Jainism originated in ancient India, and its oldest temples are found in the larger Indian cities. Jain temples exist worldwide, but temple attendance is not required by Jainism, and you can worship at home through daily prayer and meditation focused on the principle Jain teaching: do no harm to any living being. Pilgrimage is also a key part of Jainism, with ancient temples attracting thousands of visitors to glimpse the location where Jain prophets, called "tirthankaras," achieved enlightenment.
Jain temple services involve worship and prayer, and are led by a monk in front of a shrine to a particular tirthankara. Sects like Terapanthis Jainism oppose the notion of worshiping in a temple, but there are many temples devoted to the two main sects, Svetambara Jainism and Digambara Jainism. Deities in Digambara temples are plain and undecorated, while the deities and interior of a Svetambara temple are ornate with glass, paintings, gold and jeweled decor.
Temples Around the World
Jainism is practiced throughout the world, with large complexes like the Jain Center of Greater Phoenix in the United States and the Jain Center of Leicester in the U.K. attracting local Jain populations for weekly worship and festivals. Lal Mandir is a Jain temple in Delhi, India, dating back to 1658 that is still used for worship. Lal Mandir holds the idols of Mahavira, a prophet credited as the founder of Jainism in its modern form.
Pilgrimage is a key part of Jainism, and ancient holy temples in India attract Jains who wish to pray where past tirthankaras achieved enlightenment, known as "moksha." Some sites have fallen into ruin, like the Panchakoota Basadi, built in 900 C.E. in the southwestern Indian state of Karnataka. Others, such as the Shatrunya in Gujurat, are vast temple cities teeming with worshipers. Shatrunya is one of the most famous pilgrimage locations for Jains, being the site where the first Jain tirthankara achieved moksha.
Despite a rich history of worshiping in temples, Jains are not required by their faith to attend temple services. According to the BBC, you can practice Jainism at home by praying throughout the day and staying mindful of the teachings of Jainism. When worshipping at home, complete one 48-minute session of reflective meditation every day, perform morning prayers before dawn and repent for your sins, including any unwitting harm you may have done to even the most microscopic of creatures throughout the night when you were sleeping.
- BBC Religions: Jainism at a Glance
- Jain Samaj Leicester: Homepage
- BBC Religions: Jainism - Daily Spirituality
- British Library: Jain Temples on Palitana Hill
- BBC Religions: Jainism - Monks, Nuns and Temple Worship
- BBC Religions: Jain Temples
- Jain Center of Greater Phoenix: About Us
- Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts: Shree Digamber Jain Lal Mandir
- BBC Religions: Jainism - Mahavira
- BBC Religions: Jainism - Pilgrimage
- Mario Tama/Getty Images News/Getty Images