Tired of the same old Rajasthan? If you are planning a trip and want to include more than the palaces and forts, Ranakpur is the place for you.
A well-maintained winding road from Udaipur over the Aravalli hills and down again leads you to the Jain temple at Ranakpur. Driving through a wildlife park, you see signs alerting you to the presence of deer and leopards.
The small, rustic town of Ranakpur is named for Rana Kumbha, a Rajput prince who ruled in the 1400s. Approached one day by a Jain businessman Dharna Shah who dreamed of building a mighty temple, Rana Kumbha gave him the land for its construction. Dharna Shah dreamed no ordinary temple though.
Symphony of light and shadow
Built in 1439, this beautiful amber stone temple is a symphony of light and shadow as sunlight plays on its intricately carved interiors. Covering almost 13,000 square feet, this is the largest Jain temple in India. While the main temple is for Lord Adinath, there are three subsidiary shrines.
Remarkable about this temple are the nearly 1,500 columns that are intricately carved. No two are alike. There are apsaras (beautiful dancers) in various dance poses carved at a height of about 45 feet on the columns. Carvings and friezes depicting images from the lives of Jain saints are everywhere. The marble has been worked with such delicacy that the corbelled domes look like fine lace work.
Breathtaking scale of grandeur
The sonorous boom from two bells in the main assemble hall echo through the entire structure. The sheer scale of the temple dwarfs the pilgrims and makes the temple a haven of spirituality. Like in all Jain temples, leather and black clothing are not permitted.
As you walk out, your eye is caught by the fluttering of small red and white flags, strung up and tinkling with little bells. With the whites and pastels preferred by the Jain pilgrims, so different from the blazing pinks and oranges of Udaipur and Jaipur, the scene is one of muted colors and out-of-this-world texture. With the sunlight changing the hues of the stone by the hour, and the breathtaking carvings, this is a must see on any tour of Rajasthan.
Have you been to Ranakpur? What aspect of your visit was most special? Got any suggestions for other places off the beaten track in Rajasthan?