Although Rajasthan is full of architectural marvel, Jain Temple of Ranakpore stands atop all. This Jain temple is a unique example of architectural brilliance and spiritual serenity combined into one. Actually there are several jain temples in Rajasthan. They all follow a particular architectural style. But the magnificence of this one, is beyond words.
Since Ranakpore is located quiet close to Kumbhalgarh and Udaipur. And we had heard a lot about the Jain Temple at Ranakpur. So, we decided on a day trip from Udaipur to Kumbhalgarh fort and Ranakpur. I had not seen any photographs of the Jain Temple beforehand. And I had no clue what to expect. No prizes to guess that I was completely blown off by the marvel of the temple upon visiting.
We arrived in the huge temple campus by 4:30 in the evening. There is a locker service available in the temple premises. Here, guests are supposed to deposit all their valuables, including phone , wallet etc. before proceeding to the temple. You can, however, get your electronics checked and pay a small fee, to carry them. However, the locker facility is available only till 5:30pm. So, we decided to leave our belongings in the cab that we had hired for the day trip (I love this! India might be one of the top listed countries for pretty crimes , tourist scams and thefts. But I have always been able to trust the hired cabs and their drivers with my valuables. And never once has my experience been bad!). So, we left our belongings there in the car. And, we proceeded to the temple.
The residential wing
After depositing the valuables, you can proceed to the residential part first, before going to the main temple. There are restrooms and drinking water in this part of the premises. (However, beware of the lurking monkeys. There are numerous monkeys and apes invading the premises particularly on this side as people are more likely to come here with food and water. We had to muster a lot of courage to prepare milk for our daughter and feed her before proceeding). We did wash our hands and had some water before proceeding to the main temple. From here, you can proceed to the main temple by moving back towards the entrance from where you entered into the premises.
Main Jain Temple
As you proceed towards the main temple, you will first get a side glimpse of the architectural marvel that awaits in front. Then you get the front view of the temple which is mind blowing. It is a huge marble structure of 3 floors built over a huge plinth. So much so that inspite of a good zooming facility, it was difficult for my camera to capture the full view of this temple in one shot. Moreover, the location of the temple amidst the dense green forests with Aravali hills in the backdrop adds wonderfully to its perfection. It is believed that this temple was conceived as an image of the celestial Vehicle (Viman) Nalinigulma. That is what has inspired the architeture of this temple. No doubt one feels celestial aura on stepping inside this temple.
The Entrance to the Jain Temple
You have to first ascend a flight of marble stairs to reach the temple entrance. Once there, you descend another flight of marble stairs to reach inside the temple. The temple entrance itself has intense Jain style carvings on its walls. The carvings are very minute and beautiful. You can’t proceed further without getting tempted to click a few pictures.
The main shrine of the Jain Temple
Once you descent the flight of stairs, the main shrine is just in front. Built on a huge raised platform, supported by numerous pillars, the shrine contains the idol at one end. There are signs all over, and also near the main shrine, that urge the visitors to maintain silence. The peace and silence in this temple is so dominant that even a small whisper seems to echo a lot. So, do remember to keep your voices very low. The best option is not to talk at all while inside the temple. Since, that will be in accordance with the essence of the temple. And this way, you wil also be showing respect to the Jain way of offering prayers.
The unique ‘fours’ of the Jain temple
There are some unique ‘fours’ in the Jain temple of Ranakpur. For instance, the four sides of the inside of this Jain Temple are characterized by similar architecture. Then, the temple has four main entrances. Hence, it is designated as a chaturmukh (one who has four faces) temple . Also, in the main chamber of the temple there are four huge statues of God Adinath. The sanctuaries on second and third floor also have four identical Jain idols on all the four sides. Also, there is one marble elephant guarding each of the four entrances. Apart from this, there are seventy six small shrines, four assembly halls, four principle shrines. And these shrines are stationed facing the four directions on the four walls of the temple. And few other small shrines are also there.
Altogether, these make some 84 – odd shrines inside the temple. All the walls of the temple on all sides are characterized by the small shrines that contain the statues of Lord Mahaveer and his devotee Jains – Sri Shantinath and Sri Sumatinath. You can walk along the walls on the inside of the temple and offer your silent prayers to these idols.
The unique pillars of the Jain Temple
The Jain Temple at Ranakpur is also famous for its carved pillars. There are 1440 odd pillars in the temple. And, no two pillars have the same carvings. Yes, they are all different and hence, unique!! It is believed, the temple construction had started in 1446 Vikram Samvat (Hindu Calendar) but it took more than 50 years to complete the temple. And it is evident from the marvel of each and every pillar that adores and supports the temple. Not just the pillars, even the roof have very intricate carvings in the marble.
I couldn’t help wondering how these intricate carvings were done in an era that didn’t have the fine machinery of the modern world. It must all have been done with bare human hands!! To reproduce this kind of architecture in the modern era might be easy enough. Yet, I am sure it will not be possible to achieve the level of accuracy, fine quality and intricacy that is seen in this temple. Because the kind of patience it requires simply doesn’t exist in today’s world. I think that is what makes these kind of architectures a one of a kind all over the world. And I hope great perservance is observed to save them from damage and ruin.
The characteristic serenity
Although I am not highly religious, I love places of worship that are serene and peaceful, no matter which culture or religion they belong to. That is one of the reasons I love sitting in Churches. And I also love the Ramkrishna aashram that are present in almost every town of India. The same holds true for most of the Jain temples that I have so far visited. They are utmost peaceful. Also, there are no priests to bother you with unnecessary or unknown rituals. You can medidate, spend your time in peace, or just roam around. No one will ask you to follow a queue or sit in a particular defined order.
But the serenity at the Jain temple of Ranakpur was at another level. Once we stepped inside the main temple, it was super calm inside. Although there were visitors in different wings of the temple, yet, absolute silence was maintained. An idle place to meditate I would say! In conclusion, I absolutely loved the calmness inside this temple. I could have spent an eternity here, forgetting the worries of outside world.
And I am sure, others also feel the same. That is why I stated earlier that one must try to maintain utter silence inside the temple, in line with its custom.
The intricate carvings of the Jain Temple
Coming to the architecture of the temple, the beautiful and minute carvings on each of the temple pillars and walls is what makes this Jain Temple utterly unique. Indeed it’s a marvellous work of architecture. Carving on marble and that also such intricate carvings is not a game of the novice. Even roofs have such carvings that it leaves the visitors spellbound. I have not come across such beautiful and unique work anywhere else. I wanted to snap every single pillar. Also, I wanted to zoom into every single carving in those pillars. I took snaps of different structures, roof, pillars, and scriptures. However, I still feel have been able to capture only a fraction of the marvel that this temple is.
The Parshwanath temple
Once we had roamed around enough in the main temple, we headed out. In the same premises as the main temple, a little further, lies Parshwanath temple. This temple is smaller and less crowded as well. We headed here after exiting the main temple. From here, one gets an even more magnificent view of the main temple. This temple is also beautifully carved and utterly peaceful.
The front portion of this temple consists of a small covered courtyard supported by several pillars. At the back portion lies the idol. There is a dome at the back which is like the characteristic dome that most of the temples in India have. Although the walls of this temple are also having very intricate carvings as you can see in the second picture below which is taken from the backside of the temple. By the time we reached this temple, the sun had started setting. The rays of setting sun adorened the temple courtyard. And, provided a soothing aura to the place.
In conclusion, after visiting the Jain temple, we felt like our day trip had the most wonderful conclusion that we could hope for. It was an experience of a lifetime!! There are several other magnificent Jain temples that I have heard about now. Some in Gujarat, some in other parts of Rajasthan itself. I will definitely want to visit them next. So, what do you think about this temple? I will love to hear from you.