India is known for several pilgrimage sites and temple towns that play a prominent role on the spiritual tourism trail. One of them is Palitana (located 50 km from Bhavnagar ) in Gujarat which is known to have the largest collection of temples on top of a hill. The Shatrunjaya hill in Palitana has 900 temples spread across two summits.
Shatrunjaya Hill in Palitana is regarded as one of the holiest places in Jainism. The temples atop Shatrunjaya Hill in Palitana are believed to date back to the 11th century. The 900 temples in this complex were built over several centuries, with the first temples built by Jain patron Kumarpal Solanki. The site is thought to be where 23 Jain Tirthankars attained nirvana. It is believed that the shrines in Palitana were declared holy after Rishabha, the first Tirthankara of Jainism (spiritual teachers of dharma) delivered his first sermon in the temple atop the hill. Nearly every site on the hill is considered holy.
The prominent temples on Shatrunjaya Hill in Palitana are those of Adinatha, Kumarpal, Vimalshah, Samprati Raja, and Chomukh. There are also temples dedicated to Hindu gods and goddesses such as Saraswati, Shiva, and Hanuman. You have to be fit to access the shrines of Palitana. For instance, to access the main temple, which is dedicated to the first Tirthankara Rishabhanatha, you have to climb around 3,700 steps. The steps are believed to have been carved out of the rock during 13th century CE. It will take you around two hours to reach the top. The temples are grouped into tunks or enclosures which have a main temple as well as some subsidiary shrines.
The main temple houses the idol of Adinatha (another name for the first Jain Tirthankara, Rishabhanata). It features a white marble image of the Tirthankara sitting in a lotus pose, with his emblem, the bull, carved below. A depiction of Adinatha's mother Marudevi, seated on an elephant, is represented in the temple's gateway.
The word "shatrunjaya" translates to "the hill which conquers enemies". Shatrunjaya Hill is situated on the Shetrunji River's banks. The view from the top of the hill is spectacular, with views of the river and even the Gulf of Khambhat to the south.
Incidentally, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London has a stunning painting (1870-1900) of the sacred site at Shatrunjaya Hill. It shows exquisite details of structures, the Shatrunjaya River, Palitana town, pilgrims, and wild animals. Check it out here.
Winter is the best season to visit if you want to avoid the heat. The period from November to February is the ideal time.
Kartik Purnima, which falls in November-December, sees thousands flock to Shatrunjaya Hill.
The nearest airport is Bhavnagar (around 55 km). You can also access Palitana via the airport at Ahmedabad (around 250km). It has better connectivity to Indian cities. You can take a bus or hire a vehicle from these airports. The nearest major railhead is at Ahmedabad.