The Centre for Studies in Jainism at the K.J. Somaiya Institute of Dharma Studies recently organised a two-day study tour to explore Jain pilgrimage sites in and around Devlali, Maharashtra. Accompanied by four faculty members and thirteen enthusiastic students, the group embarked on a journey to learn about Jain heritage, history, and spirituality through firsthand experiences. In this blog, we share our experiences and insights from this enlightening journey.
Study Tour Itinerary
Svetambara Jain Temple
Anjanagiri / AnjaneriPandav Leni
The Journey Begins
As our group of seventeen set out early in the morning on the 10th of the month, we were filled with excitement and anticipation. Our first stop was the magnificent Svetambara Jain temple, where we admired the beautiful pictorial depictions of Lord Mahavir’s birth and Leshya Vigyan, a unique Jain theory about the colours a soul acquires due to one’s karma.
Upon reaching Devlali, we were welcomed at Shrikanji Swami Smarak Bhawan with a delicious, sattvic meal. We then visited the Digambar temple, where Dr. Shuddhatam Prakash Jain and Dr. Arihant Kumar Jain provided insights on the various Jain narratives depicted in the temple’s paintings.
Our students were particularly excited to read the Prakrit Gathas of Acharya Kundkund’s Paramagamas, inscribed on the temple walls. These texts, including Samaysara and Pravachanasara, are an integral part of their course curriculum at K J Somaiya Institute of Dharma Studies.
We travelled from Devlali to Panchavati, where we went to the old temple dedicated to Lord Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana. It is claimed that Lord Rama resided in Pachavati during his time spent in exile, lending the region a great deal of significance. The group also went to Sita’s cave, which had a small opening that led to a Shivling at the end of the tunnel.
Climbing Gajapanth Hill
On the second day, after an invigorating session of yoga, the group observed the abhishek and worship methods of the Jain Teerthankaras at the Gajpanth Siddha Kshetra. Then, they embarked on a climb up the Gajapanth Hill, which has 435 steps leading to the top.
At the top of the hill, the group was rewarded with a breathtaking view as well as a magnificent temple constructed of dark stone. There are three caverns, several Digambara Jain temples, and a statue of the 23rd Teerthankara Bhagwan Parshwanatha that stands at a height of 194 inches at this location.
Anjanagiri and Anjaneri
Next, we visited Anjanagiri, also known as Anjaneri. There is the 21 feet high Padmasana idol of Lord Shantinath, the Sixteenth Tirthankara of Jainism, located there. After this, we went to visit the thousand years old very ancient, and beautiful Jain temples located at some distance which were in dilapidated condition. The idols of hundreds of Jain Tirthankaras were lying in a broken state. Here, the group discussed the significance of the excavations and the importance of the site in terms of its historical and cultural significance.
We were told that these temples were demolished during Aurangzeb’s time. Seeing the magnificent temples here, we felt immense joy, but seeing their condition, we also felt sad. We felt that this is our ancient heritage, an invaluable asset, and a real treasure, the Government and the Archaeological Department should take the necessary steps to preserve it. Everyone took photographs and videos there.
Final Destination: Pandav Leni
Our last destination was Pandav Leni, a group of 24 rock-cut caves dating back to the 3rd century BC. The caves are adorned with exquisite carvings and inscriptions, offering a glimpse into the lives of Jain ascetics during that period. Our group marvelled at the intricate carvings and contemplated the serene environment where monks practised their faith.
A Journey of Learning and Spiritual Growth
Our students and staff had the opportunity, throughout the course of the two days of the educational tour, to learn about the rich history, tradition, and spirituality of Jainism. They were given extraordinary chances to develop a more profound comprehension of Jain philosophy and a greater appreciation for the significance of these holy locations while they were on the tour.
We are grateful to the K.J. Somaiya Institute of Dharma Studies for providing this immersive educational experience. The study tour has left a lasting impact on our students and faculty, further deepening their understanding of Jainism and its teachings.
The Impact of the Study Tour
Everyone who took part in the study tour found it to be a rewarding experience. It not only offered priceless insights into the background and philosophy of Jainism, but it also offered a special chance for the students and professors to interact and share knowledge. The study of religion and culture was approached from a multidisciplinary perspective, allowing for a thorough and engaging experience that unquestionably had an influence on the participants.
Reflections from the Students
Many of the students expressed how eye-opening they found the study tour to be. The students were able to comprehend the cultural and historical importance of these locations more fully thanks to the faculty members’ excellent lectures and the trips to the various sites. They valued the chance to talk about various customs and practises with their classmates, which improved their learning process.
The Importance of Preservation and Conservation
The importance of these cultural sites’ meticulous maintenance and protection was also brought to light throughout the visit. Some of the sites’ state of disrepair saddened the students, and throughout the tour, discussions about the necessity of preserving these historical treasures took place. The students will surely become more proactive in their attempts to safeguard and maintain such significant landmarks as a result of their exposure to the difficulties associated with the preservation of cultural heritage sites.
A Lasting Impression
The Gajpantha Jain Pilgrimage Study Tour left a lasting impression on the participants. Students were inspired by the spiritual atmosphere at the sites and felt a sense of connection with their fellow pilgrims. The group chants and shared experiences fostered a strong sense of community and belonging, making the journey a memorable one for all.
A Platform for Continued Learning
Itinerary Table Day 1 :
- 6 am: Departure from Mumbai
- Stop at the Svetambara Jain temple
- Arrival at Shrikanji Swami Smarak Bhawan in Devlali
- Visit to the Digambar temple and library
- Proceed to Panchavati
- Visit to the ancient temple of Lord Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana
- Proceed to Gajpantha
Itinerary Table Day 2 :
- Morning yoga session
- Visit to the Gajpanth hill and temples
- Depart for Anjanagiri
- Visit to Padmasan idol of Lord Shantinath and cave temples
- Proceed to Pandav Leni
- Climb to the Buddhist caves
- Head back to Mumbai
The study tour, while a brief two-day experience, laid the groundwork for continued learning and exploration of Jainism and its heritage. The exposure to the diverse religious and cultural sites has undoubtedly piqued the curiosity of the students and encouraged them to delve deeper into the subject matter in their future studies.
In conclusion, the Jain Pilgrimage Study Tour organised by the Centre for Studies in Jainism at K.J. Somaiya Institute of Dharma Studies was an invaluable opportunity for students to expand their horizons and deepen their understanding of Jainism and its rich cultural heritage. The tour has inspired the students to continue learning and exploring the fascinating world of Jainism, ensuring that this ancient tradition remains alive and relevant for generations to come.
Tour Organized by
Centre for Studies in Jainism
K.J. Somaiya Institute of Dharma Studies,
Somaiya Vidyavihar University, Mumbai
Dr. Arihant Kumar Jain
Centre for Studies in Jainism
K.J. Somaiya Institute of Dharma Studies
Somaiya Vidyavihar University
Email – email@example.com