AN EXTRAORDINARY cluster of 863 Jain temples crowns the twin summits of Palitana’s Shatrunjaya Hill and covers the saddle linking them. The first Bain tirthankara, Adinath is said to have visited this hill, while his chief disciple, Pundarika, is believed to have attained enlightenment here. Most of the temples date to the 16th century – earlier temples on this site were destroyed by Muslim invaders in the 14th and 15th centuries. The temples are grouped into nine fortified clusters called tuks, and named after the wealthy devotees who paid for their construction. Each tuk has a main shrine surrounded by several smaller ones. The most impressive of the main shrines is the 17th-century Adinath Temple, on the hill’s northern ridge. Its ceilings, walls and supporting brackets are covered with carvings of saints, dancers, musicians and lotus blossoms. Many images of Aclinath are enshrined inside.
The southern ridge is dominated by the 16th-century Adishvara Temple, with its richly ornamented spire. The main image within portrays Rishabhnath. It has eyes made of crystal and is adorned with necklaces and a magnificent gold crown. The 4-km (2.5-mile) ascent to the summit of the hill takes about two hours, a task made lighter by the spectacular silhouette of hundreds of temple spires and domes against the sky. From the top, there is a panoramic view of the Gulf of Cambay and the countryside.