Friday, 4 January 2013

The temple where no two pillars are alike

This temple has nearly 1,500 pillars and all of them are intricately carved. But what sets this out from other temples in India is that no two pillars are the same. Morever it has 38,000 idols and carvings, big ands small.
Each pillar of the Rishabanath or Adinath temple in Ranakpur village of Pali district of Rajasthan is different from the other. Built in marble, this beautiful structure can at best be described as poetry in architecture.
Generally regarded to be among the most spectacular of the Jain temples in India, this structure was built almost 600 years ago. It is also called the Chow mukha (four faced) temple and Trailokya Deepak. It has 29 halls and 80 domes and 32 arched gates.
The upper and lower parts of the domes are linked by brackets that have deities' sculptures.
The entire structure is 313 feet in breadth and 290 ft in length.
Light colored marble has been extensively used and the pillars are so built that you just cannot count it on your own. Every time you start counting, you lose the numbers and you have to start again.
It is not only the pillars that stand out here. All the statues in the temple face each other and with the pillars they form a beautiful symmetry.
One of the many carvings which are worth a detailed look is made of single marble. It is of 108 snakes with as many hoods and so many tails that you cannot find the end of the tail. Another peculiar feature of this carving is that it faces all the four directions.
However, the largest image or carving is in the axis of the temple on its western side.
The temple is designed as a structure with four faces. It is on a small hill and it has several domes and cupolas. It was built in 1437 by Dhanna Shah under the patronage of Rana Khumba, the ruler of Mewar.
In the temple complex, there are several other temples, including Chaumukha temple, Parsavanath temple, Amba Mata Temple and Surya Temple. The Chaumukha Temple is the most important and  temple with the deity of  four-faced Chaturmukha. This is a structure dedicated to Adinath, the first Tirthankara of the Jains. The deity of  Adinath, sitting on padmasana,  is white in color and about 180 cms in height.
The Temple has four different doors to get inside the chambers which then take you to the main hall where this image of Adinath is consecrated.
The pillars or columns change their color from gold to pale blue every year. The prayer hall has two huge bells each weighing 108 kgs. The temple has one of the largest  subterranean vaults spread over a mammoth area of 48000 square feet..
Another peculiarity about the temple is that its exterior is carved with erotic poses. This contrasts sharply with the beautiful but covered and modest carvings in the interior of the temple.
Some o the images and carvings are mutilated, thanks to the Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb.
The temple is said to have taken 65 years to build.
There are two smaller temples nearby built after two other Jain Tirthankars, Neminath and Parsvanath. The small but beautiful Sun Temple here is even today under the control of the royal family of Udaipur. This temple is known for its superbly carved windows.
Rankapur is only a village which is between Udaipur (90 kms) and Jodhpur (160kms). The nearest railway station is Falna or Phalna which is 30 kms away. Rankapur is well-connected by roads and tourists generally make it a day trip from Udaipur. A local bus from Udaipur stops right opposite the temple every hour and its costs Rs 45 per person. The journey back to Udaipur takes about three hours.
Another must at the Rankapur temple is having food at the Bhojana Shala. The food is simple but extremely delicious. It is purely vegetarian but the taste is well, yummy. Eat to your heart’s content and have as many helpings as you want.
There are some good hotels around the village. You can also stay back in the rooms of the temple. They are clean but Spartan and cost you Rs. 200 per day.
Other attractions are a jeep Safari or nature hike through the Rankapur valley or the nearby Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary
A horseback safari through the Aravalli mountains, the Ranakpur Valley and the Kumbhalgarh wildlife sanctuary is worth a try.

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