The Jain temples of Jaisalmer are among India’s more recent major Jain shrines. Located inside the massive and magnificent Jaisalmer Fortress, one of the most touristed places in Rajasthan, the Jain Temples here are among the most visited in India. There are a number of temples here, of which the Parshvanath and Shantinath are preeminent. As part of the fortress the Jain temples here are incorporated into the Jaisalmer’s UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Jaisalmer Fortress is one of the biggest castles on Earth. Incorporating an area as large as a walled city in Europe, it completely encompasses a hilltop overlooking the city of Jaisalmer. It was constructed in the 12th century by the Rajputs and has been attacked on numerous occasions. Most recently it played a small role in the Indian-Pakistani wars for control of the Rajasthan region.
It is uncertain exactly when Jainism was introduced to the Jaisalmer region of Rajasthan, but it almost certainly preceeded the construction of the fort. At least one Jain temple stood here before the fortress was built, but it was destroyed in 1152, a few years before the fortress was completed in 1156. It was not immediately rebuilt.
During the 17th century, the Jaisalmer Fortress was significantly expanded (to the scale which can be seen today). It was at this time that a replacement temple was constructed here nearly five hundred years later. This temple was dedicated to Parshvanatha, who is believed by Jains to be the 23rd person to successfully achieve Tirthankara, the release from the cycle of reincarnation.
Throughout the colonial era, Jaisalmer became a more important center of Jainism, and other temples grew up on the site. Unlike other Jain sites, the temples at Jaisalmer have the benefit of having been in more or less continuous use for over three hundred years. Today they are among the most visited Jain temples anywhere in India.
The main temple of interest at the Jaisalmer For is the Parshvanath Temple. This spectacular structure, dedicated to Parshva (believed to be the 23rd person to achieve release from the cycle of reincarnation), is one of the architectural highlights of Rajasthan. This sizeable temple is made almost entirely from intricately carved sandstone. It boasts three spire-towers that peak out over the fortress walls and are one of Jaisalmer’s most recognized landmarks.
In total Jaisalmer Fortress has seven Jain temples in total, all of which are worth seeing in their own way. In addition to the Parshvanath Temple, the others most worth seeing are arguably the Rikhabdevji Temple and the Sambhavnathj Temple. These two structures, also built of sandstone, boast amazing collections of carvings both inside and out that will sate even the most jaded of art lovers.
The Parshavanath Temple and its brethren are located inside the Jaisalmer Fortress in the southwest corner of the city, approximately 390 miles west of New Delhi. As of this writing no visitor information was available. Web: www.rajasthantourism.gov.in/destinations/jaisalmer (official tourism website of Jaisalmer).
There are other Jain temples in Jaisalmer both inside and outside the fort. Beyond those mentioned, perhaps the next most popular is the Shantinath Temple.