Since I have started traveling, I have discovered numerous new categories within travel – rural, dark, voluntarism, responsible, eco, cultural, spiritual, action, active, etc etc. But along with experimenting with all of these, I have tried another type of travel that is both rural and a spiritual experience. This is the Jain temple trail i.e. visiting ancient Jain temples in smaller unknown villages and towns in India. Initially I didn’t like temples and like everyone my age group around had to be either dragged or emotionally blackmailed by parents into visiting them. But after a few such recent visits something in me has definitely changed. I have now come to like these visits and consider them a photographic and a spiritual delight. Many of these temples are really ancient and hence have a unique architecture, carvings, intricate patterns, some in ruins, etc that make beautiful pictures and on the other hand somehow these temples just bring about a certain sense of peace / harmony within me. My mom says, this because of the ultimate faith that people who built these temples then had in religion which still lingers in these old places / temples.
In March this year I got an opportunity to visit 3 old Jain temples around Jaipur and the first of these three was Choolgiriji and Khaniaji. Shri Choolgiriji (Khaniyaji) is located 5 km east of Jaipur and has 2 temples – one at the bottom of a hillock and one at the top. This shetra came into existence in the year of 1964 with the inspiration of Acharya Deshbhushan on 400 feet high hillock.
We drove to this shetra from Delhi via the Delhi Jaipur highway and reached here around early evening / dusk. There was a detour for this place before Jaipur and the turn to this place was quite interesting. There were hillocks all along the way with small one to two story houses on both sides. These houses also seemed to be of Jains and had some smaller temples within. At the end of this road we saw the temple that is pretty small, unassuming and no specific architectural marvel. But it was stunning from inside. Once we entered we first saw the white pillars of the outer aangan (open hallways) and the white roofs of the entrance had some beautiful paintings of motifs in blue. On crossing the aangan we reached the main inner sanctum (where the Pratima of the deity is) where we were just awestruck. Here all walls (every piece and bit of it) had beautiful inlaid work in green, red and gold. The work was intricate with patterns of flowers, leaves, geometric shapes etc and was just beautiful. Along the walls were also paintings with some interesting stories of our Gods.
Post this darshan we drove to the temple complex that is on top of the hill and houses the main temple, places to stay, to eat, etc. This is quite a short drive but the roads are very narrow and the fall is quite steep. The entrance to the temple has a gate that shuts at 8pm and they are pretty strict about it. Hence if anyone ever plans to visit this place, please do keep this in mind. Also they have put up boards, that this is not a touristy place hence picnickers are not welcome.
We parked the car at the parking outside the temple and then walked inside. Now the bhojnalayas in Jain temple complexes do not serve food after sunset and as we had reached around that time, we decided to first eat some dinner. Post dinner, we walked into the temple for the darshan. Again the architecture here is very simple, but somehow all elements come beautifully together. This temple has the main statues standing out in the open and smaller covered temples all around it. We were in time for the evening Arati and participated in that and then did a darshan of all the temples around. Unfortunately photography is not allowed inside the temple, hence I don’t have any photos of it.
But the best part about this temple was that just opposite the temple was a kind of open space made into a huge balcony kind of thing with amazing views of hills and the Jaipur city below. This space for some reason was also extremely quiet with no noise or sound around. I sat here alone for close to an hour (without realizing the time), and attained a deep sense of inner peace and calm. And for the first time, truly realized what utter silence sounds like and what does it mean to be truly by yourself. I sat here for an hour and couldn’t remember a single thought of the past hour after I got up to leave. I have never meditated but guess this is what meditation truly must feel like. I had to leave then but promised myself to return here again sometime and enjoy my own company 🙂
Tips for the Trip –
- The gate to the temple complex is on top of the hillock and closes at 8pm, so do reach in time. They are very strict about it and will not open it even if you continue standing or pleading with them.
- This is a religious place and not a picnic spot, so request you to be sensitive to this.
- The food in Jain bhojnalayas is a very simple thali and per the Jain norms. Also no food is served after sunset.
- There is an option of basic stay on the dharamshala on the hill.