The complete facts of the Antriksh Parshwanath Dispute



More than 350 years ago, a Jain monk, Shri Yashovijayji Maharaja composed a beautiful stavan (devotional hymn) dedicated to Shri Antriksh Parshwanath, which included the following lines - 

कोड़ी देव मिलके न कर सके , एक अँगूठ रूप प्रतिचंद, 
ऐसो अद्भुत रूप तिहारो , बरसत मानु अमृत के बून्द , 
जय ! जय ! जय ! जय ! पास जिणंद , 
अंतरिक्ष प्रभु ! त्रिभुवन तारण, भविक कमल उल्लास दिणंद ! 

Translated, it would mean - 


“Even if the aura of a billon celestial beings be combined together, they would not be able to match even an ounce of your beauty!, Witnessing your divine beauty feels as if drops of nectar were falling from the heavens! O Lord Antriksh Parshwanath! Glory be to thee!” 


After reading the above lines, one may wonder how beautiful would the idol of Antrikshji Parshwanath be, which led Shri Yashovijayji to pen such a beautiful hymn. The divine idol which is said to be so miraculous that it floats mid-air is, however the centrepiece of a lethal dispute between the two Jain sects: The Shwetambars and the Digambars, both of whom claim possession of the deity. Looking at the current state of the idol, one wonders do the devotees really love their lord or just want to take control and ownership? 

The current condition of the divine idol of Antriksh ji Parshwanath

Today, the derelict temple which is surrounded by more policemen than devotees shows how an internal war between 2 sects can completely ruin an age old ancient pilgrimage. While the badly ruined idol remains locked up in the sanctum, only 2 pujaris (one of each sect) are allowed to conduct a daily Aarti while others are allowed to have a glimpse of the idol from a window situated at a distance. How did this happen? While it is very difficult to answer that, I try to provide the historical facts and the timeline of the entire dispute below- 

The Dilapidated temple of Antrikshji Parshwanath


Timeline of Antriksh Parshwanath Jain Temple Dispute 

1. Shri Antriksh Parshwanath, an ancient pilgrimage was highly revered by the Jain community. It was believed that this idol was built by Vidyadhar Raja (Husband of Ravan’s sister) and was the 3rd oldest Jain idol in the entire cosmos. 

2. 1142 AD- The idol was found immersed in a well by the king of Achalpur, who was cured of his illness by consuming its waters. With the help of celestial being Dharnendra, the idol was extracted from the well and was taken to Shripal’s kingdom for installation. However, against the orders of Dharnendra, the King looked back at the chariot (in which the idol was being carried) making the idol immovable and suspended midair in the town of Shirpur. Seeking guidance from Dharnendra, the hovering idol was installed in a newly constructed temple by Acharya Shri Abhaydevsuri Maharaja. It is believed that the idol floated 7 fingers above the ground, giving it the name of ‘Antriksh Parshwanath’. The tirth even finds a name in the Sakal Tirth Vandana Sutra and 108 holy pilgrimages of Lord Parshwanath. 

3. 1867 – Antriksh Parshwanath temple renovated and rebuilt. It was mentioned that the idol floated only 1 finger above the ground. 

4. 1901Due to migration of Jain population from Shirpur, day to day management of the temple fell in the hands of Maratha Pujaris known as Polkars. In course of time the Polkars, began to assert their rights to management of the temple which led to disputes between Polkars and Jains. As a result of this the devotees belonging to the Shwetambar and Digambar sects came together to oust the Polkars by filing a case in the District court.

5. 1903 The Court held that the Jain Community was in exclusive possession of the property of Shri Antariksh Parshwanath Maharaj Sansthan and accordingly the Polkars were directed to hand over possession of the property to the Panchas of the Jain community. However, the court asks the Jain community to settle with the Polkars as their employee rights cannot be waived away. The Jain community settles with Polkars and the following points were decided - 
  • 4 Polkars to be employed for cleaning/ maintenance of the temple 
  • A salary of Rs. 261/- p.a. to be paid to each of them 
  • Any currency deposited between Re. 1 to Rs. 10/- in the Bhandar (Donation box) to be handed over to Polkars. Any currency higher than Rs. 10/- to be deposited in the Temple trust. 
6. 1905 & 1906- Disputes arose between Shwetambars and Digambars on the rights of offering daily Puja. Meetings were called for resolution of the dispute and following points were decided and agreed by both the communities- 
  • A time-table was formed wherein 4 time slots of 3 hrs each were given to the Shwetambars and Digambars for making their offerings (i.e 2 slots for both). 
  • On the occasion of (Shwetambar) Paryushan only one slot to be given to Digambars (6 AM -9 AM). On other time slots, the idol to be worshipped as per Shwetambar Traditions. 
  • On the occasion of (Digambar) Daslakshan only one slot to be given to Shwetambars (6 AM -9 AM). On other time slots, the idol to be worshipped as per Digambar Traditions. 
  • On the day of Kali Chaudas ( day before Diwali) only one slot to be given to Shwetambars (6 AM -9 AM). On other time slots, the idol to be worshipped as per Digambar Traditions. 
  • On the day of Diwali only one slot to be given to Digambars (6 AM -9 AM). On other time slots, the idol to be worshipped as per Shwetambar Traditions. 
  • Members belonging to both the sects could do Darshan at any time of the day 
7. 12th February 1908 Shwetambars initiated the process of Lep in agreement with Digambars (plastering of the idol to repair it). Kalyanchand Lalchand Yewalkar was hired to undertake the job. Under the directions of Kalyanchand it was alleged that the artists who were to apply the plaster started making unauthorised additions and alterations to the idol and with a view to create and establish that it was an idol of Shwetambar sect. The difference between the two sects is that the Digambar Jains worship a totally nude idol while the Shwetambar worship an idol with a Kati-Sutra and Kachota. (a piece of clothing wrapped around the lower half of the body). Digambars objected to it and removed (the carvings) of Kati-sutra & Kandora with iron rods causing damage to the idol. In response, the Shwetambars file case against Digambars for the complete possession of the idol and temple. More than 600 evidences produced by Shwetmabars to prove their ownership rights. 

8. March 1908 - Digambars file counter appeal against Shwetambars stating that- 
  • Shwetambars have wrongly framed the case. The temple belongs to Digambar community, so the complete possession of the temple to be granted to the Digambars
  • As the Shwetambars had agreed to the time-table (with Digambars) in 1905, absolute right of ownership cannot be granted to Shwetambars 

9. 11th February 1910The Additional District Judge, Akola delivered a 40-page judgement in favour of Shwetambars stating that- 
  • The temple and idol pertain to the Shwetambar community but as the Shwetambars had agreed to the time-table (with Digambars) in 1905, absolute right of ownership cannot be granted to any sect. 
  • The Katisutra and Kachota were present on the idol before the Lep and Shwetambars had not added it later (as alleged by Digambars).
  • Both the sects to observe the points agreed upon the Time Table set in 1905 
  • As the person who had defaced the Katisutra from the idol has not been identified and caught, no one can be held guilty for the same. 
  • Shwetambars have the right to conduct Lep and add Chakshus (eyes) to the idol and decorate it with Tika, Mugat (Crown) and Aangi. 
  • To protect the religious beliefs of Digambars, the Shwetambars to make the Katisutra and Kandora thinner. 
  • Digambars not to obstruct on Kati-Sutra made by Shwetambars.
10. 17th July 1918 – For complete ownership of the idol & temple, Shwetambars file an appeal at Judicial Commissioner, Nagpur. 

11. 1st October 1923 Judicial Commissioner, Nagpur court delivered the following judgement in favour of Shwetambars- 
  • We declare that the Swetambaris are entitled to the exclusive management of the temple and the image of Shri Antariksha Parshwanath Maharaj at Kasbe Shirpur, with Katisutra, Kardora and Lape, and that they have the right to worship that image with Chakshu, Tika and Mugut and to put ornaments over the same in accordance with their custom. 
  • That the Digambaris have a right of worshipping the image in accordance with the arrangement made in 1905 without Chakshu, Tika and Mugut or ornaments, but are not to remove or interfere with the Kachota, Katisutra and Lape; we also declare that the Digambaris Sect are permanently restrained from obstructing the Swetambaris Sect in getting the image restored to its original form adorned with the Kachota, Katisutra and plastering the same now and hereafter” 

12. 1923 – Dissatisfied with the court ruling, Digambars file an appeal against the Judgement at the Privy Council (the highest Court during British Empire) 


13. 1924 – As the idol had become very damaged, the Shwetambars initiated the process of Lep. The Digambars went to the court for a stay order which was refused. After the Lep process was completed, the Digambars allegedly poured boiling milk over the idol due to which the Lep got damaged. 

14. 9th July 1929Privy Council rules in favour of Shwetambars confirming the decree passed by the Judicial Commissioner's Court, Nagpur . The Privy council added that the parties should continue to worship the idol according to old time table and asked both parties to maintain harmonious relations. 

15. 1934 – Shwetambars initiate the process of restoration of the idol. Digambars objected to it and filed a fresh appeal against Shwetambars in Akola District Court stating that the privy council judgement had not clearly mentioned what would be the size and shape of Kati-Sutra and when could the process of Lep be initiated. 

16. 11th January 1937- Akola Court dismisses the appeal. Aggrieved by the order, the Digambars move to High Court. The High Court reorders the Lower court (Akola Court) not to dismiss the appeal and to decide on the size and shape of Kati-Sutra and Kachota. 

17. 13th September 1944- Akola District court decides the following- 
  • Kati-Sutra’s width to be of 1 inch. It should cover the waist of the idol in a semicircle with a width of 1/3rd of an inch.
  • Kachota to be of 2 inches in the beginning and 2.5 inch at the end. 
  • The authority of when to conduct Lep to stay with Shwetambars and Digambars not to object to it.
  • When the lep is under process, Digambars to be prohibited from making any offering until the Lep dries completely. 
18. December 1944- Shwetambars initiate the process of Lep (plastering). Prior Advertisements were carried out in local newspapers by Shwetambars giving intimation about the Lep. Digambars object to the process and file a case in the Nagpur High Court against the plastering as they believed that the idol was made out of stone (and not sand & cow dung as stated by Shwetambars). 

19. 8th July 1947 – British Judge R.T. Pollock delivers the judgement in favour of Shwetambars and states that Digambars trying to delay the case on purpose. The court orders Digambars to pay all costs to Shwetambars incurred by them w.r.t. the case. Aggrieved by the order, Digambars file a Special Appeal for a stay order in the Nagpur High Court. 

20. 17th March 1948 – Nagpur High Court dismisses the appeal and allows Shwetambars to carry on the Lep process. 

21. 3rd October 1948 – Shwetamabars start the process of Lep which is completed on 13th November 1948. 

22. 1949-1959 Both sects peacefully conduct their offerings as per the agreed time-table. 

23. November 1959 The Shwetambars re-initiated the process of Lep as the condition of the idol had deteriorated in the previous 10 years. Accordingly, a retired sessions judge was appointed 'Lep commissioner' and along with two observers from each Shwetambar and Digambar sects, watched sculptors from Gujarat as they went about their work. The progress was meticulously documented every chip of stone was sealed in a bag. After a certain stage, the Swetambars declared that the work of deplastering the idol was over and that replastering should begin. But the Digambars insisted that the deplastering go on as they were certain that the original form of the idol, when laid bare before the world, would prove their point, that it was originally made of black stone (and not made of Cow dung and sand as believed by Shwetambars). As disputes took a violent turn, the Government had to intervene and put a cage round the idol to protect it from its own devotees. 


24. 1960- Subsequently, the Digambars instituted a civil suit in the Court of Civil Judge, Senior Division, at Washim to put a stay on the plastering and to declare that the judgement by Privy Council was obtained by fraud by the Shwetambars. The court case lingers on in the High Court and Judge R. V . Paranjpe personally visits Antriksh Parshwanath Temple to see whether the idol requires Lep or not. Without Puja clothes and Mukhkosh, the Judge enters the Garbha Gruh (Sanctum) and scrapes the idol with his nails to see the condition. On witnessing Sand particles inside his nails, the Judge observes that the necessity of plaster for this idol is obvious. 

25. 1977 - Digambars file a revision application in the Bombay High Court to remove the plaster on the idol as seen at end of November 1959. 

26. 22nd April 1981Continuing disputes, skirmishes and violent attacks between the Shwetambars and Digambars force the Government to lock the temple

27. 8th March 2007 – Mumbai High Court declares that the lep (plaster) cannot be removed as demanded by the Digambars on the following grounds – 
  • Findings show that in 1947 the idol already had the Kati-Sutra and Kachota.
  • Digambars want the primafacie character of the idol to be changed which would lead to the conversion, if at all the idol is found to be Digambari upon removal of the plaster. 
  • Law does not permit that as Section 3 of the Places of Worship Act 1991 prohibits at any kind of conversion or alterations on ancient idols

Meanwhile the case is pending at the Supreme Court of India with respect to a lot of issues, major being- 
  • Ownership & Management rights of Antriksh Parshwanath Temple and Idol 
  • Ownership of adjacent plots/ garden/ pathways 
  • Removal of Plaster from the idol 
  • True identity (Shwetambar or Digambar) of a Padmavati Devi idol inside the temple 
  • Opening of the temple for worshippers 

The supreme Court of India is expected to deliver a judgement in some of the issues in 2nd week of July 2018 (earlier on 25th April 2018). While we do not know, what judgement will be delivered by the Supreme Court, I revisit some lines which I had posted in one of my earlier articles on Kesariyaji Tirth which faces a similar fate– 

We must start loving our lord and stop dividing ourselves on the basis of beliefs. Where there is love, there are no differences, where there is love, there are no disputes, where there is love, there is only faith and devotion, which is selfless and unconditional. It is time we understand the meaning of true devotion as Shri Rakeshbhai Jhaveri puts it beautifully: 

“To understand devotion, you must at least know what love is. He who has not loved in life, has never been in even worldly love, cannot understand the divine love either. Whatever love energy has manifested in you, pure or impure, direct it at the feet of God. Love when directed towards the dispassionate one cannot remain impure; it soon sheds off its impurities. It becomes pure, and gets transformed into devotion. In fact, while loving God, love increases in quality and quantity and eventually this devotion transforms into supreme devotion, oneness with the divine” 

I conclude this post by quoting a few lines from one of the most beautiful prayers: 

“भेद वो तो किसी में नहीं देखता , चाहता है वो सब में रहे एकता, 
उसको इंसान बन कर दिखाएंगे हम , क्या हुआ बन न पाए अगर देवता , 
जिसने दी है हमें भावना, मन ऊसी की करो प्रार्थना"

The badly damaged idol of Antriksh Parshwanath


References: 
  • Case Law: Manikchand Pratapmal Baj Vs. Sakarchand Premchand Gujarathi 
  • Case Law: Yadarao Dajiba Shrawane (dead) by Lrs. Vs. Nanilal Harakchand Shah (dead) and Ors. 
  • Sadhu to Chalta Bhala – Muni Prashamrati Vijayji 
  • Tare Te Tirth 
  • India Today Magazine Article– Jainism: A sectarian war 

Comments

  1. So clearly and perfectly written...Am sure most of us didnt know such minute details...Dhanyavad!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. An eye opener for many. How human thinking, craving for one-up-manship and ego divides also the GOD. May peace and light prevail in the end.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Beautifully explained with a message that we Jains should stop dividing our religion between two sects. We should love the God, the deity and honour court judgements.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Nailed all the events marvelously Thank you for valuable insights. Today Shwetambaras won the case.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. However, the judgement has not yet been passed. The next date of hearing is in the 2nd week of July

      Delete
  5. Pray to HIM to have the judgement passed at least this time - 2nd week of July 2018, so that we all - Shwetambers & Digambers can do darshan, puja ... as before 22/04/1981.

    ReplyDelete

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