It is the most recommended that if you are heading to Udaipur from Jodhpur or vice versa, you take a halt at Kumbhalgarh and the Ranakpur Jain Temple in Rajasthan. As you might have read in my earlier posts, Kumbhalgarh was a definite must-visit on my list and Ranakpur was an option. While I really wanted to do it, we had left it open – in case, we run short of time, we skip it. My good luck and fate – we did manage to do the Ranakpur Jain temple and I am so glad we did – for it was one of the most stunning Jain temples that I have seen.
I myself, am a Jain and though am not overtly religious, have had my share of visiting several Jain temples. And trust me, when I say, that this was by far, one of the most beautiful temples I have been to, there has got to be something special here. My mom always, gushed about the famed Dilwara temples of Mount Abu and while I have not been there, I have always heard of it being the most beautiful. However, when I shared this visit with my mom, she admitted to the fact that the Ranakpur Jain Temple was equally beautiful and one of the most stunning Jain temples. Of course, some day when I head to the Dilwara temples, I will draw a comparison between the two but for now, let me share my 5 reasons as to makes this Jain temple at Ranakpur a must-visit place
1) History of the Ranakpur Jain Temple
The Ranakpur Jain Temple was built by a Jain businessman – Dharna Sah in the 15th century. Call it divine intervention through his dream or his subconscious wish, Dharna Sah was determined to build a temple dedicated to the first Tirthankara of Jainism – Lord Adinath. He got a grant from then ruler of Udaipur – Rana Kumbha, in return of a promise that the town and the temple would be named after the Rana. Hence, the name – Ranakpur.
Having got a plot of 48,000 sq feet, Dharna Sah shared his vision with several artists. His dream temple was in the form a celestial vehicle and the same matched with the plans of a sculptor called Depa. The temple took over 50 years to build and finally, what we see now is a beautiful timeless piece of beauty – a heritage that generations over the next 500 years have to cherish and enjoy.
It is said that the temple was invaded by the Mughals and later became a haven for the dacoits. It lay in disrepair for a while before it was rediscovered and renovated – only to be considered as a nominee for the new seven wonders of the world. In some listings, it is considered as one of the seven wonders of India.
2) The splendor of the marble architecture
The gorgeous white structure is three-storied marble wonder, which is a beautiful on the outside as it is within. What is amazing is sudden drop in temperature when you enter the temple. In the sweltering midday heat, not only the cool interiors but the unusual ones had us captivated. True to the vision of its creator- Dharna Sah, the temple is built like the Nalinigulm Vimana or the heavenly vehicle. The entire temple has been constructed in a unique manner – no matter which of the 4 doorways you use, you still end up in the main courtyard.
The temple is called Chaumukha temple – Chau – meaning Four and Mukha meaning faces. The name owing to the four faced idol of Lord Adinath here. This is to symbolize the Quest in life along the four dimensions – one of the key missions of Jainism. There are three other smaller sanctums in the temple, made such that they all face each other.
The beauty of the marble temple is such that temple takes on different shades during different day parts – each shade enhancing its beauty. The 29 halls within the temples, despite its 80 domes are filled with bright and natural light throughout the day. Open and yet not open, this temple is definitely, an architectural marvel.
3) Uncountable Pillars and Enticing Ceilings
They say there are 1444 pillars and yet, it is impossible to count them for each one is different from the other and none similar. Each pillar is a piece of art, with carvings so perfect that you cannot take your eyes off them. The crazy part is that each pillar gives you the same feeling and in the end, I got so frenzied that I did not know where to look. Here are some of the pillars.
When you follow the pillars from bottom to the top, you might just get a crick in your neck for when you have reached the top, you are bound to freeze. The intricately carved ceilings with mesmerizing details will just keep you on hold. Check this one out.
And the one below – with the nymphs in different poses is my favorite. The unmistakable beauty of these divine creatures had me captivated that I actually sat down where I was to capture it in my memory.
Besides the pillars and ceilings, don’t miss out on the beautiful elephant – some say monolithic, but even it is not, the brilliance of it cannot be denied.
4) The scriptures in pictures at the Ranakpur Jain temple
For those who are not familiar with Jainism, just a quick note. Jainism is quite similar to Buddhism – it talks of inner peace, of non violence, tolerance and renunciation. The scriptures and teaching of Jainism talks of how the various preachers attained their nirvana and various stories from their lives is what is carved onto the ceilings and sculpted pillars of this temple.
The most popular of them is this carving of a serpent that protected Lord Parshvanth. It is said before he attained Nirvana, he was a prince and one day while traveling, he happened to spot a Snake trapped in a few logs that were piled for a Yagna by an ascetic. Overcome with pity, he set the snake free, thus, upsetting the ascetic. Later in life, after the prince had left his worldly pleasure and was in a penance to find inner peace, the same ascetic with his divine powers summoned a storm to drown the prince. The same snake who had rescued him, was reborn as the Lord of Nagas and seeing this, rushed to protect his former savior by enveloping him and spreading his protective hood around him. Ever since then, Lord Parshwath has been depicted with this serpent. The carving of this story in Ranakpur is so beautiful and they say that you cannot find the ends of the snake in the carving. 🙂
5) The serenity of the Ranakpur Jain Temple
Like I had mentioned before, while I am not an overtly religious person, I have always loved the calm that I experience in the temples. At this Jain Temple in Ranakpur, for some reason, the calm was even more magnified. It was so evident that even the 108 kgs temple bells could not shatter the feeling.
Maybe it was the calm that was surrounded by the beauty, or maybe it was just the magic of the place. Whatever it was, it had me feeling at peace. It had me feeling that I was home and that all was well. For me, that is a reason enough to want to go back to the Jain Temple at Ranakpur. 🙂
- Ranakpur is 165 kms from Jodhpur and just 90 kms from Udaipur. There are cabs and buses available to take you from these cities to Ranakpur and back. Udaipur would be the nearest airport to this place
- Falna is the closest railway station, at a distance of 26 kms from Ranakpur.
- The Ranakpur Jain temple is open to public only post 12 noon. It remains open till 5:00 pm everyday.
- Entry is free but you need to pay a small donation for the cameras and cell phones. It is INR 100 for the cameras.
- Bare shoulders and shorts are an absolute no-no in this temple. Scarves are available for a small donation fee at the ticket counter to cover the shoulders.
- Leather articles – wallets, belts and shoes are not allowed inside the temple. There are lockers available on rent for the same. Alternatively, you can leave them behind in your car.
- There are audio guides available at the Ranakpur Jain Temple.
- The priests inside the temple are quite helpful and some of them take you on a small tour in exchange for a small donation to the temple. Some of them even speak French and other foreign languages.
- There are a few other temples in the same premises and you can visit the same as well. However, the Chaumukha temple is the main Jain temple in Ranakpur
- There are few restaurants in the small town. Alternatively, you can opt for a meal within the temple for INR 50. Only veg food is served here and they say it is delicious.
- There are a few hotels and resorts around Ranakpur, in case, you wish to stay here overnight.