Palitana is located in the western Indian state of Gujarat, 51 km south west of Bhavnagar. It is a part of the Saurashtra region famed for its spectacular temple sites, cities, beautiful beaches, and wildlife. The town has a good road and rail network that connects it to the other cities of Gujarat, especially Bhavnagar.
The act of ascending a path to reach a place of pilgrimage is a part of the Hindu and Jain consciousness, which is why many of their holiest temples are located along hills and mountain ranges. The Jains have five separate hill locations for their holiest clusters of temples and Shatrunjaya Hill, Palitana is considered the most important among them. Another group is in Girnar (Junagadh), not too far away, while others are in Rajasthan and Maharashtra.
While the Palitana temple are not the most beautiful the Jains have built (the marble temple of Ranakpur in Rajasthan, just across the border from Mt. Abu, would rate as their most creative architectural effort), they are the most impressive. Nothing can match the vision of this hillside covered with the spires of hundreds of temples, each stretching higher still, as if anxious to establish communion with the skies.
Palitana houses perhaps the largest cluster of Jain temples anywhere. From the base to the peak of the Shatrunjaya Hill, where the Palitana temples are located, there are in all 863 temples. These temples were built in two phases-the 11th and 12th centuries as a part of the resurgence of temple building all over India, and in the 16th century. Some of the earliest temples built in the 11th century were destroyed by Muslim invaders in the 14th and 15th centuries. The current temples date back to 16th century onwards. Not any one person or group was responsible for the construction of these magnificent temples. It was the effort of the wealthy businessmen who were followers of Jainism that these buildings came into existence.
Best Time to Visit
The climate of Palitana is generally pleasant. The summer season continues from March to June, with daytime temperature reaching 40°C.The monsoon reaches Palitana in July and remains there till September. Winter sets in around October and continues till February. The summer temperatures range from 24°C to 42°C and winter temperatures range from 10°C to 24°C.
How to Reach
BY AIR -Bhavnagar, the nearest airport lies at a distance of 51 kilometer from Palitana, but the most convenient airport is Ahmedabad as it is connected through regular flights to many important cities of the country like Mumbai and Delhi.
BY RAIL -Palitana is a small railway station and has connection only with Bhavnagar. Most of the trains stop at Sihor, which is connected to Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar.
BY ROAD -There are hourly buses for Bhavnagar from Palitana. Regular buses are also available for Ahmedabad, Talaja, Una, and Diu. The total journey time to Una or Diu is around 6 hours as the roads are not in a good condition. Taxis are also available on hire for Palitana from Bhavnagar. The bus stand is situated 800 meters away from the Palitana railway station.
Shatrunjaya (the place of victory) Hill is considered to be one of the holiest pilgrimage sites for the Jains. The temples are dedicated to the Jain Tirthankars and even the priests leave the temples at dusk.
The hilltops are bounded by sturdy walls and the temples have been grouped into nine tunks (enclosures)-each having several minor temples clustered around a central temple.
Among the most important temples here, is the Chaumukh temple with its four-faced deity of Adinath enshrined on a marble pedestal in a shrine open on all four sides (an aberration in itself). Built in the early 17th century, it is planned as a large square subdivided into smaller squares, each structure topped by a dome. The innermost five dome topped squares form a cross and represent the five hills sacred to the Jains.
The Adishwar temple is probably the most profusely decorated in Palitana. Its ornate pillars and roofs are decorated with intricately cut marble in the shape of dragons.
Near the Adishwar temple is the Muslim shrine of Angar Pir. Childless couples make offerings of miniature cradles at this shrine in the hope of being blessed with children.
Other temples worth mention are the Sampriti Raja, Kumarpal, and Rampal.
Places Around Palitana
Bhavnagar is a rich princely city around 51 km away from Palitana. The place is also a base for the tourists visiting Palitana.
A famous site of the Indus Valley Civilization, Lothal is around 143 km away from here on the way to Ahmedabad.
Valabhipur, north of Palitana was once the capital of this region. Extensive ruins have been located and archeological finds are exhibited in a museum nearby.