About The Place: The hustling, dusty town of Palitana, 51km southwest of Bhavnagar, has grown rapidly to serve the pilgrim trade around the Shatrunjaya Hill. The sacred site contains hundreds of shrines that were sanctified when Rishabha, the first Tirthankara of Jainism, gave his first sermon in the temple on the hilltop. Even though the climb to the temples is a rigorous one, it awards a dazzling sight of the intricately carved temples. During the Kartik Purnima festival, accommodation around town floods with pilgrims and is best booked in advance.
One of Jainism’s holiest pilgrimage sites, Shatrunjaya is an incredible hill studded with temples, built over 900 years. It is said that Adinath (also known as Rishabha), the founder of Jainism, meditated beneath the rayan tree at the summit. The temples are grouped into tunks (enclosures), each with a central temple flanked by minor ones. The summit is situated at an elevation (height) of 7,288 feet (2,221 m). Reaching it involves climbing over 3,750 stone steps. to the temples adds to the extraordinary experience. Most days, hundreds of pilgrims make the climb; crowds swell into the thousands around Kartik Purnima, which marks the end of Chaturmas, a four-month period of spiritual retreat and material self-denial that coincides with the monsoon season. White robed monks walk past you. As you near the top of the hill, the track forks. The main entrance, Ram Pole, is reached by bearing left, though the best views are to the right, where on a clear day you can see the Gulf of Cambay. Inside the Nav Tonk Gate, one path leads left to the shrine of Angar Pir – a Muslim saint who protected the temples from a Mughal attack. To the right, the second tunk you reach is the Chaumukhji Tunk, containing the Chaumukh (Four-Faced Shrine), built in 1618 by a Jain merchant. Images of Adinath, the first Jain tirthankar (believed to have attained enlightenment here), face the four cardinal directions. You can easily spend a couple of hours wandering among the hundreds of temples up here. The biggest and one of the most splendid and important, with a fantastic wealth of detailed carving, is the Adinath Temple, on the highest point on the far (south) side. People who walk down grab a bowl of curd from scores of sellers to restore their energy.
The hill holds a very special and pious place in the hearts of devout Jains. The sanctity of the Palitana temples lies in the fact that as per Shatrunjaya Mahatmya – the holy Jain texts – the 1st Tirthankara called Rishabh had delivered his very first sermon here and had successfully sanctified the hills. Later on his grandson, Pundarika is said to have attained his nirvana here in the Shatrunjaya hills (the first and initial name of the current Shatrunjaya hills were named Pundarikgiri. The hills are also said to have been visited several times by Bharata Chakravartin – the father of Pundarik and half-brother of Baahubali. A temple built by him dedicated to honour the life of his father Rishabh. If legends and mythological aspects are to be believed then a number of other tirthankaras are also said to have paid a holy visit to these hills making it even more pious and sacred.
Architecture of the Temple
These temples have a unique architectural style. The ornamentation is such that in sunlight their appear to have been made up of ivory. One of the temples, Adishwar is considered to be the holiest one among all. The other temples include Sampriti Raj, Adinath, Kumarpal and Bimal Shah. The images of the deity are made up of marble and are beautified by gold ornaments studded with precious stones.
The Jain temple of the Digambars is one of the ancient temples. It contains nine shrines with a number of idols of the Tirthankaras encrypted on it. The main temple consists of the idol of Bhagwan Shantinath. This idol is 42 inch in height and is made up of pure white marble. In this temple beautiful idols of Bhima, Arjuna and Yudhisthir have also been also installed.
Things to Do
Bhavnagar – Located at a distance of 51 km from the temple town of Palitana there are places you could visit here with your family like – Victoria park, Khodiya Mandir, Nishkalank Mahadev temple etc.
Vallabhipur – This tourist attraction is located in the northern region from Palitana which used to once be the capital for Palitana. You can check out the ruins and the museum here which is very informative.
Lothal – Connected by a good network of roads is the site of the pre historic Indus valley civilisation. Lothal is one of the most crucial ruins that depict the life and times of the by gone era and a trip here will feel like you have stepped back in time.
How to Reach:
By Air – The closest airport for Palitana is located in Bhavnagar which is situated at a distance of about 51 km. the airport caters to a large number of flights from all the major and minor cities in India like Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad etc. taxi services for Palitana can be availed here.
By Train – The closest railhead is also located in Bhavnagar at a distance of around 55 – 56 km. it is well connected by various trains from Ahmedabad and several trains running in Gujarat have their stoppages here.
By Road – The road to the temple complex is very well connected. One can avail the services of the state-run transportation that runs from Ahmedabad, Bhavnagar, Una and Talaja etc.
Best Time to Visit:
Being located in a wide-open space on a hilly terrain the temperature here remains pleasant throughout the year. The summer time which sets the day temperature to as high as 40-degree Celsius can be a good time to visit if the heat doesn’t bother you much. The complex remains shut down for Darshan during the monsoon season. The onset of winter is probably one of the best times to visit which falls during the months of October to February when the temperature stays between 10 to 24-degree Celsius. Apart from the weather being cleared the surrounding beauty during this time is elevated even more to lush greenery.