PALITANA - Paradise of Jains
Shatrunjaya Hill Temple
Palitana, 215 km from Ahmedabad, is a sacred city of the Jains. It provides access to Shatrunjaya Temple, the most sacred temple on the hill, Girnar, near Junagarh.
Jainism developed in the 6th century BC. Like Buddhism a century earlier, it broke away from caste-ridden Hinduism under the guidance of Prince Mahavir. It takes 2 hours to climb the 4 km of steps to Shatrunjaya (place of victory over worldliness). You arrive through a white marble jungle of 863 temples, each with its own enclosure. The final destination is 591 metres up. If climbing is hard, sturdy labourers can haul you up in a doli (string chair). There are hundreds of white-robed pilgrims trekking their way to the hill. The rich, despite their renunciation, come on richly caparisoned elephants.
There is a stunning view from the top of the hill and the air is filled with the scent of jasmine trees. The biggest temple, Chaumukh, was built by a wealthy merchant in 1618 to save his soul. The most sacred temple is devoted to the first Tirthankar, Shri Adishwar. Temples groan with gold, silver and jewels donated by rich merchants - anyone may add a necklace to the treasure. A donation of Rs.900 brings you the honour of dressing the deity with jewels. The donor also gets a pass from the priest, which may get him, many steps down, a free breakfast of ladoos (sweets) and steaming sweet tea. Also on the top of the hill is a Muslim shrine where childless women offer tiny cradles in the hope of conceiving.
250kms from Ahmedabad, Gandhi Smriti Library,Museum, Gauri Shankar Lake, Takhteshwar temple are to be seen here.