The Story of the Jain Temples of Jaisalmer Fort:
As the story goes – the old capital of the region, Lodharva was along the wealthy silk route. The wealth attracted many looters and invaders. The Mughal invaders also destroyed the city and damaged the all-important Jain tirth of Lodharva.
Tired of invasions and left out of his throne, King Jaisal started the hunt for a new capital. He found a monk on a plateau who told him of the forecast that the plateau will be the site of a capital of the future. But it will also be a site for 2 1/2 jowhars. Not deterred, he built the new capital, Jaisalmer named after himself.
King Jaisal had land but not much wealth. On the other hand, the flourishing trade along the silk route was controlled by the Jains, which made them ultra-wealthy. The Patwa family alone had 367 stores all around Asia. They were so wealthy, they financed 48 kingdoms! But they were merchants, not rulers.
They needed the king to protect their temples from invasions. So, they struck a deal with King Jaisal.
The wealthy Jains agreed to finance the King’s fort if he agreed to have Jain temples in the Jaisalmer Fort. It was a win-win agreement. The Fort is very secure and hard to penetrate. So, the Jain temples and tirth Jaisalmer stand as they did hundreds of years ago. They also store one of the largest collections of precious Jain literature.
The main temple is that of Chintamani Parshwanath Ji, the 23rd Tirthankara. Other temples include those of Sambhavnath Ji, Vimalnath Ji, Shantinath Ji, Shitalnath Ji, Chandraprabhu swami, Kunthu Nath Ji, Dharma Nath Ji and Mahavirswani Ji.
Even though all the Jain temples had prime real estate within the Fort, all the Jains lived outside the fort, in homes below the hill. You see the Jains were much wealthier than the king and built larger and higher houses. For example, the Patwa family house has four floors above and 2 floors below the ground. If the Jains built their houses in the Fort, they would compete with the palace in height and grandeur. By having the Jain family homes in lower grounds, they could be larger without overshadowing the palaces of Jaisalmer.
If one has to pick one of Jaisalmer’s tourist places to visit at dawn, it ought to be the Jain temples in Jaisalmer fort. The fort is clean and quiet, with no tourists. The temples are calm with only the priests doing their chores. It’s the best time to mediate and soak in the vibe of the location that was once the seat of power, wealth, and religion.
Parshvnath Swami’s Temple:
Traditionally, Parshwnath Bhagavan’s (23rd Tirthankar) statue is black. In Jaisalmer’s Jain temple, the murti is white and looks like marble. But it’s really not! It’s made of clay with a thick coating of precious crushed pearls.
The entrances for the Jain temples of Jaisalmer are exquisite with several arches carved from golden stone. The temples are higher than the ground level, usually requiring a couple of flight of stairs.
All the temples, particularly the Parshvnath temple have very elaborate and intricate pillars, toran and colorful done. No wonder they are tourist destinations of Jaisalmer as much as places of worship.
The entrances for the Jain temples of Jaisalmer are exquisite with several arches carved from golden stone.