April 9, 2018

Jina Kanchi - The Kanchipuram of the Jains

Kanchipuram is one of the seven sacred cities for the Hindus. It is called as the "City of Thousand Temples". It is generally said that this ancient city had four different divisions namely Shiva Kanchi, Vishnu Kanchi, Buddha Kanchi and Jina Kanchi. There are few counter arguments about these divisions and exact identification of these locations. However, the scope of this article is not to talk about them.  This article focuses only on the area which is identified as Jina Kanchi, the Kanchipuram of the Jains, if I can call so.

Tirupparauthikundram is a quiet village located at a distance of about 3 kms from Kanchipuram. This village has two ancient Jain temples and as per an inscription, this village was once called the Jina Kanchi. The village that was once a stronghold of Digambara Jainism, has just two temples remaining today. The beautiful Trilokyanatha temple and the smaller Chandraprabha temple are those two Jain temples. Let us explore them in detail.

Chandraprabha Temple

Chandraprabha Temple is comparatively smaller temple, but it is the oldest surviving Jain temple of Kanchipuram. The east facing temple was probably built by Nandivarma II Pallava in the 8th century CE. There is no record or evidence about the construction date or the contributor of this temple. Only based on the architectural style, it is believed that it was built by Nandivarma II.

Although the base is made of granite, sand stone has been mainly used for the construction. The rampant standing horned lions are seen on the pillars, which are clearly the signs of the Pallavas. The vimana is made of brick and mortar.

There is no deity on the ground floor. The sanctum, Ardha Mandap, the small Mukha mandap and a small prakara are all located on the first floor. It is believed that the ground floor was constructed during the Pallava period and the top floor was built in the later period. The presiding deity is Chandraprabha, the 8th Tirthankara in Jainism. He is found seated and doing meditation. The icon is a white colored stucco image. The two chamara bearers on his two sides were probably sculpted in the 15th century CE.

The small stone image of Vardhamana, the 24th Tirthankara, which was found near Kamakshi temple and brought here in 1922 CE, is found in this temple. A new marble image of Kunthunatha, the 17th Tirthankara, is also found.

There are three inscriptions from Rajendra Chola I (11th century CE)  found in the temple. But, they are incomplete inscriptions. They do not go beyond ''Meikeerthi''.

Trilokyanathar Temple


Tirlokyanatha Temple is comparatively bigger and more attractive Jain temple in this village. Although the current structure of the temple belongs to Chola and Vijayanagara periods, it is believed to have been built by the Pallavas in the 6th century CE. The earliest reference of the site is found in a copper plate from Pallan Kovil near Tiruvidaimaruthur. It is dated to 556 CE during the rule of the Pallava King Simha Varma III. The plate refers the deity as Vajranandi Kuravar of Paruthikundram. Mainly due to this copper plate, few scholars believe that the temple was built by the same King. It is believed that only the temple for Mahaveera was constructed using brick and mortar and was called as Vardhamaneeswaram.

The current structure of the sanctum, Ardha Mandap and Mukha Mandap belong to the Chola period. The sanctum is believed to have been reconstructed by Kulotunga Chola I in the early 12th century CE. These mandaps are made of sand stone with granite base. The apsidal and circular vimanas are made of brick and mortar. The Trikuta Basti portion of the temple was built in the 13th century CE (Kulotunga Chola III). The shrines of Pushpadanta and Dharma Devi were also built in the 13th century. Shanti Mandap, which is located in the prakara, was built during the period of Rajaraja Chola III (1236 CE).

The broad and attractive Sangita Mandap along with the beautiful paintings belong to the Vijayanagaras (14th century CE).  Irugappa, the minister of Bukka II built this in 1387/88 CE. It is said that he constructed this 61 feet lengthy mandap to fulfill the wish of his Guru Pushpasena. The minister became a saint himself during his later period. His image is found in a pillar in this mandap.

The east facing three tiered tower at the entrance was also probably built by Irugappa.

The shrines for the Jain sages, which are called as Munivasa, belong to later period.

There are many inscriptions found all over the temple from the Cholas and Vijayanagaras such as Kulotunga Chola I (1116 CE), Vikrama Chola (1131 CE, 1135 CE), Kulotunga Chola III (1199 CE, 1200 CE), Rajaraja Chola III (1234 CE, 1236 CE), Kopperunchenga (13th century CE), Bukka II of Vijayanagara (1362 CE, 1388 CE), Krishnadevaraya (1517 CE, 1518 CE) and few others.


The temple is east facing and has a small three tiered tower.

The main shrine has two sections namely, Trilokyanatha and Trikuta Basti.

In Trilokyanatha section, there are three sanctums. The middle one is the main and old sanctum, which is dedicated to Mahaveera. The other two sanctums have Pushpadanta and Dharma Devi as the presiding deities.

Adjacent to Trilokyanatha, the Trikuta Basti section is located. There are three sanctums in this section too. They are dedicated to Padmaprabha, Vasupujya and Parsvanatha.

Both the sections are east facing and they have their Ardha Mandap and Mukha Mandap separately.

The Sangita Mandap serves as the common Maha Mandap for both the sections. There is a common bali peetha and flag staff facing towards these shrines.

In the prakara, the shrines of Brahma Deva  and Rishabha Natha are found. The pillared mandap called Shanti Mandap and the group of five cells called as Munivasa are also located in the prakara. The sacred Kura tree is found behind the shrines.


This section has three shrines, as mentioned already. The middle one is dedicated to Vardhamana a.k.a. Mahaveera, the 24th Tirthankara. He is found seated in meditation posture. His color is golden yellow. Two chamara bearers (red and blue color icons) are found behind and the triple umbrella above. The lanchana (similar to vaahana in Hinduism) is lion, which is embedded on the pedestal below. His vimana is Gajaprshtha style (apsidal vimana).

To the true left side of Mahaveera, the shrine of Pushpadanta, the 9th Tirthankara is located. Pushpadanta is in white color; he is found seated ; his lanchana is Makara; the dark and red colored chamara bearers are found behind the deity. The vimana of Pushpadanta is circular, which is not very usual to find.

The third shrine in this shrine is dedicated to Dharma Devi. It is a stone icon unlike the other two deities seen above, which are made of wood. Dharma Devi is the Yakshini of Neminatha, the 22nd Tirthankara. She is found seated and has two arms. She has lions as her vaahana and the small relief images of her two sons and an attendant woman are found on the pedestal.

The icon of Dharma Devi belongs to 13th century, but the icons of Mahaveera and Pushpadanta should be hardly 200 years old.

Trikuta Basti:

This section also has three shrines.

Padmaprabha, the 6th Tirthankara, in reddish white color, is found in a shrine. He is in the sitting posture and has red lotus as his lanchana. His chamara bearers' icons are in dark and red color.

Vasupujya, the 12th Tirthankara, is found in the second shrine. He is also found seated doing meditation; his icon is in red color. His chamara bearers are in blue and red colors. He has buffalo as his lanchana, carved on the pedestal.

The third shrine is very small, which enshrines Parsvanatha, the 23rd Tirthankara. He is standing and has no chamara bearers. Five hooded serpent is found above his head. His color is green. It is said that this image was found in a well near the temple and was restored to the shrine around 200 years ago.

Other Shrines:

In the prakara, there is a shrine for Brahma Deva. He is found along with his consorts Poorna and Pushkala. Ayyanar or Shasta of Hinduism is worshiped as Brahma Deva in Jainism. The iconography for both the deities as well as the names of their consorts match. In Jainism, Brahma Deva is considered as the Yaksha of Sitala, the 10th Tirthankara. Brahmadeva's icon is in stone and it's period is probably of 15th century CE.

In Shanti Mandap, the shrine of Rishabha is found. This is also a later addition.

There is a set of five sub-shrines with a front side Mandap. They are called as Munivasa. One of the cells is assigned to Chandrakrithi, the saint of 12th century CE. Another cell is assigned to his disciple Anantavirya. Mallisena, the 14th century sage, has been assigned with two cells. He had authored many literary works related to Jainism. Another cell is assigned to his disciple Pushpasena. Munivasa should have been constructed in the 17th century CE or later. Currently, there is no icon found in any of these five sub-shrines.

The stone window that is found in the main shrine is a later addition. It has the image of two sages. It is believed that they represent Chandrakrithi and Anantavirya.

Tree with an Inscription:

The holy tree of the temple is Kura tree, which is found behind the main shrine in the prakara. There is a pedestal with few inscriptions that date 13th century CE. It is believed that it was probably made by Kopperunchengan. Also, a bali peetha is found near the holy tree.

The inscription on the bali peetha  has the small relief image of Anantavirya and also an inscription mentioning him. Few inscriptions mention about Mallisena.

Icons of Mukha Mandap:

In the Mukha Mandap, there are many metal icons found. The marble image of Mahaveera and few bronze idols of other Tirthankaras are found in the mandap. There is a shrine where all the utsav images are kept. They are Parsvanatha, Mahaveera, Anantanatha, Bahubali, Brahmadeva with his consorts, Padmavati, Dharma Devi, Jwalamalini, Nava Devtas and so on. They all belong to the 18th century or later.

Mural Paintings:

The main highlight of the temple is the beautiful mural paintings found on the walls and ceilings of Sangita Mandap. The paintings were done originally during the Vijayanagara period. When the faded out paintings were redone, the original feature and style were maintained, it appears.

The length of the mandap is 61 feet. It serves as the Maha Mandap for both the sections of the temple. There are 24 pillars of variety of shapes such as circular, square and octagonal. Few images of sages, dancing girls, animals and various designs are found on these pillars.

The mural paintings depict various legends of Jainism such as the story of Sri Sena and his rebirths, the entire history of Rishabha, the history of Vardhamana, the legend of Neminatha, the legend of Krishna and the legend of Ambika. There are also some paintings representing the cosmology as per Jainism and other few aspects of the religion.

After visiting Jina Kanchi, I would laugh at anyone who claims to have visited Kanchi if he/she has not been to this place. It should definitely find a place in your Kanchipuram itinerary.

Happy travelling.


Although I have written this article based on my observation during my visit, I have refereed the following sources for some historical information and technical terms.

An excellent presentation by Mr. Shyam C. Raman
Jina Kanchi - book authored by Dr. Ajitha Das

Thanks to Tamil Heritage Trust for arranging this visit.

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