|Explore Jain Temples In Pakistan
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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. Over the years, the country’s governments have taken several initiatives to maintain the sanctity of these belief systems. For this reason, some excavation and restoration projects have been undertaken. You’ll find many Hindus, Sikhs, and Christians in this area. However, more contributes to Pakistan’s diversity, 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.
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 one the oldest, continuously practiced religions that have spread to the Western world. Apart from India, in present-day Pakistan, you can find many 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, considered an old Jain temple, and the EFT has announced that it will hand over this temple to the Sindh Government’s Culture Department for further restoration work.
What is surprising about this discovery is that it highlights Pakistan’s religious diversity, which has had firm roots in the region’s history. It creates a curious frenzy where Pakistanis are now more interested in uncovering 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 centre or a place of pilgrimage” for Jainism, but it is an important cultural landscape. The application 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, 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.
It is widely believed that Jainism was mainly practiced in modern-day Punjab by the Bhabra community and ancient merchants. Many prominent Punjab cities have localities named after members of the Bhabra 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 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 here, visited by Ramkrishna Gopal Bhandarkar.
Lahore: Many local temples 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.
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.
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.
Most popular Jain sites are:
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 Torona arched gateway that carries intricate carvings. A few years after the 1947 Partition, the temple was abandoned.
This is located in Bhodesa, 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.
This temple is located in 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.
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.