Mahaveer Giri, formerly known as the Manua Bhan Ki Tekri, is a hilltop temple with an excellent history. The first time I laid my eyes on this temple was during my stay at Noor-Us-Sabah Palace. On the 1st-morning, when I drew open the curtains, I was greeted by the sight of mountainscapes wrapped in mild fog. As fog unloosed its mist, I could see the ancient Manua Bhan ki Tekri or Mahaveer Giri (now named by the city governor) idling on the hilltop. Even though the temple seemed diminutive from the far distance, something about it had me intrigued. Perhaps, its energy!
I knew that before departing Bhopal, I have to take a close look at this representation of harmony. So later that day, I was given a chauffeur-driven city tour by Noor-Us-Sabah Palace, and it coincidentally ended at Mahaveer Giri Swetamber Jain Temple. From ancient architecture to religious diversity and from local customs to an exceptional culinary experience, Bhopal, the city of Nawabs is full of cultural surprises. Something I briefly experienced during my 3-hour city tour. We started with Upper and Lower Lake, then visited a few Mosques, a few architectural gems in the old Bhopal and concluded the tour at Mahaveer Giri, the former Manua Bhan Ki Tekri.
As we drove closer to the airport road, my driver began to divulge small details about this significant landmark. Before I knew, we had arrived at open-entrance that marked an uphill journey. The driver slowed down, stretched his hand out of the car window, pointed towards the large ropeway on the right, and happily exclaimed, “To make life easy for residents and tourists, the government has installed this ropeway. It has stabilised dependable connectivity to the top of the hill.” Then as we drove past the ropeway, he continued to talk about earlier complexities of up-hill travel. He said, “Earlier we could only drive or walk up the slope. Now with ropeway in place, everyone can visit the temple for a small price.”
So I asked him, “Why is it so important for residents to visit this temple? I bet it’s very ancient.” That’s when he shared the real story. He told me, “Mahaveer Giri was built, by Jain devotees in 10th-century. Close to Lal Ghati, on the Bairagarh rd hilltop, this temple oversees Bhopal’s blue lakes from plantation partings. Most of us come here to watch picturesque landscapes. But as far as history is concerned, this temple is dedicated to Mantua, who was a jeerer in Raja Bhoj’s court. He entertained the court by performing interesting acts. One day he decided to quit his official services and pursue spiritual activities. Raja Bhoj, in appreciation of Mantua’s act, declared this hill to be named, after him. As time passed, Mantua attained the title of Mantugacharya and Mahaveer Giri, was built in his honour, along with, seven other caves nearby.”
The evening breeze kissed my cheeks as I rolled down the car windows to appreciate Bhopal’s scenic beauty. I could see the lake in the far distance. This whole hilltop drive was so serene that I would love to return only, to sit on one of those casual benches and savour the best landscapes of Bhopal for hours. Just as we were approaching the temple, the driver spoke again. He told me, “You know mam, many famous Jain saints have visited this magnificent temple. When you go inside, do take a look at Maharaj Shri Vijay Suriji, Acharya Manutung and Shri Jindutta Sureshwarji’s footwear. The temple authorities have preserved them as the tributary mementoes.”
By this time, we had arrived. It was a good chat. I learnt a great deal about this temple, and now it was time to visit it. Mahaveer Giri Temple, like many other ancient designs, has a large spiral biblical staircase centring on a primary column. The impending temple walls are painted in a bright corn-yellow colour, gradually mounting to a shade of Dijon-yellow. Simha Gate at the temple entrance exhibits remarkable manuscripts, intricately carved on stone partitions. What makes these manuscripts one of the most ancient texts of India is that its language still needs to be deciphered. To preserve carvings from withering, temple administration strictly prohibits photography inside the premises. Fair enough! While here, I got chatting with a Pandit who told me that Mahaveer Giri temple dates back to Oswal Dynasty, a Jain community with origins in Rajasthan. Hence, the architectural style has an intense reflection of the unique Rajasthani art.
He cleared his throat and continued to speak, “During Begum Qudsiya’s reign, an Idol of Lord Mahaveer was recovered at this temple and was later shifted, to the Shwetambar Jain temple at Bhopal Chowk.” I took a good look around, and I have to tell you that this temple is truly astounding and worth visiting! Anytime is excellent to visit Mahaveer Giri, however, November, they say is the best month to be here when the temple hosts the Kartik Purnima festival. Every year a large gathering sees through the traditional rituals of Kartik Purnima, and I hope to be a part of the festivities sometime shortly. After spending 30-minutes at the temple, and another 15-minutes on the road, I returned to my hotel smiling and feeling content. Today’s sightseeing was my first in Bhopal, and I fell in love with it right away.