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Peerless Pilgrimage

Updated: December 19, 2009 12:43 pm

Anew chapter will be scripted in the history of religious, celebrated and historic place of Hastinapur on December 2, 2009, when the once extinguished Ashtappad Teerth will again come into being. On this day, this colossal, historic and inimitable archetype of architecture–Ashtapad Teertha–will be inaugurated by Shantidoot Gachhadhipati Acharya Srimad Vijay Nityanand Suriji at a grand function held in Hastinapur. As mentioned in Shasras, Ashtapad Teertha’s replica will now be in existence once again in Hastinapur. With the height of 151 feet, Ashtapad Teertha has four entrance doors. With 108 feet diameter and each of the eight padas being 108 feet high, the construction of this awestruck, fascinated marvel of architecture– Ashtapad Teertha–will turn into a historic pilgrimage place.

The nine-day-long inaugural function of Ashtapad Teertha will be very unique and exceptional in itself, which will witness a variety of programmes pertaining to spiritualism and religion. Therefore, efforts have been made on a grand level for this function. Acharya Nityanand Suriji said that with the construction of this Teertha, not only a sense of co-existence, peace, unity in diversity, etc, based on philosophy of Jainism, will be infused into the people, but Bharatiya culture and ethos will also be propagated.

It is worth mentioning that the construction of Ashtapad Teertha has been done with nerve-breaking, arduous, relentless hard work of twenty long years at a cost of about Rs 25 crore. Situated at a distance of 110 kilometre from Delhi, the importance of this historic place of Hastinapur will be multiplied with the construction of this pilgrimage place. At this place are situated grand, imposing and marvellous temples of Digambar tradition of Jainism and those of idol-worshippers.

Legend has it that Ashtapad is somewhere among the snow-clad Himalayan peaks, about 168 miles north from Badrinath on way to Mount Kailash. It is about seven mile from Mansarovar. Thousands of years ago the first Tirthankara Bhagwan Rishabhdev attained nirvana here. After his nirvana, his son Maharaja Bharat Chakravarti constructed a diamond-studded palace in his memory on Ashtapad Mountains. Twenty-four idols of Jain Tirthankars were installed in it. It is believed that since there are eight steps to be climbed to reach the mountain it is known as Ashtapada. A detailed description of Ashtapad can be found in Shatrujany Mahatmya Granth.

According to Shastras, 24th Tirthankar Bhagwan Mahavir Swami told his disciple Shri Gautam Swami that whoever undertakes pilgramage to Ashtapad, he attains moksha. Hence, Shri Gautam Swami had undertaken pilgrimages to Ashtapada through his special powers. Siddhastavan Sutra has the description of the order in which the idols are found on the Ashtapad mountains. They were installed in four rows of four, eight, ten and two. More description of Ashtapada Teertha is also given in Trishashti-shalakapurushchartra of Hemchandracharya.

The pious and historic Hastinapur assumes significance, as it is the birthplace of Bhagwan Rishabhdev. This is the pavitrbhoomi of 16th, 17th and 18th Tirthnkars, who took birth, diksha and jnan. This is the punyabhoomi of 19th Tirthankar. Hastinapur is dharmabhoomi of 20th, 23rd and 24th (Bhagwan Mahavir) Tirthankars. This was the capital of the Kauravas and the Pandvas in the times of the Mahabharat. This was the birthplace of six of the twelve Chakravartis beginning with Chakravarty Bharat. This is also the birthplace of Parashuram of the times of the Ramayana. In fact, words fail to describe the grandeur of this place which is made holy by the births, the Kalyanakas and touch of feet of great men. According to the Digambar sect, the great tradition of Rakshahandhan or Shravani Poonam started here. Thus according to the Jain traditions and history, many Tirthutaras, Chakravaratis, Great Sadhus, the Omniscient souls, ascetics, Shravakas and Shravikas are associated with to this ancient land.

By Lalit Garg

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