Saturday, 24 November 2012

The temple that was built with ghee

Mortar is mixed with water for constructing buildings and this system is followed almost uniformly through out the world with very few exceptions. Both mortar and water form an indelible part of the construction in any building.
But did you know that there is a building in India where water was not used to mix mortar. Instead, pure ghee and coconuts were used in the construction.
This building still stands today and it is universally acknowledged as one of those rare buildings which are a marvel in civil engineering and building construction.
The building is in Rajasthan and it is a beautiful temple belonging to the Jains. The temple is located in Bikaner which is 331 kms from the State capital of Jaipur and 310 kms from Jodhpur.
The structure I am talking about is called Bhandasar Jain Temple. It is situated within the walled city of Bikaner. The temple is dedicated to the fifth Jain Thirthankara, Suminath.
It was commissioned by a wealthy merchant, Bhandasa Oswal or Banda Shah in 1468 and was completed only in 1514.
The temple of red sandstone and white marble stands testimony to the artistic grace and intricate workmanship of the Rajputs.  It has lavish interiors, breathtaking frescos, sculpted pillars and the ceiling has beautiful paintings.
When the temple was being constructed,  40,000 kg or 40 barrels of ghee was used instead of water in the mortar. This can be felt today too when during the hot days, the ghee melts and seeps through the walls.
The temple is a three storied structure. The gold leaf work, artistically sculpted pillars and frescoes tell us the stories of all the 24 Jain thirthankaras.
As soon as you enter the temple, you can sandstone pillars with floral designs. The first floor is devoted to the carvings of Jain thirthankaras. There are two beautiful idols of sentinels of gods on the first floor. There are beautiful balconies on the first and second floor of the temple.
The marble statue of Lord Sumatinath  sits on a silver throne inside a gold-plated marble canopy adorned with floral paintings. The porcelain tiles were imported from England.
Locals say that even the foundation was filled with ghee and dry coconut.
The temple is open from 6 a.m., to 7 p.m. This is one of the two Jain temples in Bikaner. The other temple is that of Sandeshwar. Though its is smaller than the Bhandasar temple, it has beautiful carvings on its doors and pillars.
Bikaner has 27 Jain temples. Other tourist attractions are the Junagarh fort built by Raja Rai Singh, who was a high ranking officer in the court of the Mughal emperor Akbar and his son Jahangir.
The Lakshmi Nivas palace was the official residence of the Bikaner kings. The Lalgarh palace was built between 1902 and 1926 according to Mughal, Rajput and European architectural styles. The Moolnayakji Temple is the first Vaishanava structure constructed in Bikaner. Built in 1486, it quickly became the seat of the Vaishanava sect.
The temple of Karni Mata is in Deshnoke, which is 30 kms from Bikaner. There are thousands of rats in the temple and they are not shooed away. The presiding goddess is Durga. Every January, Bikaner comes alive with the magnificent camel festival. If you like adventure, take a camel ride or go into the Thar desert.
There is another Jain temple worth seeing in Phalodi. It is 184 kms away from Bikaner but let me tell you it is worth a visit. The Parasanath temple has beautifully sculpted Belgian glass. It was  constructed in 1847 by the Oswal Jains and has been built exclusively with  stones, It does not have any girders or RCC construction. It is made of old Belgium glass. This Jain temple is considered a marvel in architecture.
Bikaner is 2200 kms from Bangalore. There are trains and flights available. It is the fifth largest City of Rajasthan.

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