Jain Temple of Kampil : Visiting a forgotten ancient town

Not many people know about the city of Kampil or the Jain temple there. Or perhaps I should call it a kingdom. But it is merely a town now. Befuddling isn’t it? Let’s have a little background here. It is not all history or hard facts. But when we write we make do with what we have.

Kampil’s Claim to Fame

The Hindu mythological text Mahabharat, which personally I find far more interesting, by comparison to the boringly moralizing Ramayana, talks about the Panchal Mahajanapad – a vast territory of governance.

The Panchal kingdom is said to have extended from the peaks of Himalayas in the north to the banks of river Charmanwati or the present day Chambal in the South.

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It was ruled by king Drupad, father to Draupadi – the phenomenal beauty who later married the Pandavas and whose harassment at the hands of Kauravs triggered the battle of Mahabharat.

Kampilya or the present day Kampil became the capital of the northern Panchal, when the kingdom was bifurcated by Dronacharya after Drupad was defeated by Arjun. The southern Panchal came to be ruled by Ashwathama, son to Dronacharya.

It is believed that it was in Kampil that Draupadi was born and it was here that her swayamwar* was organised. There are many temples, big and small, ancient and new, built here to preserve the narratives of Mahabharat. But…

The Shwetambar Jain temple
The Shwetambar Jain temple (main chamber)

The Jain Temple in Kampil

But Kampil’s claim to fame is based not only in Hindu mythology but also in the history of another lesser followed religion – Jainism. It is said that it was in Kampil that the four Kalyanakas (auspicious life events) of the thirteenth Jain Teerthankar Vimalnath namely the Cyavana (or conception), Janma (or Birth), Dīkṣā (transformation into an ascetic), and Kēvalajñāna (attainment of omniscience) took place. There is a belief that Kampil was also frequented by the 24th and last Jain Teerthankar Mahavir at various times.

Consequently, this ancient city now reduced into a small village, is held sacred by many among the Jain community.  Two ancient Jain temples dedicated to Vimalnath, one belonging to the Shwetambar sect and another to the Digambar sect now stand close to the place where the Vimalnath’s birth is rumoured to have taken place.

How to Reach the Jain Temple:

Kampil Village is located in the Kaimganj block of district Farrukhabad, in the state of Uttar Pradesh. It is around 45 kilometres from the district headquarters of Farrukhabad  and Fatehgarh station. From the main station in Farrukhabad it is around 35 kilometres.

Nearest Station :  Kaimganj station is around 10 kilometres from the site of the temple. It is a small station by comparison and not all trains on this route make a stoppage here. Buses and autos can easily be hired and ply regularly to Kampil.

Nearby Cities : Kampil is also accessible by either road or trains from major nearby cities like Kanpur, Agra, Badaun, Bareily, Shahjahanpur and Kannauj. Trains from Delhi that come via Kanpur can also be booked in advance.

Nearest Airports : The nearest  airports are in Kanpur, Agra and Delhi.

We ourselves took a car from my ancestral home in Fatehgarh. It took us an hour to drive around 40 kilometres. The stretch of road a few kilometres before the village was quite patchy and may take additional time. But there are drivable roads right upto the temple and parking was not an issue. I would have preferred going there on a bike considering some of the narrow lanes as you close towards the temple and the relative ease of surveying the area on a bike.

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The Architecture of the Shwetambar Vimalnath Jain Temple

Unfortunately, during my visit to Kampil, the Digambar temple was closed and we only got to see the Shwetambar Temple, which as one could tell from a distance, had recently undergone a lavish renovation.

The temple stood on an elevated square marble platform called the Jagati or Vedi after convention. And the corrugated domes and pillars, along with a prolific use of marble work seemed to derive from and imitate the Solanki architecture.

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Past the stairs of the entrance, one gets to enter the main chamber or the Garbhagriha that houses the principal deity through a small albeit poshly bedecked entryway featuring a lot of metal work.

This being a Shwetambar Jain temple, the statue of the Vimalnath was done in white marble with a golden flourish and the carved motifs were painted in colour.

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The devotees and the visitors access the statue through a narrow vestibule that features small porticoes with idols of other Jain deities on either side.

Behind the vestibule the visitors find themselves standing in a circular space surrounded by marble pillars all around that are embellished with complicated carvings and etchings of the typical Solanki style motifs similar to the ones at Dilwara or Ranakpur.

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While you are still admiring the craft behind the strict symmetries of the pillars, the exemplary finish of the white idols, just turn upwards and you may come across one of the most baroque ceiling executed entirely in marble in a modern day Jain temple.

The perfect symmetry of patterns bundled in concentric circles that make up the ceiling are a testament to the sheer perfection of workmanship that made it possible. This was not a work of days, or weeks but months of dedication coupled with years of experience. It almost seemed to taunt anyone that dare take a look at it.

The Garbhagriha is surrounded by a square hall called Mandap. Numerous pillars line the Mandap at equal distance from the main chamber which is built in the centre. Between the pair of pillars, the walls of the hall are decorated with scenes of prominent life events of the principal deity all carved in marble.

It must be noted that unlike the Buddhist places of worship, Jain temples do not exclusively feature a praying chamber. Even the cells wherein the idols of teerthankar are installed are small and relatively bland purposed for observing asceticism.

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The caretaker told us that a lot of the elements including the idols and the pillars were transported carefully from parts of Rajasthan. But there were portions of temple that could not be superimposed over the basic structure. So, groups of craftsmen who excelled in delicate marble work were brought to the village. They lived and worked here for months to ensure that nothing out of place, nothing jarring to the set style must hamper the flawless execution of the building.

In another part of the premises of the Jain temple is a dharmashala (a guest house). It is run by the various trusts that have paid for the construction of the temple as well as its maintenance.

The caretaker told us that while some rooms can be rented for cheaply sums, others less luxurious,  can even be had for free for a couple nights by the visitors. There are around 40 rooms in total. The rooms looked fine and surrounded a garden that looked like it could use some help.

I do plan to come again here and would probably book a room next time while I visit the nearby Hindu Temples.

Shwetambar Jain temple
The Shwetambar Jain Temple (Main entry)

More than a Pilgrimage

While I have limited myself to writing about the Jain temple in this post, it certainly doesn’t mean that only faith should take you to Kampil. I would have you know that Kampil is located in the Kaimganj rural block of Farrukhabad. It’s one of the largest blocks within the district.

Among other things the villages here are famous for horticulture, large scale nurseries, sugarcane cultivation and jaggery mills. The region is also known for its tobacco and peanut production. It has quite a few sites of historical and religious importance. And should any of you happen to be in Farrukhabad wishing to explore the village life here, the local culture I’d be happy to put you in touch with the locals.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Jan says:

    wish you the best man. good luck!

  2. Sanath says:

    Never knew about this place…did you visit other temples too?

  3. Rahil says:

    Such a magnificent temple…

  4. Whitmer says:

    Interesting trivia about a small town. I visited north India last year…to Agra. I will try visiting Faruukhabad when i come again

  5. Jaymie says:

    The Jain architecture in india is one of its kind. Pletny information. Good writup.

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