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Shikharji

Shri Sammet Shikharji (श्री सम्मेत शिखरजी), located near Giridih, in Jharkhand state, India, is a major Jain pilgrimage destination and one of the most sacred places for Jains in the world. As many as 20 out of 24 Tirthankaras attained Nirvana (Salvation) from here.

These Tirthankars are:

  1. Shri Ajitnath Ji
  2. Shri Sambhavanath Ji
  3. Shri Abhinandan Ji
  4. Shri Sumatinath Ji
  5. Shri Padmaprabhu Ji
  6. Shri Suparshvanath Ji
  7. Shri Chandraprabhu Ji
  8. Shri Suvidhinath Ji
  9. Shri Sheetalnath Ji
  10. Shri Shreyansanath Ji
  11. Shri Vimalnath Ji
  12. Shri Anantnath Ji
  13. Shri Dharmanath Ji
  14. Shri Shantinath Ji
  15. Shri Kunthunath Ji
  16. Shri Aranath Ji
  17. Shri Mallinath Ji
  18. Shri Munisuvratnath Ji
  19. Shri Neminath Ji
  20. Shri Parshvanath Ji

Historic mentions of Sammet Shikhar

The Prakrit Nirvana-Bhakti states:

अट्ठावयम्मि उसहो, चम्पाए वासुपुज्ज जिणणाहो,
उज्जन्ते णेमिजिणो, पावाए णिब्बुदो महावीरो ||१||
वीसम तु जिणवरिंदा, अमरासुर वन्दिंदा धुदकिलेसा,
सम्मेदे गिरि सिहरे णिव्वाण गया, णमो तेसिं ||२||

aTThaabayammi usaho, champaae vaasupujja jiNaNaaho,
ujjante NemijiNo, paavaae Nibbudo mahaaviiro ||1||
veesam tu jiNavarindaa, amaraasura vandindaa dhudakilesaa,
sammede giri sihare NivvaaNa gayaa, Namo tesim ||2||

Trans. "On Ashtapad Lord Rishabha, at Champa Lord Vasupujya, On Urjayant (Girnar) Lord Nemi, and at Pava Lord Mahavir attained nirvana.||

And the rest 20 Lord Jinas, worshipped by the gods, entered Nirvana at the top of mount Sammet, "namo" to them."||

It was very difficult in the past to visit Sammet Shikhar due to the highly inhospitable terrain. It is surrounded by a deep forest called Madhuvan, and is hundreds of miles from where Jains lived until a few centuries ago. Now it is accessible from nearby towns & cities through arterial roads.

Pilgrimage to Sammet Shikhar was undertaken by only a few fortunate individuals.

1. Poet Banarasidas mentions Hiranand, who under Mughal emperor Salim (Jehangir)who had started a pilgrimage to Shikhar in Samvat 1659 from Allahabad:

तिनि प्रयाग नगर सोन, कीनो उद्धम पार,
संघ चलायो सिखिर कों, उतर्यो गंगा पार||

tini prayaag nagar son, kiino uddham paar,
sa.ngh chalaayo sikhir ko.n, utaryo ga.ngaa paar||

2. In samvat 1863, Raichand Chhabra, the Diwan of Jaipur organized a massive sangha for pilgrimage:

अधिक च्यारसै रथ अर बैल, अश्व चारसौ तिनकी गैल,
सुतर दोयसौ तिन परिवार, नर नारि गिनि पंच हजार||

adhika chyaarsai rath ar bail, ashva chaarasau tinkii gail,
sutar doyasau tin parivaar, nar naari gini pa.nch hajaar||

Translation: More than 400 ox-carts, 400 mounted horses, 200 camels, all carried 5000 men and women.

The simple tribals living in the area are thus described:

मधुवन के वासी नर नारी, सरल गरीब सुद्ध चित धारि,
तन उपर अति ओछो चीर, लम्बी चोटी स्याम सरीर||

madhuvan ke vaasii nar naarii, saral gariib suddha chit dhaari,
tan upar ati ochho chiir, lambii chotii syaam sariir.||

Translation: The residents of Madhuvan are simple and poor but of noble nature. Wearing very little clothes, dark skinned with a long "choti".

The shravakas bathed at Sita Nala and joyously worshipped at the sacred mountain. The leader ("Sanghapati") gave a feast. Donations of Rupees and Gold coins were given to the shrines.

(taken from a post by Y. Malaiya, used with permission)

Shri Shikharji is under administration of Anandji Kalyani Pedhi. There are dispute over ownership and control between Shwetambars and Digambars dispute ownership and control, although historical studies indicate that the Jain Tirthankaras wore no clothes, never dreaming of exquisite attire or crowns. For them, even their own body was a Parigraha. They derive their inspiration from their soul and worshipped their own soul- "the power-house of unbounded knowledge and supremacy". In spite of this disagreement, we should keenly preserve this sacred place for centuries and join hands for the betterment of the Tirtha Sthala Shri Sammed Shikharji.

The brief history of Parasnath

Parasnath is a hill 4431 ft height. It is located at 23 degree ,9 minutes latitude North and longitude of 86 degree ,3 minutes East. It was made accessible since the construction of a road in 1838. The oldest Jain temple appears to date only from AD. 1775.

Parasnath is the "Marang Buru "or hill deity of the Santhal of Hazaribagh, Manbhum, Bankura and Santhal Parganas. Each year they assemble at the period of the full moon in Baisakh from these district and celebrate a religious hunt for three days after which a great tribal session is held. In the assembly, they decide important matters and settle charges against individuals. Since Parasnath has been declared as a wild life sanctuary, District administration and Forest official are trying to persuade the local tribe to give up their religious hunt.

The special sanctity of Parasnath for the Jains arises from the tradition that several Tirthankars (religious saints who are the object of their worship), including Parsva or Parsvanath, attained nirvana on the hill. According to local tradition, the number of Tirthankars who attained nirvana on the Parasnath hill is 20 and not 9. For each of them there is a shrine (gumti for tuk) on the hill.

2 ½ miles from Madhuban, there are two streams, Gandharva nala and Sita nala. The Jains hold the portion from Gandharva nala up to the summit as very sacred. It is easier to reach Parasnath from its northern side. Motor cars or passenger buses ply along this route from Dumri to Giridih and stop at Madhuban village. The village Post Office is called Parasnath. On the walls of the mulmandir at Madhuban, there is a mural painting depicting all the temples on the Parasnath Hill. The Jains have provided rest houses and temples at the foot of the hill at Madhuban. The actual ascent starts frorn Madhuban. Bihar has a very important place in the history of Jainism. The last of the Tirthan- karas or the pathfinders of Jainism, was Vardhamana, also called Mahavira, and he was born at Kundalpur village, near Nalanda, in the Nalanda district.

Mahavira is often described erroneously as the founder of Jainism. Jainism had been in existence long before his time; Mahavira Vardhamana is held by the Jains to be the 24th or the last Tirthankara. After spending 30 years in spreading Jainism, Lord Mahavira attained Nirvana or ascension kit Pawapuri in the district of Nalanda.

Parasnath Hill is to Jains as Jerusalem is to Judaism and Christianity , besides Mahavira, the following 20 Tirthankaras or Tirthankaras or pathfinders had attained Nirvana at this hill.

Their gradation is shown within brackets:

Ajita (second) Samhavanatha (third) Abhinandana (fourth) Sumatinatha (fifth) Padma Prabhu (sixth) Suparsvanatha (seventh Chandra Prabhu (eighth) Suvidhinatha or Pushpadanta (ninth) Sitalanatha (tenth) Shreyanshanatha (eleventh) Vimalanatha (thirteenth) Anantanatha (fourteenth) Dharmanatha (fifteenth) Shantinatha (sixteenth) Kunthunatha (seventeenth) Arahnatha (eighteenth) Munisuvrata (twentieth) Naminatha (twenty-first) Parsvanatha (twenty-third)

The Jains have raised beautiful temples at various inaccessible places. They have not spared any efforts or money in order that the emblems of their faith may stand. The doctrine of Ahimsa (harmlessness) is central to Jainism. One group of Jains ha engaged in business and has spent money like water to propagate their faith through temples, libraries and pilgrimages. The other class of Jains lead an ascetic life and move from place to place holding discourses and spreading the message of Jainism. It is no wonder that Parasnath Hill, which is so very important to the Jains, should have quite a few temples, the most important of which is known as Jala Mandir.

Parasnath Hill attracts pilgrims from across India. The hill is also called Samet Sikhar but is more popular as Parasnath, having derived the name from Parsvanath, the 23rd Tirthan- kara who attained Nirvana there. The present temple is not very old, although the idol in the main temple is ancient. The Sanskrit inscriptions at the foot of the images indicate that they were put in the temple in 1678 A.D

Archaeologists believe the existing temple edifices on Parasnath Hill date from 1765 A.D. although the place is of greater antiquity. Unlike Hindu temples, Jain temples are often pulled down and re-built. It is certain that the present edifices replace older edifices, which were demolished.

Any description of the great temple of Parasnath will be incomplete without a few words on the cult of Jainism, which originated in Bihar. One of the main tenets of Jainism is that the object of life should be deliverance from the bondage of life and death. The Jains believe in Karma and in transmigration of souls. They also believe that the law of Karma can be controlled to a large extent by one's daily life; that is why a Jain subjects his physique and mind to a terrific training in of ascetic aloofness.

A Jain Sadhu keeps up an incessant cleansing process in his thoughts, so that his mind may attain a state of Kaivalya (completeness through integration). That is the final stage of Sadhana which one may aspire to aspire for and through which lie can have absolute Mukti. At the same time, Jainism does not insist on, and only evolve, a Sramana order, but includes a group of Jain laymen who are thriving businessmen and who have given liberally for the propagation of their faith.

Ahimsa of Jain philosophy has to be taken in a broad sense. They do not eat any kind of meat. Jain Siddhanta recognizes a sort of casteism by insisting on the priesthood being confined to the Tribarna, namely Brahmana, Kshatriya and Vaishya. For understanding this ideology we have to look to the times when Jainism was born and particularly when Mahavira Vardha- mana, the 24th and last Tirthanakara, propagated the creed in different parts 0f India. At that time the Brahmanas were the power behind the kings who were non- Brahmans.

The Brahmans looked down on manual labor and led idle lives for the most part. They regarded themselves as guardians and interpreters of Sruti and Smriti (revelation and tradition). Mahavira Vardhamana was, however, not an ardent supporter of Brahmana supremacy, as he declared that men of the other two higher castes, Kshatriya and Vaishya, could also officiate as priests. Thus he was, in a way, both a defender of casteism and also an idealist who dug at the root of casteism.

Jainism was a religion of the poor, as well, for it was a religion preaching the equality of men. Mahavira preached for all-probably more for the poor-and it may be recalled that, despite being physically assaulted in Rarh Desha by the ruffians, he stayed months preaching his gospel. Today, Jain images are scattered throughout the district, neglected and often worshipped as Hindu deities. In this manner, as C.J. Shah in his Jainism in North India has observed, his world-embracing sympathy led him to proclaim this method of self-culture and holy living to the suffering humanity, and he invited the poor and lowly to end their suffering by cultivating brotherly love and universal peace.

The Brahmin and the Sudra, the high and the low, was the same in his eyes. All could achieve salvation by a holy life, and he invited all to embrace his religion of love. It spread slowly as Christianity spread in Europe in its beginning-until Srenika, Kunika, Chandragupta, Sampriti, Kharavela and others embraced Jainism during the first centuries of Hindu rule in India. Mahavira Vardhamana, by preaching that every person could achieve salvation by leading a life of purity, of right conduct and love and thus achieve his salvation, wanted to usher in a casteless and classless society. Hatred or any inferior motive regulating caste distinction is outside the pale of Jainism. Mahavira always preached that Ghrina (hatred) should be completely eschewed.

The two sections of Jains- the Swetambars and the Digambars, have a few differences. The Swetambars believe in Sabastra Mukti, that women can attain salvation, recognize Sabastra Guru and hold that in the Kaivalya condition Mahavira was ill. The Swetambar Jains hold that Mahavira Swami married and ruled and had a daughter. They are also of the view that the 19th Tirthankara, Mallahkumari, was a woman.

The Digambars believe in Digambar Mukti and believe that women can't attain Mukti in the present life, but can do so in a future reincarnation. They can observe the great vows and lead a true Jain life. The Digambar Jains does not recognize Sabastra Guru. They hold that Mahavira Swami was a Bal Brahmachari and he had never married, nor did he have any raj. They do not believe that in the Kaivalya condition Mahavira Swami was ill. They hold that the 19th Tirthankara was a male and his name was Mallinath. The two sects also differ as to the birth-place of Mahavira Swami.

The Swetambars believe Mahaviri was born in Kundaligram in the Monghyr district. The Digambars believe he was born in Kundalipur near Nalanda. There is a third school of Jains who now claim Vaishali in the Muzaffarpur district as the birth-place of Mahavira Swami. It appears that certain sections of both the Swetambar and the Digambar sects accept Vaishali to be the birth-place of Mahavira Swami. All these three places considered the birth-place of Mahavira are in Bihar.

Many Jain images in different parts of India are mistaken for Buddhist images. It has been observed: "The Jain images are mostly either in padmasan or khadgasan mudras. They are also characterized by nasagrahadrishti and by veetaraga mudra. The gaze is fixed to the top of the nose and there is an air of sublime detachment. The Digambar Jain images are characterized by their nudity and the left palm is on right palm and no offerings of jewels or ornaments are made. The Swetambar Jain images are conspicuous by loin-cloth, the right palm rests on left palm and offerings of jewels and ornaments are made.

"Both the Swetambar and the Digambar Jains agree on the concepts of Shristi, Anadi, Nitya, Kriya, Kanda and that renunciation leads to salvation and Mukti is obtained by Samyak Darshan, Samyak Jnana and Samyak Charitra."

While the later orthodox Hindu preachers had assailed Buddhism and its philosophy, Jainism was rarely touched. Despite an internal schism, the creed never died. Jainism is still a living cult in India and has its devotees in other countries as well. It derives its strength and persistence of to active laity which has formed into a harmonious relationship with the preaching order. In this respect, the Jains are like the Jews, Parsis and the Quakers. The passage of time has brought us nearer to the teachings of Mahavira. Perfection of man, chastity-sexual and moral-for individuals and nations were preached and salvation was extolled as the birth-right of men. Parasnath temple is a typical example of what Jain sadhus and the laity can do for their religion. The great and beautiful structures of marble at the top of the hill stand as a grand monument of Jainism. Parasnath temple is also a typical example of what Percy Brown mentions, in his Indian Architecture as "a temple city".

It would be apt to quote the following observations from that book. "These temple-cities, or tirthas (places of pilgrimage) are laid out on no specific plan, the buildings being arranged on such level spaces as the contours of the hill naturally provide. In one or two instances they consist of several hundreds of edifices, but contain no human habitation, as except for an occasional watchman, they are at night-time, entirely deserted, the gods in their shrines being left to the protection of their own sanctity.

Each tirtha represents centuries of devotion, which found expression in temple-building, and they form the central objects of pilgrimages and festivals at frequent intervals. Although many of the temples may seem complicated in appearance, each is designed on the principles common to the religious architecture of the late medieval period, the elaborations being due to such factors as the addition of supplementary shrines, second stories, and adding pillared cloisters around all the larger examples. One variation unique to Jain temples is the frequent production of a class of temple known as chaumukh, or four-faced.

This is a small video of Sammet Shikharji : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VRRwQOuMXLc

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