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The Bhattaraks & The Ancient Digambar Jain Temple of Amer

Earlier last year, in the month of April I decided to explore Amer. On a hiatus from trekking in the hills near Jaipur I was looking for some backyard exploration. Someone tipped me about an old Digambar Jain temple. I was told that this Jain temple was built around the time Jaipur was founded. It turned out to be a Digambar Jain Nasiyan.  As I approached this Jain temple, the surroundings reminded me of the era in which it was built.

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The door and gateway looks ancient
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Digamabara Jain Temple, Amer

This Digambar Jain Nasiyan is historic and was built between V.S. 1678-91/ 1621-1634 AD. this Temple is dedicated to 13th Jain Tirthankar Swami Vimalnath and his idol, dates back to 1585 AD or Samvat 1642. Although the main idol in this temple is Swami Vimalnath there are idols of other Tirthankars as well. These idols are from 1469 AD or Samvat 1526 to 1599 AD or Samvat 1656. The year mentioned in this temple like all other ancient temples is in Vikram Samvat (V.S.) commonly referred as Samvat.

Jump to the bottom if you want to learn more about Vikram Samvat.

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Digambara Jain Temple, Amer. Old blends with new!
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Not everything is new! Digambara Jain Temple, Amer

 

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Idol of Tirthankara Vimalnath at Digambara Jain Temple, Amer

The highlight of this temple is beautiful Kirti Stambh made from white marble of Makrana, Rajasthan.

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Marble Kirti Stambh. Digambara Jain Temple, Amer

Makrana white marble is one of the best white marbles available across the world. It continues to be the most popular choice among the sculptors till date. Taj Mahal, a UNESCO world heritage site is constructed from Makrana white marble. This Kirti Stambh is unlike others as it housed in a covered canopy. Usually, Kirti Stambh is established in an open area. The purpose of this Stambh is to mark an achievement & allow everyone to witness and register. Quite likely this enclosure must have been built in later years to save it from weathering by natural elements.

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Bhattaraka on Kirti Stambh. Digambara Jain Temple, Amer

This Kirti Stambh has a dimension of 12′ 6″ by 4′ 7″ and has 10 vertical sections. Each of these section has 12 units having an idol of Bhattarak.

Jump to the bottom if you want to learn more about Bhattarak.

There is a pattern followed in this stambh. The Bhattaraks are depicted in either Padmasana or Khadasana. Bhattaraks in Khadasana position are holding Kamandalu.

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A closer look at Kirti Stambh

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Kirti Stambh depicts Bhattraks from V.S. 4/ 53 BC to V.S. 1883/ 1826 AD. This Kirti Stambh has 101 Bhattaraks starting from 1st Bhattark Bhadrabahu to Devedrakirti. Few units are vacant. This Kirti Stambh charts and documents Digambara Jain Bhattraks in a single stone, it has immense importance from the religious perspective.

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Temple premise house 4 Chhatri with Charan Paduka of Bhattaraks.

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Chhatris of Bhattaraka

First such Chhatri of Bhattarak Devendrakirti was established during the reign of Maharajah Jai Singh I of Amer. Second Chhatri having Charan Paduka of Bhattarak Narendra Kirti was built in V.S. 1722/ 1665 AD; third Chhatri of Bhattarak Surendra Kirti in V.S. 1733/ 1676 AD and fourth Chhatri of Bhattarak Jagat Kirti in V.S. 1770/ 1713 AD.

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Charan Paduka of Bhattaraka at Digambara Jain Temple, Amer

Digambar Jain Nasiyan was renovated a few years ago.  Ministry of Culture, Government of India provided a financial contribution for enhancing the facilities on occasion of 26th birth century of Lord Mahavira. This temple can be marked for a Jain Dharamshala in Jaipur.

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I had no idea that an old Digambar Jain temple with a history of 400 years exists in Jaipur. Digambar Jain community was one the most prominent community in both Amer and Jaipur. Some of them were very influential and could alter decisions in Jaipur & Amer courts. Digambar Jain Temple Sanwalaji in Amer is considered as the oldest Jain temple of Amer. It has a strong following. For certain reasons, I have chosen to post only a few images. My local exploration led me to this ancient Jain temple.

Jain temples are well known for being ornate and rich in carvings and detailing.

They are one of the most beautiful temples around. Dilwara and Ranakpur are famous the world over for their beauty. This Digambar Jain temple is not impressive from an architectural point of view probably because many changes have been made in recent years. This will interest people from the Jain community or those who have an interest in history or religion. Please note that it is not a tourist attraction and therefore temple management reserves the right of admission.

Here is a small primer on Jainism.

What is Jainism?

Jainism was founded in India. Jainism follows the system of 24 Tirthankaras with the first one called Rishabnath and last one, Vardhman Mahavir or Mahavir as he is usually called, a prince from 6th century BC. Many people consider Mahavir as the founder of Jainism which in a way is misleading because there were 23 Tithankaras before Mahavira. In true sense, Rishabnath is the founder of Jainism. The crux of Jainism is that everything has Jiva or life. People following Jainism are called Jain and form a minority. The essence of Jainism is non-violence, non-possession materialistic things, and vegetarianism. Mahavira & Buddha, the founder of Buddhism are considered contemporaries. From that reference, Jainism is older than Buddhism. There is historical evidence on the existence of Parshvnath, the 23rd Tirthankara.

Who is a Digambar Jain?

Digambar Jain is one of two sects of Jainism – Shwetambar, and Digambar. There are differences in thoughts on Jainism between both sects even though they agree on the basic tenets. The Digambar sect is named after one particular practice of its monks who follow nudity & do not wear clothes as they feel that elements of nature are their clothes. Literal pronunciation from Sanskrit of the word Digambar is “skyclad”. Another point of difference between both sects is that as per Digambar ideology women do not attain Moksha or liberation until they are reborn as a male.

What is Nasiyan?

Nasiyan is a religious place of Digambar Jain community. It has a temple among other facilities. Nasiyan is built away from town so people can channelize their energies on religion as it offers peace and silence.

Who are Bhattaraks?

Bhattaraks are erudite religious heads of Jain centers engaged in promoting Jain religion. They also ensure the safekeeping of Jain religious text. Bhattaraks continues to hold & maintain important Jain literature & religious works. Many Bhattaraks composed Jain religious treatise. Bhattaraks are credited with protecting Jainism during the years of Muslim rule. They were strong advocators of Jain principle and way of life – nonviolence & vegetarianism. This system of Bhattaraks evolved as a special institution during the period of Muslim rule who did not allow Digambar monks to move freely across the country as they shunned nudity practiced by monks. Unlike other Digambar monks, Bhattarak does not practice nudity and live in math/ monastery.  Evolution of Bhattarak is assumed to have developed around 8th to 13th century. Earlier, Bhattaraka system was prevalent in Buddhism & Hinduism also but over the years it gave way. Bhattaraks still holds immense importance in South India especially Shravanbelgola in Karnataka. Some centers exist in North India as well. Bhattarak Ji Ki Nasiyan in Jaipur was one such center. It is believed that Adhyatama movement in 17th century initiated by Terapanth Digambar Jain in Jaipur rejected Bhattarak system which gradually led to the extinction of Bhattarak system from North India.

What is Tirthankara?

Tirthankara is founder of Tirtha. A Tirthankar is not an incarnation of the God. He is an ordinary soul, born as a human who attains the state of a Tirthankara because of intense practices of meditation, penance & self-control. Therefore Tirthankar is not an Avatar or reincarnation of God. It is the ultimate pure developed state of the soul which may be termed as God in human form.

What is Vikram Samvat?

Indian Calendar System/ Vedic Time system/ Hindu Calendar System is named after the famous Indian ruler Vikramaditya of Ujjain who started Vikram Samvat 57 years before the birth of Christ. You can calculate it easily by adding 57 to any Gregorian year. It is referred as V.S. or simply Samvat.

Check out other posts in Heritage Temples in Jaipur.

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