The temple to Shri Ghantakarna Mahavir, protector of the unfortunate, in Mahudi town, is considered one of the most holy Jain pilgrimage sites.
A legend tells how the Himalayan Kshatriya king Tungabhadra protected his people with his bow and arrows. He died trying to defend a group of people from thieves, and was reborn as Ghantakarna Mahavir.
He is worshipped as vir (hero) and rakshak deva (protective deity). It is also said that he had large ears (karna) shaped like bells (ghanta). So he is called Ghanta-Karna Mahavir, “the great warrior with bell-shaped ears”.
His idol still carries a bow and arrows, and is believed to protect the unfortunate.
The temple was built in 1923, after the sage Acharyadev Buddhi Sagarsurisvarji had a vision of Ghantakarna Mahavir when meditating.
The statue, carved from a rock taken from the river Sabarmati, is considered to have miraculous powers. Millions of Jains and devotees of other faiths come here to receive Ghantakarna Mahavir’s blessing.
It is said that in a previous life he had a weakness for sukhadi (a sweet made from palm sugar, wheat flour and clarified butter), so there is a tradition for visitors to offer him some. But the sukhadi must be consumed or donated within the temple precinct, otherwise it brings ill luck.
Beside the temple there is a bell hanging from a 9m frame, with a staircase so that visitors can climb up to ring the bell and ask for a wish to be fulfilled.
There is also another, slightly larger temple with a marble idol of the Jain saint Padmaprabhu seated in the lotus posture (Padmasana), installed by Acharyadev. Devotees do a bhoomti (circumambulation) around the 24 shrines to the Tirthankars (Jain saints) in the temple.