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Digambar Jain Temple

Shri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir is the earliest and most well known Jain temple in New Delhi. It is located directly opposite the Red Fort, which is in the neighbourhood of Chandni Chowk.

The Temple is famed for an avian (Bird) veterinary hospital which is situated in a second structure behind the primary temple. It has come to be known as the Jain Birds Hospital.

The temple is at the intersection of Chandni Chowk and Netaji Subhas Marg. The original structure of the Temple was built in 1656. Today, the Temple is an impressive structure of red sandstone. Over the past few hundred years and especially the early 19th century, the Temple was enlarged and has been subjected to many additions and alterations. The Shri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir is commonly called Lal Mandir (i.e. Red Temple) and Jain Mandir.

History of Jain Mandir

The Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan is considered to be the founder of Modern Delhi. Between 1628-1658, he built what is now called old Delhi or the old city. The city was surrounded by a wall and the main street known today as Chandni Chowk was directly in front of the imperial residence, today called the Red Fort.

His successor Jahangir had invited several Jain financiers to settle within the main city. He gifted them some land to the south of Chandni Chowk near Dariba Gali. He also granted them permission to construct a structure for a Jain temple. Three marble idols were acquired by the Jain community. The statues were put in place by Jivaraj Papriwal. The primary idol is of Thirthankaras Parshva.

It is now said that all the deities currently in the temple were first placed in a small tent which belonged to a Jain officer serving in the Mughal army.

Throughout the Mughal era, the building of a shikhar for the temple was disallowed. In fact, the temple did not possess a formal shikhar up until when it was extensively reconstructed after independence.

Between the years 1800-1807, the royal treasurer Raja Harsukh Rai managed to obtain imperial authorization to construct a temple containing a proper shikhar within the Jain sector of Dharamapura, which was just to the south of Chandani Chowk. This temple, which became known for its fine carvings, is today known as the New Temple or Naya Mandir.

Close to a century later in 1761, Appa Gangdhara, who was a Maratha Brahman serving the Scindia when they were controlling Delhi, constructed the Gauri Shankar temple, that is just adjacent to the Lal Mandir. This monument has also been greatly reconstructed during the course of the past few decades.

The Temple Complex and Architecture

The first feature of the temple is the manastambha column that stands right at the front.

The primary devotional premise of the complex is located on the first floor. In order to reach there, you must cross the small temple courtyard, which is enclosed by a colonnade and climb to the terrace.

There are several shrines within this area, however the primary shrine is that of Lord Mahavira who was the Twenty Fourth Tirthankara of the Jain sect. He was born as a prince of Vaishali (in Bihar) in 599 BC. He renounced worldly comforts and pleasures set out in the quest of Salvation or Moksha. Over time, he attained enlightenment or keval-jnana. He then decided to devote the remainder of his life spreading his teachings all over the subcontinent. He spoke of the path to attain Moksha and the truth of life. Although, today many are under the impression that he founded Jainism, this is in fact not so. He reorganized an existing sect and simply made it into a more appropriate form for its time.

Within the complex, there is also an idol of Lord Adinath, who is the first Tirthankara. Along with it, there is a shrine devoted to Lord Parasnath who was the immediate forerunner of the Lord Mahavira. The Lal Mandir is very popular. Many devotees come to make offerings of grains, fruits, rice and candles. The entire area is very calm and peaceful. The ambience is extremely soothing owing to the gilded paintwork decorating the shrine area, which is illuminated by the lights of candles and butter lamps.

In the year 1931, Acharya Shantisagar came to Delhi. His coming marked the arrival of the first Digambar Jain monk in Delhi after more than eight hundred years. A memorial was constructed to mark the historical occasion.

Among other things the complex also contains a book shop, which contains vast literature concerning the Jain religion. Visitors are requested to take off their shoes and hand over all leather goods before entering the premises.

Location and Address

The Lal Mandir is located next to Chandni Chowk in old Delhi. Several buses ply from any part of the city to this area. You can also take the metro to Chandni Chowk Metro station, which is on the yellow line. From there, a rickshaw puller can take you to Lal Mandir.

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