The Parasnath hill is the highest in the Parasnath range in Jharkhand and it is known for the Parasnath temple on top of it. Many of us would know that the hill is extremely sacred to the followers of Jainism, for as many as twenty of the twenty four Jain Tirthankaras are said to have attained liberation here, of whom Parasnath was the twenty third. The last of them, Vardhman Mahavir was a contemporary of the Buddha (5th century BC) and is generally known as the founder of Jainism. This will give you a general idea of the antiquity of the place. Fortunately, the Parasnath range and forest has to a large extent been protected so far.
Now that the office has decided to shift me to Delhi, I decided to visit the Parasnath hill and temple one day before starting to gag on the noxious Delhi air and I would have really missed it, as I found out. From afar, the sheer height of the Parasnath hill was quite intimidating (4484 feet) and I started to wonder as to how I could make it to the top and back, since I also had some official duties in the nearby town of Giridih.
Even from about 20 kms away, the temple at the top is distinctly visible. The road to Shikharji, or Sammed Shikhar, as the hill is known among the devout, starts from a fork in the road to Giridih and it is 14 kms of winding roads from here.
The road ends at Madhuvan, a village largely consisting of Jain monasteries, temples, guest houses and the like. As you can see, the trek to the top is 9.65 kms from here, of which the last 4 kms are nothing but stairs. It takes at least four hours for the able bodied to tackle the hill and the path is strewn with numerous temples and streams. Many are carried by dolis, a chair like contraption carried by four people, or mules. I simply did not have enough time, for it was almost 11 a.m, four hours from Ranchi.
Precisely at that moment, some of these youngsters on motorcycles rode up, offering to carry one to the top. Not quite the top of the hill, the last 500 metres had to be done on foot. After some haggling, I settled for Rs 500/- and mounted the pillion while the fellow in the chequed shirt started the bike.
Almost immediately, I had to hold my breath for the fellow vroomed straight up the ramp and the narrow, winding path meant for walking. Soon, however, he veered off to a dirt track which, I was told, is 16 kms and takes a different approach.
The dirt track had some precarious bends and turns and since the earth beneath the tyres was loose and strewn with pebbles, one could hardly enjoy the climb. As we started ascending, the temperature started to drop noticeably
Soon, we came to a small mountain stream. One could take the opportunity to wash hands and feet, as one should, for the place is considered holy to so many people
The view became spectacular from now on but the temple was still some way away.
Before long, my rider Hiralal dropped me to a place called Dak bungalow which has got an armed police camp and telecom tower. One has to walk up about 500 metres or so, arriving at a little cluster of fruit stalls and the stairway to the temple
Having finally come to the top of the hill around noon, decided to look around at the world below and the view was unreal, not to mention the shivering cold for those less accustomed to the mountain air
These are actually pictures with zoom and edited for clarity. To the naked eye, in the sudden chill, one truly felt rather unworldly, as if suspended between the earth and the heavens. 2600 years ago, it must have been an awesome place for the monks, immersed in their meditation
After one circumambulation, I entered the temple and found people chanting from booklets in front of them. The sanctum contained nothing but the footprints of the seer and one could offer a few sticks of incense and light a lamp
The first surprise was that I was allowed to take pictures. The second surprise was that there was an inner sanctum below, which enclosed the piece of rock where the seer is supposed to have sat and meditated.
Just stop to think for a moment. This place is no less holy than the Western Wall in Jerusalem or the contentious birthplace of Rama but there are no guns, no protection regime and no priestly class in evidence.
I could only tarry a moment, touch the piece of rock and offer silent prayers for peace.