Jainism is one of the many religions that exist harmoniously throughout India and the great South Asia. The significant figures in this religion are called Tirthtankaras or ford makers, who were the leaders of the faith and conquered somsara(reincarnation) and reached enlightenment. The 24th Tirthtankara, Mahavira, is one of the most notable. Mahavira, who was born into the Hindu class and did not find satisfaction in his present faith. In order to find a more rewarding belief he went to the woods to live as an ascetic and a Jain monk. He was the last Tirthtankara and he and the other figures are venerated in temples throughout India. Jain life is devoted to ridding the soul of karmic matter, a believed sticky substance, that is generated by good and bad action made with the desire for benefitial worldly result. This matter is removed through ahimsa, non-violence, and ascetic living and non-attachment to worldly needs. Once the karma is removed, somsara is conquered and enlightenment is reached.
The place of pilgrimage in Jainism is Tirtha meaning ford to signifyindividuals of the Jain religion using the pilgrimage to help end their samsara, pain and misery and attain spiritual liberation. Some examples of the Tirthas include the Ellora Caves, Mount Abu, and Khajuraho located in West and Central India that were built within similar centuries.
These three sites include sacred temples and sculptures dedicated to the Tirthtankaras, specifically Mahavira. Patrons of these sites were mainly rulers who constructed the temples as a way to rid away some of their own karma and aid the Jain community. These sites were used in Jain practice of veneration centuries prior, but today serve primarily as tourist attractions, celebrating Jain history and culture. Besides their religious significance, these three sites have artistic value. The sites include carvings of Tirthtankaras, sacred animals, and pure decoration within temples. All of the sites are carved out of stone, permanently placing them in the sacred landscape and geography of Jainism and India. Another significance of these sites is the harmony between religions. Jains, along with Hindus and Buddhists have left their mark on these three sites, demonstrating the acceptance of difference religions within one sacred landscape. See individual sites for more information and citations.