Jainism in a Pond

Varanga's Kere Basadi 

Looming out of a lily-pond, it's the first visual image that assails you as you break through the cover of a coconut palm grove interrupted by a flight of ancient, pilgrim-worn stone stairs that disappear into the water's edge. 

However what you encounter as you emerge isn't that of a looming Vimana or an imposing colourful Gopuram, heavily detailed with celestial nymphs, goddesses or demons, but of bewitching tranquility and the feeling of an aura that runs deeper than the still waters of the Lily Pond; an accumulation of several centuries of spiritual devotion and energy. 

An accumulation it is - Believed to have been constructed in the early 12th century and dedicated to the 22nd Thirthankara Neminath and Parshwanath, the 23rd principly, Kere Basadi as the locals fondly refer to it brings together not only the ancestral Jain guardians of these temples, but also devout Hindus from the agrarian surrounds of the Lily Pond who believe in the aura and spiritual energy of this simple little temple. 

To me as a Jain, but more importantly as a traveller, what hit me the most was how strong an attraction I felt for this place. I decided to give it time and then proceeded to spend a half-day sitting on those centuries old stone stairs that led down into the lily pond to understand why. 

I alternated sitting with my feet immersed in the water between all the four identical four stone stairways situated directly in front of the temple doorways, content to have pond fish, so used to being fed on horse-gram lentils, come investigate my feet. 

photo credit : rajat kumar

I sat watch as Prashant, Kere Basadi's refreshingly young and very devoted Priest, ferried devotees to and from the temple, several times during the course of that morning. I wondered whether it was the devotion of the people that was the attraction I was feeling...

Kere basadi Priest - Prashant

 

As I sat on dugout canoe, silently gliding away from the temple, it finally occurred to me. My attraction to the Lily Pond with it's small shrine, bereft of the architectural glory of it's siblings at Ranakpur and Palitana or it's ability to attract throngs of devotees like the Bahubali, was exactly the opposite of what I felt at these temples in the past. 

To me the attraction ultimately lay in the fact that the Lily Pond was a living breathing temple. It was alive amidst the vibrant nature of it's setting, the harmony of it's living beings within the Lily Pond, it's energy was alive in the spirt of this one dedicated priest and the handful of devotees, Jain and Hindu alike, who believed in the potency of the shrine.

However ultimately for me it was how a simple structure had managed to retain it's soul, a purity of energy concentrated over the centuries that ultimately let me connect with it's aura and not remember a temple for it's architectural splendour or it's teeming devotees. 

Photo Credit : Rajat Kumar    
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Rajat Kumar

... the outdoors define me, trekking into the remotest parts of the Nilgiri Mountains treading carefully so as to be one with the forests inhabitants. my greatest passions is interacting with the locals and native Tribes and learning their inept ways of life, one with nature, respectful of its fragility, strength and beauty.. a much required ask of today's civilisations as we know it.