There is no ‘bucket list’ - Lynne and I are both well, thank you – but we have arrived at a point in our lives where we have the time, the money and the good health to indulge in a passion for travel. We know how lucky and privileged we are to be able to do this, and we know it won’t last for ever, but while it does…..

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Three Favourite Jain Temples

I have not posted a ‘three favourites’ since May 2012, so it is past time for another one.

The origins of the Jainism which has over 4 million adherents in India, are lost in the mists of time. Based on the teachings of the twenty-four Tīrthaṅkaras, humans who achieved liberation and help others to do the same, Jains seek nirvana through personal wisdom and self-control. Mahavira, the 24th and last Tīrthaṅkar of the current half cycle (24 more are expected) was a historical figure who lived from 599-527 BC.

The Symbol of Jainism (thanks Wikipedia)
The swastika was an eastern sign of peace long before it was stolen and perverted in the mid 20th century 
Jain philosophy emphasises non-violence to all living creatures, truthfulness and asceticism. Jains are vegetarians – many are vegans - who also eschew onions and garlic and sometimes all root vegetables. They give great importance to education - the literacy rate among Jains is above 95% compared with 74% for India as a whole.

Shravanabelgola  Feb 2010

I do not have many Jain Temples to choose from, but I do have the best; readers of the Times of India voted the statue of Gomateshvara at Shravanabelgola the ‘No. 1 Wonder of India’ - the Taj Mahal came third.

The head of Gomateshavar at Shravanabelgola
We detoured to Shravanabelgola while travelling north from Mysore. Chandragupta the founder of the Mauryan Empire, the first empire to unite most of what is now India, abdicated in 298 BC to become a Jain monk and died here shortly after.

The small town was full of pilgrims and as we pulled up the car was surrounded by people trying to sell us socks, which seemed odd.

As we walked to the base of the mountain the reason for the sock salesmen became obvious. In all Indian temples everyone is required to remove their shoes, but here you must then climb a set of steps cut into the rock face. We looked at the steps baking quietly in the hot morning sun and bought some socks.

Up the steps, Shravanabelgola
For the elderly and infirm there are sedan chairs, canvas seats slung between bamboo poles. Spotting a couple of (presumably) rich westerners they made straight for us. Sorry lads, we have already bought the socks.
Sedan chair, Shravanabelgola
We set off up the hill following a group of school children, two bus-loads of teenagers all dressed in 'English style' school uniforms, grey trousers or pleated skirts, white shirt with school tie and heavy woollen blazers. Predictably we had not gone far before encountering a prostrate thirteen year old girl, being looked after by a couple of concerned teachers. I assumed they knew what they were doing, but my advice would have started with 'take off your blazer and loosen your tie.'

‘Belagola’ meaning 'white pond' and as we climbed the hot rocks we could look back down to the pool that gives the town its name.

The White Pond, Shravanabelgola
Near the top we passed two women who insisted I take their photograph and were delighted when I showed them the picture on my camera. This happens surprisingly often and I usually delete the pictures, but I kept this one.

Two ladies, Shravanabelgola

Gomateshvara was the second of the hundred sons of the first Tīrthaṅkara. Arguing with his older brother, he hoisted him above his head and was about to dash him to the ground when he realised what he was doing. Placing his brother down gently he stayed where he was to meditate, standing so still for so long that the vines started to grow round his arms and legs.

Gomateshvara, Shravanabelgola
The temple is little more than a paved rectangle surrounded by a concrete wall. Gomateshvara stands by the back wall, ‘sky clad’ and 17m tall, with a benign half smile on his face as plants begin to twist themselves around his limbs.
Gomateshvara, Shravanabelgola
He is the largest monolithic statue in the world and has stood here since the tenth century. Every twelve years there is a major festival, scaffolding is placed round the statue so that monks can pour milk and ghee over his head and cover him with saffron and gold coins.
Refreshing coconuts, Shravanabelgola

We paid our respects to this symbol of peace and serenity and made our descent, rewarding ourselves with a refreshing coconut after our efforts in the hot sun.

Badami Cave Temples

Three days later and a couple of hundred kilometres further north, though still in the state of Karnatica, is the small town of Badami.

The small artificial Lake Agastya sits in a rocky canyon.

Lake Agastya, Badami
Its main function is to provide laundry facilities for local people…
Laundry in Lake Agastya, Badami

….but on one of the sandstone walls four cave temples have been hollowed out.

Badami Cave Temples
Few foreigners come this way, but there are plenty of Indian visitors….
Indian tourists, Badami Cave Temples
The lower three caves are Hindu, the fourth is Jain…

Jain Temple, Badami Cave Temples
 ….where, surrounded by carvings, Mahavira sits cross legged, serenely surveying the world he has left behind.
Mahavira, Badai Cave Temples


About as far south as you can go down the coast of Karnatica before arriving in Kerala is the Hindu temple city of Udupi. Making an excursion to the north we reached the small town of Karkala. In the Hindu temple we received a long lecture about the ‘oneness of everything’ from an aged one-toothed priest whose thoughtful and gentle approach even impressed our driver Thomas, a devout Keralan Christian with a tendency to dismiss Hindus as idol worshippers.

The Jain Temple above the town was less interesting, being just a small copy of Shravanabelgola with a priest who seemed overly interested in obtaining a donation.

A much smaller Gomateshvara, Karkali

The ‘favourite’ temple here is actually Karkali’s second Jain Temple, which we did not visit, but it sits so spectacularly among the palm trees that I had to include it.

The 'other temple', Karkali
see also
Three Favourite...............

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