Exploring Temple of Ranakpur
By Harpreet Kaur
The journey to visit the temple of Ranakpur started at about 11.30am and we would have to travel for an hour and half to reach it. We were traveling by a mini van from Rani to Ranakpur, around 60kms. Ranakpur is situated approximately 96 km from Udaipur.
Built during the reign of the liberal monarch Rana Kumbha in the 15th century, this temple is huge and covers over 48,000 sq. feet area. There are three small shrines, twenty four pillared halls and eligibly domes supported by over 1444 columns.
It is said to be inspired by Kailash Parbat and indeed, when you drive through the huge gate everything is hidden behind a huge wall. Walk through the cool garden area with beautiful flowers and into the main temple complex, you are left breathless. Within the garden is the Sun Temple dedicated to Surya (the Sun God). The temple has polygonal walls, and is adorned with the carvings of warriors, horses and solar deities riding chariots.
Umpteen number of shikharas crowd the top section of this famous temple. Strict rules on security, baggage’s, and cameras leave you irritated and wanting, but it is all for good measure indeed. You will not be allowed to take pictures of the gods but I saw many foreigners take pictures with zoom lenses and video cameras and they were not refused. We still suffer from the malady of ‘gori chamadi’ is best.
Behind the ticket counter is a entire complex of small rooms for the Jain sadhus and sadhvis who wish to stay there. After buying the tickets, paying for the cameras and leaving the mobiles behind etc, one is made to remove the shoe before you can climb the stairs into the temple. The temple has entrance on all four sides, but there is an anomaly which may raise a doubt in your mind – which I will explain later.
The Shikharas make a beautiful picture that create a rise and fall with the help of small and tall ones mixed within each other giving you a feeling of watching a mountain range. With the Aravalli’s making a beautiful backdrop. The outside limestone walls are carved with intricate designs all reflection of the Hindu temples.
Climbing the stairs with a platform after every dozen or so stairs give you a feeling of climbing a hill, after reaching through and entering the main hall one is left awe struck. The entire temple seems to be held up with pillars of which none two are alike.
It is one of the five Jain pilgrimages. The main temple has a Chaumukha shrine dedicated to Adinathji, the first Jain tirthankara.
The columns are intricately carved having nymphs playing the flute, in various dance postures are a beautiful sight to behold. The assembly hall has two big bells weighing 108 kgs that are rung at said times.
The corridor around the temple has mandapas (porticoes) with various types of carved images. A shikhar (spire) over each mandapa. The temple has four small shrines, and rises to three storeys. The shrines have 80 spires supported by 420 pillars.
The main temple is faced by two other temples dedicated to Parasvanath and Neminath. These have exquisite figures similar to Khajuraho sculptures.
Begun in the 14th century the temple took over 50 years to complete under the auspicious orders of Rana Kumbha, ruler of Mewar. Dedicated to Adinath, the temple also has smaller temples inside dedicated to Neminath, Parsvanath and the Suryadev temple within the premises but outside the main temple area.
You will enjoy reflecting deeply within yourself while watching the green Aravalli hills behind, the cool and quiet atmosphere within from the balconies or mandapas located at intervals for tired pilgrims to rest. You feel one with yourself, facing east there is a small shrine located on a hillock close to the main temple. It is said to be dedicated to a sadhu who sat here in meditation. It also has a miniature structure or copies of temples version of the route the sadhu may have followed on his journey till he reached here which is marked with footsteps climbing the hills, steps or in temples.
A kilometer behind and above the Ranakpur temple and within the hills is a beautiful small shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva visited by but a few who know. It is a hard climb uphill, with no other way of reaching it, but through the thick jungles – only for dedicated worshippers of lord Shiva.
There are also many stories that revolve around this temple basically all are questions – some say it is a Hindu temple donated to the Jains on an happy occasion by the ruler of Mewar proof of which lies in the small mandapa on the outside of the temple to the east – said to either hold a garuda or a nandi; a priest there said it once held the statue of a Garuda and this was a Vaishnavaite temple, pillars have conch shells and pushpalatas carved on them. There is also yalis made on the edges of the roofs, plus there is a small statue placed inside what is a square holder that is very similar to what usually holds a linga, the tree in the centre with a temple below.
The Rajput rulers were well known for their generosity indeed and have been known to give away acres and acres of land and temples to every religious sect in times of joy and celebration. This, a temple is a grand dream that was made into a reality and is today a part of our heritage.
There are one beautiful carvings made out of a single marble rock for eg, the 108 heads of snakes and numerous tail with Adinath standing below it. A masterpiece not found elsewhere and in it you will not find the end of the tails and their face is seen pointing in all four directions.
The temple is said to have been inspired by a dream that Dharna Shah had of a celestial vehicle. The architect was Deepaka and an inscription near the main shrine states:- in 1439 Deepaka, an architect, constructed the temple at the direction of Dharanka, a devoted Jain.
Ranakpur is located in Desuri tehsil, near Sadri town, in Pali district of Rajasthan. It is located midway between Jodhpur and Udaipur, in a valley on the western side of the Aravalli Range.