The ramparts sketching a thick line in the distance told us that we were somewhere in the vicinity of Bhongir Fort on the outskirts of Hyderabad in Telangana. Sheer steps hewn out of basalt on one among the innumerable boulders scattered along the timeless landscape of Deccan Plateau seemed both difficult yet alluring. But our hearts lay elsewhere, 80 kms away precisely! In a quaint village called Kolunapaka, named so after its huts and lakes; kolanu means lake and paka is the word for huts.
We alight in front of a large gate where watchmen ask us to leave our cameras and anything made of leather behind. Such things are prohibited in a Jain Derasar (place of worship). One look at the Kulpak ji temple and I was overcome with Deja Vu. The style of the temple, the pink sandstone, the gleaming marble and the pretty parchinkari… there were glimpses of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Agra in a village tucked in Telangana!
Kulpak ji did not look wee bit like a 2000 year old structure that we were expecting and the sense of Deja Vu continued. This temple being one of the oldest known Jain worship sites in Telangana enjoyed patronage from various dynasties right from the Ishkvakus to Chalukyas who donated generously to the temple for its maintenance and upkeep.
The temple finds mention in many old Jaina texts and is home to Manikya Swami; the green stone idol of Rishabh Dev or Adinath, the first Jain Tirthankara. Besides this, the marbled interiors houses idols of 8 other tirthankars including the 51 inches idol of Mahavira made of a single jade stone. Legends state that Manikya Swami housed here was worshipped by Ravana’s wife Mandodari who then immersed it in the sea. It was found by King Shankar of Kalyan and it is believed the idol chose this temple as its abode.
If Jaina texts are to be believed this is one of the temples that was built by Chakravartin Bharat himself. Bharat was the son of Rishabha Dev or Adinath Bhagwan and it is on his name that this country gets its name as – Bharat Varsha. Rishabhanatha has two wives, Sumangala and Sunanada. Sumangala bore 99 sons and 1 daughter of whom the eldest was Bharat. Sunanada bore 1 son and 1 daughter and he was known as Bahubali as he was tall and had strong arms.
After ruling for a long time, Rishabha Dev divided his kingdom among his 100 sons equally and left for forest to attain Kewal Gyan or omniscience. While Bharat got Vinita (Ayodhya), Bahubali got Taxila. After his coronation Bharat embarked on an ambitious voyage to conquer the world and he did so becoming Digvijay. But he could not fight his brothers so sent the messages to accept him as their King. All his brothers, knowing his might, decided to join their father in the pursuit of knowledge and became monks forsaking their kingdoms.
Now only Bahubali was left who decided to fight it out with Bharath. Knowing this could be a battle that would claim many lives, the kings decided to go for an individual duel. In all the decided 3 fights (eye, water and wrestling) Bahubali prevailed over Bharath. Enraged at the defeat, Bharath broke rules and used his Chakra (he had a chakra ratna, a deadly discus that could kill anyone and that is why he was known as Chakravartin) but the weapon just encircled Bahubali and halted in front of him. Bharath had forgotten that the Chakra would never attack anyone who has the same blood as him. Bahubali bundled up Bharath in his arms but instead of throwing him to the ground, gently placed him there. Disgusted by what he might have done, Bahubali decided to forsake everything and meditate where he was standing.
Bahubali not only became a shruta kevalin but also a kewal gyani and Bharath, an able ruler. Kulpak ji is thus a part of the first legends of Jainism. Many inscriptions of various eras talking of grants have been found on the site and it still remains a prominent place of pilgrimage for the Shvetambar Jains of the country.
After 12th century Jainism saw a major decline in Andhra desa and its activities started reassuming from 17th century onwards. Bringing marble and sandstone from Rajasthan and 150 stone sculptors and artists from Gujarat and Agra, the temple was zealously rebuilt by devout Jain traders some 50 years ago. The temple complex provides accommodation and food for visiting Jain pilgrims. The trust has built a water tank for the village and also maintains cows and buffaloes.
This peaceful oasis built with much love and devotion is not be missed whenever in Telangana and also the nearby Sri Someshwara Temple which is both a living temple and an ASI museum.
Author – Zehra Chhapiwala
She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org