Palitana: The Jain Temple Town
There are few temple complexes that compare to it. Palitana, in the Bhavnagar district of Gujarat, is a full city with as many as 823 temples of different sizes, dedicated to the 24 Tirthankaras or holy saints of the Jain community. Built over the hill Shatrunjaya, Jains believe that 23 of the holy Tirthankaras actually visited this hill. No wonder then, that this is the biggest pilgrimage site for the Jains- their Vatican.
Built over different centuries, the temples of Palitana are not just a lesson in history and architecture, as they are beautifully carved, they are also a tribute to a religion that has thrived for more than 2500 years in small pockets across peninsular India. Jains believe that Adinath sanctified the mountain of Shatrunjaya by selecting it as the site of his first sermon. Adinath, the first of the Tirthankaras or Jinas- enlightened ones – who have been liberated from the cycle of birth and death, is said to have lived 8,400,000 years ago. According to the Jain philosophy which has a unique concept of time, in each era or ardha kalpa (one kalpa consists of 4.32 billion years) 24 Tirthankaras are manifested on Earth after which the cycle continues and another set of 24 Tirthankaras come into being.