May 16, 2016

Dadabari Jain Temple, Mehrauli, Delhi

“No man can encompass all that is to be known. The wisest among us can hold no more than a mustard seed’s weight of knowledge in his heart. But nevertheless each follower of the path has his own particular understanding, and each person’s understanding has value.”
– Thalassa Ali, “Companions of Paradise” (2006)

The streets blistered and roasted like fiery furnaces and not the slightest draught stirred, while the sun, an insufferable ball of fire in the clear sky, transformed into intense searing white and ceaselessly endeavored to incinerate all existence. It was a day not unlike any other in Delhi’s scorching summer.

Amidst the multitudes of singed brown-green hues of Mehrauli Archaeological Park manifests mirage-like Dadabari Jain temple – dedicated to the erudite Jain mystic-saint Manidhari Dada Gurudeva Sri Jinachandra Suri ji – whose flawless white profile unfailingly soothes dreary eyes and beckons fatigued souls.

Jewel in the wilderness

At the very outset, I insist that only believers read on, and skeptics and cynics skip these few paragraphs.

A prodigious scholar, inquisitive philosopher and excellent social reformer, Sri Jinachandra Suri, born Surya Kumar in AD 1140, is said to have renounced the comforts of conventional life at the tender age of 6 years, and thereafter arduously trained and distinguished himself in Jain religious philosophy and metaphysics.

He compiled numerous scholarly tomes on comparative religious theology and spirituality, and soon afterwards became so illustriously renowned that he was entrusted by Acharya Gurudeva Jindutta Suri ji, his transcendentally accomplished spiritual mentor, with delivering intellectual spiritual discourses on religious mysticism, universal brotherhood and philanthropic magnanimity throughout the country.

Although Acharya Jindutta and he himself had prophesied his arrival and subsequent demise in Yoginipur (Delhi), he nonetheless resolved to temporarily reside in the province to discourse on religious equality, tolerance and amicability upon receiving deferential invitations from the sovereign Raja Madanpal Tomar.


During his residence in Yoginipur, he is said to have also commissioned a beautiful temple, dedicated to the legendary twenty-third Tirthankara Parshvanatha (BC 872-772), at the present-day site of the Qutb Complex (refer Pixelated Memories - Qutb Complex).

At the age of 26, prompted by clairvoyant visions only slightly prior to his mournful demise, he resolutely cautioned his emotionally-besieged disciples to not stop his funeral procession anywhere except where they wished to cremate his earthly remains, for if they did they would never be able to relocate his body again. Fatigued and desirous of allowing fellow devotees to pay their last respects and condolences for the demised, the faithful followers carrying the funeral pyre did however stop in the village square and, as portended, failed to move the remains again! Reminiscent of the childish tale of Humpty-Dumpty, subsequently the king’s soldiers, horses and even elephants are said to have failed in their endeavors to budge him, and thus was Dada Gurudeva ji cremated on that very spot and a commemorative shrine reverentially constructed over the consecrated site.


Additionally, it’s said that he had also portended that the sacred site where he’d be cremated shall remain barren for 800 years, and indeed a magnificent shrine was only consecrated here in late 19th-century. Repeatedly embellished and reconstructed since, an intricately ornamented silver-and-glass memorial gracefully protrudes over the hallowed site today, symmetrically enveloped by covered walkways for faithful devotees to circumambulate.

Only a stone’s throw away, the massive central shrine is elegantly fabricated of exquisitely sculpted white marble. Within, the glittering glimmering sanctum is in its entirety composed of a spellbinding agglomeration of meticulously reverse-painted glass shards whose myriad shimmering hues compliment and yet jostle with each other for visual supremacy amidst a whole that remarkably, without being even in the slightest bit incongruous or disproportionate, succeeds in delineating several visual depictions of Jain mythological fables and remembrances of Dada Gurudeva’s enthralling, albeit possibly highly embellished, life and times. As the photographs here testimony, magnificently does the whole chamber metamorphose, upon incidence of even the minutest sliver of sunlight, into an extraordinarily effervescent explosion of vivacious colors.

One from the folklore

Perhaps endeavoring to plagiarize the spatial scheme of the venerable Parasnatha Hill in Jharkhand (at least to me it appeared so!), adjacently has been conceived a large artificial hillock whose constricted veins secure a labyrinthine network of tiny interconnected cell-like sanctuaries, each individually dedicated to Jain mendicant-teachers and Tirthankars (lit., “ford-maker”, omniscient spiritual teachers who attained liberty from the terrible cycle of rebirths and worldly attachment by fierce contemplative meditation, unremitting emphasis on non-violence, and the renunciation of worldly relationships and responsibilities).

Though the shimmering vividness of the shrine’s reverse-painted glass art might be commonplace in most north Indian Jain/Hindu temples, yet given its impeccable history and the singular network of shrines defining the artificial hill, it is surprising that not many are aware of the existence of this multicolored sparkle enveloped within its soothing white cocoon adjacent the perceptibly interminable wilderness of Mehrauli Archaeological Park.

Cherubs, blossoms and wreaths - Unusual for a Jain shrine!

In every direction one turns to are located innumerable medieval monuments and devoutly revered shrines, some world-renowned, others even more disappointingly obscure. The simplistic yet alluring Madhi Masjid is barely a stone's throw away (refer Pixelated Memories - Madhi Masjid). More prominent is Ahinsa Sthal, another Jain shrine, and its neighbor mausoleum of Azim Khan, both constructed upon adjacently situated towering outcrops appealingly overlooking the green-brown expanse of Mehrauli (refer Pixelated Memories - Ahinsa Sthal and Pixelated Memories - Azim Khan's Tomb). No wonder then amidst this deluge of enthralling ruins and forgotten monuments, the Dadabari is only half-remembered and occasionally frequented.

Open: All days, sunrise to sunset
Nearest Metro station: Qutb Minar
How to reach: The temple is located in a nondescript street on the other side of Mehrauli-Gurgaon highway immediately opposite the metro station. If coming by bus, get down at Lado Serai crossing (at the junction of Mehrauli-Gurgaon and Mehrauli-Badarpur highways) and walk for barely half a kilometer to reach the metro station. 
Entrance fees: Nil
Photography/video charges: Nil
Time required for sightseeing: 45 min