads to Gheti’s paga (ewe’s foot-idols). Then there are Vaghanpol, the tonk of Vimal Vasahi, the temple of Bhagawan Shantinath and the small temples of Shri Chakreshvaridevi and Shri Padmavatidevi. In front of the small temples, there is a temple of Kavad Yaksha. Then there is an artistic temple of Bhagawan Neminath. It has a raised square in it. Further, there is a Paap-punya window with a statue of a female camel. The pilgrim is supposed to pass between her legs. It is, therefore, also called the Moksha-window. Thus passing by a number of temples, one reaches Hathipol. The new gate of Hathipol is splendid and delightful. There are lovely stone elephants on both sides. Then one comes to the temple of Bhagawan Adishwar. On seeing the chief idols of Bhagawan Adinath in the beautiful large temple with a series of domes and charming high summits, the heart of the worshippers dances with joy, the soul delights and the worshippers respectfully bow their heads down to the feet of God. The exhaustion of the pilgrims who have climbed 3800 steps is instantly removed.
The construction of the temple is wonderful, elegant and very artistic. 1245 pitchers and 21 idols of lions brightly shine in the temple. The four yoginis, the ten digpals, 72 dev-kulikas, the four gavaxesx, the 32 dolls and the 32 torarchs, make the temple look very beautiful and extraordinary.
As the tonk of Dada has three (paradakshinas) round side-passages, all small as well as big temples can be seen. The round side-passage represent knowledge, faith and conduct. Passing through the first passage, one sees the Sahasrakund temple, the foot-idols under the Rayan tree, the temple of idols of feet of Ganadhar and the temple of Simandhar Swami. Passing through the second passage, one sees the new temple of Bhagawan Adishwar, Mt. Meru, the temple of Samavasaran and the temple of Sammet Shikhar. Passing through the third passage one sees the temple of Astapad, the new tonk, the temple of Gandhariya Chaumukhji and the temple of Chaumukhji.
In this holy city of temples there are very many temples. Among them, the Vardhaman Jain Agam Mandir, the Minakari temple, the Jambudvip temple and the Kesariyaji temple are unsurpassed and extraordinary.
There is a Digamabar Jain temple also among these Swetamabar Jain temples.
How to Reach – It is on the Shetrunjay Mt. at a distance of nearly six kilometers near the city of the bank of the river Shetrunjay. The nearest railway station is Palitana. It is at a distance of 48 kilometers from Bhavnagar and 30 kilometers from Shihor. Bus service and private vehicles are available here. The foot of the hill is at a distance of 105 kilometers from Palitana. The ascending road from the foot of the hill to the main Tonk, is four kilometers long. There is a provision for palki for weak and old people. In Palitana, there are nearly 150 Dharmashala with modern facilities. Under the inspiration of His Holiness Vijayvishalsen Surisvarji Maharaj Saheb, the vast Jain Kala Sansthan Museum is recently built at the foot of the hill near Shri Kesariyaji temple. It is intended to preserve the very ancient cultural heritage of the Jain religion.
Main Deity – Nearly 216 cms. high, white-colored idol of Bhagawan Adinatha in the Padmasana posture. The boarding and lodging facilities are available. Digamabar Jain dharamshala is at Bhairavpura.