Jain temples in Mehrauli? Really? Mehrauli in current day South Delhi is actually far older than Shahjahanabad or Old Delhi as it is popularly known today. It was the seat of this eternal capital city for centuries when the Rajputs, Chauhans, Tomars, Tughlaqs, and Lodhis ruled the city. This is where you find some of the best architecture. The monuments that literally define the skyline of this not so high rise city. Though most of the monuments today are a testimony to the Muslim rulers who came to this country and ruled it. The landscape is punctuated by their mosques and tombs. There are a few hidden gems here and there which indicate the multicultural existence of this city since ages.
Beautiful Jain Temples of Mehrauli
Just off the main Mehrauli-Gurgaon Road, about half a kilometer away is one of the beautiful Jain temples, standing there for more than 800 years. It is popularly known as Dada Bari or Dadabari Jain Temple. There is a huge board announcing the shrine on either side of the road. In fact just as you turn in from the MG Road, you suddenly face an old mosque which is obviously no longer in use. And probably belongs to the Lodhi period. It is called Madhi Masjid. And is closed as of now and an ASI board declares it as a protected monument. Go a little further and you see a temple on your right in white marble. It seems not so big from outside, but you can easily spend more than an hour going around this temple.
Dada Bari Jain Temple
The story behind the Dada Bari temple goes like this. Manidhari Dada Shri Jinchandra Suri was a famous Jain saint who lived in the early 13th century. He was from the Jaisalmer area and was a child prodigy. He was said to have a Mani on his forehead, which is a rare thing. I am not sure if this is a truth or a myth but the followers believe that it was so. He took Deeksha at the tender age of six years. By the time he was nine years old, he was already an Acharya. He was a great scholar and was said to excel in philosophical discussions or arguments which were a common practice amongst intellectuals in those days. As the Jain culture demands, he was supposed to be on his foot and roam around the world.
Monks Delhi visit
His guru could foresee his death in Delhi, so he told him that you go wherever you want to go but do not enter Delhi. He went around doing his duty as a monk for years. Finally, when he was on the outskirts of Delhi, he was invited by the then reigning king Madanpal. Given the circumstances, he could not say No to him and entered Delhi. He built a Parsvanath temple in the area where Qutab Minar now stands. Thereafter he lived in Delhi and gave up his body at the young age of 26 only.
Before he left his body he told his devotees that when I die, one person should stand with a bowl of milk facing me and that person would get my Mani. He also told them when you take me on my last journey, once you have lifted my body from the floor, do not keep it down till you have reached the place where you want to perform my last rites. Otherwise, you will not be able to lift my body again. His, sorrow-ridden devotees did not listen to him properly and forgot both the things when he died.
Myth or Belief
A Muslim fakir was standing with a bowl of milk when he died and hence he got the Mani from Dada guru’s forehead. When the devotees were taking his body to the cremation ground, on the way came a Manik Chowk that means an important crossroad in the city. A lot of people came out to pay their respect to the saint, the devotees carrying his body kept the body down. As the saint had predicted, they could not lift it up again. They tried every trick including letting the elephants pull the body, but failed. King himself tried to lift the body, but the body just refused to move. Hence the last rites were done at the same place and a Samadhi built there. The temple today stands at the same place since then. It is said that whatever you wish for in this temple, you get it.
Peaceful & Beautiful Temple
Today, it is one of the few peaceful places in Delhi. It is a beautiful temple, brilliantly maintained and managed. There are large Silver gateways and doors. There is marble flooring, carved arches like most Jain temples. But what you would find most amazing in this temple is the extensive mirror work. One of the main shrines is a room completely done in colorful mirror work. There are paintings depicting Jain stories. One of the paintings depicts the marriage procession of Neminath and his dejection from the world at the same time and the story of his fiancée following him to the saintly world.
Paintings of Dada Guru
In one of the corridors, there are a series of paintings depicting the stories from the life of Dada Guru. The back wall of the temple is completely carved depicting again the stories and the characters in those stories. There is a provision for 300+ people to stay and eat on this small campus. The rooms overlooked a garden and the small hill of shrines, making it a very inviting atmosphere to come and stay there for some peace and tranquility.
Behind the Jain Temples but within the complex is an artificially created hillock, with small shrines of various Jain Tirthankars scattered on it in a very aesthetic way. You can go around the hillock and be away from the hustle and bustle of the city for a while. Prominently marked arrows guide you a walk around the hillock covering every little shrine on it. Of course, this may not be the same when there are festivals or any other celebrations in the temple when thousands of devotees would come here.
Even if you are an atheist or a non-follower of Jainism, you should visit this temple to see the purpose a temple should serve, provide everyone and by that I mean every visitor with a clean and serene environment, allow them to be themselves, and preserve and enhance art and culture by way of constantly adding to the existing artistic assets of the temple.
Come out of the temple back to the main Mehrauli-Gurgaon road, and go left for a few hundred meters. At the signal take a U-turn and soon after that on your left is Ahimsa Sthal, another Jain place. I am not sure if this can be called a temple in the true sense, as it is a beautiful garden with a small rocky hill in it, on top of which there is a huge 14ft idol of Lord Mahavir. This is a fairly new place, developed in the mid-1980s after
This is a fairly new place, developed in the mid-1980s after Indira Gandhi allotted this space for a garden. As it happens, this place has now become an important place for the Jains. The hill again has an aesthetically carved path, with both stairs and a ramp to reach the top. There are rooms built in and around this hillock for the devotees to come and stay. Which are almost not visible unless you make a conscious effort to look for them or someone shows them to you.
As you reach the top, you see a huge idol of Mahavir smiling at you flanked by two huge lions. There are a couple of pieces of sculpture in greenish-black stone, brought from South India and typical of Hoysala style found in places like Belur and Halebid.
Landscape View from Mehrauli Jain Temples
Look around and you would feel as if you are standing on a hill in the middle of the city and the skyline of the city looking at you and talking to you. In one direction you have the Qutab Minar and Alai Minar looking at you. In another direction, you see Balban’s and Adam Khan’s tomb, in yet another Azam Khan’s. You see the green cover of Delhi, which you somehow miss from the ground level. And you know Delhi is not so environmentally unfriendly and concrete has probably failed to overtake the trees.
You hardly see any roads and that kind of disconnects you from the city that you know. It is a strange feeling to be looking at the landmarks of the city but not the hustle and bustle that you are used to. Look below and you see the beautifully landscaped garden, perfect for a morning or an evening walk.
At both the temples, you can buy Jain literature and talk to the priests and they would oblige you with the stories associated with the temple. Both the Jain temples put together can take about half a day of your time. I recommend these temples to anyone looking forward to spending some quiet time. And still be interacting with the art, culture, and history in a neat and clean environment. If spirituality attracts you, then add that dimension as well.
Recommend you to read the following travel blog on Places to visit in Delhi.