Parasnath Hill – the revered pilgrimage of Shikharji in Giridih

Table of contents for Parasnath Temple

  1. Parasnath Hill – the revered pilgrimage of Shikharji in Giridih
  2. Parasnath Hill – completing the revered pilgrimage with Jal Mandir, Madhuban and more temples

Parasnath Hill, or Shikharji, is a famous Jain pilgrimage site situated in Giridih district in Jharkhand. It lies on NH 2, the Delhi-Kolkata highway in a section called the Grand Trunk road. Shikharji rises to 4,429 feet (1,350 meter) making it the highest mountain in Jharkhand. The pilgrimage to Shikharji is a round trip of 30 km through the Madhuban forest. The section from Gandharva Nala stream to the summit is the most sacred to Jains. The pilgrimage is made on foot or by a doli along a concrete paved track. Along the track are shrines to each of the twenty revered Tirthankaras. There is an option for parikrama of whole Parasnath Hill of 54km. The pathway of parikrama is throughout the forest and is only for walking.

First view of Parasnath Temple

First view of Parasnath Temple

Nearest railway station named “Parasnath Station” is situated in Isri bazar, Dumri Jharkhand. It is around 25km from Madhuban. Parasnath station is situated on Delhi-Howrah Grand Chord via Kanpur, Allahbad, Mugalsarai, Gaya, Asansol. Many long distance trains have halt at Parasnath Station. Daily connectivity to Mumbai, Delhi, Jaipur, Ajmer, Kolkata, Patna, Allahabad, Kanpur, Jammu Tawi, Amritsar, Kalka etc are available. Even 12301-12302 Howrah Rajdhani Express via Gaya Junction has a halt on Parasnath station.

SIGNIFICANCE
Shikharji (Śikharji) means the venerable peak. The site is also called Sammed Śikhar or Sammet Shikhar, meaning the peak of concentration, because it is a place where 20 of 24 Tirthankaras attained a state of mokṣha through meditative concentration. Name of the 20 Tirthankaras who attained moksha here are : Ajitnath, Sambhavnath, Abhinandan prabhu, Sumatinath, Padmprabhu, Suparshwanath, Chandraprabhu, Suvidhinath, Sheetalnath, Shreyansnath, Vimalnath, Anantnath, Dharmnath, Shantinath, Kunthunath, Arnath, Mallinath, Munisuvrat Swami, Neminath and Parshwanath. The word Parasnath is derived from Parshwanatha, the twenty-third Tirthankara of Jains, who also attained nirvana at the site. The earliest reference to Shikharji as a place of pilgrimage is found in the Jñātṛdhārmakātha, one of the twelve core texts of Jainism: at Shikharji, Mallinātha, the nineteenth Jina practiced samadhi. Shikharji is also mentioned in the Pārśvanāthacarita, a twelfth century biography of Pārśva.

It was made accessible since the construction of a road in 1838. Significantly the oldest of the Jain temple appears to date only from AD 1775. Parasnath is the “Marang Buru” or hill deity of the Santhals of Hazaribagh, Manbhum, Bankura and Santhal Parganas. In his book, Mahopadhyaya Lalitprabh Sagar ji described Shikharji as follows: “When just one auspicious event of one Tirthankar can convert a place into a pilgrimage, it will be quite impossible for human intelligence to assess the holiness and power of that pilgrimage where as many as twenty Tirthankars have lit-up the inextinguishable light of nirvana”.

Why I went to Parasnath Hill
For 9 years, I was posted at Santaldih Thermal Power Plant which is situated at Santaldih, a town in Purulia Dist., WB, located near the border of Bengal and Jharkhand. Parasnath Hill is well accessible from Santaldih. The factor of proximity prompted me to cover the famous Jain pilgrimage shrine, which is otherwise a long way from Kolkata.

Memories from June 2013
I went to Parasnath Hill in 2013. On 22nd June 2013, myself with my colleague Rajat started our journey from Dhanbad railway station. It is only one and a half hour car journey from Santaldih to Dhanbad. From Dhanbad we caught Jammu Tawi express at 5.35 pm. We reached Parasnath railway station at 6.30 pm.

Outside Parasnath Railway Station

Outside Parasnath Railway Station

Parasnath railway station is an old one. It was opened in 1906 and electrified in 1961-62. That is why infrastructural facilities are available at this remote place. Just outside the station there was a taxi stand and a rich market. We took a Maruti van for Rs.350/- for going to Niharika lodge at Madhuban. It was a neat and clean modern Jain lodge, under control of Saswat Trust. The journey took apprx. 40 minutes. We had a pre-booked double bed room for 2 nights for a total cost of Rs.1000/- only. Astonishingly cheap. The manager of Niharika Shri Aprameya Pandeya was a helpful person. Since there was no dinning facility at the lodge, we took dinner at a nearby local restaurant. It may be mentioned here that, entire Madhuban town is a complete veg one, you will not find a non-veg restaurant there.

Our room in Niharika Lodge

Our room in Niharika Lodge

Niharika Lodge with a temple inside the lodge campus

Niharika Lodge with a temple inside the lodge campus

For going upto the top, it takes normally 5 hours covering apprx. 13-14 km through a short route. Niharika staff advised us to start from 3 am in the morning. But we were tired, so we could get up only at 5.30 in the morning of 23rd. June 2013. We saw the sun rise, got ready and took an auto from the gate of the lodge at 6.20 am. It reached us at the starting point of the yatra at 6.25 am. So we started our long walking journey from that point. The walkway was cemented.

Walking along the lonely way through the jungle

Walking along the lonely way through the jungle

Slowly we were gaining height. We could see the skyline of the city. The way was through natural forest. We carried our rucksack with small quantity of drinking water and pack of cake and cashew. We were of the assumption that lots of snack stall will be available on the way – at least such type of information was available in websites. But we were proved absolutely wrong. Except very few tea stalls and lemon water stalls, nothing more was available throughout the entire journey.

My colleague Rajat watching a Yatri returning from the top. Don’t miss mobile numbers mentioned at the bottom of the roadside board

My colleague Rajat watching a Yatri returning from the top. Don’t miss mobile numbers mentioned at the bottom of the roadside board

Later we came to know that during the month of Shravan, such fooding facilities are made available temporarily. However, we noticed with astonishment that, after every 4-5 km, some semi covered hutments were there with laced cots (which are used in villages having local name of Khatiya). Tired yatris used to take rest by sleeping on such cots, which are provided free to the yatris.

Inside a Jain Temple on way

Inside a Jain Temple on way

Marvellous marble work in the ceiling

Marvellous marble work in the ceiling

After walking for one and a half hour, we stopped by a roadside tea stall. The stall owner lady was Nimya Devi. On talking to her we came to know that, for running such type of stalls, they come from the ground level. They do business in the hill for some hours and again return to the ground. We had some hot tea and biscuit and again started walking. The road was lonely.

Walkway went through dense hilly forest

Walkway went through dense hilly forest

Pausing for a moment

Pausing for a moment

Jungle flower with a majestic hill in the background

Jungle flower with a majestic hill in the background

Dense trees surrounded the hill. Hardly could we see the sun through the jungle. Weather was very humid. Unknown types of birds were flying around us. When we were passing through a small habitable area, suddenly some aged persons came out. Many hutments were seen here and there with clear marks of poverty. Such poor people asked for money. They were too aged to do any job. What a destiny! We could not understand whether they lived there on their own or they had been dumped at such interior and remote place. We found no answer, gave them some money and marched forward. What an experience that was.

At around 11.30 am, we arrived at a deserted Jain temple situated by the side of road. It was open, but nobody was there. We entered inside, where pictures of many Tirthankaras were hanging from the wall. We visited the temple and surrounding and then we moved towards the top.

Inside the deserted temple

Inside the deserted temple

Pictures of Tirthankaras hanging from wall of the temple

Pictures of Tirthankaras hanging from wall of the temple

At around 12.15 noon, we reached a flat place on the top of the hill. Though it was not the peak, but the flat area was very wide. From that area, many walkway went towards other adjoining hills. Each walkway ended at a different tonk devoted to a Tirthankar.

So many Tonks on the hill

So many Tonks on the hill

A tonk is a small civil structure made of white marble. Inside a tonk there was impression of feet on stone of the Tirthankar after whom the tonk was made. We visited some of the tonks. Each tonk was placed far away from each other situated on different hills.

A Tonk on the hill placed far away. Forest of Topchanchi can be seen behind the hill

A Tonk on the hill placed far away. Forest of Topchanchi can be seen behind the hill

So one needs time, physical fitness and abundant energy to cover all the tonks, after covering apprx 12 km of ascending distance from ground level. From here we had the first view of the main Parasnath temple.

Impression of feet in a Tonk

Impression of feet in a Tonk

There was another famous temple called Jal Mandir. It was a complete white-marbled temple.

The famous Jal Mandir

The famous Jal Mandir

A statue of Tirthankar inside Jal Mandir

A statue of Tirthankar inside Jal Mandir

Idol of God inside Jal Mandir

Idol of God inside Jal Mandir

There were idols of tirthankaras and other gods inside the temple. Provision for taking food was also available at a bhawan adjacent to the main temple. We observed with much appreciation that each Jain temple was very neat and clean.

Listening to a Jain Yatri. I have a reputation of being a good listener

Listening to a Jain Yatri. I have a reputation of being a good listener

Then we progressed towards the main attraction, the Parasnath temple. Please read the next part of the travelogue, soon.

16 Comments

  • Tushar says:

    This post is one of the best post written. Very informative.
    Niharika lodge at Madhuban – impressed a lot. Thanks for writing and sharing.

  • Santanu says:

    Dear Tushar,
    Thank you for your appreciation. Jain lodges can be contacted from Kolkata itself, as many Jain entrepreneurs and NGOs are located there. You can web search. In the next part of my travelogue, I will give contact numbers of lodges / hotels situated in Madhuban.
    Regards
    Santanu

  • Uday Baxi says:

    Dear Santanu

    A great log. I always wanted to visit this place, but could not do so. Thanks for sharing the detailed account of the journey.

    From the expanse of the hills and the tonks, it seems that plenty of time would be required to cover all of them. Hopefully, there would be either permanent or temporary accommodation available on the hill-top.

    Hoping to read the next part soon…

    Regards

  • Santanu says:

    Dear Uday,
    Thanks for your encouragement. I also hoped that there should be accomodation for yatris for night stay etc. at the top of the hill. But to our disappointment, nothing of that sort was available, at least for general yatris. A pilgrim has to start from gorund level early morning, preferably before sunrise. Only then it would be possible to cover some of the tonks, the Jal Mandir and the main Parasnath temple. Then he/she has to come back to ground level again before it gets dark. It is never advisable to make downward journey amidst darkness. Most importantly, one has to retain energy level to go 14 km upwards, see the temples and tonks and again come back within the same day. During shravan, however, there are plenty of pilgrims to give company. Otherwise, the hilly way through the jungle is absolutely lonely. But we seek adventure in unusul things in life. Thats the spice, which kicks ghumakkars to break the boundary of monotonous life.
    Regards
    Santanu

  • Pravesh says:

    Dear Santanu Ji,

    Thank you for writing this great post. this is in so much details that I feel too eager to visit the place.

    Pics are very nice & lively.

    Congratulations & keep sharing…

    Regds
    Pravesh

  • Santanu says:

    Dear Pravesh,
    Thanks for your appreciation. In my next part (last part) of the travelogue I have given address and phone numbers of Niharika Lodge, where we stayed during our visit. I have also given contact details of other accomodations available at Madhuban for tourists / yaris. These informations may prove useful to interested persons.
    Regards
    Santanu

  • om prakash laddha says:

    santanu ji
    very interesting post with beautiful pic thanks for sharing .

  • Santanu says:

    Dear Om Prakash ji,
    Thanks for your nice comments.
    Regards
    Santanu

  • Nandan Jha says:

    A few years back, we were going to Babadham/Deoghar from Dhanbad by car to attend some family ceremony. On the way back, we did discuss and kind of saw the ShikharJi hill but could not make up our mind. After looking at pictures, now we understand what did we lose.

    Both Mahaveer and Budhha were from this part of India but today this whole belt (barring few cities of Jharkhand, Bihar and W.Bengal) has a lot to catch up on the front of human life indicators.

    Thank you Santanu.

  • Santanu says:

    Dear Nandan,
    Yes, Parasnath Hill is a place which had lit up the light of divinity among not only the Jains and but in the hearts of traditional Hindus also. A visit to the place refreshens our body and soul.
    Regards
    Santanu

  • Siddharth Patvi says:

    Dear Santanu,

    I’m a Jain myself, very well written and informative blog for Shri Samet Shikharji Tirth.
    Would like to bring to your knowledge, that one of the captions given to your picture has an error. You’ve written ” Pictures of Tirthankaras hanging from wall of the temple”
    Actually those are Pictures of Jain Monks.
    Tirthankaras are Jain Gods like Mahavira, etc.

    Regards,
    Siddharth

  • SANTANU says:

    Dear Siddharth ji,
    I apologise for the error pointed out by you. Thank you for enlightening me.
    Santanu

  • Tanusree Dey says:

    Well written and well photographed .

  • Sweetoo says:

    Dear Shantanuji,

    Awseome blog , well written and beautiful pictures. I am planning to take my parents and I don’t have any idea about Shikarji location so was going through google to find out more details about the location, stay and travel and I came across your blog which actually gave me a clear picture how the location actually is. Now I feel a safe place to travel with min risks…Thank you so much. I hope your blog helps many more like me who are looking for more details of Shikarji….it would be great if you could share the stay and other details to my mail which you feel will be helpful during my travel.

    • SANTANU says:

      Dear Friend,
      Thank you for the ornamented appreciation. Like the ones written by me, you can find many travelogues contributed by experienced Ghumakkars at this platform, which do help travelers a lot, as they contain useful information. Please check you email ID, where I have given some details asked by you. Wish you a safe and successful journey to Parasnath ji. Warm regards.

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