This temple is an amalgamation of ancient and modern Jain architecture - quite contemporary in design, unlike the ancient Jain temples which were highly ornamented and richly carved. It is a complex of smaller temples with the main temple having idols of Jain saints, placed within delicately carved pillared niches.
The temple is a vast complex costructed with white sandstone, and has cupolas of red sandstone along with the chhatris & spires visible from all around. A huge statue of Shantinath, one of the Jain fordmakers, stands as high as 32 feet and there is a tower where the footsteps of Mahavira have been consecrated. It is a spendid sight to view the temple at night when lights illuminate the entire complex. The best time to visit is March-April.
The legend behind the construction of this temple is rather quaint; it is believed that a local milkman observed that his cow, after a long day’s grazing, would return in the evening with her udders empty. Obviously puzzled, the man followed the cow, and discovered that the creature would stand atop a nearby hillock and allow all her milk to flow away on it.
A little bit of digging by the milkman revealed an idol of Mahavirji buried in the hillock. A temple was built to mark the spot and it is still, centuries later, an important center of pilgrimage for devout Jains.
Main Jain Pilgrimage Center
The town of Sri Mahavirji is one the most popular Jain pilgrimages in India for here is one of the holiest Jain temples in Rajasthan. The Shri Mahavirji temple on the banks of the river Gambhir was built in white marble in honour of Mahavira, the 24th Jain saint. The temple has a nice legend attached to it. The story goes that a couple of centuries ago there was a cow which would leave home in the morning and return in the evening. Nothing wrong with that, but when it did come home its uddurs would be empty. To solve this mystery, the cow’s owners son followed it one day and discovered that the animal stopped at a particular stop and emptied itself of all the milk it had. Intrigued, the cowherd began to dig at this spot and discovered a statue of Mahavir.
Perched on a raised white marble platform, the Mahavirji temple is an amalgamation of ancient and modern Jain architecture. While ancient Jain temples were highly ornamated and richly carved, the Mahavirji temple is contemporary in design. Like most Jain temples, this one too is a complex of smaller temples. Inside the main temple are seated idols of Jain saints, placed within delicately carved pillared nichés.
A huge statue of Shantinath, one of the Jain fordmakers, stands as high as 32 feet, casting a noble eye on disciples below. Nearby is a tall tower crowned with a balcony. But perhaps the most splendid aspect of the temple is when night descends. Thousands of lights illuminate the entire complex, making it seems like a festival of lights in itself. The best time to visit Sri Mahavirji is during march and April when a festival adds to its splendour.
Location and Transport
Among the holiest of Jain shrines is the temple of Sri Mahavirji near Sawai Madhopur in Rajasthan. Situated in the village of Chandanpur, on the bank of the Gambhir River, Sri Mahavirji attracts thousands of devotees every year. People from across India and even abroad come here to worship, to offer prayers and to seek blessings.
The nearest railway station is that of Mahavirji (Chandanpur), 7 km from the temple. The station, which is 175 km from the state capital at Jaipur, lies on the main Delhi-Mumbai line. There are frequent trains from both metro cities. From the Mahavirji station, buses (free of charge for all pilgrims) go to the temple and back.
Regular buses connect Mahavirji to Sawai Madhopur, Kota, Jaipur, Delhi, Gwalior, Meerut and other major cities in north India. Alternately, private cars and taxis can be hired from Jaipur, Delhi or Agra.
Accommodation at Sri Mahavirji is provided by the temple trust. It’s very basic accommodation, but clean and comfortable. Rooms cost between Rs 10 and Rs 100 a night; food is also relatively inexpensive. Sawai Madhopur (which is 110 km from the temple) and Jaipur (175 km away) offer a much wider range of accommodation facilities, and are close enough for you to make a day trip to Sri Mahavirji from either of these cities.
Best time to visit
The period between Chaitra (March-April) and Vaishakh (April-May) is when the Sri Mahavirji annual fair is held. It’s an occasion for great rejoicing, and definitely the best time to visit the shrine. If you can’t make it during Chaitra or Vaishakh, try and time your visit for the winter. Summers can be unbearably hot in Rajasthan, and it’s really not advisable, no matter how devout you may be, to go travelling at this time.