After getting back from India a few days ago, it was wonderful to read Barbara’s, Penny’s, Liz’s, and Juliet’s guest posts (all so inspiring and so well written!) and the comments they generated… thank you so much guest bloggers!
I had been invited to India by the ICCS – an organisation that is promoting the revival of ancient traditions. But the visit also became a Yatra – a pilgrimage – to a land steeped in spirituality for thousands of years. In particular I was interested in the connections between the Dharmic religions of Jainism, Hinduism and Buddhism and Druidism. Could they really be said to be brothers and sisters who share a common parentage?
Many of us who are interested in Druidry also feel drawn to one or more of those paths which arose in India, and I wanted to explore whether this is simply an example of Westerners’ greed for ‘more’ or whether there really is a way in which these geographically separate traditions are in reality related, and can be complementary.
I am particularly interested in Jainism, and had written an exploratory paper on the connections and resonances between Jainism and Druidism, but while I was in India I met many experts on Hinduism and Buddhism as well as Jainism, and have broadened that paper to include them too. When I’ve finished it, I’ll post it up here. In the meanwhile, some photos and notes, and a big thank you to the organisers and participants of the conference – all of whom were so warm and generous.
At The River Crossing
The day before the conference I took a ramshackle bus to Ramtek, 40km from Nagpur, to visit the Jain and Hindu temples there.
Clues are hidden in language. Jain temples are called ‘Teerth’ or ‘Tirtha’. Tirtha literally means a river-crossing or ford, but also means ‘a sacred place’. Rivers have been considered sacred in many traditions – including the Celtic and Indian – and ‘crossing the river’ is a powerful image of moving from one realm to another. So a temple or sacred place is like a river – we can bathe in it, drink from it, and cross over it to the Other Side. And in the Jain tradition the 24 great teachers of humanity are known as ‘Tirthankaras’ – which means ford-makers. So the Sacred Person and the Sacred Place are one: they are both gateways to the Divine.
Most visitors to Ramtek go straight to the Hindu temples up on the hill. The Shantinath Digamber Jain Mandir is less frequently visited and lies on the plain at the base of the hill. Inside its nine temples are exquisite figures of the Tirthankaras, seated or standing, with the pride of place given to a great statue in yellow glossy stone of one Tirthankara that is 3.04 metres tall. I was asked not to photograph the interiors, but here are some exterior pictures: