45 kilometers away from Kanyakumari, atop a hillock rests an ancient rock cut Jain temple, which is believed to be built during 9th century. Chitharal Bhagwati Hindu Temple, famous as the rock cut Jain monument in Kanyakumari district is a renowned Jain and Hindu site. Chitharal is an ASI marked monument which stands lost in history and standing here you would want to get lost in time too. Here in this blog, I am going to take you through the complete history of Chitharal Jain Rock cut Temple of Kanyakumari, also known as the Bhagwathi Hindu Temple and I am going to connect its Jainism and Hinduism influence.
Chitharal Jain rock cut temple is a lesser-known gem in Kanyakumari District and I chanced upon it accidentally too. A glance at the structures and architecture impressed me but we weren’t very sure if we shall be coming here because it required a detour from our original plan. Originally our plan was to leave Bangalore before the mid night and reach Kanyakumari early in the morning. But since this ASI monument is a cultural delight, I had to come here and therefore, we altered our original travel plan a bit.
So, from Bangalore we came to Chitharal Bhagwathi temple directly and checked into Kanyakumari later which made is approximately 763 kilometers of drive in 15 hours. Honestly, it wasn’t a very good idea since all of us were exhausted by the time we reached here, as we drove the whole night. The site of Chitharal hill rock temple requires a hike up of 15-20 minutes. Not challenging enough but our exhausted bodies made it difficult. Infact, I was running to capture this place as much as possible as we wanted to leave at the earliest possible.
History of Chitharal Jain Rock cut Temple of Kanyakumari
Historically, it is considered to be a place where the Jain saints would come and meditate in the caves. Therefore, Chitharal Jain rock cut temple is an important site in Jainism.
The first thing that I noticed about Chitharal Jain rock cut temple is this ruined vimana but it was difficult for me to figure anything out of it, as there was no one to guide me on this. For those who don’t know, Vimana is a structure which you would generally find on the top of inner sanctum in the hindu temples of South India. But, one thing that I can definitely note that this is not a Jain structure as it doesn’t support any of its symbol. A little research told me that this vimana was built during the 13th century which is dedicated to goddess Bhagwathi. From the vimana, don’t miss out on the beautiful view of the pond
I came down and walked through the door, to find this particular wall which had the carved figures of Jain tirthankaras.
The standing figures seems like of 23rd tirthankara in Jainism that is Parshwanatha swami and Padmavati goddess, one of his saviours. The one in padmasan pose is supposedly the 24th tirthankara of Jainism, Lord Mahavira. All the carved images above are believed to be all the 24 tirthankaras. A little walk ahead is this ruined Hindu temple of Bhagwati deity. So, let’s connect two things here
Why Chitharal is both a Jain and Hindu Site
Though popularly known as the Jain rock cut temple, Chitharal is also sometimes referred as Bhagwathi Hindu temple. The rock cut images of the tirthankaras are believed to be carved during the 9th century by the Digambar section in Jainism when the region was heavily under the influence of the religion, mainly inspired by their then king Mahendra Varman, who made majority of rock cut monuments during his reign in southern India. It was during 1258, that the site was converted into a Hindu temple and Bhagwathi temple was built here. But Jain carvings remained untouched. This pond also has an interesting tale of a fish which wouldn’t die.
But, that’s all a thing of the past. I think if you plan to come to Chitharal rock cut temple, do keep a good amount of time in hand. Apart from its historical importance, Chitharal Bhagwathi Hindu temple is a beautiful place to spend some time with the nature and calm yourself. As, I already said standing here you would want to get lost in time too.
Ending, this blog with just one request. Please maintain the sanity of place as it is. Refrain from writing anything on the stones or litter the place. Because our monuments are our pride and we must value it.
Pro Travel tips:
There is no entry ticket to enter Chitharal Jain rock temple. However, the locals generally charge Rs. 40/- as parking fess from the tourists
Wear comfortable shoes. The place requires a 20 minutes hike up
Wear a hat, if you are visiting it during the afternoon. It gets hot during this time of the day
Carry water. You will need it while hiking up to the temples
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