Jainism is one of the oldest religions originated in the Indian subcontinent. Though the modern history says that bhagvan Mahaveer (24th Tirthankar) established Jainism as we know it today, the Jains claims that it exists since the inception of the universe and it is eternal.
I was introduced to Jainism when I married in a Jain family. Jainism’s fundamental tenets are very simple hence very difficult to follow. Ahimsa (Non violence or non injury), Anekantavada (Many sided reality or truth), Aprigraha (Non attachment) and finally Asceticism. These principles are common to Hinduism and Buddhism however Jainism has developed these doctrines into much concrete systems especially non violence and asceticism. Their food choices explain a lot about this. Jains are basically vegetarians however their eating regulations are highly evolved and specific in order to practice non violence as much as possible. Jains avoid eating roots,bulbs, leafy greens etc. They have specific rules regarding fasting, what to eat/not eat on certain lunar days. This sounds extremely tedious and obscure to an outsider however these regulations have a strong scientific base and honestly it is less uncomfortable than generally perceived. The religion itself in fact, is very scientifically developed to cater it’s fundamentals.
In the ancient times, Jains built temple cities over hills or mountains which they believed to be gateways to Moksha (liberation). These cities took decades and many generations to materialize.
The architecture, heavily influenced by contemporary Hindu and Buddhist architectures, was still different and original in many ways. For example, in a Hindu temple the basic structure consists a sanctum and a hall where as a basic Jain temple has four faced open structure. Jain temples are mainly carved in stone and marble with negligible use of bricks. The structures are excessively, intricately and symmetrically carved. The dome, pillars, sanctum, metal fittings.. almost everything will be carved.
Jains have temples but they don’t have gods. These temples are shrines to tirthankars (the enlightened and liberated men) who are spiritual teachers. Jainism focuses on inculcating the teachings by worshipping the teacher. This concept is again common to both Hinduism and Buddhism where teachers or gurus are equivalent to Gods.
The magnificent temples at Dilwara are a must visit if you are around Mount Abu or Udaipur, Rajasthan. Unfortunately they don’t allow photography anymore however they are some of the most heavily carved, hypnotizing temples I have ever seen. The dome or ceilings have mind-boggling layered carvings which I would like to believe were carved as a part of meditation. The elements of these carvings – lotus, flower buds, petals, Kalasha and scenes from Jain mythology are said to be part of Yantras (machines) – a mystical diagram used as an aid for meditation and channelizing positive energies.
Jain architecture is tasteful, magnificent, mind-blowing but above all it has a philosophy. Jain architecture, to me, epitomizes order and focus.
These photos were clicked at Palitana, Gujrat, Girnar Jain temples, Junagad, Gujrat and Ranakpur, Rajasthan.