Sri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir (Temple)
The Sri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir is an ancient temple dedicated to the 23rd Tirthankara or Lord Parashvanath and is known as the oldest Jain temple in Delhi that lies opposite the famous Red Fort at the junction of Chandni Chowk and Netaji Subhash Marg which is approachable via local transport and the metro link. The Temple was constructed in 1656 made of red sandstone and is popularly known by devotees as the Lal Mandir. It is managed by the Shri Agarwala Digambar Jain Panchyat Trust.
During the Mughal reign Emperor Jahangir invited many Jain Fanciers to settle within the Walled City of Shahjahanabad and gifted them with plots of land in south of Chandni Chowk. The Emperor also allowed them to construct a small Jain Temple and hence the Jain Community acquired marble idols for the temple of which the idol of Lord Parashvanath [23rd Jina] was the primary idol. These three idols were kept in the tent of a Jain Officer who worked under the Mughal Army and when the temple was completed, they were shifted to the temple premise and established by Jivaraj Papriwal under the supervision of Bhattaraka Jinachandra in Samvat.
The Mughal did not permit the Jain community to construct a Shikhara for the temple hence the temple Shikhara was built only after the Independence of India in 1947 after which the Lal Mandir was extensively renovated. However, the Shikhara for another Jain temple that was located south of Chandni Chowk within the Jain Neighbourhood of Dharamapura was constructed sometime between 1800 and 1807 by Raja Harsukh Rai who was the Imperial Treasurer of the Mughal Emperor after seeking permission. Today, this Temple is known as ‘Naya Mandir’ or ‘New Temple’ and it is famous for its intricate carvings and is a must visit.
The Sri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir is also known for a mysterious tale which states that once, Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb had the musical instruments and nagara drum sounds that emanated from the temple stopped as it disturbed him. After this order, the Emperor still heard the musical sounds and had it checked. His loyal servants returned only to tell him that the instruments were playing by themselves and even today this mystery has never been solved or revealed.
The Sri Digambar Jain Lal Temple welcomes you with a Manastambha column that stands at the entrance of the temple. The first floor of the temple houses the primary devotional hall. The temple is adorned with shrines of Lord Mahavir [24th Tirthankara of Jainism] who was a Prince born in 599 BC in Vaishali city known today as Bihar. Lord Mahavir abandoned all his luxuries and wealth in search of ‘Salvation’. He attained enlightenment through meditation and penance and henceforth preached the world about self enlightenment. The temple also enshrines the statues of Lord Adinath [1st Tirthankara of Jainism] and Lord Parasnath who succeeded Lord Mahavir.
The Sri Digambar Jain Lal Temple was visited by Acharya Shantisagar, a Jain Monk in 1931 who was known as the first ever Digambar Jain Priest to visit Delhi after a period of 8 centuries and hence a memorial was also established within the temple premise to mark this auspicious event.
Tourists are welcome to visit the Sri Digambar Jain Lal Temple complex and enjoy the calm, soothing and peaceful ambience that adds to the old charm of the place. The temple premise also houses a bookshop containing a wide range of literatures on Jainism. Visitors must remove their shoes and other leather items and hand it over to the administrative personnel of the temple before entering. The temple also homes a Charity Hospital for Birds and offers free treatment. It also offers services to birds rescued from accidents and bird hawkers. Squirrels and other small animals are also treated here free of cost. However, flesh eating birds like vultures, eagles and likewise are strictly treated only as an outpatient as they may cause a threat to the other birds and small animals living within the hospital premises.