Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh
The city of Khajuraho in Central India was once home to one of the most thriving Jain communities in India. The Jain legacy here includes one of the finest collections of temples in Madhya Pradesh (this is enhanced by the fact that the city is also home to over a dozen major Hindu temples as well). There are three main Jain temples here: the Parshvanath Temple and the Adinath Temple, which both date to the Middle Ages; and the Shantinath Temple, a more recent building that was constructed from the remains of other temples. Also on the site is the Jain Museum. Together these make Khajuraho one of the most important Jain sites in India.
There are few places in India where Hindus and Jains seem to have gotten along better than in the city of Khajuraho. The two groups apparently lived here side by side since at least the 9th century. During the 10th century, a new regional power arose in Central India, the Chandela. The Chandela emerged in the vicinity of Khajuraho, and it became one of the majore cities of the realm.
The Chandela kingdom survived in one form or another for the better part of the next four hundred years, during which time they built Khajuraho into a major urban and religious center. From the 10th through the 12th centuries they sponsored the construction of dozens of major temples in the city, including both Jain and Hindu shrines.
The main Jain temples included the Parshvanath Temple around 954 AD, the Ghantai Temple around 960 AD, and the Adinath Temple around 1027 AD. As many as eighty other temples of both religions were also constructed in Khajuraho at this time. Khajuraho remained a major Jain center throughout the period of Chandela rule.
After the Muslim conquest of the region in the 13th century, many of Khajuraho’s temples were destroyed, while others were neglected and ultimately abandoned over time. They were rediscovered by British explorers in the 19th century. Most of those that survived have since been restored. One new temple, the Shantinath Temple, was constructed from the ruins of other temples during the colonial era.
The Parshvanath Temple is the oldest Jain temple in Khajuraho. It is a tower of magnificently carved stonework which stacks up like a wedding cake. It is famous for its magic square (a mathematical puzzle) carved inside the site. Nearby is the slightly younger and slightly smaller (but no less impressive) Adinath Temple.
Arguably the most stunning temple at Khajuraho is the phenomenal Shantinath Temple. This temple is one of the most unique structures in India, in that while it is not in and of itself of great antiquity, it was constructed using the surviving bits of dozens of other temples in the area that had long since been in ruins. This magnificent, gleaming white structure consists of a large walled compound with a quartet of the wedding-cake like towers that are common to Khajuraho. Inside the temple is a great statue of the namesake Shantinath.
The Temples of Khajuraho are spread out in a vast open-area type museum just south of the town of Rajinagar, approximately 300 miles southeast of New Delhi. In addition to the temples, Khajuraho has a Jain Museum with numerous artifacts from the site and exhibits on the history of Jainism. As of this writing no visitor information was available. Web: www.digambarjainonline.com (official website).
There are many other Jain Temples scattered throughout Madhya Pradesh, including some of great antiquity. Among the best of these are the Bawangaja Temple in Bawangaja and the Tirth Temple in Sonagiri.