Shahabad district, with its headquarters town Arrah was once the stronghold of Jainism. This is proved by the find of about twenty images of the Tirthankaras Neminath, Rishabhanath and others. The find of the Kalpavriksha (tree) with a fine sculpture and the Dharma Chakra, excavated from Chausa in the Buxar Sub-division, definitely go to show that Jainsim had flourished in this area prior to the sixth century A.D.
The Tirthankara Rishabhanath originated the Dharma Chakra and sculptural specimens of the Dharma Chakra have been found in India only at such places where Jainism had its great strong-hold once. These relics are kept in the Patna Museum now. The age of the relics is put between the Sixth and Ninth Century A.D.
Not much is known of the old Jain temples in this district. It is to be noted, however, that the Jain temples were quite often pulled downs and rebuilt the Hindu temples. However, it may be presumed that Jainism had continued in the district from the 10th centuryonwards but probably not as vigorously. The history of Jainism in this district during the middle period is not quite clear. But again we find relics dating to the 16th Century.
There are a number of Jain images of the year 1554 in the Chandra Prabhu Chaityalaya built by Shri Chunni Lal. It is clear from the murtilekha of Mul Nayak Pratima of Chandra Prabhu that it was built in Aram Nagar, in Samvat 1562, Baisakha sudi astami. There is another image of Chandra Prabhu in the same temple bearing the date of installation as Baisakha sudi tija, 1533, and established by Jivaraja Papuriwal. Jivaraja Papuriwal is said to have installed one lakh Jain images throughout India and obviously this image is one of them.
There is a Jain temple in village Masar, 6 miles west of Arrah. Its murtilekha bears the date of Baisakha sudi chaudus, 1876. Masar is a place of antiquity. This is the Mo-ho-so-lo of Hiuen Tsang. Seven inscriptions prove that Mahasara was the ancient name of the present Masar nearly five hundred years old in the Jain temple at Parasnath. A large number of Brahmanical images have been found in this village and also the foundations of some old temples. The Jain temple completed in 1819 A.D. has eight Jain statues, on which there are seven inscriptions dating back to 1386 A.D., when some Rathor Jains of Marwar had settled down here.
Another figure of Parasnath has an inscription mentioning that Shri Shankar Lal of Aramnagar dedicated the image "during the prosperous English rule of Karusa- desa". This is of interest and shows that Shahabad district was identified with the ancient Karusha-desa of the Puranas. Aramnagar may have been Arrah. At present the Jains in Shahabad district are mostly confined to Arrah and Dehri-on- Sone, along with its part known as Dalmianagar.
There is also a sprinkling of Jains in Buxar, Sasaram and other places. They are mostly business people. The Jains of Arrah have been remarkably religious- minded and liberal and through their efforts there are now 44 Jain temples in Arrah and its suburb and one in Dalmianagar. This number is really very large for an average district headquarters town.
Its temples have made Arrah a place of pilgrimage for the Jains and every year thousands of Jain pilgrims visit Arrah. There are two large well-appointed Jain dharmashalas -for the Jain pilgrims.The temple authorities are all remarkable for their active spirit of dedication and service. A number of these Jain temples are located in private houses and the doors of these private houses are always thrown open to the religious-minded people without any restriction.
Some of the modern Jain temples in Arrah town deserve much more attention than a passing reference. These temples are mostly replicas of other Jain temples elsewhere and poems in marble have been reproduced an enormous cost to the donors. They attract not only thousands of Jain pilgrims throughout the year but are also visited by men following other creeds and all are creations of the fertile imagination of the architects
Some of them are briefly described below:
Shri Samaveda Sikhara Mandir
Shri Haraprasad Das Jain of Arrah had built two large buildings in Arrah and spent a fortune in reproducing ill marble the famous holy places like Parasnath Hill and the images of the 24 Tirthankaras in these buildings. He employed a number of sculptors from Jaipur for this purpose.
The temple was constructed in 1902. Shri Haraprasad Das Jain made a free gift f the houses, along with the temples, to the public.
Shri Bahubali Jain Mandir
Shri Jain Bala Vishram on the outskirts of Arrah is all institution for imparting education and culture to the girls. This institution is the gift of Smt. Nem Sundar Devi, widow of the late Shri Dhanendra Das Jain of Arrah. Within the compound of this higher standard institution, the donor has built a 15' high statue of Shri Bahubali Swami like the statue at Shravan Belgola in Mysore. The 57' high image of Bahubali Swami in Mysore has been copied at Venur and at Karkal in South India.
There was no replica anywhere in Northern India till this statue of 15' in height and 25 maunds in weight was installed. The Jains hailed the transport of this statue unscathed and its installation without any scratch with joy all over the country. The statue in the temple is over an artificial hillock and there are exquisite engravings of flowers, fruits and creepers round the temple. Although situated in girls’ institution, people are allowed freely to go in pay their homage
Pawapuri in Patna district is the place where Mahavir Swami the 24th and last Tirthankara had his samadhi. It has an exquisite temple built inside a tank, which has a captivating mass of lotus flowers. The late Shri. Abhoy Kumar Jain of Arrah conceived the idea of reproducing the Pawapuri temple in Arrah and he translated his dream into a vivid reality. This Jalamandir is a miniature Pawapuri temple. There is 40’ long bridge with a width of 4’ for reaching the temple within the tank. The temple has a fine image of Mahavir Swami and the surroundings ar furnished by a well-kept garden. Both the sculptor and the architect have displayed their remarkable talents in the erection of this Jalamandir.
Nandeshwar Dwip Mandir
There are 52 small Chaityalayas in this temple. The workmanship here also is superb.
Sahasra Kuta Chaitalya
This temple is under the Adinath temple in Dhanpura, a suburb of Arrah town. 1000 Jain Arhat images are installed in this temple. One can study Jain Iconography in all its phases at this one place. Theimages are well-carved and fine specimens. Pilgrims from all over India come to visit the Chaityalaya and pay their homage.
Shri Adinath Mandir
The last Shri Makhanlal Jain had this temple built Dhanpura with the images of Lord Adinath, Parasnath and others installed there.
Panchayati Jain Mandir
As the name implies, this temple is the result of the combined efforts of the Jains of Arrah and it shows how deeply religious they are. It is wonderful to see one thousand Jain images carved in one stone piece. A number of important relies have been collected and preserved here. Panchayati Jain Mandir also attracts thousands of Jain pilgrims and non-Jain visitors every year.
Chaubishi Jain Mandir
The late Shri Sukhanath Jain had this temple constructed. There are 24 images of the Tirthankaras, of similar color as mentioned in Jain Agams. The images are graceful and speak very highly of the sculptors.
Shri Deo Kumar Jain may incidentally mention. The library has now about 18,OGO books and 8,000 manuscripts of Jain literature, besides a collection of rare coins, stamps and paintings. This is a great place for research but unfortunately not much utilized. TheJains also maintain a few charitable dispensaries,dharmashalas, a Jain High School and a Degree College named after Haraprasad Das Jain. The College has now more than 3,000 students.
All the Jain festivals, namely, Mahavir Jayanti, Shrut Panchami Parwa, Raksha Bandhan Parwa, Mahavir Nirvana Divash etc., are properly celebrated by the Jains here. It could be truly said that the Jains of Arrah have been able to revive the lost glory of Shahabad district as a centre of Jain pilgrimage.