HERITAGE: Discover the stunning Jain shrines in Old Delhi and get transported to another world

Last week I had promised to reveal the secrets of Naughara and Chehelpura. Before we begin to talk about those, let me first correct a spelling mistake, the second named should have been Chailpuri and not Chehelpura.

A recap of the directions; reach Gurdwara Sisganj if you walk with the gurdwara to your left you will cross Ghantewala Halwai (opened for business in 1790), before you reach the famous Kunwarji Namkeen, turn left immediately after Kunwarji and you would be in Gali Parathey Waali, after one right and one left turn the gali forms a T- junction with another street, turn left and you are in Kinari Bazar.

A number of lanes will appear on either side, keep track of the ones that appear to your right, the first will be Gali Khan Zaman Khan (Mughal noble, died 1743), the second is Gali Naughara, we will return to Naughara in a while, the third is Katra Khushhaal Rai, the fourth is 27 Ghara and the fifth is Chailpuri, now named after the revolutionary Hanumant Sahay.

A narrow street branching off to the right will take you to the Sambhavnath temple of the Shwetambar Jains. This is a small temple and the caretakers stay on the ground floor while the temple proper is located on the first. The temple has a simple white Shikhar but because surrounding houses have all added floors to the earlier one or two storied houses you can't see the Shikhar unless you climb to the roof of the temple.

What is remarkable about the temple is the use of glazed tiles as an element of decoration. There are multicolored glazed tiles with flowers or geometric designs in relief that have been profusely used as a cladding in the various alcoves and niches where the large number of idols have been placed as also on the walls and on the late Mughal period scalloped arches carved from white marble.

These tiles variously described as German or Jaapaani (Japanese) tiles first made an appearance, probably very late in the 19 century or very early in the 20 century. I know of at least one house in Ballimaran where they were used in 1926. These tiles were a rage in the initial years of their arrival in Delhi, the survivors can be found in old Delhi homes, as exterior decorations on some shops in Chawri but they are at their best display at the Chailpuri temple. There is even a combination image of Lakshmi made with six tiles, I have seen these six tile images of Mecca, Madina and the Taj in a haveli in Kucha Ruhullah Khan near Tiraha Bairam Khan and I think that the Germans or Japanese who were exporting these to India had, like the Chinese today, caught on very fast and were inundating us with Images that Indians love to keep and worship.

Retrace your steps to Naughara and go right to the end of the lane, to the right is the Shwetambar Jain temple dedicated to Shri Sumatinath. Unlike the marble and glazed tile combination of Sambhavnath temple, the Sumatinath temple is all marble at least on the first floor -- plain, carved, carved and painted, but all marble. The second floor is all murals, mostly fashioned out of glass chips in myriad colours. The use of large and small Belgian glass -- both mirror and coloured -- in such profusion is not very common. What is really stunning are the paintings -- large murals depicting episodes from the life of the Tirthankaras, paintings of donors and dwarpals, the detailing is incredible, the colours still very fresh and vibrant and some of the crowd scenes are remarkably life like. There is also fairly extensive use of gold on marble - -elaborate geometric designs at some places and at others in the shape of delicate vines and creepers. Simply stunning!

According to the INTACH listing of the built heritage of Delhi, both these temples as they appear to us belong to the 19 century, though some parts may belong to the 17 century but subsequent expansion, rebuilding and renovation has made dating a difficult enterprise. Go with time at your disposal. You need at least a couple of hours to see the two temples properly. Leather goods are not permitted on the premise, neither is photography.

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