Palitana is an important city of pilgrimage holding the significance of salvation for the Jain community that is situated 50 km South-west of the Bhavnagar city in the state of Gujarat. Since ancient times, it is been said that the number of people who achieved liberation is equal to the number of stones (millions and millions in number) on the Shatrunjaya hills on whose foot is the Palitana city. Such is the divinity of these hills. Therefore, for the Jains, the temples on the Shatrunjaya hills are considered the most sacred tirth (place of pilgrimage). It is believed that once in a lifetime, every Jain should go to Palitana to obtain the liberating karma (deed) of ‘Bhavya’ status, which makes one capable of attaining salvation.
On the hills, there are around 1300 temples exclusively made up of marbles. Atop the hill, lies the main temple in which the 1st Jain apostle or Tirthankara, Lord Adinath (Shree Rishabdeva Swami) resides. A strict rule here is that no one can sleep on the hills overnight even the priest, because the place has been created as a residence for the Gods.
Currently, Palitana is one of the major attractions in south Gujarat for the tourist.
There are certain facts of the Shatrunjaya hills, which are known to every follower of Jainism. Some called them myths, while some believe them.
The main idol of Lord Adinath (mooknayak) breathed 7 times once it was established here.
On the idol every night, a notice worthy layer of silver gets collected that indicates the priest’s fees instead god’s gift.
A small idol of Lord Suparshvanath Swami (one among the 24 apostles or Tirthankara) of approximately 10″ flew each night from a close by temple to the Lord Adinath Palm.
There exists only a single tree in the entire campus below which there are hidden jewels, pearls, and other ornaments of the pre-human period.
The conglomeration of temples was set up in two different time phases-some around 11th-12th centuries and some around 16th centuries. Some of the temples however were built even earlier but was destroyed by Mughal invaders around 14th-15th centuries. These magnificent artistic temples could not actually be built by any single person or group. Rather these temple constructions were all patronized by wealthy Business dynasties who were believers in Jainism
In the yesteryears, Palitana used to be the capital or nerve centre of one of Gujarat’s most princely states and had Gohil Rajput or Thakur Saheb as its chief.
The marvellous mount Shatrunjaya is decorated with thousands of well-sculpted temples, each competing the other for outstanding sculpting that attracts infinite devotees and visitors.
The Shatrunjaya is hardly at a distance of 1 km from the city. To reach to the main temple from the foot of the hill, a pilgrim has to climb around 3,800 steps, the peak being at a height of 3.5 kms. For people who cannot climb or have health difficulties, there are ‘docuwallahs’, who are the people that take you to the temples through sling-chairs right from the foot of the hill.
The cluster of temples is split into tuks (can consider as stages). As you pass each tuk, you will be overwhelmed by the fine carvings, attractive idols, and jeweled statues. If you are not a Jain and attempt to climb the hill early morning that normally is a custom for the Jains, the scene of sunrise is just an ever-remembering sight. Besides this, you can have wonderful views of the nature as you climb, especially the river Shetrunjaya and the the Gulf of Cambay seacoast (on a non-foggy day).
It is believed that all the 24 Tirthankars, except Neminath (the 22nd apostle), achieved salvation (nirvan) from this hill. Therefore, the hill holds the temples of all 24 Tirthankara, the last being the Mahavira, well known for the message of non-violence (ahimsa).
The Adishwar or Rishabha Deva’s idol in the main temple is made up of marble having crystal eyes. You can see devotees with flowers and sandal paste going towards the statue to worship. Next, there is a quadrangle just in the temple’s front where Jains seat down to worship the idols placed in ‘chapra’, which is plated with silver. Just to the main temple’s opposite, there are feet of Adishwar that are worshipped with faith. Near the main Adishwar temple, there is a Muslim shrine known as Angarsh Pir that is well known to bless childless women with children.
As you descend, you can enjoy the delicious curd on the top of the hill. Currently, the temples are supervised by the Anandji Kalyanji Trust of the Kasturbhai Lalbhai group. Normally, Jains opt to stay in dharamshaalas in the city. However, you can have options from living in a simple to air-conditioned and deluxe rooms.
The temples are delicately sculpted in marble. While observing these temples, it might seem to be ivory miniatures. It goes without saying that this fine art is the effort of countless artisans. The
main temple of the first Tirthankara, Shree Adishwar has an elaborated architectural pattern.
The eye-attracting sculpting can also be noticed in the temples of Kumarpal, Vimalshah, and Sampriti Raja. Kumarpal Solanki was a great Jain supporter who is known to be built the early temples. There is a good collection of jewels in the campus, which requires special permission for seeing.
Days of Attraction
The day of Kartik Poornima (the first full moon day after Diwali) is an auspicious day for the Jains to visit this place. Therefore, thousands of Jains flock here to worship their Lord, as they are kept away from this worship for four months during monsoons and the doors are now open after this season of rain. There is a belief of Jains behind this that if the pilgrimage is done on this day, all the souls that have attained liberation walk with us and that this day is the birth anniversary of the religious leader, Shri Hemchandracharyaji.
Reaching the Place
Bhavnagar is the nearest airport that is 51 km away from Palitana. However, more convenient would be the Ahmedabad airport, as it is well linked to many important cities such as Mumbai and Delhi through regular flights.
There is a station in Palitana, which is currently connected with the Bhavnagar station only. However, many trains going to Bhavnagar halt at Sihor, the station nearby to Palitana. Sihor is well connected to Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar, the capital of Gujarat.
Hourly buses run back and forth between Bhavnagar and Palitana. The bus stop is located at the distance of 800 meters from the Palitana railway station. Apart from buses, you can hire a taxi from Bhavnagar for Palitana. You can also avail of buses for Ahmedabad, Una, and Diu. For Una and Diu, the total journey time is 6 hours due to bad condition of roads.
Other Places of Attraction
This is another famous pilgrimage of the Jains that takes around 30-40 minutes from Palitana. Here too, one needs to climb a hill, but one can also reach the temple through a vehicle such as taxi.
This is famous spot of tourist.
This is a place in the city wherein ancient events of Jainism and idols of apostles in pearls and different gems are worth to see.