The Ranakpur Saga

 

In the heart of the Aravalli range, enveloped in the solitude of the surrounding forests lies a poetry in stone – the magnificent temple of Ranakpur on the banks of Maghai River. Dedicated to Shri Adinath Bhagwan, the Chaturmukhi (4-sided) temple is a three-storeyed marble edifice placed on a lofty plinth standing on 1,444 artistically carved pillars.  Ranakpur Jain Temple is an exemplary work of art and architecture and is an eloquent testimony to the Maru-Gurjara style of architecture. Built by advisors of Rana's of Mewar, Sheth Dharna Shah and his younger brother Ratna Shah, the design of the temple was made based on the divine dream of Dharna Shah wherein he experienced a vision of Nalinigulm Vimaan (celestial floating palace).

A lot of Jains are having multiple questions regarding the current status of the Tirth. Therefore, I have tried to chronologically trace the history of the Tirth so that the readers can take an informed decision regarding the same.

TIMELINE

1375 CE – Maharana Shri Mokal Singh (father of Rana Kumbha) of Mewar kingdom, granted a Tamprapatra (copper plate) to Dharna Shah offering 51 bighas of land for building of temple and additional 7 bighas for maintenance of the same with a condition that it could not be sold to anyone.[1] This implied that Dharna Shah did not hold absolute ownership (as he or anyone in the future did not have the rights to transfer/ sell the land or even rent it out to anyone)


The copper plate granted to Sheth Dharna Shah

1440 CE – The Pratishtha (ceremonial installation) of the temple was conducted under the guidance of Acharya Somsundarsuri of Tapagaccha lineage[2]. The temple was maintained and renovated by descendants of Dharna Shah from time to time. Pujaris helping worshippers in conducting daily rituals of the temple and Sompura architects were employed since the inception of the temple and their future generations are giving service till date (currently the 14th generation of Pujaris and Sompuras serve the temple)[3]. At some unknown point of time, Sadri Jain Sangh which was situated at a distance of just 6 kilometres from Ranakpur started managing the temple; However, every year the Dhwaja is changed by the descendants of Sheth Dharna Shah.

1680 CE - Mughal ruler Aurangzeb attacked Mewar due to which, multiple battles took place in Aravalli region, major being battle of Udaipur[4]. Although, Rana Raj Singh and Durga Das Rathore were able to defeat the Mughals, Aurangzeb’s armies plundered the cities, towns and destroyed the magnificent Ranakpur Jain temple. Due to this attack, the temple fell into disrepair and pilgrimage declined significantly.

1818 CE - Driven to dire financial straits and facing internal troubles, the Kingdom of Mewar accepted British suzerainty[5]. The Ranas continued as rulers of Mewar as a princely state of British.

1869 CE - The Rajputana famine of 1869 affected the area severely, due to which people residing in the nearby villages of Ranakpur deserted the area[6]. Ranakpur Temple, which was already in disrepair, became a den of wild animals, poisonous reptiles and dacoits. Local Jains abandoned the temple and nearly all pilgrims stopped visiting the Tirth post the famine.

1878 CE – The British enacted the Indian Forest Act to monopolize forest resources like timber, etc. [7].

1884 CEThe Kumbhalgarh forest was declared as a “Reserve Forest” under the Indian Forest Act of 1878 by the British Empire. As the Rankapur Tirth was within the boundaries of the forest, rules applicable to Reserve Forest were de-facto applicable to the tirth[8].

1887 CE - The green tracts of the Kumbhalgarh forest divided the states of Mewar and Marwar. In 1884, the Assistant Conservator of Forest Ajmer-Marwar examined forests for their commercial value and in 1887, the proprietorship of the forest was transferred to the state of Marwar from Mewar[9]. The state of Marwar, (also known as the Jodhpur State) was also a princely state under the British Empire. Due to this, Ranakpur Tirth, which earlier came under the Mewar state now came under the Marwar state.

1902 CE –Members of the Sadri Jain Sangh requested Sheth Anandji Kalyanji Pedhi of Ahmedabad to take over the management of the Tirth as the temple was in a state of disrepair. After various discussions, Sheth Anandji Kalyanji Pedhi took over the management of the temple on 14th December 1902[10]. The pedhi undertook repairs and renovations of the temple, constructed fences around the area and appointed security men in the entire stretch from Sadri to Ranakpur, so that the pilgrims could travel safely.

1907 CE – The original copper plate was given by Rana of Mewar to Dharna Shah, whereas the Tirth now came under the State of Marwar. The officials of Marwar state created a lot of hindrances in management of the temple. Also conflicts arose regarding the area of the land under the control of tirth as the yardsticks of measurements had also changed over the years. Due to this, Sheth Anandji Kalyanji Pedhi started conducting meetings and deliberations with the Marwar state for its possession and rights and applied for grant of Patta [11].

1928 CE – Further renovations to restore the temple to its original glory were initiated under the leadership of Sheth Kasturbhai Lalbhai (then head of Sheth Anandji Kalyanji Pedhi) under the guidance of Shasan Samrat Acharya Vijay Shri Nemisurishwarji Maharaj[12]. The temple structure that we see today is due to this grand large scale renovation conducted at that time.

1930 CE – After various hearings, proceedings, inspections and measurements, the communications between Sheth Anandji Kalyanji Pedhi and the officials of Marwar State since 1907 CE finally bore results. The State of Marwar (Jodhpur state) issued a Patta (lease[13]) confirming the land amounting to 9.94 hectare in favour of Sheth Anandji Kalyanji Pedhi with the following conditions-

  • The land could not be sold or transferred to anyone and it was to be used for religious purpose only
  • In the cases of Public Interest (for the benefit of public at large), the land (in possession of the tirth) could be acquired by the State in lieu of compensation as per the formula mentioned in the patta[14].

 

The Patta issued by the Jodhpur State

1939 CETo enlarge a road, Marwar State took away 4426 yards of land from the Tirth land granted by it in 1930 CE citing Public Interest. (Note: The Patta issued by the Marwar State in 1930 CE had a condition that the land offered to the tirth could be acquired by the State in cases of Public interest)[15].

1942 CE – The Marwar State undertook the first Survey Settlement without intimating any of the occupants. The survey report mentioned the land of Ranakpur Tirth as “Mandir” (temple) without naming the possessor (i.e. Sheth Anandji Kalyanji Pedhi).


Land records of the first survey settlement showing the Ranakpur Tirth as "Mandir"


1947 CE – India gained Independence from British Empire

1950 CEThe area under the Ranakpur Tirth Complex formed a part of the Reserved Forest Block “Sadri” which was declared as Reserved Forest vide Notification No. 173 dated 4th March, 1950[16]. The State Government did not keep this Temple complex out of the Reserved Forest area. A reserved forest (also called a reserve forest) are forests accorded a certain degree of protection. Unlike National Parks or wildlife sanctuaries, reserved forests and protected forests are declared by the respective state governments. Reserved forests and protected forests differ in one important way: Activities including hunting, grazing, etc. in reserved forests are banned unless specific orders are issued otherwise. In protected forests, such activities are sometimes allowed for communities living on the fringes of the forest, who sustain their livelihood partially or wholly from forest resources or products[17].

1951 CE – The State Government of Rajasthan enacted the “Rajasthan Wild Birds and Animal Protection Act 1951” to stop hunting and to preserve wildlife[18].

1953 CE- The large scale renovations of Ranakpur Tirth by Sheth Anandji Kalyanji Pedhi under the leadership of Sheth Kasturbhai Lalbhai (which commenced in 1928 CE) were finally completed[19] after which the Idols were reinstalled (Punah Pratishtha) under the guidance of Param Pujya Acharya Vijay Shri Udaysuriji and Param Pujya Acharya Shri Vijaynandansuriji Maharaj with great fanfare[20]

1971 CE - Kumbhalgarh Bird & Wildlife Sanctuary was established under the Rajasthan Wild Birds and Animal Protection Act[21]. The area of the Kumbhalgarh Reserve forest (in which Ranakpur Tirth Complex was situated) came under the Sanctuary. A wildlife sanctuary is an area where animal habitats and their surroundings are protected from any sort of disturbance. The capturing, killing and poaching of animals is strictly prohibited in these regions. [22].

1980-81 CE - The State of Rajasthan undertook the second Land Revenue Survey Record & Settlement, which continued till 2002 CE. The revenue records showed that 1.28 hectacre of Tirth were recorded as Government Khata with remark about the status of the land as “Gair Mumkin Mandir (Uncultivated land temple). The balance area of 8.66 hectare was recorded in the name of Forest Department. This was challenged by Sheth Anandji Kalyanji Pedhi to the Collector[23].

1997 CE - The Collector of Pali issued a notice for inviting objections from the local inhabitants regarding declaration/boundaries of the Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary[24].

1998 CE - The final notification under Section 66(3) of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 was issued by the Collector, Pali declaring the boundaries of the Kumbalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary.[25] Although, Ranakpur Tirth came under the area of the Sanctuary, the temple rights remained intact as the status of the temple was recorded as “Gair Mumkin Mandir” in Government revenue records[26].

1998 – 2004 CE – Sheth Anandji Kalyanji Pedhi wrote to the Rajasthan Government and conducted various meetings with the Government officers and politicians for excluding the Ranakpur tirth complex from the boundaries of the reserve forest. It also challenged entries in the revenue records and claimed possession of the entire complex before the Collector, Pali under the provisions of Rajasthan Revenue Act. The Collector, Pali vide order dated 31st October 2007 directed correction in entry in respect to part of land but for rest that appropriate proceedings should be initiated under the Forest Act. [27].

2004 CE – As the meetings with the State Government to exclude the tirth from the boundaries of the reserve forest did not yield any result, Sheth Anandji Kalyanji Pedhi approached the Supreme Court for the same. The Supreme Court referred the matter to a “Central Empowered Committee” (CEC) for guidance. During the proceedings, the Chief Forest Officer confirmed the complete 9.81 acre of Tirth area as Temple land (and not as forest land as stated in the second Land Revenue Survey Record & Settlement) [28]

2004 - 2007 CE – The Record of Rights document also confirmed the status of the land as “Gair Mumkin Mandir” to the complete 9.81 acre of Tirth area.[29]

August 2009 – After examining the matter during the hearings held in 2008 and the site visit in 2009, the Central Empowered Committee recommended the following

  • Keeping in view the history, the culture, the architecture and the importance of this complex from the religious and the tourism angle and the fact that the Temple Complex is a piece of architectural marvel and that it cannot be translocated and that it has been in existence for a very long period and that too much before the Forest laws came into existence and that the Complex is occupied, managed and maintained by the Applicant Trust (Sheth Anandji Kalyanji Pedhi) much before it was declared as Reserved Forest/Sanctuary it will be in the fitness of things if the Applicant Trust is allowed to continue to occupy, manage and maintain the entire temple complex measuring 9.81 hectares within which they may have "permissive possession".
  • The repair and maintenance of the complex may be done by the Temple authorities but any new construction should be carried out by them only after obtaining the approval under Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 and in accordance with the provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
  • The Rajasthan Forest Department is agreeable to the above arrangement[30].

October 2009 – The recommendations of the Central Empowered Committee were accepted by Sheth Anandji Kalyanji Pedhi and based on the same the Supreme Court of India pronounced the following order –

  • As recommended by the CEC, the Trust may have permissive possession of 9.81 hectares of forest land over which the temple complex stands subject to report dated 12.8.2009. the conditions stipulated in the CEC.
  • The trust shall maintain the temple complex. The trust shall also ensure that there should not be any unlawful trespass over the forest area and no tree is cut down from the forest area. In addition, the trust shall abide by all the restrictions imposed by the wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972[31].

2011 CEThe Government suggested to declare Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary as a National Park. A national park has considerably more restrictions as compared to the wildlife sanctuary (For eg.: Entry and exits are restricted and only a limited number of visitors and vehicles are allowed inside a national park). Sheth Anandji Kalyanji Pedhi wrote to the Government to keep out the Ranakpur Tirth Complex from the boundaries of Kumbhalgarh National Park[32].

2016 CE – The Collector of Pali recommended to keep Ranakpur Tirth Complex within the boundaries of Kumbhalgarh National Park with the right of offering worship. Sheth Anandji Kalyanji Pedhi challenged this recommendation in the office of Chief Wild Life Warden, Jaipur Rajasthan[33].

2018 CE – The Chief Wild Life Warden conducted hearings with Sheth Anandji Kalyanji Pedhi and the Collector of Pali. The Chief Wild Life Warden suggested Collector of Pali to reconsider the matter[34].

2019 CEThe Collector of Pali wrote to the Govt. of Rajasthan recommending exclusion of Ranakpur Tirth Complex from the boundaries of Kumbhalgarh National Park. The Rajasthan Government accepted the same[35].

~~~~ 

KEY TAKEAWAYS –

1. Absolute ownership of the Tirth land of Ranakpur was never granted to anyone – 

  • In 1375 CE, Maharana Shri Mokal Singh gave the land to Sheth Dharna Shah with conditions that it cannot be sold or transferred.
  • In 1930 CE, the State of Marwar also issued a Patta (indefinate lease) to Sheth Anandji Kalyanji Pedhi subject to the condition that the grantee (Sheth Anandji Kalyaji Pedhi) has no power to transfer the land and the land can be acquired by the State in cases of Public Interest. The condition was also enforced in 1939, when the Marwar State took away 4426 yards of land from the Tirth to enlarge a road.
  • The Supreme Court of India granted “permissive possession” to Sheth Anandji Kalyanji Pedhi for an indefinite period in 2009.
2. As the Tirth Complex was completely ruined, dilapidated and in dire conditions, it was due to the efforts of Sheth Anandji Kalyanji Pedhi, that the pilgrimage started again and the Tirth was restored to its former glory. From 1902 to 1953, many small and large scale renovations have made it possible that we can see the Tirth as envisaged by Sheth Dharna Shah, hundreds of years ago.

3. Despite the Ranakpur tirth complex being in existence long before the Kumbhalgarh forest was declared a Wildlife Sanctuary, it is not understood why the State Government did not deem it necessary to keep this Temple complex out of the Sanctuary area/Reserved Forest. The same was noted by the Central Empowered Committee as well[36].

4. The Land Revenue Survey records show the status of the land as temple under the Government khata without naming the possessor (i.e. Sheth Anandji Kalyanji Pedhi). While the same was challenged by Sheth Anandji Kalyanji Pedhi to the collector, it can be found that it is the common practice of Rajasthan Government and it has done the same with various other major tirths as well.

  • The famous Dilwara temples of Mt. Abu are also recorded under the name of “Shri Adishwarji Sthan” under Government Khata (actual possessor name is not mentioned)
  • Achalgarh Jain Temples are recorded under the name “Achalgarh Delwara” under Government Khata (actual possessor name is not mentioned)[37]

Further, Supreme Court Judgements also show that entries of Revenue Records do not establish Title of ownership[38]

5. Sheth Anandji Kalyanji Pedhi failed to ask the Collector of Pali to exclude Ranakpur Tirth complex from the boundaries of the Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary in 1997. Also in previous years (1950 & 1971) no proceedings were initiated as only notifications were issued on the basis of pre-independence declarations.

6. In 2009, the Supreme Court Order based on the CEC Recommendation has allowed Sheth Anandji Kalyanji Pedhi to occupy, manage and maintain the entire Ranakpur Tirth complex with ‘permissive possession”.[39]  Legal experts suggest that after absolute ownership, permissive possession is the best option establishing almost all the rights in favor of the holder of such permissive possession. Various judgements have ruled in the past that permissive possession does not amount to dispossession.[40]

7. Timely action by Sheth Anandji Kalyanji Pedhi from 2016 -2019 ensured that the Ranakpur Tirth Complex was excluded from the boundaries of Kumbhalgarh National Park. Had the tirth been included within the boundaries of the National Park, only a limited number of visitors and vehicles would have been allowed to visit the tirth.

~~~~~

With this detailed information, I hope the readers can understand the complex history of the Tirth and take a mature decision basis the same. The information mentioned in this write-up has been obtained from various publicly available sources. If there is any error/ omission please intimate the same in comments with adequate references, so that the same can be rectified.


References:

[1] Translation by L.D. Institute of Indology

[2] Tandon, Om Prakash, Jaina Shrines in India

[3] https://anandjikalyanjipedhi.org/tirth/ranakpur-tirth/

[4] https://www.rajras.in/1680-battle-of-udaipur-and-aravalli-hills/

[5] Rima Hooja (2006). A history of Rajasthan

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rajputana_famine_of_1869

[7] https://www.indiacode.nic.in/repealed-act/repealed_act_documents/A1878-7.pdf

[8] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/312498428

[9] The Case of the Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary, Ilse Köhler-Rollefson and Hanwant Singh Rathore

[10] Sheth Anandji Kalyanji Pedhino Itihas Part 2

[11] Ranakpurnu Satyavalokan Sankshepma, Shri Vardhaman Parivar & Shetrunjay Yuvak Mandal

[12] Ranakpurnu Satyavalokan Sankshepma, Shri Vardhaman Parivar & Shetrunjay Yuvak Mandal

[13] https://housing.com/news/commonly-used-land-and-revenue-record-terms-in-india/

[14] Ranakpurnu Satyavalokan Sankshepma, Shri Vardhaman Parivar & Shetrunjay Yuvak Mandal

[15] Ranakpurnu Satyavalokan Sankshepma, Shri Vardhaman Parivar & Shetrunjay Yuvak Mandal

[16] Central Empowered Committee Report – Application No. 986, August 2009

[17] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reserved_forests_and_protected_forests_of_India

[18] History of the interaction of national and state laws, policies and events in the Kumbhalgarh region, Meenal Tatpati and Akshay Chettri, Kalpavriksh

[19] The silent force behind Shwetambar Jains, The Times of India, 22nd Nov 2013

[20] Shri Ranakpur Mahatirth, Seth Anandji Kalyanji Pedhi

[21] History of the interaction of national and state laws, policies and events in the Kumbhalgarh region, Meenal Tatpati and Akshay Chettri, Kalpavriksh

[22] https://byjus.com/biology/wildlife-sanctuary

[23] Ranakpurnu Satyavalokan Sankshepma, Shri Vardhaman Parivar & Shetrunjay Yuvak Mandal

[24] Central Empowered Committee Report – Application No. 986, August 2009

[25] Central Empowered Committee Report – Application No. 986, August 2009

[26] Ranakpurnu Satyavalokan Sankshepma, Shri Vardhaman Parivar & Shetrunjay Yuvak Mandal

[27] Ranakpurnu Satyavalokan Sankshepma, Shri Vardhaman Parivar & Shetrunjay Yuvak Mandal

[28] Ranakpurnu Satyavalokan Sankshepma, Shri Vardhaman Parivar & Shetrunjay Yuvak Mandal

[29] Ranakpurnu Satyavalokan Sankshepma, Shri Vardhaman Parivar & Shetrunjay Yuvak Mandal

[30] Central Empowered Committee Report – Application No. 986, August 2009

[31] Supreme Court of India, Record of Proceedings, I.A. No. 2670 in W.P. (C) No. 202/1995

[32] Ranakpurnu Satyavalokan Sankshepma, Shri Vardhaman Parivar & Shetrunjay Yuvak Mandal

[33] Ranakpurnu Satyavalokan Sankshepma, Shri Vardhaman Parivar & Shetrunjay Yuvak Mandal

[34] Ranakpurnu Satyavalokan Sankshepma, Shri Vardhaman Parivar & Shetrunjay Yuvak Mandal

[35] Ranakpurnu Satyavalokan Sankshepma, Shri Vardhaman Parivar & Shetrunjay Yuvak Mandal

[36] Central Empowered Committee Report – Application No. 986, August 2009

[37] Ranakpurnu Satyavalokan Sankshepma, Shri Vardhaman Parivar & Shetrunjay Yuvak Mandal

[38] Ranakpurnu Satyavalokan Sankshepma, Shri Vardhaman Parivar & Shetrunjay Yuvak Mandal

[39] Central Empowered Committee Report – Application No. 986, August 2009 & Supreme Court of India, Record of Proceedings, I.A. No. 2670 in W.P. (C) No. 202/1995

[40] Ranakpurnu Satyavalokan Sankshepma, Shri Vardhaman Parivar & Shetrunjay Yuvak Mandal


Comments

  1. 1375 CE - The story mentions that the land could not be sold to anyone implying that Dharna Shah only held indefinite lease and not complete ownership.
    The questions that arise here are:
    ● Do we have the terminology ‘indefinite lease’ used in Indian codified law? What does the author
    mean by ‘indefinite lease’? Indian law uses the term 'Perpetual Lease' for a lease that is of
    permanent nature. Why does the author shy away from using the term Perpetual Lease and opt
    for a term where its meaning can be played with?
    ● On the basis of what evidence does the author imply that this copper plate inscription (Tamra
    Patra) was an indefinite lease and not ownership? Why isn't it - land donated towards the
    construction of the temple? As a donor of the land, why won’t the Royal have a say for what
    purpose it may be used? Why does it amount to the land being on a lease?
    ● And the copper plate does mention that the land cannot be sold but it mentions the land is for the
    temple and its maintenance. As per Jinshasan Daan in the 7 kshetras means that once given it
    belongs to the Shasan and the donor cannot lay claims on it. Hence if an entire Tirth is built - its
    ownership remains with Jinshasan, with the Shraman Pradhan Jain Chaturvidh Sangh and not
    with the man who built it or acquired land for it or donated money towards it.
    ● As a part of leasing was any amount decided to be paid as a premium or at certain regular or
    specific intervals as lease rentals? If so, who paid and to whom and where are those records?
    Who is liable to pay and who is entitled to receive? As per law, a lease involves a contract
    between a lessor and a lessee. And it cannot be without consideration from the lessee in the form
    of some upfront premium / periodical lease rent.
    ● Is the author aware that in ancient times the copper-plate inscriptions were a method of recording
    title deeds of land grants made to individuals, the majority of which are also donative in nature
    and may be considered public documents? They record the donation made in favour of the
    temple, its construction, maintenance and repairs, various services in the temple, etc. And one
    may find multiple such examples from other parts of India.
    (https://web.archive.org/web/20070928092929/http://www.ciil-ebooks.net/html/iie/six.htm)
    ● Further, after the grant by Rana, if Dharna Shah did not own the land then who owned it? Are
    there a sufficient number of instances where rulers from time to time laid their claim as the owner
    of the said land and demanded any rent or other rewards in the form of rent?
    ● Why would Dharna Shah whose wit and wisdom impressed even the Rana of Mewar and they
    appointed him in their royal courts take land on lease to build a Jain Tirth? Why would a Jain
    Shravak acquire land for a Jain Tirth and leave its ownership with a non-Jain ruler? It shows how
    lowly the author has portrayed the ability and calibre of a Shasan Prabhavak Jain Shraavak who
    built this divine Tirth.
    These questions indicate the naivety of the author in implying that Dharna Shah got the land on lease.

    ReplyDelete

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