Amongst all the Jain temples, Palitana temples are considered to be the most sacred. Located on Shetrunjaya hills there are 863 temples, exquisitely carved in marble. No one is allowed to sleep overnight including the priest, because the temple city has been built as an abode for the Gods. The town is considered by many Jains to be more important than the temple covered hills of Bihar, Gwalior, Mt Abu and Girnar. Palitana was the capital of a princely state of the Gohil Rajput clan. It is also one of the greatest tourist attractions in Gujarat for foreign tourists.
The act of ascending a path to reach a place of pilgrimage is a part of the Hindu and Jain consciousness, which is why many of their holiest temples are located along hills and mountain ranges. The Jains have five separate hill locations for their holiest clusters of temples and Shatrunjaya Hill, Palitana is considered the most important among them. Another group is in Girnar (Junagadh), not too far away, while others are in Rajasthan and Maharashtra.
Palitana houses perhaps the largest cluster of Jain temples anywhere. From the base to the peak of the Shatrunjaya Hill, where the Palitana temples are located, there are in all 863 temples. These temples were built in two phases-the 11th and 12th centuries as a part of the resurgence of temple building all over India, and in the 16th century. Some of the earliest temples built in the 11th century were destroyed by Muslim invaders in the 14th and 15th centuries. The current temples date back to 16th century onwards. Not any one person or group was responsible for the construction of these magnificent temples. It was the effort of the wealthy businessmen who were followers of Jainism that these buildings came into existence.
Pilgrimage Attractions of Palitana – The Temples
The temples are exquisitely carved in marble, veritable prayers in stone. To an observer, these appear to be ivory miniatures when seen from a distance. Created by master craftsmen, the most important temple is that of the first teerthankara, Shri Adishwar. It has ornate architectural motifs, though in its overall plan it is simpler than the Choumukh. Other notable temples are those of Kumarpal, Vimalshah and Sampriti Raja. Kumarpal Solanki, a great Jain patron, probably built the earliest temple. The temple has a fabulous collection of jewels, and these can be seen with special permission. The temples date from 11th to the 20th century. Palitana town is a good place to shop for textile related handicrafts and has a Jain kala sansta.
The entire summit of majestic mount Shatrunjaya is crowned with about 900 temples, each rivaling the other for beauty and magnificence, presenting an awe-inspiring spectacle to devotees and visitors. The peak is a 3 ½ km climb of over 3500 steps from the town. The cluster of over 800 temples is divided into tuks. Throughout the cluster you can see detailed carvings, beautiful idols and images, jeweled statues and intricate toranas. Sunrise behind the temples is a great sight. One can enjoy views from the summit of the hills and the river Shetrunjaya. On a clear day, the Gulf of Cambay seacoast can be seen. Commanding a special place on the Gujarat travelers' map, Palitana is a `must visit' destination for the Jains and all those who would like to witness what the subtle combination of human enterprise, architectural skills, philanthropy and channelised religious fervour can achieve. The mount Shatrunjaya lies hardly a kilometer away from the town, the way, which is now thronged on both the sides by sarais and minor temples, including Kala Bhandars (museums). The mountain is associated with Rishabhdev, the first tirthankar, also known as Adinath. It is believed that all the tirthankars, except Neminath, attained nirvan here. The multitude of temples, half palaces, half fortresses and made of splendid marble, with their spires aiming the skies present a spectacle unmatched for its scale and magnitude.
Every devout Jain aspires to climb to the top of the mountain at least once in his lifetime, because of its sanctity. The journey is arduous. The walk up the stone stairway hewn into the mountain face takes about an hour and a half. For those unable or unaccustomed to the strain, sling-chairs are available at a bargain. The code for the climbers is stringent, in keeping with the rigours of the Jain faith. Food must neither be eaten nor carried on the way. The descent must begin before it is evening, for no soul can remain atop the sacred mountain during the night. Such is the mystique of Palitana, the summit of Shatrunjaya. While atop one can also visit a Muslim shrine of Angar Pir. The childless women seek the Pir's blessings to be blessed with children. They offer miniature cradles to the Pir and the shrine is strewn with such cradles.
Location and Transport
Palitana is located in the western Indian state of Gujarat, 51 km south west of Bhavnagar. It is a part of the Saurashtra region famed for its spectacular temple sites, cities, beautiful beaches, and wildlife. The town has a good road and rail network that connects it to the other cities of Gujarat, especially Bhavnagar.
By Air :
Bhavnagar, the nearest airport lies at a distance of 51 kilometer from Palitana, but the most convenient airport is Ahmedabad as it is connected through regular flights to many important cities of the country like Mumbai and Delhi.
By Rail :
Palitana is a small railway station and has connection only with Bhavnagar. Most of the trains stop at Sihor, which is connected to Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar. The railway station at Palitana is improving and it is going to soon have direct trains from Mumbai and Ahmedabad. Best way is to take a train to bhavnagar and go by road to palitana using local transport.
By Road :
There are hourly buses for Bhavnagar from Palitana. Regular buses are also available for Ahmedabad, Talaja, Una, and Diu. The total journey time to Una or Diu is around 6 hours as the roads are not in a good condition. Taxis are also available on hire for Palitana from Bhavnagar. The bus stand is situated 800 meters away from the Palitana railway station. Since Palitana is an important destination for a lot of people who follow Jainism, and the fact that there are a lot of people in Mumbai (Bombay ), there are buses that run daily between Mumbai and Palitana.
Because of its sanctity, every devout Jain aspires to climb to the top of the mountain at least once in his lifetime. The journey is arduous. The walk up the stone stairway hewn into the mountain face takes about an hour and a half. For those unable or unaccustomed to the strain, sling-chairs are available at a bargain. The code for the climbers is stringent, in keeping with the rigours of the Jain faith. Food must neither be eaten nor carried on the way.
108 Samvasaran Mandir :
The temple in the town of Palitana has 108 idols and sculptures.
Jain museum :
Palitana has 2 trust run Jain museums, The Shri Vishal Jain Kala Sansthan and the Stapitya kala graha, which showcase the cloth paintings, manuscripts, palm leaf books, book covers, ivory sculpture and paintings on ivory and figurines.
The climate of Palitana is generally pleasant. The summer season continues from March to June, with daytime temperature reaching 40°C.The monsoon reaches Palitana in July and remains there till September. Winter sets in around October and continues till February. The summer temperatures range from 24°C to 42°C and winter temperatures range from 10°C to 24°C.