Universität Bonn

Abteilung für Asiatische und Islamische Kunstgeschichte


Pavilion on Ponnur Hill

At the summit of the sacred hill in Ponnur, a large glass pavilion has been raised. Inside the pavilion, the pādukā foot imprints of Kundakunda Ācārya, an important reformer and mythic figure from the Digambara sect, mark the spot of his achievement of full enlightenment (kevala-jñāna). The caraṇa (foot imprints) and an image of Mahāvīra have been placed in a small pavilion in the middle of three squares, on the outer side of a three by three square pavilion. While this concrete built structure has four central supporting pillars, it still follows the open layout of hall type temples. The temple is a glass construction and admits ample light, typical of similar hall temple constructions elsewhere in India. By being flooded with light, this latter, as well as many other hall type temples in the south, are far removed from the long tradition of extended lines of dark, and increasingly confined halls, so popular in this wider region during former centuries.

Ponnur Hill seen from below © Julia A.B. Hegewald
Pavilion at the summit © Julia A.B. Hegewald
View into the pavilion © Julia A.B. Hegewald

Ādinātha Mandir

A relatively rare example of a courtyard-house Jaina temple in the south of India, is the Ādinātha Mandir, also known as Śrī Ādīśvara Jinā-laya, in the monastic complex at the foot of Ponnur hill. This large and complex double temple is contained inside a walled compound, which contains a small temple, dedicated to Kundakunda, and a further, even larger samavasaraṇa (preaching hall of a Jina), housed inside a separate temple structure (see below, Samavasaraṇa Temple).

To the west side of the large square open courtyard of the Ādinātha Mandir is a shallow porch, extending along the entire side of the court. Parallel to this narrow porch, runs a much deeper elongated shrine area. It contains two large sculptural samavasaraṇa representations, one on an octagonal and the other on a circular plan. Five small but deep individual shrines protrude from the long western wall of the wide shrine hall. These additional individual image chambers contain a multitude of further sculptures and cosmological representations, as well as a very large sahasra-kūṭa (pyramidal structure decorated with Jina figures), housed in the second sanctum from the left. Remarkable is that although courtyard temples are relatively rare in the region, this example is highly complex. This complexity has been further enhanced by being a double temple combination. The courtyard section has a large neighbouring interconnected temple element to the south. This is a cosmological temple, venerating the concept of Nandīśvara-dvīpa (eighth island-continent of the Jaina cosmos).

View to shrine area on the west side of the temple © Julia A.B. Hegewald
Samavasaraṇa © Julia A.B. Hegewald
Cosmological shrine, housing a model of the eighth island continent of the Jaina cosmos © Julia A.B. Hegewald

Samavasaraṇa Temple (Samosaraṇ Temple)

The Samavasaraṇa Temple in the monastic complex at Ponnur is a circular temple structure. It houses a large-scale representation of a samavasaraṇa with four māna-stambhas raised in the cardinal directions.

Outside view of the Samavasaraṇa Temple © Julia A.B. Hegewald
Inside view © Julia A.B. Hegewald
Cosmological diagram inside the temple © Julia A.B. Hegewald

Ādinātha Digambara Jaina Temple

The Ādinātha Digambara Jaina Temple in Ponnur village comprises a relatively large complex.  A collection of various altars and pillars can be found axially aligned in front of the temple. The hall of the temple can be entered from the front (east) and the north sides of the hall. It exhibits cosmological paintings on its side walls, and auspicious kolam designs on the floor. An additional shrine dedicated to Kuṣamāṇḍinī protrudes from the west side. The compound of the Ādinātha Digambara Jaina Temple also contains a a glased pavilion, which houses a seated representation of Kundakunda and marks the site of this important teacher’s first sermon.

View towards the temple from the southeast © Julia A.B. Hegewald
View towards the shrine © Julia A.B. Hegewald
Three-dimensional representations of the nine celestial gods © Julia A.B. Hegewald
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