Off the beaten track

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Off the beaten track

The little-known Parshwanath Jain Temple in Devanahalli is a marvelous piece of architecture and is worth a weekend visit, writes Mohan Babu

Devanahalli in Bangalore Rural district is more famous for its proximity to the Kempegowda International Airport than for being the birthplace of the Tiger of Mysore, Tipu Sultan. The town, located on NH 7, is also famous for the pomelo fruit. Another feather to its cap is the Shree Nakoda Avanti 108 Parshwanath Jain Temple, said to be the biggest one in India.

The temple is located at what is locally called Vijayapura adrot (meaning crossroad). Here, the road from Vijayapura to Doddaballapur bisects NH 7. Tucked in a corner, what was once a popular silk loom factory, now houses the Nakoda Parshwanath Temple.

According to local people, the temple complex housed a tobacco processing unit in the beginning of the last century. After a few decades, it made way for the Karnataka Silk and Filature unit just before Independence.

The unit was owned by one D K Pillanna, a well-known businessman from Nagartha community, which controlled the trade in the area at that time, according to octogenarian Y C Bajjappa, who was born and brought up in the town. Later, it was sold to one Kapoorchandji.The Bangalore Rural District gazetteer mentions that Devanahalli and nearby Doddaballapur and Shidlaghatta were known for silkworm rearing. 

No wonder then that the industry was set up to tap the potential. Till some four decades ago, the spot was considered a haunted place with accidents reported fairly regularly. And the local people firmly believed that ghosts resided in the tree at the centre of the road and took revenge on those using the road. Now, it is a forgotten story and people travel almost 24x7 on this busy national highway.

Temple Trust president Rajesh K Jain says that his father donated 11 acres for construction of the temple in the late 1990s. 

The temple, built mostly on donations from the Jain community, is beautiful and attractive, but little is known or written about it. While some claim that the temple in Palithana in Bhavnagar district of Gujarat is the biggest Jain temple, Rajesh reasons that Devanahalli tops the list because the structure is at a single place. The Palithana temples of Jains are located on Mount Shatrunjaya.

Rajesh said that work on the temple had been going on for nearly one-and-a-half decades and another year would be required to complete the complex. Mostly marble and soft stone brought from Rajasthan have been used and nearly 300 idols have been installed. A series of light pink coloured gopuras (towers) are visible from the Devanahalli old bus stand, which is about half a km from the temple.

An unkempt compound with weeds all around, a nameplate on the stone wall and a ramshackle gate welcome the visitor. The main temple at the entrance is housed in an old structure; and it could have been one of the manufacturing sheds. 

It also has a miniature model of the temple complex on the right side of the entrance. On the left side are old-style rooms for guests to stay. They are in the process of building a modern 42-room guest house. The temple complex has come up behind the old structure.

As one enters the temple complex, the serene atmosphere and tolling of the small bells on the 117 gopuras infuse divine feelings. The prevailing silence and cleanliness, despite the work underway, impress visitors. All the gopuras are different in style and shape. The architecture and sculpture captivate the visitor.

Interiors of the gopuras in the main temple resemble mostly South Indian temples. They have been sculpted with soft stone and marble, and are beautiful. The flooring has been done in attractive patterns. Marble has been liberally used and some of the parshwanaths have been sculpted using red marble.

Temple manager Mahender says the idol in the main temple is of Nakoda Parshwanath, while, in the basement, it is of Avanti Parswanath. The temple has idols of all the 108 thirthankaras. Besides, the complex also houses idols of Padmaprabhu, Chandraprabhu, Vasapoojya Swami, Shantinatha Swami, Adinatha Swami, Suvinatha Swami and Neminatha Swami.

The temple flags are changed once in year, either in April or May, depending on the thiti. That’s the major event and mostly Shwetambars come here. Mahender said some people do visit the temple while returning from Puttaparthi, which is about 100 km from temple.

The temple is open from 5.30 am to 7.30 pm and poojas are offered regularly. Food is available inside the temple complex. The annual Lord Parshwanath’s birth anniversary is held on December 27, and temple authorities are gearing up for a big turnout this year.

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