Jain religion cares not only for human beings but also for mute animals, especially ones which cannot fend for themselves and have become useless for any work. Cattle homes are set up for such animals where they are provided fodder and are looked after. When one thinks of such cattle-homes, one inevitably remembers the name of Sheth Motisha.
Motichand, son of Sheth Amichand of Cambay, was born in A.D. 1782. A man of enterprise and business acumen, he had flourishing business. He repaid his father’s debts and within five years became a millionaire. He bought ships for overseas business and his business ventures spread far and wide. He acquired, slowly, a fleet of forty ships operating from China to Baherin. He, thus, broke the monopoly of the British and became a shipping magnate. His reputation spread to Arab countries, to Java-Sumatra, China and Sri Lanka. He spent, as much as he earned, on charities and on philanthropic activities.
In Mumbai, dogs were cruelly killed and the British Government would not heed the painful cries of the dying dogs. Motisha met the governor and persuaded him to put an end to cruelty to dogs. He, at the time, felt the need to provide protection homes for animals. He was supported in his mission by other communities too and the foundation stone for such a cattle home was laid. He worked out the arrangements to provide shelter to cows, bullocks, sheep, pigeons and many other birds and animals. He, very often, undertook pilgrimage to Shatrunjaya Tirth. He bought land in Bhaikhala in Mumbai and, for the benefit of pilgrims from Mumbai, built a temple of Bhagwan Rishabhdev.
A huge ship, loaded with goods worth lakhs, was on its way to China. He was worried about its safe passage but then he stopped worrying, saying, “God’s will be done.” He prayed for the ship’s safe return and said, “From the profit that would accrue I will build a grand structure in Shatrunjaya Tirth.” Luckily the ship returned safely. Motisha called the renowned architect Ramji. He selected a site, a deep recess between two mountains.
On seeing the site, Sheth Motisha realized that it was a difficult undertaking but he remained undeterred. White marble from Makrana in Rajasthan was brought and a lake within the site for the temple was filled to prepare even ground to lay the foundation. Water had to be brought from the far river Shatrunji as it did not rain. 1100 artisans and 3000 workers were employed in the construction work. Finally the imposing structure began to take shape and Sheth Motisha was highly pleased. Unfortunately, his health began to fail and Sheth Motisha started hurrying the construction of the temple. But before he could see his dream fulfilled, he breathed his last at the age of fifty four in A. D. 1836 during the days of holy festival paryushan.
His wife Diwaliben was equally devout and carried on Motisha’s unfinished task. A dharmashala (inn) was built at the cost of Rs. 86,000. Motisha’s popularity grew to such an extent that even today the leader of a sangh, visiting Shatrunjaya Tirth, is applied a tilak (a forehead mark) in the name of Sheth Motisha. Motisha’s name has become a byword for philanthropy, charity, compassion, devotion and selfless service.
1. Glory of Jainism by Kumarpal Desai