8 Impressive Jain Temples in Kerala
Jainism was one of the oldest religions of Kerala, and was very popular and widely practiced after it came here during the 3rd century BC, just after Chandragupta Maurya left the throne in the 25th year of his rule and started promoting Jainism. He sent missionaries to different parts of the country and a few came to Kerala as well.
Jainism flourished in Kerala, with Jain monks traveling the length and breadth of the state, even going as far as present day Karnataka and Tamil Nadu to spread the religion.
The main purpose behind Jainism started with the Jain believers wanting a tranquil place to practice meditation. They came here, wandered through the entire state, teaching the laws of Dharma and Karma, and the religion was spread.
The spread of Jainism in India led to the flourishing of many Jain temples as well. In each of the temples, you can see a presiding Tirthankara and other Tirthankaras placed alongside the first deity. There are 24 Tirthankaras in all in Jainism.
Tirthankaras are actually liberated souls who have transcended the cycle of birth and death and help others follow the same path. They are ordinary people born into this world, but through intense meditation, kindness and good living attained omniscience.
Let’s go through some of the major Jain temples of Kerala:
- Ananthnath Swami Temple
This temple is located at Puliyarmala, about 6 kilometres from Kalpetta in Wayanad district of Kerala. The temple is dedicated to the Tirthankara, Ananthanath.
The temple with its beautiful construction lures people interested not only in Jainism, but in ancient architecture as well. The fact that it is situated on a small hillock overlooking luxurious coffee plantations, add to its charm.
The temple has intricately carved entrance doors and an ornately carved stupa built and is decorated in the Dravidian style.
As sand is not allowed in the construction of Jain temples, you can see lots of brass, ceramic, stone and gold decorations here. There is a huge Swastika symbol built just behind the bronze idol. The temple is a sight to behold and a must visit when you are in the vicinity.
2. Jainimedu Jain Temple
Located on the suburban area in Palakkad town, Jainimedu Jain Temple is the perfect rendition of the religious sentiments of the 15th century period. Built of granite, but devoid of any decorations, the temple is 20 feet wide with a length of 32 feet.
As it is only 3 kilometers from Palakkad town, reaching there won’t be a problem. It is believed that the renowned Malayalam poet, Kumaranashan, wrote his famous poem, Veenappovu here. You can feel an impressive sense of austerity at this place, hence a must-visit.
3. Dharmanath Jain Temple
The imposing, yet incredible temple gate is what catches your attention the instant you see Dharmanath Jain Temple at Mattancherry, situated in the port city of Kochi.
It, quite evidently, displays the ingenious architecture of a bygone era. Dedicated to Lord Dharmanath, the 15th Tirthankara, the sanctum sanctorum of the temple definitely lets you reminisce on the essence of life.
The beautifully sculptured walls, the elegantly carved pillars showcasing curved elephant trunk brackets and impressive picture of Gajalakshmi are all memories you will take away from this colorful temple. The entire interior portion of the temple is made out of marble, complete with intricate artworks and sculptured idols.
The sublime holiness of the atmosphere intoxicates you to the point of wanting to turn inwards, thereby sparking the spirituality within you.
4. Jain Temple, Alappuzha
The Jain temple at Alappuzha is beautiful and impressive with a rich history of its own. The marble walls of the temple and the poignant style of construction certainly set it apart from the rest of religious structures in the area. The temple is made of white marble and Rajasthan stones, with a dome flaunting an intricate charm unseen elsewhere.
There are four statues of Tirthankaras (11th, 12th, 13th and 15th) as main deities. The statue of the 23rd Tirthankara is placed at the top floor of the temple. As it is the only Jain temple in the district, don’t miss it; it definitely speaks volumes of a bygone era.
5. Kallil Temple
Kallil Bhagavathy Temple Kunnathunadu taluk of Ernakulam District, Kerala is actually a Jain temple, and a protected monument under the Archaeological Survey of India. Kallil means “of rock”, and the inception of the temple can be dated back to 3rd century BC.
Located in a 28-acre plot, the temple has a story of its own. The mesmerizing fact about the temple is that it is built of a huge rock and to reach the temple, you’ve got to climb 120 steps.
It is believed that the rock holding of this place is due to the presiding goddess’s own wish. And it is a magnificent sight, because the monolith measures 45 feet in width, 25 feet in height and 75 feet in length. Durga Devi, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are all worshipped here.
6. Sultan Bathery Jain Temple
Built during the 13th century, the Jain temple at Sulthan Bathery in Wayanad is one of the most important temples of Kerala. It showcases an impressive example of the magnificent style and architecture of the Vijayanagara Dynasty.
The shrine itself has a checkered history: it first served as a shrine, then as a center for commercial trade and finally, as an ammunition store during the reign of Tipu Sultan. Actually, it was because of Tipu Sultan that Sulthan Bathery got its name.
7. Kattil Madam Temple
This is another Jain temple located in Pattambi, Palakkad district. Though dilapidated or unfinished, it is believed that the temple was built sometime around 9th or 10 century AD.
The monolithic structure of the temple is believed to have been built by the goblins or bhooththans). The upper portion of the temple is ornamental and definitely worth photographing. The temple is structured in the shape of a pyramid with a rectangular base.
The story goes that Kattimadam was actually the roof of Kaithali Temple in Palakkad. The goblins after building the temple at a distant place decided to bring it to Pattambi, but they couldn’t complete the journey because dawn was breaking and they aren’t supposed to be seen in the daylight.
They left the granite roof by the side of the road and vanished. Whether the temple was built by the goblins or not, it is one of the first structures in Kerala that display Pallava/Pandya influence.
8. Shri Vasupujya Swami Jain Temple
This is a Jain temple built akin to the famous Jain temples in Mount Abu. Since, it is located right near MG Road, Ernakulam reaching the temple is an easy task.
The intricately carved ceilings and structure complete with doorways and pillars are famous for their delicate and ornamental detailing. As no-rust raw materials are to be used in the construction of the temple, this recently constructed sanctum sanctorum was built with tons of marble brought in from Rajasthan.
The main deity of the temple is the 12th Tirthankara, Shri Vasupujya Swami and he sits cross-legged with garlands and gold necklaces adorning his neck and red roses on his feet. The idols of the 23rd Tirthankara, Shri Pashvanath and the 20th, Shri Munisuvrat Swami are positioned on either side of Shri Vasupujya Swami.
The resurgence of Shaivism and Vaishnavism brought about the decline of Jainism (around 16th century), but many of these shrines remain, and are looked after well. In fact the uniqueness of Kerala heritage can also be attributed to magnificent Jain temple architecture. Presently, there are only very few followers of Jainism in Kerala and most of them are concentrated around Kochi, Palakkad and Wayanad areas.