Ancient Jain Temple
Bangalore-Calicut Highway, Sultan Bathery, Kerala 673592, India
About Ancient Jain Temple
The ancient Jain Temple made entirely of granite.
The Ancient Jain Temple in Sulthan Bathery is believed to have built around 13th century. The architecture of the temple has strong resemblance to that of the structures built by then reigning Vijayanagar Dynasty and is made wholly of granite.
The highs and lows of Jain communities in Wayanad
Since 8th century, Wayanad started to have its Jain communities, becoming one of the most important Jain centres in Kerala. From 18th century onwards, Jainism, one of the oldest religions in the world started diminishing. The various attacks from ever changing dynasties and small kingdoms, vandalisms, British rule, the raise of Hinduism and others are thought to be the factors for the decline. As with decline of Jainism, the temples they built too started vanishing along.
A shrine, a commercial centre, an ammunition store- the different roles played by the Temple
One of the interesting facts about the temple is that it first served as a shrine during the peak of Jainism in Wayanad, and then it became an important center of commercial activity when Shaivite - Vishnuvite (sectors of Hinduism which believes Shiva as the supreme god and Vishnu as the supreme god respectively) religions flourished and then in later 18th century it became an ammunition store of Tipu Sultan, the then Mysore King.
The time of Tipu Sultan, British and the current day maintenance
The name of Sulthan Bathery was ‘Gananaptivattam’ during Sultan’s time owing to the presence of an ancient Ganapathi (Elephant faced boy god of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathy) temple. After Sultans era, the town was called Sulthan Bathery, transformed from ‘Sultans battery’ as called by the British who fought against the Tipu.
After Tipu’s time, the place was left in ruins for 150 years and received no attention or maintenance turning it to a place for anti-social elements. Following numerous efforts from the public and the Jain community, Archeological Survey of India took over the temple and since then the agency is responsible for the day to day operations of the structure.
The many names of Sulthan Bathery
It is also interesting to note that the temple town Sulthan Bathery has a long list of names, being re-named over the course of history. It was known as Sultan’s Battery, Sulthan Bathery, S.Bathery, Bathery, Dodappan Kulam, Mahaganapathivattam, Ganapathivattom and Hennaradu Vithi. An old name of this town was Kidanganadu because of the presence of the Kidangans tribes. Besides, Sulthan Bathery was also known as Purakizha during the reign of the Kulashekara kings.
Exploring the temple and its architecture
The Temple stands on a raised platform with extensively carved square pillars built to support the stone slab roof. The structure has Mukha Mandapa (front facing verandah), followed by a Maha Mandapa (inner courtyard) and then the Sanctum. The steps that lead to the Mukha Mandapa are similar to the Sopanam (sacred steps) seen in Kerala Hindu Temples, complete with a Vyali Mukham (dragons face).
From Mukha Mandap, a small, narrow door takes you inside the Maha Mandap. This vault like inner room has low ceilings and four stone pillars inscribed with lotus and snakes. The only light source in the room is the yellow bulb overhead. In one side of the room is the small iron doors to the inner sanctum. Near the wall you will see figurines of Ganesha, Vishnu, and some others that were dug out from the temple well during an annual cleaning in 2002.
In the Sanctum you can see the square granite slab with a carving of Mahavir Jain (twenty fourth spiritual teacher of Jainism). The temple is mostly devoid of any carvings in the outer section and there are only few in the inner section except on the pillars.
The many carvings on the pillars and the temple idol
The pillars have various carvings such as Dharnendra Bandanam (the form of a coiled snake), Thirthanka emblems of Jainism such as an elephant, a snake, a swan and a lotus. Inside the Sanctum, the main idol is missing, only the pedestals for placing the idol is here. The idol is currently in the Ananthanath Temple at Kalpetta. Once a year during Mahavir Jayanthi (most important festival of Jains), the idol is brought here. The temple, currently owned by the Archeological Survey of India opens it to the Jains for worship only during the festival.
The carving of Dharnendra Bandanam in one of the pillars has an ancient belief associated with it. The belief is that if you are able to trace the snake from its head to the tail without overlaps or mistakes, your wishes will be granted. This has nothing to do with any Jain philosophy though.
There is a raised platform of granite in front of the main entrance as well. This structure is called Namaskara Mandapa (pavilion for ritual gesture). The platform too holds carved pillars but their fluted columns ends without any crown stones. The surrounding grounds of the temple too are paved in granite.
Getting to the Ancient Jain Temple
The temple is located in Sulthan Bathery town of Wayanad District in Kerala State of Southern India. Sulthan Bathery is 24 km away from the district capital Kalpetta. The nearest railway station is in Kozhikode, 95 km away from where there are direct buses to Sulthan Bathery.
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