Jainism is one of the major religions of the world and it originated in India. The essence of the Jain religion is very well reflected in their temples and shrines. The Jains follow the teachings of the Tirthankars. Jainism stresses on equality of all life with emphasis on non violence. To attain Keval Jnan or omniscience and self realisation perseverance and self control is essential. Jain monks practice strict ascetism while the laity strive to attain faith and do good while practising non violence. Pilgrimages are of special importance to the Jains as it helps them to associate with holy persons from the past. Some of these places are where religious events occurred in the past, others are where there are special temples or shrines and yet others are places where the enlightened ones left the world and achieved final liberation. Great merit accrues in these pilgrimages and the hardship of the journey is a form of austerity teaching control of the body and limits of endurance. The knowledge that one is treading the same path hallowed by many enlightened ones and the religious atmosphere of the holy places inspires a feeling of awe and reverence which help pilgrims onward on their spiritual quest.
As the journey means real hardship many well to do pilgrims perform service by helping others to go on pilgrimage. They organise a pilgrim ‘Caravan’ wherein they have along with them many pilgrims with cooks, guards, means of transport for the elderly like horses or vehicles and each one helps the other in making the arduous journey and completing it successfully. But the pious and devout in large numbers still make the difficult journey on foot. Most of the pilgrimage sites are always on top of hills or mountains distant from the centres of population and are often surrounded by solitude and scenic beauty conducive to peaceful prayer and meditation.
Jain Temple Architecture
Jain temples or Derasars are famous for their architectural splendour. The advanced and unique Jain architecture and art and the intricate carvings done have made them popular throughout the world. The main deity of a Jain temple is known as a Mulnayak. All Jain temples have marble pillars carved beautifully although there are differences between the Jain temples in North, South, East and West of India. Jain temples are also famous for their cleanliness and sacred atmosphere. The focus is on the image of the Tirthankara who is represented either sitting or standing in deep meditation. The image is generally naked or sometimes wearing a single cloth symbolising renunciation of worldly things. The chest is generally marked with a diamond shaped figure. Usually in a Digambara shrine the image is left unadorned while in a Shwetambara shrine the image is adorned with jewels. Each Tirthankar is represented by a symbol which is depicted on the pedestal. Most of the pilgrim centres associated with the temples provide simple hostel accommodation free of charge though most worshippers leave some money for the temple upkeep according to their means.
Places of Pilgrimage Sites
1. Sammet Shikhara or Mount Parsvanatha
2. Girnarji Teerth
3. Dilwara Temples Rajasthan
4. Palitana Temples Gujarat
5. Ranakpur Rajasthan
6. Shravanabelagola Karnataka
7. Bawanganja Madhya Pradesh
8. Ananthanath Swami Temple or Puliyarmala Jain Temple Kerala
Besides these there are famous temples and shrines in other states of India like Delhi, Maharashtra, Odisha and Tamil Nadu.
1. Pakistan- Punjab and Sind
4. Canada, Hong Kong
Every religion in the world has the tradition of pilgrimages to their sacred places as to pray and worship at a site made holy by consecration or tradition or the worship by generations of faithful devotees is truly uplifting and awe inspiring. The company of fellow pilgrims strengthens faith and devotion and the hardships of the journey discipline the body. The mind receives peace and the soul receives merit. None can undertake a journey to these pilgrimage sites hallowed by the past Divine Masters and return unmoved. The uplifting qualities and the splendour of these pilgrimage sites will always inspire man to move on to greater sublime heights of peace and bliss and attain Enlightenment.