Sunday, April 5, 2015

Jain temples of Ranakpur

I love seeing historic places/ temple complexes, especially for their unique architecture.  From my posts, I’m sure you guys already had that figured! On a whirl-wind trip to Udaipur, I just “had to” to include Ranakpur (Pali district of Rajasthan) on the ‘go to’ list.

Ranakpur is approx. 96 kms from Udaipur on the highway connecting Udaipur to Jodhpur.  While Udaipur is in Mewar region, Ranakpur is in Marwar.  During our drive, we took a halt to enjoy some popular breakfast snacks and a quick cup of tea. 

Further, as we drove through the Aravali Mountain range, we saw a sign welcoming us to Marwar.  After that sign, unfortunately the road conditions deteriorated.  Here I was thinking that the Marwari community is rich and would contribute a little to the upkeep of their region!

Nevertheless, as always I slept through most of the drive, waking up only on the curvy roads because the landscape (though semi-arid) was beautiful.  Trees had shed their leaves; I could see mountains in hues of browns and the occasional burst of red/ green from some trees. After a two and half hour drive we arrived at Ranakpur. 

The Jain temples at Ranakpur draw pilgrims and tourists in large number.  I had read that the temple opens only post 12 noon, but when we reached here we realized that was wrong information.  The temple is open from 10 am for Indian tourists and post 12 noon for foreign tourists.  However, photography is allowed only after 12 noon.  The complex shuts for tourists at 5 pm.  Also, one needs to be mindful about their dressing, no shoulder/ leg bearing clothes for women, though if you turn up with wrong clothing, sarongs can be rented to cover-up.    

One of the smaller temple just outside Chaumukha temple
Ranakpur Jain temple complex comprises of several temples, largest of them being Chaumukha temple.  The temple was built in the 15th century and is dedicated to Lord Adinatha.  

I was surprised when my brother told me the temple is built in marble, though not the likes to Taj Mahal; it’s a more earthy light brown/ beige marble.

The structure of Chaumukha temple is imposing and has four-faces.  From the outside, the Chaumukha looks like a sturdy wall, rising from the brown landscape.  

Inside the temple is equally stunning with scores of pillars.  The sheer number of pillars is the first thing that struck me.   

Endless pillars
Not just any pillars,  these pillars had exquisite carvings and doors/ gateways with intricate cravings as well.  

Carving at the entrance

Breathtaking carving on the ceilings
Another masterpiece!

The ceilings/ domes tell their own story and are engraved in beautiful carvings and each of the ceiling sections has different carvings.  


I especially liked the carvings of deities connecting the pillars to the domes and the overall carvings/ sculptures.

Carving connecting a pillar to the ceiling
Other than carvings, the temple had other interesting nooks/ corners/ central pieces. See the snippets below:


Adinath sculptures and statues were also plenty.  See some of the pics below:


As I enjoyed the tranquility of the complex and the cool breeze as I sat overlooking the smaller temple complexes, I saw many tourists, most foreigners listening keenly to the audio guides.  Infact, most tourists here were non-Indians!

A tourist listening to the audio guide

Perhaps, one day I would be more interested in actually getting into the specifics are history of a place.  

But in that moment I was content to soak in the architecture and enjoy photographing it.

Dad showing mom something specific on the gopuram
Funnily, we didn't realize we had spend an hour and a half inside the temple complex.  Because it was hot and sun was shining down on us, I didn’t bother walking to the smaller temples complexes. 

One of the temple adjoining Chaumukha temple

Also, by this time I was starving.  The temple complex canteen had shut and we hurriedly made our way to a nearby resort for lunch in wilderness!

As we drove for lunch, our driver mentioned that Aravalis are popular among trekkers, especially in winter months when Youth Hostel, among other groups runs treks covering popular spots like Ranakpur and Kumbalgarh.  Perhaps, someday I shall revisit on foot! 

Tips for visiting Ranakpur jain temples:
  • Leave early from Udaipur to beat the heat
  • Carry packed lunch, or reach Ranakpur before lunch time in cafeteria ends i.e. before 1:30 PM
  • Carry one camera/ phone to click photos as camera ticket is expensive
  • Maintain silence, respect the religion
  • Dress modestly


Soumyendu said...

That was a nice capsule of your trip. Didn't actually hear of a place called Ranakpur, seems like Rajasthan has a seemingly infinite number of must visit places.

Those pillars looked good as well as the footstone, the cornices and I wish you could have put in some more pics!

Preeti Datar said...

Hi Soumyendu, Thank you for your kind comments. Ranakpur is not part of major tourist circuit of Rajasthan. People do it while shuttling between Jodhpur and Udaipur. However, its a very famous pilgrimage for jains. I got to know of these temples while looking for Udaipur day trips! You must visit.

Maybe next time I'll post even more pictures!


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