Explore Jain Temples In Pakistan Pakistan is a land of various religions and ethnicities, all coexisting harmoniously. It is a land that celebrates its rich cultural heritage, keeps up with the many traditions, and upholds cultural practices through many religious festivals. The country’s governments have over the years taken a number of initiatives for maintaining the sanctity of these belief systems. For this reason, a number of excavation and restoration projects have been undertaken. You’ll find a large number of Hindus, Sikhs, and Christians in this area. However, there’s more that contributes towards Pakistan’s diversity; it is centuries of settlements, communal living, and the need for socio-economic uplift. A recent discovery by the Endowment Fund for Trust (EFT) for the Preservation of the Heritage of Sindh has uncovered relics of one of the oldest religions in the world: Jainism. In this blog, we shall discuss its origin and explore the remnants of Jain temples in Pakistan.
JAINISM & JAIN TEMPLES IN PAKISTAN
Jainism is one of the oldest Indian religions. It has 24 leaders called Tirthankaras who lived till 600 BCE, while the first original leader of this belief system is known to have emerged millions of years ago. It is considered as one the oldest, continuously practiced religions that have spread to the Western world as well. Apart from India, in present-day Pakistan, you can find a number of Jain temples, especially in Punjab and Nagarparkar, Sindh. Jainism is a unique belief system whereby followers are guided by three basic principles: right belief, right knowledge, and right conduct.
With a strong presence in Pakistan, the Sindh Government has been working to explore more about this ancient religion. Recently, during its excavation activities, the Endowment Fund for Trust (EFT) for the Preservation of the Heritage of Sindh found six centuries-old statues at the heritage site of Nagarparkar in Tharparkar Sindh. Work was underway at this site which is considered to be an old Jain temple, and the EFT has announced that it will hand over this temple to Sindh Government’s Culture Department for further restoration work.
What is surprising about this discovery is that it highlights Pakistan’s religious diversity that has had firm roots in the history of the region. It creates a curious frenzy where Pakistanis are now more interested in uncovering the past civilizations and realizing the historic ethos surrounding religious harmony.
Nagarparkar has long been considered a site for pilgrimage, however, according to a UNESCO tentative world heritage application, Nagarparkar was not a “major religious center or a place of pilgrimage” for Jainism, but it is an important cultural landscape. The application further adds that by 1947, almost all of the Jains had left Pakistan. But this discovery points towards an interesting idea that Pakistan is indeed at the crossroads of history, of the clash of great civilizations and inter-faith harmony, all of which begs the need for more excavation efforts to uncover history.
While most members of the Jain community have left Pakistan, their temples are remnants of a unique belief system.
Jainists are primarily practitioners of nonviolence (ahimsa). There is a large following of Jainism in Pakistan, and their Jain temples are spread mostly in Punjab. Let’s explore these Jain Temples.
JAINISM IN PAKISTAN’S PUNJAB
It is widely believed that Jainism was mainly practiced in modern-day Punjab by the Bhabra community, ancient merchants of the area. A number of prominent Punjab cities have localities named after members of the Baba community. These are:
Sialkot: In the Sialkot district cities of Sialkot and Pasrur, a large community of Bhabras lived and thrived. The Serai Bhabrian and Bhabrian Wala localities of Sialkot city are named after them. There were several Jain temples here before the partition. Pasrur is an old town that was developed by a landlord, Baba Dharam Dass.
Gujranwala: Two old Jain libraries managed by Lala Karam Chand Bhabra were present here which were visited by Ramkrishna Gopal Bhandarkar.
Lahore: A large number of temples existed in localities that still go by the names of Thari Bhabrian and Gali Bhabrian.
Rawalpindi: The famous Bhabra Bazar is named after the Bhabra community of this area.
Mianwali: This city has a descendent cast of Bhabras still living in this area.
While most of the members of the Bhabra Community have now left Pakistan, their ancient places of worship are still present, as remnants of a civilization that ruled this part of the planet.
Jain Digambar Temple with Shikhar, in Mohalla Thari Bhabrian of Walled City Lahore
This temple has been designed with a Shikhar which in Hindu architecture is a tall rising tower, typically found in temples in Northern India. The Jain Shwetambar Temple is all white, however, only ruins remain to this day.
Jain Shwetambar Temple with Shikhar, in Mohalla Thari Bhabrian of Walled City Lahore
This place of worship is situated in close proximity to Jain Digambar Temple and is similar in architecture. Many believe these two are part of the same temple, rather than two separate ones.
Jain Shwetambar Dada Wadi (Mini Temple), Guru Mangat in Lahore Cantt
This temple is primarily known for its foot imprint in a rock stone, which many believe belongs to Mahavira, the last of the 24 Jain prophets. If this is correct, the temple can be as old as 2,500 years.
.Other notable sites include Jain Digambar Temple with Shikhar, in Old Anarkali Bazaar, Jain Mandir inside Aitchison College, and Bhabra Jain temple in Multan.
Apart from the first three, little is known about other Jain temples of Punjab. However, as these are based in cities such as Sialkot, Pasrur, and all the way down to Multan, it speaks of the religion’s strong following. From Multan onwards to Sindh, you’ll find even more relics of Jainism.
JAINISM IN PAKISTAN’S SINDH
There are a number of Jain temples in Sindh, but the ones that can be found today are mostly centered around Tharparkar. If we infer from this information, it can be deduced that while Jainism originated from India, it merely crossed the border to present-day Pakistan as most of the Jainist sites in Punjab and Sindh are located on the present-day border between the two countries.
The most popular Jain sites are:
Nagar Bazar Temple
This temple is located in the main bazaar of Nagarparkar town in Sindh. This is also designed in the shape of a tower, Shikhar, but has a unique Corona arched gateway that carries intricate carvings. A few years after the 1947 Partition, the temple was abandoned.
Bhodesa Jain Mandir
This is located in Rhodes, 4 miles from Nagar, and has three Jain temples’ ruins. This city became a capital under Sodha rule. It features the ruins of three Jain temples.
Bhodesar was the region’s capital during Sodha’s rule, one of the 24 prophets. It is believed that these temples were made between 1375 CE and 1449 CE.
Viravah Jain Temple
This temple is located in the Jatland area of Tharparkar. It is a collection of a number of temple ruins or one that consisted of 27 pillars. One temple has been well preserved till today.
Virvah Gori Mandir
This was considered a royal temple and was built with 52 subsidiary shrines between 1375-1376 AD. It is located 24 miles away from Viravah.
These are the surviving Jain temples of Pakistan. The curious new discovery by the EFT has opened new areas for the government to embrace its heritage history. The incumbent government is making all efforts necessary for religious minorities to be able to practice their beliefs with utmost liberty. These efforts are in line with celebrating Pakistan’s rich cultural history as well as present values. This also goes on to show the harmony with which Pakistanis are coexisting and adding a unique flavor to the country.
All these new discoveries allow for an inclusive tourism strategy, which the incumbent government is working towards. Case in point: Al Beruni Radius, which is an initiative to promote heritage sites in Pakistan, including Jain temples.