Kerala`s ancient Jain temple renovated

Last Updated: Monday, October 24, 2011 - 11:06

Palakkad: The centuries-old Jain temple
in the district, one of the few surviving structures in Kerala
representing typical Jain architecture, is all set to reopen
after renovation.

The historic "Digambar" shrine, dedicated to Chandraprabha,
the eighth `Thirthankara` in Jainism, had been in a
dilapidated condition for long.

According to Jainism, a Thirthankara is a human being who
achieves `moksha`(enlightenment) through asceticism and who
then becomes role model and teacher for those seeking
spiritual guidance.

Suffering ravages of time, its brickworks were damaged and
cracks appeared on the temple walls.However, through massive
renovation which began two years ago, the structure has been
restored to its past glory and is expected to be opened on an
auspicious day next year, Jain community members here said.

According to local legend, the Digambar Jain temple at
Jainimedu, located about three km from Palakkad town, was
built by a family of diamond merchants who came from
Kanakahalli in Karnataka centuries back.

Three merchant brothers Ejjenna Shetty, Doddu Shetty and
Payappa Shetty used to visit Kerala for trade. During one
such visit, the second brother Doddu Shetty - died of some
illness.

Their brother`s untimely demise saddened the two others.
They visited Elacharya Muni, a Jain saint living in the area
to find a way to relieve themselves of their sorrow and built
the temple in memory of the deceased brother according to the
sage’s advice.

They later settled around the shrine with their families
and in due course of time around 400 Jains came to be settled
in and around the temple.

As majority of them were pearl and diamond merchants, the
place later came to be known as "Manikyapattanam" (diamond
town) and "Muthupattanam" (pearl town). The place also came to
be known as `Jainimedu` due to the presence of the Jain
temple.

Though modern historians say that the structure could not
be more than five centuries old, members of the Shetty family,
who live near the temple, claim that the structure was about
2500 years old.

"As per information passed on by our ancestors, the temple
was built between BC 100-500. Some people say that our
ancestors had roots in Gomadhagiri in Magadha in ancient
India. But some others said they had come from Karnataka,"
Vasantha Kumari, a successor of Shetty family, told.

"Though a large number of Jains had lived here before, they
had moved to many other parts of the state, especially to
places like Wayanad in north Kerala. Now, ours is the only
remaining family of direct descendants of the original
settlers," she said.

The shrine, built of huge granite blocks, is located in 70
cents of green-rich plot at Jainimedu. With walls devoid of
glittering ornamentations and attractive decorations, the
32-feet high structure comprises four "araas" (divisions).

Though Chandraprabha Thirthankara is the principal deity of
the shrine, the images of other 23 Thirthankaras and "yakshas"
and "yakshinis" (demi-gods) can also be seen in different
chambers. As in the Hindu shrines, the idols of serpent gods
can be spotted in its premises.

According to cultural historian M G Sashibhushan, the
temple is a fine example of Jain architecture in Kerala.

"It is true that Jainism had spread in South India during
the Before Christ (BC) period. But the Jainimedu temple could
have been built after 15th century as is evident from its
architectural peculiarities. The basic structural differences
between Hindu and Jain shrines are evident in this structure,"
Sashibhushan, an authority on Kerala temple culture, said.

While Hindu shrines generally have a "garbhagriha", the
sanctum sanctorum where the idol of the principal deity is
installed, the Jainimedu temple has three sanctums around the
garbhagriha.

The outer sanctum has yakshas and yakshinis and second
sanctum has the representations of 23 Thirthankaras while the
main sanctum sanctorum has the idol of Chandraprabha
Thirthankara. The remaining area, without any idols, is used
as a prayer room.

Local lore has it that the temple had immense treasures
including a golden chariot in its glorious days. Its glory
began to fade with the expedition of Tippu, the Sultan of
Mysore, to Kerala in the 19th century.

"It is said that the affluent Jains, who lived around the
temple, had dumped all their wealth in 24 wells around the
temple premises and fled to places like Wayanad fearing
Tippu’s attack. We could see the remnants of such two wells
even today here", Vasantha Kumari said.

She said Tippu, however, did not attack the shrine but
destroyed the huge temple walls. He was believed to have built
the Palakkad Fort with the granite blocks taken away from the
demolished temple, she said.

The Jains here expect that the renovated temple, managed by
Manikka Pattanam Sree Chandraprabha Digambara Basti Trust,
would become one of the prominent Jain pilgrim centres in
South India after its reopening.

PTI



First Published: Monday, October 24, 2011 - 11:06

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