Sonagiri Temples are an important pilgrimage site for the members of the Jain community. The word ‘Sonagiri’ refers to ‘The Golden Peak’ or ‘The Golden Mountain’. Since this area is called Swarnagiri or the Golden Mountain, one would expect to find gold plated buildings and monuments here. However, it is home to 103 Jain temples that are all white in colour.
Sonagiri temple entrance by Jain Cloud
While 77 of these temples are situated on the hills, 26 are located at the base, in the village. The Digambara sect of Jainism, which believes in the renunciation of all worldly things in order to attain liberation, considers these temples as highly sacred. These temples are located on Mount Shatrunjaya, Datia district, North-Central Madhya Pradesh.
The temples are popularly known for their spiritual significance as well as for their architectural splendour. They are considered special because it was here that King Nanganag Kumar and his fifteen million disciples gained Moksha, that is, liberation from the cycle of birth and rebirth. Devotees and followers who are on the path of asceticism, come here to study and practise self-discipline and austerity to achieve their Highest Goal. They believe that it is a holy place, as it offers the kind of ambience necessary to practise their sadhana and meditation. They hope that with practise, they too will attain moksha, like the disciples of King Nangang.
This unique place, also called Laghu Sammed Shikhar, spans 132 acres across two hills. Built between the 9th and 10th centuries, these beautiful temples can be spotted even from a distance because of their striking architecture and exquisite spires. On the slopes, there is a broad-mouthed coconut basin- a stone slab cut into the shape of a coconut. It is also known for Bajani Shila, a stone, which when struck, produces a metallic sound.
Sonagiri temple entrance by eso2
While two statues of white elephants stand at the main gate of the temples, the temple walls are adorned with designs of Swastikas. The elephants are considered as auspicious symbols, whereas the Swastikas represent the 7th Jain Tirthankar, Suparshvanatha. The enormous 43-foot-tall Manstambha is awe-inspiring to pilgrims and tourists and is often referred to as 'The Column of Dignity.' This pillar is a common characteristic of all Jain temples, often constructed in front of Samavsharan, the divine preaching hall. Like most Manstambhas found in Jain temples, this pillar also consists of images of the Tirthankaras. It is symbolic of shedding one’s pride, and also emptying preconceived notions before they enter the preaching hall to absorb the Knowledge of the Cosmos.
Although there are more than 100 temples in Sonagiri, the 57th one is of great significance. It houses an 11 feet tall idol of Lord Chandraprabhu, the 8th Jain Tirthankar, in a cross-legged, meditative posture. Idols of Lord Parsvanath (24th Tirthankar) and Lord Sheetalnath (10th Tirthankar) are also found. These idols are cut out of black rock and date back to the 5th century.
Image by Rzen
To reach the peak, the visitors must climb 3500 steps, which is a 3.5 km long journey. Beautiful paintings and idols, exquisite carvings, magnificent murals, and jewelled sculptures are among the temples' unique features that they come across as they make their way to the summit.
Situated about 60 kms from Gwalior, these temples attract thousands of followers and visitors every year. Some come to learn and practice meditation, while others visit to take a break from their busy lives, and to experience the divine vibes of the place. If you are looking for a quiet place to reconnect with your inner self, pay a visit to the magnificent temples of Sonagiri.
Pratha Content Writer