Palitana – Of Temples, Food & Timeless Culture

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Founded in 1194, Palitana used to be an important princely state of the Saurashtra region. It is said that Shri Adinath, the first Jain Tirthankar, meditated on the famous Shatrunjaya Hill here. Today, the city is known as an important pilgrimage site for Jains as they believe this temple town must be visited once in a lifetime to attain nirvana. This charming city is located in Gujarat’s Bhavnagar district, around 215 km away from Ahmedabad.

Majestic view of Palitana’s temple cluster

Majestic view of Palitana’s temple cluster

Here are our top picks of things to see and do in Palitana.

1. Climb To The Chaumukha Temple

Palitana is the only mountain city in the world, with a large cluster of 900 marble temples. The temples in Palitana are spread over the hilltop of Shatrunjaya, and it is quite the climb with almost 4,000 steps. If you find the trek quite arduous, dolis (sling-chairs) are available to help you reach the top.

Sprawling bunch of Jain temples spread over the hilltop of Shatrunjaya

Sprawling bunch of Jain temples spread over the hilltop of Shatrunjaya

Covering 900 temples may not be possible in a single visit, but the one you should not miss is the Chaumukha temple.

The word Chau means four and mukh means face. This temple gets its name because of the four-faced statue of the deity of Adinath that stands facing the four key directions. Built in 1618, this temple features countless square structures that converge into a dome at the top. The innermost structures represent the five sacred hills of the Jains.

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2. Visit The Shri Vishal Jain Museum

This interesting museum is located at the base of the Shatrunjaya hills, approximately 500 metres down the street from where the steps start.

Base of the Shatrunjaya hill

Base of the Shatrunjaya hill

A collection of Jain artefacts and art that date back to 500 years ago, ancient manuscripts that were written on palm leaves, and idols excavated from historic temples are some of the displays that you get to see here. There is also an exhibit about the life of Lord Mahavira, which gives visitors an insight into the history of the Jain religion. A wonderful part of the Shri Vishal Jain Museum is the circular temple in the basement that has images of four Tirthankars, and lovely mirror walls. The entry fee to the museum is nominal, and information is available in Gujarati, Hindi, and English.

3. Make A Wish At Angaarsha Pir Dargah

In an impressive example of two religions existing in harmony, the holy Muslim shrine of Angar Pir is located atop the Shatrunjaya hill. The legend goes that it was created in honour of a Muslim Pir (saint) who kept the temples protected from an attack made by Allauddin Khilji.

Bird’s eye view of Shatrunjaya hill

Bird’s eye view of Shatrunjaya hill

It has now become an important landmark in Palitana, and attracts people of various religions. Visitors to this Dargah come with different prayers – childless couples offer candles and wooden cradles while those suffering from asthma leave breathing pumps. You can get as creative as you wish when it comes to requesting favours from the Pir – it is the faith that counts. People often come back to offer a chaddar and donations to the Dargah once their wishes are fulfilled.

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4. Enjoy 100% Vegetarian Food

Palitana is the first city in the world to be declared vegetarian by law. This was done in 2014 at the behest of Jain monks who wanted to stay true to the non-violent lifestyle of Jainism by banning the slaughter of animals for food. This gives you a chance to taste the delectable dishes of the region, which includes famous Gujarati foods like Dhokla, Bajri no Roti, Khandvi, and Thepla.

Palitana is the world’s first fully-vegetarian city

Palitana is the world’s first fully-vegetarian city

While in the city, sample some Palitana no Bhel – the usual bhel with a Jain twist that is a famous dish of the region. You can also pay a visit to Jagruti Restaurant near the ST Bus Stand, where you can feast on a delicious local thali for an authentic experience.

5. Shop At The Colourful Bazaars

No trip can be complete without visiting the local markets and picking up a few souvenirs, and the many bazaars in Palitana offer some attractive handicraft items. Furniture pieces, hand-woven bamboo products, embroidered fabrics, metal ware, clay idols, and harmonium reeds are some of the things that Palitana markets are known for.

Buy local handicraft souvenirs at Palitana’s bright bazaars

Buy local handicraft souvenirs at Palitana’s bright bazaars

One of the few places in India that is home to interesting attractions without being a tourist hotspot, Palitana offers a serene, unique experience far removed from the usual holiday experience in even nearby areas like Ahmedabad. In this city, several Hindu Brahmins serve as priests in Jain temples and Muslim shrines co-exist peacefully beside sacred Jain sites. For those looking to get away from the mundane yet hectic schedules of everyday life, Palitana offers a refreshing experience.

Published on: May 9, 2017

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