Palitana & Shatrunjaya
Our next stop was Shatrunjaya, located near the town of Palitana. This is the most important Jain pilgrimage: a holy mountain whole summit sits 800m above the surrounding plains of Saurashtra. There are over 3000 steps leading to the top. At dusk, all of the priests descend from the mountain after locking the gates, as the mountain is the abode of the gods their rest should not be disturbed. Palitana is a dirty, dusty place filled with pilgrims' hostels and restaurants serving greasy food. We walked up the hill with the other pilgrims, enjoying the expansive but hazy views of the surrounding plains. Those who were not fit to climb the stairs were carried up the mountain on litters.
At the top summit we quickly became lost among the large number of temples. With so many pilgrims thronging the site, the religious fervor was overwhelming. In front of one of the more important-looking temples, people were chanting, singing, meditating, praying, reading from handbooks and constructing diagrams with rice grains and saffron on low tables. There was nobody on hand to explain anything to us, so we wandered around in a daze, not understanding the spectacle around us. On the way down, however, we met a Kenyan pilgrim who explained a few details of the Jain religion to us. Jains do not eat meat, eggs nor anything that grows beneath the ground, including onions, garlic and ginger. This explained the “Jain thali” meals that we had seen in Gujarat : although it was vegetarian, these additional ingredients were left out.