Sammetshikhar The Holiest Place Of Jains
Of the numerous places of Jain pilgrimage, ancient monuments and sites, scattered all over the Indian subcontinent, Sammetshikhar, located in Giridih district of Jharkhand is regarded as the most important and holiest. Since 20 of the 24 Tirthankars attained nirvana (salvation) here, this place has been astonishing, vibrant and awakened holy pilgrimage for millennia. It is believed that this tirtha helps the aspirant in crossing the ocean of sansara, full of pains and miseries, and in attaining liberation from the otherwise unending round of rebirths.
On the sprawling mountain of Sammet Shikhar, whether it is midnight or noon, the devotees are found to be traveling. During season, usually from October to March, one is sure to see a motley crowd of Jain pilgrims, men, women and children, hailing from different corners of the country, jostling with one another, plodding the rough steep hilly path barefoot, sparsely clad in simple clothes. Starting in the small hours of the night, chanting sacred hymns all the way, they greet each other with the common “Jai Jinendra” (victory of Lord Jina) and attain the height of the holy mount about day break.
The religious journey to the mountain takes at least nine hours. Three hours in reaching the height of the mountain, three hours in worshiping at over two dozen shrines dotting the different toonks or peaks associated with different Tirthankars and Gautam Swami, the first Gandhar of Lord Mahaveer and three hours in returning back to the dharmashalas (rest houses) at the foothill in the afternoon. The last and the highest toonk of the great Sammetshikhar pilgrimage is that of penultimate Tirthankar Parshwanath who attained nirvana here in 777 BC. In the whole world there is no Jain temple situated on any summit higher than this. Owing to its height, sometimes the entire temple becomes covered of clouds. The dusky-green holy footprints of Parshwanath have been installed here. Situated at a height of 4479 feet from the sea level, the summit of this temple is visible even from a distance of up to 30 kms.
Of the 24 Tirthankars of Jainism, 20 Tirthankars namely Ajitnath, Sambhavnath, Abhinandanprabhu, Sumatinath, Padmaprabhu,, Suparshwanath, Chandraprabhu, Suvidhinath, Sheetalnath, Shreyansnath, Vimalnath, , Anantnath, Dharmnath, Shantinath, Kunthunath, Arnath, Mallinath, Munisuvrat Swami, Naminath and Parshwanath spent the evenings of their life on this great mountain and attained the supreme status of moksha. The first Tirthankar Bhagwan Rishabhdev or Aadinath attained salvation in Ashtapad (in the Himalayas) which is invisible to us
today. The 12th Tirthankar Vasupoojay and 22nd Tirthankar Neminath or Arishtnemi lit up the light of nirvana in Champapur (Bhagalpur, Bihar) and Girnar Parvat (Gujarat) respectively. The 24th and the last Tirthankar Mahaveer Swami attained salvation in Pawapuri (Nalanda, Bihar) in the year 527 BC, where fascinating Jal Mandir exists.
The Parasnath hill always remains fragrant with a large Sandal forest situated over it. The mountain is home to several rare species of medicinal and aromatic plants. The series of attractive sky-high temples present an eye-pleasing attractive scene existing between hills with natural greenery and pollution free environment. The melodious sounds of the cool water falls flowing on this mountain is a rare experience for the visiting devotees who find this mountain as a unique place for spiritual development, eternal peace and steadiness of mind and meditation.
At the foothill known as Madhuban, there is world-famous temple of Bhomiaji Maharaj, who not only protects the pilgrimage but also fulfills the wishes of devotees. People worship the tirth protector Bhomia Baba with oil and vermilion and offer their bountiful homage. A grand fair is held every during Holi festival at Bhomiaji Temple, in which over 20,000 people including leading Jain musical groups and singers participate.
The place is visited by about four lakh pilgrims every of which 95 per cent are Jains. Non-Jains come here mainly during Christmas and new year. There are about 1500 rooms including AC ones in the dharmashalas of Jain Shwetamber Society, Dharmmangal Vidyepeeth, Shri Bhomia Bhawan, Kachchhi Bhawan, Digambar Beespanthi Kothi, Terapanthi Kothi and guest houses-hotels like Digambar Prakash Bhawan, Shashwat Bhawan and Shikharji Continental. Besides, the dharmashalas have several big halls and rooms capable to accommodate thousands of pilgrims. About 1000 new rooms with modern facilities are coming up soon at different kothis. A number of small guest houses operated by entrepreneurs are also available. In most of the dharmshalas, accommodation and food is free however devotees may donate at their sweet will while returning from the tirth.
Winter season is the most appropriate for journey to the mountain. One must wake up at 2.00 am and after getting rid of daily routine, should start for the pilgrimage by 3.00 am. It would be advisable that one should wear light cloths during pilgrimage. Heavy clothing causes uneasiness due to sudation while returning and heat and sunlight becomes intolerable. One should hire a labour for kids, palanquin for ladies, old and weak persons and other must take a stick which is very helpful during up and down ways. Torch is very helpful while beginning the mountain journey in the dark of night. These items are generally available at the dharmshalas.
The sprawling mountain has been declared a protected forest and wild life sanctuary by Government of Bihar in 1984, where nobody can stay after sunset. Department of Forests and Environment, Government of Jharkhand looks after the forest management affairs, while temples are under the management and control of Jain Shwetamber Society. The entire hill is owned by Seth Anandji Kalyanji Pedhi (Trust), Ahmedabad which had purchased it from the King of Palganj in 1918 for about Rs 2.50 lakh. Followers of all the sects and sub-sects of Jains have the right to visit and worship.
Other spots worth viewing are:
Shwetamber Kothi and Temple
Digambar jain Terah Panthi Kothi
Shri Digambar Jain Madhyalok Research Centre
Shri Parshwa Kalyan Kendra
Madhuban, the foot of the Sammetshikhar is about 22 kms from Parasnath Railway Station, situated on the Delhi-Howrah or Gaya-Kolkata line. Express trains also have stoppage here. During season, special trains full of pilgrims come in large numbers. Regular local transport is available from station to Madhuban hill. Official transport services are also available from Jain Mandir. Road distance of Madhuban from Kolkata, Patna and Ranchi is 350, 280 and 200 kms respectively. Nearest airports are Ranchi and Patna.
By P Vatsal