Saturday, September 5, 2009

Jain festival in Kumari district

Yogesh Kabirdoss

Chitaral Jain Temple in Kanyakumari district, where the Department
of Tourism intends to conduct the Jain Temple Tourism Festival–09
on September 6.

CHENNAI: In a bid to showcase Tamil Nadu’s unique Jain monuments that stand testimony to a cultural past that saw the religion propounded by Mahavira flourishing for several centuries in various parts of the State, the tourism department is organising a ‘Jain Temple Tourism Festival’ at a remote village called Chitharal in Kanyakumari district on Sunday.

An initiative of the State secretary of tourism, Dr V Irai Anbu, the festival is the first of its kind event in Tamil Nadu that will ultimately turn the various heritage Jain structures, hitherto unknown to tourists and visitors to the State, into places of tourist attraction and also a pilgrimage for followers of Jainism.

At Chitharal, situated near Marthandam, a huge cave with rock-cut sculptures of Jain Tirthankaras and attendant deities exemplify how Jainism has thrived and has spread close to the land’s end, 2000 years ago, and how much it has contributed to the religious and cultural heritage of the State.Though the cave, which have been carved in a hillock standing amidst a scenic landscape, was converted into a Bhagavathi Amman Temple around the 13th century, the Jain images have not been tampered with. The preserved relics will be the highlight of the festival, which will be marked by folk performances and cultural events.

The Department of Tourism has developed a pathway leading to the hillock, which is about 200 feet high, for the convenience of those visiting the cave that is likely to be added to the list of popular places of interest in the district.

Besides the Chitharal site, there are 13 other Jain monuments spread across the State from Kancheepuram to Kazhugumalai to Sittanavasal to Uthamapalayam. Each of these temple has a fascinating history to narrate. By popularising the heritage sites, the department of tourism expects the State’s profile as a tourist destination and also as a place for pilgrimage to undergo a sea change. That there is more than the historic temples, will draw more visitors to the places that have been hitherto neglected and not showcased appropriately.

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