In a bustling Chickpet bylane...

HERITAGE

In a bustling Chickpet bylane...

A WORLD APART: A section of the Jain temple, a major portion of which has been brought down for renovation.  Photo by the author

The Chickpet area in Central Bangalore is one of the most famous shopping areas in the city – this is where you can buy a wide range of clothing, silver and gold jewellery. The fact that the streets here are crowded and busy during any given time of the day – even at three on a February afternoon, with the sun blazing overhead – gives you an idea about the amount of business done here. Men pulling carts laden with bales of cloth; trucks carrying hardware/electrical goods; vendors hawking fresh fruits, vegetables, ‘cold’ drinks and sweets; huge groups of women setting out for an afternoon of shopping…

It is in this locality, in a small bylane of the Chickpet Main Road, that the Sri Adinath Jain Shwetambar Temple is located. The temple, which is nearly a century old, is barely a few hundred feet away from the busy main road, but could well be worlds apart.

Once you enter the small lane and get into the temple, you notice that you can no more hear the noises of the market; you are inside a large room with marble flooring, idols of various deities arranged on one wall, facing which are three rows of low benches with prayer beads on them. It is serene and at any time of the day, you can see devotees praying silently or chanting softly, prayer beads in hand.
This, in fact, is a makeshift arrangement, the Sri Adinath Jain Shwetambar Temple is being renovated, and the deities are currently being housed in a room that earlier functioned as the feeding room. The Trust says that the new temple will be made bigger, with the premises extending to the nearby properties, which have been bought over the years.

The Trust has received contributions from devotees and other members of the community. But to fund part of the expansion, the temple authorities are holding an auction of the temple artefacts on March 10. “The temple was very old, and was built with wooden ceilings. There was a lot of wear and tear, leakage, etc. All proceeds from the temple items auctioned will go to the trust, and will be used for renovation,” says Maher Dadha, Chairman & Managing Director of Bid and Hammer, the firm that is organising the auction.

A total of 139 lots will be auctioned. “This is one way for us to raise funds; we’re also trying to salvage the items that were used in the temple. After reconstruction, the temple will be much bigger, so most of these items cannot be used,” Dadha says.

Mysore style carved ceilings
Among the items that are being auctioned are several sculptures, marble pillars, silver-covered wooden doors and intricately-carved ceilings. The temple itself is built according to the rules of Shilpashastra, but is a combination of several styles of architecture. It was originally constructed in the Spartan style, but has been renovated several times over the years, leading to an interesting blend of various architectural styles from different periods. The carved wooden ceilings are typical of the Mysore style; the then Maharaja of Mysore had  visited the temple in the 1930s and 1940s when renovation was taking place, and sent his carpenters to work on the ceilings.

The temple also has the biggest Dharmik Paathshaala for Jain children in South India; over one thousand children come here in four batches daily, to learn more about their religion.

The temple is very popular, particularly among the Jain traders of Chickpet, and receives at least a thousand visitors everyday. It also sees a huge number of non-Jain visitors, who visit in the evening.

“This is one of the oldest Jain temples in South India. People from all over Bangalore come here everyday. Coming here and spending a few minutes in front of the deity gives you a king of inner peace, and it has changed many a life,” says Arvind Jain, who has been coming here ever since he was a child. “I’ve been coming here for many years, and without having a darshan of the deity, I do not drink even a drop of water,” he adds.

For many of the traders nearby, it is a part of their everyday routine. “Every morning, I open my shop at 10 am, and the first thing I do after that is visit the temple. It gives me peace of mind, and without it my day is incomplete,” says Rakesh Kumar Jain, owner of a clothes shop in Chickpet Main Road. The temple authorities say that Central Bangalore alone has about 20,000 Jain families, many of whom are regular visitors here.

The temple is very popular among Jain families in the City, but a huge number of those from outside the community are unaware of its existence. And many devotees, who have been visiting the temple for years together, remain unaware of the value and beauty of the artefacts, as their attention remains firmly fixed on the deities. A treasure hidden where you’d least expect to find one.

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