After entering inside the temple we start moving towards the north. There is a four hundred year old Rayan tree(Manilkara hexandra), under which are the pagalia(idol of Bhagwan’s footprint) of Lord Adinath. Rayan is an evergreen tree native to India, which is used for many medicinal purposes in Ayurveda. It is believed that Bhagwan Adinath gave his first sermon under a Rayan tree.
On the north side of the temple is the famous incomplete pillar. This pillar was commissioned by Maharana Kumbha and was originally intended to touch the dome. When it was half-built, Maharana Kumbha had a look at it and he started to feel proud of his contribution to the temple. He felt that this pillar would be unique, much different from anything around and it would become a symbol of his personal glory. However, after that inspection whenever the artisans tried to construct beyond that level, the pillar started to collapse. It left the chief architect wonder about the flaw in his design.
Then the goddesses Ambika intervened. Maharaja had a dream in which she made Maharana realize that his ambitions and pride are obstructing the way of his spiritual growth. Maharana realized his mistake and ordered the pillar to be left half-constructed as a reminder that a person is insignificant in front of the all-powerful creator; inspiring a person to rise above his false pride and ego and to understand his true place in divine scheme of things.
In front of this incomplete pillar is a huge ornate statue of an elephant carrying Marudevi, mother of Bhagwan Adinath. In the Svetambara sect of Jain religion, it is believed that when Bhagwan Rishabhdev attained Kevalgyan, Marudevi visited him on an elephant along with his grandson Bharat. The sight of enlightened Lord Rishabhdev destroyed all her karmas. She died at that very moment and attained Moksha; thus becoming the first human being to attain Moksha in present life-cycle even before bhagwan Rishabhdev himself. This statue immortalize the incident.
My friend Anne is taking picture inside the temple and I am also explaining her anything that she wants to know about the temple and the Jainism. In the temple, taking pictures of the main idol is not allowed. Anne is careful about not doing anything that is not allowed. Still we notice that a guard appears angry with us. The temple is guarded inside by smart and handsome local Gurjars. I like this idea as in my opinion, any tourism is sustainable if it generates revenue for the local population.
Anne – “Are we taking pictures that we should not take. I notice that guard is not happy with us.”
“Yes, it appears so. Let me go and inquire”, I reply. I also sense the missing reassuring vibes on his face.
I walk towards the guard. As I come close to him, he immediately asks me, “Are you a guide?”
Oh, so this is the reason. I understand his anger now and tell him reassuringly, “No, I am not a guide. She is my friend.”
The answer neither pleases nor even convinces him and he gives me a stern warning, “Be careful, if you are a guide you will be in trouble.”
I smile at his warning and walk away, so we are not doing anything that is wrong. His only concern is to save his earnings.
This temple features a complex floorplan with multi-storied porches and balconies. We climb-up on a balcony and look outside. The nearby sun-temple in the midst of green surroundings is looking beautiful and inviting from there.
There are four circular medallions in the temple. All of them compete with each other in the intricate work done over them and the symbolism they carry. On one of them Lord Krishna is sculpted, dancing over the entangled coils of intertwined Kalia-Nag. In Jain religion Lord Krishna is revered as Vasudeva; Vasudevas are responsible for eliminating evil and in the process they end up committing a lot of violence. In Jainism they are considered a notch below the Tirthankara because of this violence.
In the southern corner of the temple there are two plaques facing each other; one of the Nandishwardvīpa and the other of Jambūdvīpa . These two islands are among the eight island-continents of the Jain cosmography. According to the Jain cosmography, the entire cosmos is divided into eight concentric island-continents which are separated by seven encircling oceans, each double the size of the preceding one(going out from within). Jambūdvīpa is the first and the central one, and Nandishwardvīpa is the last. Jambūdvīpa is considered to be at the centre of Madhyaloka, or the middle part of the universe, where the humans reside and Nandishwardvīpa is the eighth continent; it is the continent of rejoicing where gods, led by Indra riding his Airawat elephant, come together thrice a year for worshiping Jinas.
The word Jambūdvīpa literally refers to “the land of Jamun trees”. It is considered having the form of a circle with mount Meru in its centre surrounded by Lavan Samundra (the salty ocean). Mount Meru is the mountain where all Jinas are taken by the Gods for the ritual bath.
The Nandishwardvīpa plaque has fifty-two shrines erected around the main shrine. I am puzzled about the number fifty-two and try to understand the reason behind the same. My study takes me to “Framing the Jina: Narratives of Icons and Idols in Jain History By John Cort” where he claims, “Fifty-two is the number of temples that emerges naturally from the strict mirror or the bilateral symmetry of the temples on both the horizontal and vertical axes. In each of the four clusters of the temples, located in four cardinal directions, a central temple is surrounded by four temple in the cardinal directions. Each of these four is then flanked by two more temples, for a thirteen temples in each cluster and fifty-two overall.” I redraw the representation on paper replacing each temple by a dot and his observation convinces me.
Cort further explains that, “In the Jain iconology there is an understanding that perfection is highly ordered, and therefore any depiction of that which is perfect must embody a high order of symmetry. Symmetry best conveys visually a concept of an unchanging perfection that underlies the universe.”
The fourth plaque! let me talk about in a separate article.
Moving around the temple, appreciating its carvings, my eyes fall on the ceilings of one of the Meghanada-Mandaps and it remain glued there for a long time. The four Meghanada Mandaps, one in each cardinal direction, have intricate carved ceilings with assiduous application of workmanship. The artists have created stunning sculptors in these mandaps that would be appreciated by generations to come.
It appears the master-artisans were given a free-hand by the master architect to chisel and sculpt the whole marble canvas and to bring forth the sublime state of mind which creates masterpiece to celebrate, adore and to worship and leaves permanent impression of their supreme craftsmanship. These mandaps carry pillars that are adored with amazingly delicate foliate scroll-work and geometrical motifs. In remarkable play of light and shade, the deep etchings and torans suspended like exquisite lace-works, creates an unforgettable experience. A fellow tourist is so enthralled by his experience that he does not mind to be fully on his back to capture that perfect shot of the Meghanad-Mandap ceiling.
In creating these marvelous carvings, the artists treated marble like lace, exhibiting their highly cultivated sense of imagination, skill and artistry. They were well aware that these pieces would be part of the complete work. The individual piece of intelligence would be appreciated only if the totality of the vision inspires viewers and it gels well into the structural and aesthetic coherence.
The main idol of Lord Adinath is in standing position and has a serene face, youthful yet austere figure; the long arms are stretching down-to the knees and the auspicious symbol of Srivatsa marked on his chest.The idol creates a spiritual ambiance but all the statues of Jain Tirthankara look similar and hence they evoke limited response. For appreciating the art and beauty we look at the idols of Vidhyadevis – the Goddess of knowledge – that are carved in a group of sixteen on the circular ceilings in exquisite detail and proficient imagination.
Wow, what a celebration of creativity! In the last we look at those who were responsible for these creations! They are also carved on the temple pillars. At one side we see a small male figure with folded hands in front of the Lord, this is the statue of Seth Dharnashah, in continuous attendance to Lord Adinath. There is another small figure next to him with water-pot in his left hand, hairs tied as sanyasi; his body covered with minimal cloth. He is Depaka, the chief architect. These idols are not for self-appraisal but for a desire to be in continuous presence of the Lord.