PROJECT FOR STUDIES IN INDIAN TEMPLE ARCHITECTURE, LALBHAI DALPATBHAI INSTITUTE OF INDOLOGY Prepared under the Monograph Series on Historic Temples undertaken with the help of Shri Anandji Kalynaji Pedhi and The Lalbhai Dalpatbhai Institute of Indology, Ahmedabad, India 1999

This book is the first in the series of works planned in the field of Indian Temple Architecture by the Project for the Studies in Indian Temple Architecture at the L. D. Institute of Indology. This work on the Mahavir Temple at Osia is undertaken as the beginning of such works in order to document and describe one of the oldest surviving Jain Temples in western India and also one of the most important from the viewpoint of Indian Temple Architecture. The temple is illustrated through measured drawings and photographs to describe the history of the building and also the changes it has seen during its several phases of restorations and additions. It also attempts to describe the buildings in terms of the spaces and built elements to inform the reader about the aspects of temple building arts employed during its various phases. It also discusses the attitudes to restoration adopted by the succeeding generations of traditional temple builders and their work of jeerṇoddhār to support the practice followed by Jaina patrons.

The book is an attempt to record the historicity of the temple and the art it represents through important phases for the general readers and those interested to appreciate the history of western Indian temple architecture. It is hoped that it is received in this context and makes a meaningful contribution to the existing body of knowledge in this field.;

Jitendra B. Shah, Director,
L.D. Institute of Indology, Ahmedabad


The Mahavira temple in Osiya, ancient Ukesa, is one of the longest worshipped Jaina shrines in western India. Its antiquity dates back to the late eighth century and its importance as a foundation of the Prat»h¹ra period is immense for the students of temple architecture with special reference to the Jaina studies. The temple is managed by a Trust and continually has been maintained as a pilgrimage shrine throughout its history, undergoing as it did periodic conservation. The present study prepared by Prof. R. J. Vasavada of Gujarat, an eminent architect by profession, just as a famous teacher of contemporary architecture, brings into focus the structural and constructional sequence of the Osiya temple's evolution as a shrine through its successive phases of history. His study also unravels its main stages of development including the additions made and alterations effected during the centuries of its existence.

The L. D. Institute of Indology has initiated a special Project called 'The Studies in Temple Architecture' under the direction of Prof. Vasavada, the initial result is the production of this first, fine, and informative monograph. The central motive of this Project is to document the important temples, including Jaina buildings having historical importance, so that whenever restoration work is undertaken as part of the maintenance programme, the significant historical and archaeological character of a building is not altered or affected in the process and the restoration is undertaken with the degree of sensitivity required. In this sense the Project also becomes an advisory preamble for the restoration work wherein the Trust with find specialized and authentic material to guide them. The beginning made in this direction by Prof. Vasavada is an important step in managing the restoration of religious buildings of historical heritage and simultaneously will provide a much needed material for knowing the ancient and medieval temple architecture in India, particularly for those interested in that field of study.

The monograph is illustrated with ground plans and elevational drawings accompanied by related photographs and some earlier documents, which considerably help read and comprehend the overall record of the temple complex's architecture. The description of the monuments' history and its various components lend further insight into the various aspects of its architecture and doubtless is an important addition to the existing knowledge about this temple as also the Maha-Maru school of art and architecture of the Pratihara period in Rajasthan in general.

-- M. A. Dhaky


Osia is a small village sixty-five kilometers north-east of Jodhpur. It is an important Jaina pilgrimage center for Oswal Jaina community. The Mahavira Temple built here in A. D. 783 is an important tirtha for Jaina built by Pratihara King Vatsaraja. The Jaina Harivamsa Purana refers to Vatsaraja's rule in Saka year 705 (A. D. 783). He must have held sway over Upakesapura, i.e., Osian as an inscriptions of v. s. 1013 (A. D. 956) found from there refers to this place. In Nabhinandanajirnodhara Prabandha (henceforth NJP), Upakesapura has been described as the 'Svastika' (a mystical mark denoting good luck) of the earth, an ornament of the desert endowed with natural beauty where the groves are full of trees and the noble ascetics are wifeless (adara), but amongst the citizens none are like that; where the beautiful damsels and the peacocks educate each other without formal instructions merely by observing each other's graceful gait; where the tanks are replete with fully blossomed lotuses and the nocturnal darkness is dispelled by the light emanating from the luminous gems and where the rays of moon entering during the night through latticed windows in the houses of fair ladies, separated from their spouses, appear like the silver-arrows hurled by Cupid. Shorn of its usual literary exaggerations, the description does indicate that Osian was an important flourishing town then. The derivation of the cast name Oswal from Osia - the place name also sounds acceptable as it is a common practice in India to derive the family names from place names. It is conjectured from several evidences that the people of Osian were converted to Jainism by Shri Ratnaprabhasuriji, who had impressed the populace of the region by his supernatural powers. A niche in Mahavira Temple contains sculpture of interwined snakes which also is worshipped by Oswal Jaina, as adhisthatr - devetas. This leads us to believe that a sizeable part of the populace in that period may have belonged to naga extraction. Nagabhatta was a Pratihara ruler of Mandor. It is said that the Nagabhatta must have defeated the nagas and so he must have been given the name Nagabhatta which means 'master of nagas'. Nagabhatta the son of Narbhatta of Mandor line established his capital at Merta near Nagpur, whose old name was Nagapura. The Pratiharas may have conquered these areas from the nagas. Nagapriyagachha of Jaina also indicates in the same direction. The Nagas of Osian and surrounding region, thus seem to have continued serpant worship even after their conversion to Jainism and for this reason their parallel worship of Sachiya Mata by Oswal community seems relevant. The Sachiya Mata Temple also equally old and important situated on a hill north-east of Mahavira Temple, enable us some clues to understand the social history of that period. This Temple was built by Upaldev and has many decorative features of a Jaina Temple, however, it is dedicated to Sachiya mata, though Jaina also worship here, which also is a matter of interest to understand the emergence of Jaina community in this city.


D. R. Bhandarkar in his report (ASI Annual Report 1908-09 Calcutta 1912) mentions the following:

"The next temple that deserves notice is the celebrated Jaina Temple referred to in the Hindu and Jaina accounts. It is dedicated to Mahavira, the last Tirthankara, and is situated on the Western outskirts of the village. It faces the north and stands within a walled enclosure. The original flight of steps in front is now buried underground and the Jagirdar so I am told, does not allow the Temple authorities to unearth them, although they are willing to do so at their own expense. The temple consists of a sanctum, a closed hall and a porch. Immediately in front of the porch is a torana or ornamental arch. On the middle eight-sided portion of each of its two pillars are carved eight Tirthankaras seated on Padmasana in niches. The lower part of the pillar is square in section with recessed corners and has four figures of Tirthankara standing in the kayotsarga altitude, and, beneath, four occupying lotus seats. Just where the square form to shaft changes into eight sided form a short inscription is engraved. It bears the date Sam. 1075 Ashadha sudi 10, Aditya-vare Svatinakshatre, and mentions that the gate was constructed by two individuals, whose names unfortunately cannot be read out. There is a second porch known as nalmandapa erected over a stair (nal) leading into the interior of the Temple. The stair as mentioned earlier is now concealed underground. Inside this porch, near the north-east corner, is an inscribed slab of marble built into a niche. The inscription consists of twenty-eight lines, but is much mutilated. It begins by invoking the blessing of the first Tirthankara Risabhanatha, the son of Nabhi, and of the Last Tirthankara Vira, the son of Siddhartha. Then it is stated that Rama, the destroyer of Ravana, had a brother named Lakshmana, who did the duties of his doorkeeper (Pratihara), and hence arose from the latter the Pratihara dynasty. In this dynasty there was a king named Vatsaraja. In his kingdom was situated the extensive city of Ukesa, i.e., Osia and in the heart of the city stood the Temple of Mahavira. So far the content of the inscription is clear but from the remaining mutilated portion we can glean only two things as certain. The first is that this mandapa, evidently the nal-mandapa in which the inscription is found, had fallen into disrepair, and at the request of the Temple Committee (goshthi) a merchant called Jindaka renovated it. Secondly the date of his renovation is 3rd day of the bright half of Phalguna of the Vikram year 1013. The Temple thus existed during the reign of Vatasaraja, who belonged to the Pratihara dyansty and flourished about A. D. 770-800; and its nal-mandapa was rebuilt in the Vikarama year 1013 (A. D. 956)".

M. A. Dhaky in his article (Some early Jaina Temples in Western India, published in Shri Mahavira Jaina Vidyalaya Golden Jubilee Volume p. 325, 326, Bombay 1968) mentions the following:

"The sequence of constructional activities in this complex can be visualized on the strength of the detailed style — critical analysis seconded, wherever known, by epigraphic evidences. Accordingly, following stages seem to have ensued. The Jagati with its eastern Ubhayamukhi Mukhacatuṣkīki, the Valanaka the Main Temple with the Mukhamaṇḍapa, and the southern part of Bhramantika were built at one time; that is when Vatsaraja Pratihara, ruled according to Jindaka's inscription. All these structure follow the Maha-Maru style in its virginal purity. They are the oldest in this Complex. Jindaka repaired the Valanaka in 956. Before his time perhaps, the north face (confronting the Town) of the Valanaka may be semi-open as its south face is. He closed it and caused the niches to be built in the wall so formed. A generation later, Devakulika No. 5 was erected and shunted to its eastern walling. It now followed the Maha-Gurjara style with a few features of late Maha-Maru, such as the jala of the sikhara. The pitha, the jangha with vyalas, are all after Maha-Gurjara tradition. During the late tenth century, Maha-Gurjara style had crossed its traditional frontiers and entered into Maru mandala via perhaps Pali. In fact in this Devakulika, the two styles meet but Maha-Gurjara tends to dominate. At the next stage, in 1018, the Torana was set up. It is precisely at this time that the present sikhara of Mulaprasada of the Main Temple was built, and Devakulika No. 1 and, soon after, No. 2 (confronting each other) were erected. The figural carving on the Torana and that on latter Devakulikas particularly No. 1 closely agree. The style of these structures is what we should call the early Maru-Gurjara, the more perfect example of which is Devakulika No. 3 erected possibly a decade hence. The Devakulika No. 4 was to be added as late perhaps, as the end of eleventh century as suggested by its coarse carving when the Bhramantika was extended along east and west with its two embedded Devakulikas (Nos. 6 and 7). At this time or perhaps a little later, the central twelve original pillars of the Va anaka were replaced by eight new ones in a different style for supporting a new great ceiling of the typical Maru-Gurjara tradition. The extension of the Valanaka were also made duing this time. The history of the Temple thus covers three centuries of building activities… The Main Temple, a fine piece of Maha-Maru architecture, reveals the oldest example of Jaina kind of Trika or Mukhamaṇḍapa (catuksi). Its rich treasures of Jaina iconography are the earliest so far known in the context of Temple decorations. The Devakulikas themselves are little masterpieces of architecture and demonstrate a further development of the Western style in making; at the same they are illustrative of progress made in Jaina iconography."


Temple Complex

The Mahavira Temple Complex, approached from the street on north through re-modelled entrance porch, has the hall which in earlier times housed stairs for approach. As one enters on the left to the east is Devakulika No. 5 which is adjacent to the hall. The Main Temple is standing on a platform which has large hall attached to the inner hall of the Temple. The Main Shrine is approached through the inner hall. There are in all seven subsidiary shrines, around the main temple four located along eastern side and three on the western side. Two subsidiary shrines are part of the colonnaded corridors, one each on east and west. These sub-shrines are numbered 1 to 7 as indicated on the illustration depending on their antiquity. The entire complex has been gradually expanded during the passage of time. Adjoining the Temple complex there are dharmashalas and also a School of Theology which is attached to the Temple trust. The Torana which was shifted from its original position during the expansion of the front hall is temporarily shifted along the eastern wall. The southern corridor is also recently converted into a sculpture gallery where relics of the temple-parts are preserved and exhibited. The overall Temple Complex spreads over an area measuring approximately 45 M north-south and 30 M east-west. On eastern and southern side the Complex is connected with the town, on west to the school and confronts the two street on the north.

The temple as at present has been evolved from the original form and expanse. From the earliest status of 8th century A. D. successive additions have been made in 10th, 11th century and also later on. The entrance areas and also the hall in front of the temple have all been altered and expanded due to increasing demands of space to accommodate pilgrims over the centuries. For expanding the hall the torana has been removed and entrance hall as well as main hall of the Temple have been enlarged. In recent times, the roof of the inner hall of the Temple is also repaired and refitted as it had developed structural weaknesses. The Temple Complex has been thus constantly evolving and it is interesting to observe its evolving stages and the needs which necessitate the constant upgradation and repairs from time to time.

Architectural Character

As M. A. Dhaky suggests in his work on Western Indian Jaina Temple, . . . the Western Indian or Maru-Gurjara Jain Temple spells the perfect expression of the Jinaite sacred architecture. Jainism all the same did not create a separate architecture; it rather drew from and always depended on the very vital source, Hindu architecture. Though its constituent elements, came from Brahmanical vastu-art, it is largely in the organization and manipulation just as in application, and we may add in further and fuller development of some of these elements that the Jaina sacred building remains distinguished from its Brahmanical counterpart . . . These medieval Jaina Temples broadly followed the regional and period styles of the Brahmanical sacred buildings. The impact of Jainism and the influence of its followers in Western India had begun to be felt more decidedly from the seventh century . . . but it is in the medieval epoch particularly between the eleventh and thirteenth century, that Jainism reached the zenith of its power and importance . . . Dhaky further describes the important features of a Western Indian Jain Temple at Jagati, Mulaprasada, (containing garbha or garbhagriha) enshrining mulanayaka, mulaprasada is attached to a gudhamandapa, which is axially opened to Mukhamaṇḍapa i.e. trika, trika articulated to a rangamandapa together with the Mukhamaṇḍapa, in rear is surrounded and thus enclosed by bramantika or pattasalika (cloistered corridor) formed by the linkage of the porches of the conjoined clusters entourage of deva-kulikas or subsidiary Shrines, in the first instance of 24 in numbers enshrining images of the 24 Jinas.

The Temple Complex as explained earlier has the following constituents: (1) The entrance porch on the north, to the street (2) The entrance hall which earlier housed the stairs also (3) The vast Temple court (4) The main Temple with main front hall, inner hall, main shrine (5) The colonnaded corridors on south, east and west, (6) Reassembled Torana — archway and (7) Subshrines numbered 1 to 7 in groups of four on eastern side and three on western side. Two subshrines out of these seven, numbered six and seven are enclosed within the eastern and western colonnaded corridors respectively. These structures are described in extreme details by M. A. Dhaky in his work compiled in the article entitled Some Early Jaina Temples in Western India, p. 312 to 327, published by Shri Mahavira Jaina Vidyalaya Golden Jubilee Volume, Bombay (1968).

Main Shrine

The plan of the main shrine shows the inner Temple surrounded by the external envelope which provides a circum-ambulatory passage around the inner Temple. The inner temple has a frontal porch with two independent pillars which conjoin with the two pilasters on the sides of the entrance door. This forms a miniature Temple proper. The external envelope is devised with three projected surfaces of walls, which is a type in Temple forms. The corners and the central offset also has an intermediate projection. The central offsets on east, south and west has projected niches with stone traceries and provide for spaces for additional sculptures and also climatic comfort to the interior of the Temple. The width of the Temple measured here is 7.70 M on outside base of the east and west walls. (Dhaky mentions 7.77 M.) The plan of the external envelope is a square which is conjoined by the inner hall attached to the main shrine by a lobby, which coincides with the porch of the inner Temple. This dimension of lobby 1.78 M. in width separates the two forms i.e. the form of main shrine and the form of the inner hall which becomes a transition point in the formal union of the roofs of these structures which are also differently modelled in external as well as internal massing and volumetrics. The inner hall of the Temple with its own frontal verandah and central porch, which housed the steps to the plinth completed the Temple form as recorded by the earlier scholars and published henceforth. This part of the exterior is now expanded into an additional external pillared hall to accommodate more pilgrims. This is shown in the accompanying illustration of the latest plan of the Temple prepared by the Sompura Krishna Chandraji of Ahmedabad, who supervised these extensions and repairs in 1970. The new hall was expanded adding one more bay to the north of the entrance porch erecting fourteen more pillars and raising the plinth to form the pillared hall in front of the existing porch and verandah.

Inner Hall

The inner hall is once again a square in plan with two projected surfaces of wall with the corner and the central offset. The central offset has on east and west sides projected niches like the main shrine envelope. The width of the hall measured on the outside east-west extremities is 10.40 M. (Dhaky mentions 10.65 M.) The structure of the hall is marked by a central pavilion, which is constructed by four pillars supporting a domical ceiling. The adjoining bays on all four sides are constructed with the help of side walls and corresponding pilasters with flat stone ceilings supporting the pyramidal roof on top of the inner hall. The enclosing structure of the hall also provide through modulations of its wall surfaces and pilasters series of niches on sides which housed sculptural figures symbolizing divine incarnations and guardian angels. 

Front Hall

As stated earlier this pillared hall has been added recently amalgamating the original porch and the verandah which marked the entrance to the Temple. The structure of the earlier facade including the ceiling and roof is retained and additional pillars totalling to fourteen are added in front of existing pillars as shown on the illustration. The width of the hall coincides with the width of the inner hall and the plinth is also extended at the lower level to mark the flooring of the extended hall. The plinth projects beyond the northern row of pillars and accommodates the entrance steps to the pillared hall. The part of earlier entrance steps to the inner hall are retained within the central bay connected with the entrance pavilion of the older facade, which mark the entrance doorway to the inner hall of main shrine.

Entrance Hall

As stated earlier, the entrance hall as we see today has replaced the earlier entrance hall which existed since the Pratihara period. This was in its modified form as recorded by Bhandarkar and is explained in his report. During the expansion of the Temple during this century the older entrance hall is modified including its level which is made flat and a new entrance porch is attached on the north on the road front. The enclosing periphery towards the Temple court is dispensed with and the entrance hall now sits entirely on the courtyard floor. The hall has a domical central shape supported by 12 pillars and the ceiling is spanned by a hemispherical dome in stone construction. There are three wings attached to the dome with an isle space adjoining the central hall on north east and west. The east and west wings have a structure constructed with 8 columns spanning 3 base, north south. The wing on the north is attached to the north wall on the street face and is attached to the north wall on the street face and is supported between a row of 4 columns and 4 pilasters attached to the wall. The entrance porch on the street side is projected beyond this point with a similar structure forming the overall entrance porch. On the eastern wing is attached the subshrine No. 5 which earlier was connected with the eastern wall of the entrance hall. This entire structure, enlarged and re-modelled is the latest addition to the Temple Complex and shows the overall effect of contemporary Temple building traditions adopted by Jaina builders. The character of this hall is described by the Sompura builders as that of a dancing hall in a Temple, but in this case this space which is approximately 180 sq. mts. is used for religious discourse and gathering by large groups of pilgrims which visit the Temple very often for pilgrimage. In construction of the new hall the use of considerable number of old column parts is done and this is very evident when one inspects the 32 odd columns which are combined together to erect this entrance hall structure.


In the tenth century scheme of the Temple Complex, an archway was constructed to mark the entrance of the main Temple. This archway was in place until the front hall of the Temple was built in early 70. This archway has been now removed and kept aside along the eastern periphery. In structural terms this archway comprised of two highly decorated columns supporting a ribbed awning topped by a lintel and brackets on top forming an arch like assembly. The original archway was assembled in 1080 A. D. according to an epigraph on its lintel and this was an important feature in the overall Temple architecture in Western India.

Subshrines No. 1 to 7

These miniature shrines form an important part of the Temple Complex and as stated earlier five of them are standing within the Temple court and the last two i.e. No. 6 and 7 are amalgamated within the corridor on easter and western periphery of the Complex. These subshrines are more or less of the same size but stylistically they represent two significant phases of architecture as explained by M. A. Dhaky (ibid). The subshrine No. 1 and 2, on east and west of the main Temple are similar. They have, like all other, typical build up of the structural form divided into plinth, superstructure and the roof. The entrance porch is formed by a pair of pilasters on the two sides of the entrance door and two corresponding pillar support forming a square entrance porch to the shrine chamber. This portion has a ceiling with a pyramidal roof on top of the shrine chamber as a regular spire roof. The general size of the subshrine is approximately 3 M x 3 M with additional porch. Subshrines No. 3 and 4 once again to the east and west of the main Temple respectively were added as late as end of eleventh century. Thus subshrines No. 1 &3 and 2 &4 form the pairs of subshrines on the east and the west of the main Temple respectively. Subshrine No. 5 is the earliest of all dating back to late tenth century and it was attached on the eastern side of the earlier entrance hall. With the modification of the earlier entrance hall into a new structure, this subshrine is now independently standing abutting the eastern colonnade of the new entrance hall and the north eastern periphery of the Temple complex is expanded beyond this subshrine which is a changed situation of the periphery from what was recorded by Bhandarkar in his ASI report (ibid.)

Colonnaded Corridor

As the earlier studies indicate (Dhaky), the southern corridor with about 8 pillars was part of the original scheme of the Temple. In Bhandarkar's sketch plan the corridor is shown as continuous on east, south and west. These extensions of the east and the west therefore appear to be later additions and they are also stylistically of a later date. The subshrines No. 6 and 7 which are amalgamated in the eastern and western corridor have their spire extending above the roof of the corridor structure and these spires resemble stylistically to the late eleventh century traditions according to Dhaky. These corridors are normally a feature of a typical Jain Temple complex and in this case they help define the Temple peripheries. In recent times, the southern corridor is renovated and the displaced relics from the Temple which are removed because of material decay and replacement are exhibited here to preserve the original parts of the Temple construction. The southern corridor is measured in part and is approximately 3 M wide and 3 M high with niches in its rear wall. The plinth of this corridor is 83 cm. high and the original pillars 2.56 M high up to the beams (refer illustrations.) 

Issue of Change and Continuity and Sompura Traditions

In connection with the Mahavira Temple's unbroken tradition of worship by Jaina, Michael Meister argues in his article (ibid) that the course of renovation and expansion in the compound and not simply the chronology are integral to our understanding of these monuments and that recent decades are as important as the archaeology of past periods. He further cites the Pattavali of the Upakesa-Gaccha (first published by Rudolph Hoernle in 1890) which preserve appropriations, reappropriations, and reformulations as complex as those found in monuments themselves. It provides a series of embedded clues to significant periods of transformation in Jaina community's perception of its monuments as well as a fantastic and fabulistic account of Osian's origin. He also mentions that what we see today is specifically a contemporary reclamation of Osian by Jaina pilgrims. The Mahavira Temple now recognized within the Jaina community as western India's oldest Jaina shrine, which has received in recent decades substantial institutional support from the Anandji Kalyanji Trust. ..such a contemporary assertion reflects documentable history more than a community's present day longing for an "embedded" past… he concluded by quoting Romila Thaper (Society and Historical Consciousness).. each version of the past which has been deliberately transmitted has a significance for the present, and this accounts for its legitimacy and its continuity.

Mahavira Temple complex is attached today with a school, and guest houses owned by the Trust. Its main entrance to north is modified and on its inside a large entrance hall constructed with domical roof. These spaces provide for increasing number of pilgrims, who visit the temple in large groups. These halls provide for multiple usage for religious activities from time to time. The main hall of the temple, also remodelled in early seventies is new construction with flat roof as an extension to the main shrine. It was during the same period that the roof of the inner hall, a pyramidal structure of the original temple, which had struts resting on beams, was repaired and refitted with new stones as the old structure showed the signs of failure of beams bearing struts due to its age. This entire repair-reopening the old and refitting with a new structural scheme of arcuated supports for the pyramidal roof was handled by the Sompura master craftsmen employed by the Anandji Kalyanji Trust of Ahmedabad which is looking after the restoration of the Jaina Temples all over the country. The Sompura school improvises on traditional engineering know-how and employ contemporary ways to handle such restoration works for structural durability. On the other hand on repairs to statuary and mouldings of stone work in different parts adopt a practice of recreating the actual replicas of what existed even if they have to repair parts of the sculpture they prefer to recreate with matching craftsmanship so that the renewed sculpture, mouldings match the original as closely as possible. This many times create confusion about the overall image of the temple in the mind of an observer about the authenticity of the parts of the temple structure. But this has always been the accepted policy of Sompuras that when the skill is available with them, the shrines have to be retained in its near original glory without the material decay or damage affecting the overall image of the shrine. This concern and care for the important symbol of religion has always been a collective responsibility of the community so that the tradition is continued in times to come and all successive generations carry it forward. About the authenticity of restoration and repairs, specialists such as historians, archaeologists may have reservations for the quality and methods employed but Sompura builders' goals are tied up with their dedication to their art and also to their heredetary committment to their ancestral duty to excell and further the skills in service of classical arts. Their motto is to express their gratitude to their fore-fathers, who lend them the skill, by excelling in their work and uphold classical arts. For these reasons when Sompuras undertake restoration they consider it their duty to bring it to its near original to the best of their ability. And when they excell in their work, it is really hard to make out the original from new. Although they do reflect the traces of the idiom in, which they are working and specialists in the field can make out the difference with careful examination. But for a normal pilgrim it is not possible to make out the old and the new and it is important for them to find the temple in healthy image of proper upkeep enlivening their experience as a worshipper and to a pilgrim that is the most satisfying experience of having made the pilgrimage to a holy place.

Architecturally, the successive additions and alterations display varied attitudes to temple building arts. The relics which are the oldest are perhaps the lower portions of the main shrine. Comparing the later developments including the spire of that part display simplified approaches to formal treatment and also perhaps a lower level of aesthetics and skills. The roof of the enlarged front hall and also new pillars to display tendencies of simplification through its flat roof and pillars. These elements also attempt a hybrid formation, where old parts are mixed with the new ones and this is where the differences are noticed. The ground to floor relation also has been over-simplified. The earlier entrance hall in relation to temple floor and the street level had changing levels highlighting the experience of entering the temple through segregated levels. This is destroyed now and rationalized, may be due to increasing number of pilgrims. To a discreet visitor all these simplifications do sound disturbing as it is perceived as a major change in the basic typology of temple plan over a period of time, loosing the original richness. This also raises some pertinent questions about the authenticity and change and how these have to be studiously attempted in order to safeguard the basic idiom within which these temples have been built. The Mahavira Temple as originally built had an enclosure all around. The increased demands for ritualistic needs from ever increasing pilgrims must have necessitated the expansion of the old temple, which was possible only in the front hall. This in turn required additional re-organization of front periphery bordering the street which then can accommodate the hall in the entrance and also provide movement areas in front for large number of people visiting the shrine.

Change and continuity are best illustrated through Mahavira Temple at Osia. The way the community preserves the on going tradition and passes on to succeeding generations, display their commitment to religion. This urge also provides important patronage to building-crafts and architectural traditions, which is kept alive and evolving—though confined only to Temple arts. The unbroken worship and relevant renewals of temple institution thus become inseparable parts of the community's ethos and therefore, Mahavira Temple assumes greater importance as one of the most important Jaina religious institutions in Western India. Michael Meister points out that it is the institution and its changing cultural consensuses and conventions that constitute the monument going beyond its architectural forms. (Meister 1990, RES 1995).

Future visions in restoration and religious aspirations

As the time progresses, the antiquity of the temple complex is also advancing. There is an urge to also value the shrine as an important mile-stone in the local as well as regional history. In any case monument with such a strong unbroken lineage of worship are extremely important indicators of cultural traditions of people of Jaina community. It provides an important link to the patronage provided to religion which was the binding force for the community in general, for this reason there is now a serious move on the part of the trust to preserve the unused old parts as relics of the historic temple and build up a small museum so that the important indicators of history can be made available for future generations to view this within the temple complex and thereby understand the historic connections of this temple through its artistic fragments, which had to be replaced for upgradation of temple structure. As the anthropologist Marshal Sahlins (RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics 1992: 21) has emphasized that "Tradition is not static, nor is it in this way opposed to 'modernity' ". He cites Remo Guidieri and Francesco Pellizzi's poignant observation that "in many instances authenticity through mutations in form so that the current task of traditional societies appears to be the recycling of ethnic memory through various forms of cultural reinterpretations (1988: 26). In this way, in fact, the present forever extends the past. (Michael Meister RES 27 1995).

Plate 1: Overall plan based on Dr. Bhandarkar's Sketch showing the complex as he documented (as published in ASI Report 1908-09 Calcutta 1912)


The plan shows the then existing condition of the complex with an entrance hall, presumably at a higher level connected with the street on north. The steps leading(balanaka) into the temple compound through a torana which existed there. Refer the photograph of this in plates. The four Devakulikas in the compound are shown in dotted while the one attached with the entrance hall is shown in its original form adjoining the exit out of the complex to the east on side street. As can be observed from the sketch plan, the entrance to the temple complex was from the street on a higher level and through balanaka one stepped down to the inner areas from the street level. This form of temple plan is also seen in temples at Kumbharia near Ambaji in north Gujarat where similar typology is preferred for the temples. There are two older subshrines which are now integrated in the east and west bramantika. Perhaps these were added later along the periphery when the subshrines were included within the corridors. The temple complex also had a lower level forecourt between the torana and the trika of the entrance to the main temple. These areas are now remodelled and articulated into larger halls as perhaps the need for bigger enclosed space grew over passage of time with increasing number of pilgrim groups.

As per Shri M. A. Dhaky, the important phases of the development of the temple are 8th century, 10th century and 12th century when the complex was added upon in past. The present renovations are from early seventies. The subshrine near the earlier entrance on east was the oldest which was removed and refitted later when the complex was enlarged. The subshrine in pairs on east and west were added during 11th century. Though it would be important to establish the three stages of development, as emphasised by Shri Dhaky, it has been possible to delineate two stages from the available information of Bandarkar and Shri Sompura for the above two stages, namely early 2oth cent. and late 20th cent. ( I am extremely thankful to Shri Dhaky for his insights about the complex which were offered to me during my discussions with him on1st June,1997 in Ahmadabad).

Plate 2: Overall plan based on the drawing provided by Shri K C Sompura of Anandji Kalyanji Pedhi, Ahmedabad (Ca. 1973)


The Plan of the complex after the modifications of early seventies, when the entrance areas were modified and the new entrance hall was built expanding its size and also levelling the entire area for larger gatherings. The new Hall in the entrance area is also assembled using fragments of the older pillars which must have been salvaged fromn the earlier structure of the entrance area which was dismantled to make room for the larger hall in the entrance. The pillars of the new Hall on south side are all assembled out of the older half pillars which must have existed forming the kakshasana of the older mandapa. There is one pillar in the mandapa which still has an original inscription, which is the fragment of an older pillar from the original structure. The north-eastern periphery is also enlarged and restructured with additional land added in that side and the Devakulika , which was repositioned and connected with the east side of the new mandapa. In the main Mahavira temple the original trika is merged into a larger new mandapa attached to the main temple. During this renovations the roof of the Mukhamaṇḍapa attached to the main shrine was also repaired as the catuksi pillars had shown structural decay. These pillars were replaced partially ( as explained through photographs) and the roof of the mandapa repaired along with the new mandapa roof. Also note the addition of a new entrance porch on the main entrance to the street. This porch is jutting out of the periphery on road.

Plate 3: Plan of the main temple after addition in 1970s. The front hall was modified and enlarged and the roof of the original Mandapa restored.


Enlarged plan of the remodelled Mahavira Temple after the renovations proposed by the sompura under Anandji Kalyanji Pedhi, Ahmadabad in early seventies. Note the addition of the new enlarged mandapa merging the original trika in front of the Mukhamaṇḍapa. The level of the floor of the new mandapa retained the original entrance steps of the trika, which were part of the original trika. Parts of the older structure are used in the pillars of the new mandapa and it is confirming the old practice of reusing the older parts in newer additions. Threse parts are visible in the photographs of the mandapa and are also shown in the details of the pillars. In comparing the external profile of the Mukhamaṇḍapa on the western side (north-west and south-west corners) one observes the difference in its plinth moulding and superstructure as it is not exactly symmetrical along the projected kakshasana. This type of variations in details may not have been a matter of great concern to the master builders and to some extent it might also subscribe to the inner content of the niches in the Mukhamaṇḍapa corners where different imagery constiututed the details of the niche, which might have been expresssed deliberately on the outside. ( I thank Dr. Michel Meister for his discussion with me on site on this issue of our observation during our joint visit to Mahavira Temple on 30th December, 1996)

Plate 4:

    1. (top) Part sectional profile of the plinth of the main temple
    2. (bottom) Measuerd drawing of the main temple showing part plan of the oldest shrine.

Plate 5: Longitudinal section


Longitudinal section prepared from a recent measured drawing showing the corridor of south, main temple with profile of sikhara, Mukhamaṇḍapa, and the new mandapa integrating the original trika. Note the level differences between the main temple and the new mandapa and the front parts of the temple, which is raised to level the surrounding areas to the level of the entrance mandapa.

Plate 6: Column Details

Photographic Documentation

Illustration 01: View of Mahavira Temple from Sachiya Mata Hill and View of newly added Rangmandapa from North-West


View of Mahavira Temple from Sachiya Mata Hill


View of newly added Rangmandapa from North-West

Illustration 02: Mahavira Temple as seen in 1972


Mahavira Temple as seen in 1972, north-west, Maru Style, Phase-I, Pratihara




Toraṇa in front of Jain Temple Temple of Mahavira from North

Illustration 03: Sikhara of the main temple, etc



Sikhara of the main temple from south-west Sikhara of main temple from south-west



Corner of the temple and side porches on south-west Corner of the temple and side porches on south-west

Illustration 04:



Vidyadevi sculpture on North face View of Mahavira Temple from Sachiya Mata Hill



North-west corner of gūḍhamaṇḍapa from Mukhamaṇḍapa Pillars on west, Mukhamaṇḍapa

Illustration 05:


Portion of gūḍhamaṇḍapa pillar (8th Cent.) which was replaced by the new Substitute


(Photo: Arving Sompura, Palitana) Wall of the antarala, west face




Pillar of Rangmaṇḍapa, East face,
south-east corner.
Pillar of the original trika,
eastern side
Pillar of the original Porch,
eastern side

Illustration 06:



New portion of the Pillar Shaft Renovated gūḍhamaṇḍapa pillar



Lower Shaft Pillar showing replaced shaft

Illustration 07:


Detail of upper part of porch wall under pyramidal roof


Detail of upper part of wall under pyramidal roof - East


Sikhara and pyramidal roof of the temple from East


Antarala roof connecting sikhara with pyramidal roof


Detail of north-east corner of pyramidal roof

Illustration 08:



Shaft of Toraṇa pillar Detail sculpture on shaft of Toraṇa pillar




Shaft of Toraṇa pillar Shaft of Toraṇa pillar

Illustration 09:


View of the restored from north-west



Portion of the new pillar substituting the original pillars of the gūḍhamaṇḍapa
North-west corner pillar of porch, Devakulika-3 (K A Sompura, Oct.92) (Sculptor: Shri Arvind Sompura, Palitana)

Illustration 10:



Intermediate Pillar on east face, newly added Rangmaṇḍapa North-west corner of the newly added Rangmaṇḍapa



Ceiling of the central pavillion, gūḍhamaṇḍapa


Renovated roof of gūḍhamaṇḍapa, from north-west
Pillar capital of gūḍhamaṇḍapa pillar, south-east corner  

Illustration 11: Devakulika Nos. 1,- 7



Devakulika Nos. 1, 3, 6 on east of the Temple Devakulika Nos. 2, 4, 7 on west of the temple


Devakulika Nos. 5 from South of the temple  

Illustration 12: Devakulika No. 1



View from north-west corner View of sikhara from south-west



Door frame of the shrine chamber Detail view of the east wall

Illustration 13: Devakulika No. 2



View of the roofs from east View of the roof from south-west



View from east of the Porch View of the south wall

Illustration 14: Devakulika No. 3



View of the roofs from west View of the ceiling of the Porch



View from west of the Porch Door-frame of the shrine chamber

Illustration 15: Devakulika No. 4



View from north-east View of the plinth and superstructure


View of the north wall  

Illustration 16: Devakulika No. 5



View of the wall from north View from north-west



View of the ceiling of the porch View from west


The photographs compiled for this study are from three sources;

  1. ASI Report, to illustrate the condition of the temple complex when Shri D. R. Bhandarkar studied the site in 1908-9, when he observed the temple complex and also sketched the plan. His documentation show the position of the balanaka, the toran and also the temple with original Mukhacatuṣkīki.
  2. Archives of American Institute of Indian Studies, Varanasi, which were taken during various period after sixties when the AIIS was documenting Temple Architecture of India under the direction of Shri M.A.Dhaky.
  3. Photographs from Shri Krishnachandra Sompura, especially of the new insertion of pillars done during the renovations the mandapa roof and addition of new hall and the entrance hall. His documentation of old pillar and the new is obtained from Shri Arvindbhai Sompura of Palitana who actually crafted the insertion based on the original fragments. The photographs of the interior of the Mukhacatuṣkīki with remodelled pillars is by Parth Shah.
  4. The rest of the photographs are by Author during his various field trips.


āndola-mālikā Mukhacatuṣkī antarāla mukhālinda
antarapatra Mukhamaṇḍapa āsana-paṭṭaka Mūlaprāsāda
bāhyaśākha Nābhichhanda bhadra Nāgara-kūṭas
bharaṇī Nālamaṇḍapa bhiṭṭa narapīṭha
Bhramantikā padmapaṭṭikā Catuksī phāṁsanā
chadyaki pītha chajjikā pīṭha
Devakulikās prāsādikās dvi aṅga pratiratha
ekāṇḍaka rājasenaka gajapīṭha rūpadhārā
gajatālus rangmaṇḍapa gandharvas rūpakaṇṭha
gavākṣa rūpastambha ghaṇṭa salilāntara
grasapaṭṭika śikhara Gūḍhamaṇḍapa siṁhakarṇa
illikā-valana śṛṅgas jādyakuṁbha śūrasenaka
Jagatī taraṅga śīrṣa jaṅghā tilaka
kalaśa Toraṇa kalikās tri aṅga
kandhara Trika kaṇṭha Ubhayamukhī
kapilī uraīphāṁsanā kapota uraīśṛṅgas
karmas Vajrāṅkusī karṇa jaṅghā vajraśṛṅkhalā
karṇikā Valānaka kaṭi varandikā
kharaśilā vasantpaṭṭikā khattakas vedibandha
khuraka vedikā kuṁbha vidyādharas
kūṭacchādya Vidyādevī

List of References and publication on Osian :

  1. Art of Osian Temples by Asha Kalia, Abhinav Publications, New Delhi (1982)
  2. Osian: History, Archaeology, Art & Architecture by Devendra Handa, Sandeep Prakashan, Delhi (1984)
  3. Osian: A monograph published by School of Architecture, Ahmedabad by Prof. R. J. Vasavada, with a portfolio of measured drawings, Ahmedabad (1989)
  4. A. S. I. Annual Report 1908-09 Calcutta (1912), The Temples of Osia by D.R. Bhandarkar. Refer for a very discriptive Select Bibliography on the subject.
  5. Shri Mahavira Jaina Vidyalaya Golden Jubilee Volume Part I, Some Early Jaina Temples in Western India by M. A. Dhaky, Bombay (1968) refer this article for a most comprehensive classical discription of the Mahavira Temple. pages 312-327.
  6. Encyclopaedia of Indian Temple Architecture. A. I. I. S. publication, 1983-91, M. A. Dhaky and M. Meister, Varanasi
  7. Jaina Tirtha Sarvasangraha, Ahmedabad 1953, Shah, U. P.
  8. Marg, No.11, 1959, Osiya, pp. 54-59, Jaykar, Pupul.
  9. Osiya, an unknown jewel of Indian Art, Western Railway Annual, 1953, pp. 126-129, Goetz, Hermann.
  10. Osiyan-ka-Jaina Mandir, Shri Varddhaman Jaina Shikshan Sangha Osiyan, 1988-93, Nilima Vashishtha.
  11. Indian Architecture, Vol. I, Taraporewala, Bombay, 1959. Brown, Percy. pp. 115.
  12. Ratna-Chandrika, ed. D. Handa and A. Aggarwal, Herman Publishing House, New Delhi, 1989, Temples, Tirthas and Pilgrimage: The case of Osian, Michael Meister.
  13. Jaina Tirtha Sarvasanhraha, Seth Anandji Kalyanji Pedhi, Ahmedabad, 1953. Ambalal Premchand Shah.
  14. Temples of North India, New Delhi, 1969, Krishna Dev.
  15. Jaina Art and Architecture, New Delhi, 1975, three volumes, ed. A. Ghosh.
  16. Agarchanda Nahata Abhinandan Grantha, Bikaner, 1977, Osiyan, B. N. Sharma.
  17. History of Indian and Eastern Architecture, Munshiram Manoharlal, 1967, Delhi, two Volumes, James Fergusson, pp. 56 Vol. II.
  18. RES Spring 1995. Sweetmeats or Corpses - Art History and Ethnohistory, Michael W. Meister.

Publisher's Note

We are delighted and indeed feel satisfaction in publishing a monograph on the OSHIYA (Osiya) Tirth, considered one of the more impressive and ancient among the Jaina places of pilgrimage. A fair number of ancient Jaina temples in India are well-known for their glorious history as well as the splendours of their sculpture and architecture. And Oshiya is one of them.
A suggestion had come from Professor Vasavada to establish a project of publishing monographs of such ancient Jaina places which have interesting history and possess buildings of consequence for their art and architecture. This is how the first monograph of the Project, on the Oshiya temple complex to be precise, has come into being. Its famous main temple to Jaina Mahavira is today the very few examples of the surviving early Jaina temples in all of western India.
Professor Vasavada in his first assignment has prepared the monograph on Oshiya temple ensemble. In the process of actual operation, we received coöperation from the Temple Administration and A. K. Trust. The secretary of the Institute, Shri Shrenikbhai, also took personal interest from the very start of this Project. Not only that, he provided guidance and suggestions to make the publication a quality production. Professor Dhaky also extended necessary academic guidance to make this Project a success. We are grateful to them for their encouraging and insightful help. Despite busy schedules and several other commitments, Professor Vasavada completed this work in the best way within a short period. He is well-known as a learned scholar and a teacher in the field of architecture. What is more, he also worked out a plan to protect this building of historical importance. The Publishers of this monograph, therefore, wish to extend special thanks for all the pains he took and care bestowed upon the production.
We may, as a closing note and indeed gratefully, record that for this project we received the financial support from Smt. Lilavati Lalbhai Trust. Without such a support, the work could not have been accomplished. We, therefore, wish to thank the Trust as well as all the Trustees for their generous help. At the other end, we would want to thank the computer operators M/s. Akhilesh Mishra and Purviben Shah and also the veteran proof-reader Shri Naranbhai Patel for their help. In that context, our thanks are largely due to Sharadaben Chimanbhai Educational Research Centre which allowed its aforenoted technical personnel to do the laser-printing and concomitant details.


The idea of the setting up of the Project for Studies in Temple Architecture was presented to Shri Shrenik Kasturbhai some time ago in order to develop a historical data base for the restoration of many a temples which are otherwise on the verge of its extinction because of its age and the decay. But to accept the same and to support it through the L. D. Institute's overall umbrella was not possible without his patronage. For this reason I express my sincere gratitude to him. Such studies are also not possible without the scholastic traditions and support at the same Institute through Shri M. A. Dhaky, whose pioneering work in the area has provided constant source to rely on and also his own trust and the encouragement for which I remain everso grateful to him. Prof. Ujamshibhai Kapadia and Shri Jitendrabhai Shah have helped me in carrying out the work and have extended their full support at the L. D. Institute for which I am greatful I would like to thank my two eminent scholar-friends, Dr. Michel Meister and Dr. John Cort from USA, who have taken keen interest in my work and also the project and helped me with their views and critics on the work. Both share our common interest in the studies of Temple Architecture and also the Jaina Religion.
My students, whose help is always forthcoming in the field work and I am extremely thankful to Meeta Jain, Vagish Nagnur, Parth Shah, Brinda Pancholi, Riyaz Tayyibji, K. Subashini, R. Gopinath; for their help in the task of measured drawing work. I am also thankful to P. G. Joseph for his secretarial assistance and computer work.
Finally all the trustees, especially Shri Sheorajji Jain in Osia and his staff for providing all the local help to carry out our work. My sincere thanks and gratitude for their kindness.

R. J. Vasavada, Ahmedabad

Rabindra Jayendralal Vasavada, born 1944 in Junagadh an important historic town in one of the erstwhile princely states of Kathiawad. Drawn to fine arts as a natural course due to family attributes and later enrolled in 1960 to study architecture in Baroda and in 1974 as a National Scholar in Copenhagen for postgraduate studies in architecture and planning. Interests in perceiving shades of life in general and its relatedness to Living in various cultures. Also interested in developing insights into natural and man-made forms through studies in history and life science, which are supported by involvements in various schools and institutions in India and abroad as instructor since 1978. This has also led to receiving senior fellowships from institutions and organizations in India and abroad to develop specific studies in architecture aimed at publication since 1980. These include studies in temple architecture of western India and Orissa and also utilitarian architecture of stepwells in western India supported by funding from several research organizations in India and abroad since 1990.


Prepared as Monograph-01: Project for Studies in Temple Architecture, Project Director: Rabindra J. Vasavada
Published by: Jitendra B. Shah, Director, L. D. Institute of Indology, Near Gujarat University Campus, Navrangpura. Ahmedabad 380 009 India

© Copyright 2001 Rabindra J. Vasavada, andL. D. Institute of Indology, Ahmadabad.

All rights reserved under International Copyright Convention. No part of this book shall be reproduced or transmitted to other medium in any form by any means - electronic, photographic or photo-copying, recording,scanning or by any information retrieval or storage system without prior permission of the Author and the Institute.

Publication year: 2001
First published in 2001
copies: 500

Computer transfers: Popular Process Studio, Gheekanta, Kalupur, Ahmadabad. 380 001.
Sharadaben Chimanbhai Educational Research Centre, 'Darshan' Opp. Ranakpur Society Shahibaug Ahmedabad-380004 (Gujarat State) India. 2001
Printed in India: Patel Printing Press, Near Raipur Gate Ahmedabad 380 001.