History: The story told about this temple is that two Jain demons ailed Khara and Dushana made the image of cowdung and sand and used to worship it. They hid it in a pit beside a river on the side of a hill near Werul (Ellora) a village near Aurangabad in the then Nizam's Dominions. Long afterwards Ila or Ilaka Raja of Ellichpur happened
to pass by the spot and to see a little pool of water, no larger than might be contained in a cow's hoof-mark. He suffered terribly from white leprosy, but on applying this water to his body was immediately cured. He was a Jain, and every night his queen had been accustomed to take the germs of the disease from his body and, not being allowed to kill them, put them in a tin ease till the morning, when they were replaced. She now asked how he had been cured, and
went with him to the spot, where she prayed to the unseen god to manifest himself. That night the image appeared to her in a dream and directed that it should be dug up and conveyed in a cart to Ellichpur but it warned her that the king, who was to drive the cart
himself must on no account look back. In fact he looked back near Shirpur and the image remained suspended in the air. The king built over it the temple of Pavali- a Hemadpanti building having neither
arch nor mortar. Presently the god expressed disapproval of this and directed that another temple should be built at the cost of a panch, and the present temple was built accordingly.
The temple has a small campus the main gate of which was built in 1880. The entrance to the temple lacing the east, is decorated with designed and carved metal covering, while the threshold of the same displays coins from the Moghal, the Nizam and the British regimes which are fixed there. This entrance leads to a gabhara also known
as Digambari Vedi. On the right of this Veat there is another Vedi of Veersen Svami. There are 15 images of Jain Saints on this Vedi.
The main temple with the shrine of Antariksha Parshvanath is underground, about 8 feet below the ground surface, and is below file gabhara referred to above. While proceeding from this gabhara to the sanctuary (devhara) of Antariksha Parshvanath, one cornes across the Vedi of Mahavira Svami, a Jain Tirthankar. Tins
sanctuary, though not very spacious, is decorated on the ceiling and with arches on solid pillars. It is built in stone masonry and furnished with while marble tiles, It is also furnished with electric lights.
The principal object of worship, the idol of Antariksha Parshvanaith appears to be made of black stone of the local variety.
The idol appears to be a fine specimen of sculpture and is about three and a half feet high. It is in a typical meditative posture which is known as dhyanastha ardha-padmasana. There is a hood of the cobra on the top of the idol. Jain devotees believe that the idol was in a floating position in the past and has come to rest on ground at only one point subsequently. However,
a plausible explanation of its position as it appears to the human eye is that the idol is supported on the base at one point and is balanced in such a way that its entire weight is supported at that point. The principal interest about the same is that except for one point the entire idol is floating, and is hence called antariksha.
The idol touches the ground a! its right knee. A piece of cloth can be passed through the space between the idol and its base.
To the right of the main shrine is an altar (Vedi) of Adinatha Svami which contains an ancient image of Anantanatha Tirthankara. By the side of the image of Anantanatha Tirthankara are carved 14 images of the 14 Tirthankaras. The image of Anantanatha contains an inscription said to be in Brahmi characters. Next to this altar,
there is another altar of the Goddess Padmavati who is considered as the Yakshini (the female demigod) of
Parshvanatha. The image of Padmavati prepared about a century ago is in white marble and is beautiful. To the right hand side of the Goddess is the altar of Devendrakirti Svami. There are five more altars, known as Panchmeru.
Of these four altars contain the image of Parshvanatha. In the ninth altar is the ancient Digambar image of
Panchaparameshihi. Made in black stone, the image of Panchaparameshthi is broken at the legs. It is said Io have been broken by one of the nobles of Aurangzeb
Other idols are in white marble said to be 300 to 400 years
old. Below this sanctuary at a depth of about seven to eight feet one comes across another cellar which contains the shrine of Chintamani Parshvanath and two idols of Kshetrapalas. This whole construction which can be said to be a Sabhamandapa is in Hemadpanti style and is
supported on four pillars.
At the top of the main temple is a dome and a terrace to the east of which is the nagarkhana. On the parapet wall are carved the figures of Digambar Jain idols. By the side of the temple are four dharmashalas including the one
recently constructed by the Shvetambars which provide accommodation to pilgrims. In the pavilion in the temple premises religious discourses are held.
Pavali Digambar Jain Mandir: The other Jain temple at Shirpur is known as the Pavali Digambar Jain Mandir which is located at the outskirt of the village. To the left of the temple is a well whose water cured the white leprosy of the king Ila. Local people even now claim that the water of this well has curative powers.
It is said that the brave warriors from the family of the Jadhavs of Sindkhed were invited and settled at Shirpur with a view to protecting the shrine from the ravages of the Muslims. These Jadhavs were known as Pavalkars and were vested with the responsibility of protecting the temple up to the end of the last century when both Shvetambars and the Digambars agreed to shoulder the responsibility of protecting the temple themselves.
This temple, which appears to he unfinished, bears an abraded inscription over its eastern door-way, to one side, with a date which has been read as Samvat 1334 (A. D. 1412), and the name Antariksha Parshvanatha. Mr. Couseus was of the opinion that the temple was begun during the early Muhammedan invasions of the Deccan, at least a hundred years before the dale of the inscription, and that the work was abandoned lest the iconoclastic zeal of the
invaders should be excited, and subsequently resumed when their zeal had subsided into the tolerance of rulers, at which time, probably, the image of Parshvanath Antariksha was installed. He also suggested that the old temple was finally abandoned after the commencement, but before the completion of the brick skikhara in hybrid, style and
owing to the insecurity of temples during the contests of rival Muhammedan powers in the Deccan. The plan of the shrine is star-shaped and the walls are decorated with bands of arabesque, no images being carved except in the three principal niches, these figures being hose and detachable if necessary.
The temple constructed in Hemadpanti style with black stone has an entrance door from which the main sanctuary is visible The temple proper is situated at a low level so that the early morning rays of the sun fall directly on the shrine. After entering the entrance gate one comes across an audience hall with four pillars. The exterior portion of the main temple bears artistic carvings. The audience hall in the main temple has three gateways with a plethora of artistic carvings over them. Each of the doorways bears Digambara images carved on the three sides of the door-frame. All the four pillars of the audience hall bear the beautiful carvings of the devotees dancing and playing instrumental music. The ceiling of the audience hall bears an impress of exquisite sculpture. The interior of the dome is decorated with artistic swans in rejoicing mood.
On three sides of the inner chamber, which is renovated with marble tiles, are three altars upon which are sealed three Images, all in white marble, the chief being that of Parshvanatha said to have been as old as the samvat year 1432 (1510 A. D.). The exterior of the inner chamber is pentangular and the pillars are nicely decorated. It is said that 11 images were excavated from the cellar below the audience hall in 1928. The temple was not properly maintained upto 1966-1967 when it was brought under proper upkeepment and maintenance.
' The image of Parshvanatha' according to the old Akola District Gazetteer 'is said to have been set up in the present temple on Vaishakh Shuddh, 3 Vikrama Samvat 555, or about 1500 years ago', but there is no evidence of this. It further states, Two images of Parshvanatha in white marble are said to have been placed in the Pavali temple about 20 years ago'. Pilgrims come throughout the year to visit this shrine also.
Vighnahara Prshvatnath Shvetambar Mandir: The third Jain temple in the village known as the Vighnahara Parshvanatha Shvetambar Mandir was built in 1964 In front of the temple is erected the statue of the chief donor. This exquisite modern construction contains a magnificent audience hall (sabha-mandapa) above which there is a dome covering the entire audience hall. The dome is remarkable for being akhand (monolithic). The dome above the gabhara, 35' in height could be reached through a screw type staircase from the terrace.
Chintamani Parshvanath Mandir: The fourth temple in the village is known as the Chintamani Parshvanatha Mandir and was constructed by the Digambar sect of the Jains in 1970. This is a small temple as compared with the other three.
Fair: Pilgrims from all over the country visit the main temple and along with it others too throughout the year. However, the chief fair is held for three days in Karttika
(October-November) and on the third day of the bright half of the month of Fagan.
Trust: Shri Antariksh Parshvanath Mahajan Sansthan, Shirpur-444504,
Akola, Maharashtra, India, Pin-444 504
Phone numbers 07254-234006
Source: The Gazetteers Department - AKOLA