THE THIRTY TONKS OF SHRI SHIKHARJI
by Vivek Jain
Teerthraj Shikharji has 30 Tonks, in addition to the Jal Mandir. These are:
4 Shashvat Tirthankars:
* Shri Rishabhnan Prabhu (Tonk #3)
24 Tirthankars of current avasparni
* Shri Gautam Swami (Mahavir Swami's Ganadhar; Tonk #1)
This is probably the most authentic map of Shri Shikharji. It was commissioned by Siddhachalam in 2009. Details obtained after our research were also utilized to update Wikipedia and Wikimapia on the Internet.
About Shri Shikharji
Shri Shikharji is the holiest of all Jain teerths. Twenty of two-four Tirthankars of the current avasarpini, and countless other siddha, attained moksa here. It is situated on a group of eight hills called the Parasnath Hills in Giridih, Jharkhand.
In his book, Mahopadhyaya Lalitprabh Sagar ji (Jain Pilgrimages, Reverence and Art, Prakrit Bharti Academy, Jit-Yasha Foundation, Jaipur, 2000) describes Shikharji as follows: "When just one auspicious event of one Tirthankar can convert a place into a pilgrimage, it will be quite impossible for human intelligence to assess the holiness and power of that pilgrimage where as many as twenty Tirthankars have lit-up the inextinguishable light of nirvana. Although the first light of nirvana was lit-up in Ashtapad (in the Himalayas), today that pilgrimage is invisible to us. Under such a circumstance, Sammet Shikhar is that pilgrimage which we can hail as the "Shikhar" (Summit) of the first light of nirvana."
Muniji goes on to explain: "The truth is that Sammet Shikhar is the top-most light of nirvana. Of the twenty-four Tirthankars of Jainism, twenty Tirthankars namely, Ajitnath, Sambhavnath, Abhinandan prabhu, Sumatinath, Padmprabhu, Suparshwanath, Chandraprabhu, Suvidhinath, Sheetalnath, Shreyansnath, Vimalnath, Anantnath, Dharmnath, Shantinath, Kunthunath, Arnath, Mallinath, Munisuvrat Swami, Neminath and Parshwanath spent the evening of their lives on this great mountain and attained the supreme status of moksha. Every Tirthankar made efforts to enliven the density of power of this place, and consequently for millenniums, this place has been vibrant, awakened and anointed with their halo. Really, Sammet Shikhar is an astonishing, unique and awakened holy pilgrimage. Even today, the atmosphere of Sammet Shikhar contains a sort of holiness."
Shri Shikharji's Tonks extend for about 2 miles horizontally, from eastern end to the western. The total foot distance on the hilltop to cover all the 30 Tonks and Jal Mandir is about 4.5 miles.
All 30 Tonks have charan paduka (no idols). No daily puja pakshal or aarti is done at the tonks. It is, however, done at the Parasnath Tonk (Tonk #31) and Jal Mandir (designated as Tonk #20 in our map).
"Tonk" is the English translation of the original term used to address the marble structure marking the supposed spot where a siddha attained moksha, or where a devotee established a spot for meditation in homage to a siddha. In some Jain literature, Tonk is defined as a peak with a Temple. All signs at Shri Shikharji refer to this term. The structure is also referred to as Toonk, Dehri, Kut, Koot in various Jain communities and dialects. In some Jain Literature, a Dehri is defined as a small temple with prominent threshold.
Sammed or Sammet
Sammed and Sammet is used interchangeably by various Jain communities. The difference is primarliy due to the form of Prakrit language used by Shwetambar and Digambar Jains. In the Shwetambar tradition Ardha Magadhi Prakrit is used, whereas in Digambar traditon Saurseni Prakrit is used. In Saurseni dialect, 't' becomes 'd' in use. That is why its pronounced 'Sammet' in Shwetambar tradition and as 'Sammed' in Digambar tradition.
Veer and Vikram Samvat
Veer and Vikram Samvat calendar years are commonly used in various Jain literature and actual Tonk engravings in reference to the timeline of Shikharji Tonk dedication. Veer Samvat is mostly used by Jains (and Siddhachalam) in accordance with the Nirvana of 24 Tirthanakar, Bhagwan Mahavir Swami. Current Year 2009 (as per Gregorian Calendar) corresponds to Veer Samvat 2535-36. Hence, Current Year + 527 is the Veer Samvat Year (year starts on Diwali). Also, year 2009 corresponds to Vikram Samvat 2065-2066 in accordance with the Calendar established by Indian Emperor Vikramaditya. Hence, Current Year + 57 is Vikram Samvat Year.
Shikahrji Tonks are situated on Parasnath Hills in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand . The Tonks are spread on the hill top from east to west, for about 4km of horizontal distance. Various Tonks are situated on different peaks of the Hill, hence the total foot distance on the hill top to see all the 31 Tonks is about 9km. Shikharji main entrance starts from the North side of the Hill in Madhuban. The main paved foot trail from Madhuban leads up to Tonk 1, which is at the center of all Tonks. Tonks 2-20 are east of Tonk 1 and Tonks 21-31 are west of Tonk 1. Tonk 12 is farthest to the east, while Tonk 31 is the west most Tonk. The most common trail path to see all the Tonks is to start the pilgrimage from Tonk 1, walk eastwards towards Tonk 12 and then walk west towards Tonk 20, which is Jal Mandir. From Jal Mandir, a devotee walks up to Tonk 1 intersection and then walk westwards towards Tonk 31. From the 31st Tonk, pilgrims will usually return via the Dak Bunglow trail, which meets the main trail at Sheetal Nala.
Although there are Tonks of all 24 Tirthankars at Sammed Shikhar, only 20 of them attained Nirvana on these sacred Hills. 4 Tirthankars who did not attain Nirvana here are 1st Tirthankar Shri Adinath Prabhu, 12th Tirthankar Shri Vasupujya Prabhu, 22nd Tirthankar Shri Neminath and 24th Tirthankar Shri Mahavir Prabhu. Even though the history of Tonks go back many hundred years, the current Tonks of the 20 Tirthankars who attained Nirvana here were dedicated in Veer Samvat 2295 (Vikram Samvat 1825 or 1768 A.D.). Tonks of 4 other Tirthankars, along with Shashwatjins Rishabnanan, Chandranan, Varisen, Vardhman et al were dedicated in Veer Samvat 2395-2403 (Vikram Samvat 1925-1933 or 1868-1875 A.D.).
1. Shri Gautam Swami (Ganadhara)
The 1st Tonk is that of Ganadhara Gautam Swami. It stands majestically with a large dome at the center of all Tonks. It is on the main intersection where 4 trailways meet. This Tonk faces east and is approached from the main paved trail from Madhuban.
Ganadhar Gautam Swami was first and chief disciple of Bhagwan Mahavir Swami. Infact, Gautam was his last name, because he belonged to the Gautam gotra. His first name was Indrabhuti, but he is popularly known as Gautam Swami.
Images of charan paduka of twenty-four Tirthankars and ten Ganadharas are installed in white marble in the main section of the Tonk whereas charan paduka of Gautam Swami are dedicated in black marble outside the main section, to the left. As per the engravings on the Tonk, this Tonk was dedicated in Veer Samvat 2487 (Vikram Samvat 2017 or 1960 A.D.)
2. Shri Kunthunath Prabhu (17th Tirthankar)
A few steps away from the 1st Tonk, walking towards east, stands the 2nd Tonk of 17th Tirthankar Shri Kunthunath. It was dedicated in Veer Samvat 2295 and has charan paduka of Shri Kunthunath Prabhu in black marble. This Tonk faces east.
3. Shashvat Jin Shri Rishbhanan Prabhu
Tonk 3 is about 100 yards from Tonk 2 proceeding eastwards. It was dedicated during Veer Samvat 2395-2403 and has charan paduka of ShashvitJin Rishbanan Prabhu, in black marble and is relatively smaller in size than those of Tirthankars. This Tonk has a long conical dome with a face image at the top. This Tonk faces east.
4. Shashvat Jin Chandranan Prahbu
Opposite the 3rd Tonk on the other side of the trail is the 4th Tonk of Shashvat Jin Chandranan Prahbu. It was dedicated during Veer Samvat 2395-2403 and has charan paduka of Bhagwan in white marble, and is relatively smaller in size than Tirthankars. This Tonk faces east.
5. Shri Naminath Prabhu (21st Tirthankar)
Walking another 150 yards on a slight uphill is the 5th Tonk of 21st Tirthankar Shri Naminath Prabhu. The charan paduka of Shri Naminath Prabhu are dedicated in black marble. This Tonk faces south.
6. Shri Arnath Prahbu (18th Tirthankar)
Walking further uphill towards east is the 6th Tonk of 18th Tirthankar Shri Arnath Prabhu. The charan paduka, in black marble were dedicated here in Veer Samvat 2295. This Tonk faces south. From here on, the trail gets higher with steps.
7. Shri Mallinath Prabhu (19th Tirthankar)
7th Tonk is of 19th Tirthankar, Shri Mallinath Prabhu. Here the holy charan paduka, in black marble, were dedicated in Veer Samvat 2295. This Tonk faces South.
8. Shri Shreyansnath Prabhu (11th Tirthankar)
8th Tonk of 11th Tirthankar, Shri Shreyansnath Prabhu. The holy charan paduka of Bhagwan Shreyansnath, in black marble were dedicated in Veer Samvat 2295. This Tonk faces south and is about 100 yards from 7th Tonk.
9. Shri Suvidhinath Prabhu (9th Tirthankar)
9th Tonk is of 9th Tirthankar Shri Suvidhinath Prabhu. It is about 200 yards from the previous Tonk and is perched on a peak, that requires some effort to climb up. Charan paduka of Shri Suvidhinath Prabhu were dedicated in white marble in Veer Samvat 2295.
The Tonk was damaged in 2009 due to a lightening strike and was under re-dedication in 2009. From here, on a clear day, one gets beautiful 360 degrees views of the Parasnath Hills and its Tonks and trails on both the eastern and western side, a glimpse of Jal Mandir towards the South side and beautiful valley towards North. After an effortful climb, one's heart certainly gladdens up seeing the beautiful vistas around, enlivening the thoughts that Tirthankars meditated here thousands of years ago on this Holy Mountain and attained Nirvana. A Yatri also gets an intense feeling of sanctity and spirituality.
10. Shri Padam Prabhu (6th Tirthankar)
Walking down about 100 yards from the peak of 9th Tonk is the 10th Tonk of 6th Tirthankar, Shri Padam Prabhu. The charan paduka, in black marble were dedicated in Veer Samvat 2295. This Tonk is facing South. The Tonk is also decorated with 2 Dwarpals (watchmen). A Yatri gets a better view of the Jal Mandir, down below in the lap of mountains. Also, one can see another towering peak towards right, where Tonks 14 & 15 are situated, and is approached from a different trail.
11. Shri Munisuvrat Prabhu (20th Tirthankar)
11th Tonk is of 20th Tirthankar, Shri Munisuvrat Prabhu and is a short downhill walk from the previous Tonk. Charan paduka of Bhagwan, in black marble were dedicated here in Veer Samvat 2295. This Tonk is facing South. This Tonk is somewhat obscure from the view as it lies on a lower ground compared to others. From here, 12th Tonk is about 1.5 km walk towards the eastern most end of the Parasnath Hills.
12. Shri Chandrah Prabhu (8th Tirthankar)
12th Tonk of 8th Tirthankar Shri Chandra Prabhu is about 1 km from the 11th Tonk. This is the east most Tonk and is on a high peak. This Tonk is facing west and is enclosed by a majestic, architecural dome. The charan paduka of Shri Chandra Prabhu, in black marble were dedicated in Veer Samvat 2295.
As one walks the 1.5 km trail from the 10th Tonk, one walks down and up to reach this Tonk. There is a steep climb at the footsteps of the Tonk, about 100 straight steps. There are many beautiful views from this Tonk. From here one can view towards the Western side of mountains, seeing the 31st Tonk on farthest side. Jal-Mandir is 2 kms. away westwards from here on a different trail, forking mid-way from the incoming trail.
13. Shri Adinath Prabhu (1st Tirthankar)
13th Tonk of 1st Tirthankar Shri Adinath Prabhu is about 1km from the previous Tonk and on way towards Jal Mandir. The charan paduka of Shri Adinath Prabhu, in white marble were dedicated here in Veer Samvat 2395-2403. Shri Adinath Prabhu did not attain Nirvana here. He attained Nirvana at Shri Aspad Mountain (in present day Mount Kailash, China). This Tonk is facing South. At this Tonk, one may get a sighting of monkey or two inside the Tonk. This Tonk is also perched on a peak.
14. Shri Anantnath Prabhu (14th Tirthankar)
14th Tonk is of 14th Tirthankar Shri Ananthnath Prabhu and is situated on another peak. This is reached by descending the 13th Tonk and climbing another peak, which involves considerable effort. The charan paduka of Shri Anantnath Prabhu in black marble were dedicated here in Veer Samvat 2295. This Tonk is facing South.
15. Shri Sheetalnath Prabhu (10th Tirthankar)
15th Tonk is of 10th Tirthankar, Shri Sheetalnath Prabhu and is nearby 14th on the same hillock. There are nice views of other Tonks from this Peak, especially of the southern side of the mountains, Giridih plains and Jal Mandir. This tonk is facing east.
16. Shri Sambhavnath Prabhu ( 3rd Tirthankar)
16th Tonk of 3rd Tirthankar Shri Sambhavnath Prabhu is about 100 yards from the previous Tonk and is reached after a climb down hill. Here the charan paduka of Shri Sambhavnath Prabhu, in white marble were dedicated in Veer Samvat 2295. This Tonk is facing east.
17. Shri Vasupujya Prabhu (12th Tirthankar)
The 17th Tonk is of 12th Tirthankar, Shri Vasupujya Prabhu. This Tonk is unique in the fact that there are 5 pairs of charan paduka, in white marble. This is approached on a descent from the 16th Tonk. One also gets an improved view of Jal Mandir from here. This Tonk is facing west.
18. Shri Abhinandan Prabhu ( 4th Tirthankar)
18th Tonk is of 4th Tirthankar Shri Abhinandan Prabhu. The Tonk is on a slight uphill walk from the 17th Tonk. The charan paduka of Shri Abhinandan Prabhu, in black marble were dedicated here in Veer Samvat 2295. This Tonk is facing east.
During 2009, this Tonk was damaged in a lightening strike and was under re-dedication in 2009.
19. Shri Shubh Swami Ganadhara
19th Tonk is of Ganadhara Shri Shubh Swami. The Tonk is decorated with 2 Dwarpals. The charan paduka of Shri Shubh Swami, in black marble were dedicated here in Veer Samvat 2395-2403. This Tonk is directly opposite the Jal Mandir and faces West.
20. Jal Mandir
Jal Mandir as seen from the Front (opposite 19th Tonk)
Jal Mandir is a majestic temple that sits in the lap of Parasnath Hills, on the south side of the Hills. It is an ornate temple compared to the other Tonks. Built on a few acres of land, it consists of an elaborate Temple Hall with idols of Tirthanakars on all the 4 sides of the Hall. It also consists of Moolnayak (principal deity) idol of Shamalia Parashavnath Bhagwan in the center and idols of Shri Sambhavmnath Prabhu on left and Abinandanth Prabhu on right. The temple is also decorated on the outside with idols of Parashavnath Bhagwan. The entire temple body is surrounded by natural water bodies (Jalkunds) on three sides that is fed by a water spring, hence the name Jal Mandir. This temple does not consist of any Tirthankar charan paduka, however it is also referred as Tonk 20.
The dignified solemn idol of Lord Shamaliya Parshwanath majestically installed in the temple as the principal deity Jal Mandir
21. Shri Dharamnath Prabhu (15th Tirthankar)
21st Tonk is of 15th Tirthankar Shri Dharamnath Prabhu. The charan paduka of Bhagwan are dedicated in black marble. This tonk faces South. Its in the vicinity of the 1st Tonk interchange, walking West. From here, the trail becomes slight uphill.
22. ShashvatJin Shri Vardhman Prabhu
22nd Tonk is of Shashwatjin Shri Vardhman Prabhu. This is on the right side of the trail when walking westwards. Relatively small charan paduka of Bhagwan in black marble were dedicated here in Veer Samvat 2395-2403. This Tonk is beautifully constructed with ornate style and architecture. This Tonk faces east.
23. ShashvatJin Shri Varishen Prabhu
23rd Tonk is of Shashvatjin Shri Varishen Prabhu. This is on the left side of the trail when walking towards west. Charan paduka of Bhagwan Varishen in black marble and smaller size were dedicated here in Veer Samvat 2395-2403. This Tonk is also beautifully constructed with ornate style and architecture, similar to 22nd Tonk. This Tonk faces east.
24. Shri Sumatinath Prabhu (5th Tirthankar)
24th Tonk is of 5th Tirthankar, Shri Sumatinath Prabhu. Charan paduka of Bhagwan were dedicated here in black marble in Veer Samvat 2295. This Tonk faces east.
25. Shri Shantinath Prabhu (16th Tirthankar)
25th Tonk is of 16th Tirthankar Shri Shantinath Prabhu. This Tonk is beautifully decorated, with 2 Dwarpals outside the Tonk. Also, the dome is ornate with an image of the Bhagwan. Charan paduka of Bhagwan are dedicated in black marble. The Tonk faces east.
26. Shri Mahavir Prabhu (24th Tirthankar)
26th Tonk is of 24th and last Tirthankar, Shri Mahavir Prabhu. This Tonk is relatively smaller and simpler than other Tonks. Charan paduka of Bhagwan Mahavir are dedicated in white marble and are smaller in size than other Tirthankars. Mahavir Swami did not attain Nirvana at Shikharji. The Tonk faces east. It is about 50 yards walk from the previous Tonk.
27. Shri SuParshavnath Prabhu (7th Tirthankar)
27th Tonk is of Seventh Tirthankar, Shri Suparshavnath Prabhu. Charan paduka of Bhagwan Suparshavnath are dedicated here in black marble. This Tonk is also decorated with lion cubs looking images. This Tonk faces east. This is about 1/2 km. on an uphill walk from the previous Tonk. From this Tonk, one gets a fine view of the Tonks eastwards.
28. Shri Vimalnath Prabhu ( 13th Tirthankar)
28th Tonk is of 13th Tirthankar, Shri Vimalnath Prabhu. Charan paduka of Bhagwan are dedicated here in black marble. The Tonk faces east. It is in the vicinity of the previous Tonk. A Yatri gets very beautiful views of the South Side of the Parasnath Hills.
29. Shri Ajitnath Prabhu (2nd Tirthankar)
Tonk 29 is of 2nd Tirthankar, Shri Ajitnath Prabhu. It is about 1 km. walk on hilly terrain from the previous Tonk and is perched on a peak. The charan paduka of Bhagwan Ajitnath in white marble is dedicated here. This Tonk is facing north.
30. Shri Neminath Prabhu (22nd Tirthankar)
30th Tonk is of 22nd Tirthankar, Shri Neminath Prabhu and is situated very close to the previous Tonk. Shri Neminath Prabhu did not attain Niravana here. A unique characteristic of this Tonk is that it has 3 pairs of charan paduka dedicated in white marble. The charan paduka are relatively smaller in size than other Tirthankars. The Tonk faces North side of the Hills.
31. Shri Parshavnath Prabhu (23rd Tirthankar)
The 31st and the last Tonk of Shikharji stands majestically on the west most and the highest peak of the Parasnath Hills. No other Jain Temple is situated on a higher summit than this peak. This Summit is therefore considered to be the highest summit of Jainism. The Tonk consists of a large temple with the charan paduka of Bhagwan Parshavnath in black marble. It also consists of the cave where Bhagwan Parasavnath meditated and perfomed Tapsya. Another pair of Charan paduka are installed here as well. Daily Puja is conducted here in the morning. The temple is facing east, however the charan paduka inside the temple is facing north side of the mountains. Bhomayaji Bhagwan idol is present inside the temple.
This Tonk is at a approximate height of 4479 feet from the sea level. Its height is so much that sometimes the entire temple becomes covered in clouds. Therefore, it is also called Meghadambar Tonk (temple covered by clouds) in some Jain Literature. The Summit of the temple is visible even from a distance of 30 kms.
Clouds covering the Parashavnath Tonk