A poetry in stone: Ranakpur
“Behen ji, ek shawl pehan lo….mandir me jaane nahi denge aapko!”
You see, I was wearing a sleeveless kurti with chudidaar leggings and no dupatta…. At the ticket window of Ranakpur Jain Temple, one man cheekily informed me to take a shawl or else I wouldn’t be allowed inside the temple!!
I had convinced Aby, my hubby dear, to make a short holiday, 24 hours literally, at Udaipur before we finally left for new place of posting in Tamilnadu leaving Rajasthan behind.
Last month I was busy packing and preparing myself mentally to move from Rajasthan. I always had a fascination for this historically rich land of brave warriors, their tales of sacrifice, royalty, grandeur, opulence, loyalty, their exquisite artistry, craftsmanship, their architecturally ornate forts, palaces, temples and havelis, the colourful clothes, the spicy food and finest wood work.
Squeezing time out of work and school schedule, we managed to travel to some parts of Rajasthan, but there is so much more to see…
As our car bumped down the pot-holed road…it wasn’t much of a road actually…it was more mud road with tar patches at some irregular intervals…we went past the arid sandy barren landscape interspersed with thorny shrub out growth, khejri trees and few neem trees….past a pair of camels chewing on the thorny branches, few women ambling down the road with their odhnis drawn up to their chins, a flock of sheep standing in a circle with their heads down discussing something of grave importance while the old herdsman clad in white pagri, white kurta and white dhoti sat on his haunches by the roadside smoking on a beedi…past a pair of stunned chinkaras who were contemplating sprinting across the road…. I was wistful.
The landscape gradually changed from bleak yellows and browns to much greener surroundings with abundance of neem trees…Soon we entered the lap of Aravallis, the world’s oldest fold mountains and UNESCO World Heritage site.
Closer to Ranakpur, some part of the road was heavily shaded due to weirdly branching eucalyptus trees…the white branches spreading across the road from both sides of road looked like white ghost fingers closing in to catch their prey, more so because the setting sun and cloudy sky had made the day dull…..
The road condition did nothing to boost our confidence of reaching Udaipur during daylight and we did not plan a visit to Ranakpur en-route. However, when we reached Ranakpur around 1630hrs, the fascination towards ancient buildings was so overpowering that I insisted we make a stop at the very prominent and important Jain temple at Ranakpur.
I was glad we reached the temple fifteen minutes short of five in evening….it meant I could take pictures to my heart’s content. Visitors are allowed to shoot videos and still photographs from 12 at noon to five in evening. However the guard at the temple refused to allow us to take cameras inside the temple. The thing with our visitor rules is that they get bent when it comes to foreign tourists…And sure enough a group of three European women came along with their huge cameras who were allowed to enter the premises….no questions asked. In fact the guard had a wide grin on his face….. I wondered whether it was to prove “Atithi Devo Bhava” or a plain fascination for white skin!!
When I inquired, the guard casually commented that the women had permission!! Our precious minutes were lost in argument and there was no point in taking the camera inside the temple. We shot whatever pictures from outside the huge temple and later me and hubby took turns to see the temple from inside, since there were no lockers provided to store valuable items!!
In Rajasthan since two years, I had seen few temples Jaisalmer Fort, Dilwara temples at Mt Abu and Kiradu ruins at Barmer. All those intricate carvings, the delicate features of thousands of idols and the lace like patterns on walls, columns and ceilings of various temples had not prepared me for this explosion of such delicate art and craftsmanship at the Jain temple of Ranakpur!
The temple dedicated to Adinath, the first Tirthankara of Jains made of pinkish-white marble, has 1444 columns, 84 spires and has four faces. Built in 15th century, it is named after the patron Rajput King of Mewar, Rana Kumbha.
The temple priest who also played the role of guide had already started dispensing all information and history of temple like a parrot when I entered the complex. Mesmerised as I took in the view of inside, I did catch some part of his narrative.
It seems, the temple hidden in overgrown forest after the last of rulers neglected it, had become the refuge of bandits. The temple insides had become black due to use of fire lights by the dacoits…..the temple was reinstated to its original glory later by the jain priests and devotees flocked to it once the threat of bandits reduced.
There are two huge bells hung inside the temple which according to the priest-cum-guide, are heard as far as 2.5 km during the daily prayers in morning and evening. The temple itself is huge and spread in large area.
I did not have time on hand to explore each and every corner of it as we had to further drive till Udaipur. But even if I had spent some days there, I am sure I wouldn’t have been able to see all pillars, ceilings, wall panels, lintel beams, door jambs, corbels, arches, soffit ….all of which were covered in intricate carvings with sculptures and different patterns.
It is said that all idols face at least one other statue and all pillars are entirely different from each other. There is a big free-standing elephant with its rider and howdah. There is also an incomplete stambh or victory tower of similar style as the victory tower at Chittorgarh inside the temple which was commissioned by the king. Because of untimely death of King the victory tower was left incomplete.
The temple also has an inscription where the name of architect is displayed on one of the columns. What a way to appreciate the architect….I wish I could display my name that way!
Lace like, embroidery in stone etc are simply too small words to describe the ethereal beauty of this jewel of man-made structure…..
A short tour inside the temple has left me wanting for more….. Need to plan a detail Rajasthan tour.
Hello….Anybody planning a tour….?
- Ranakpur is in the Pali District of Rajasthan, located between Jodhpur and Udaipur in a valley on western side of Aravalli Mountain Range.
- It is at 162 km from Jodhpur and 91km from Udaipur, about two and half hour drive.
- Easily accessible by road from Udaipur though the condition of roads is bad.
- Nearest Railway station is Falna.
- There are also taxi services from Udaipur.
- There are some budget accommodation hotels in Ranakpur while Udaipur has excellent staying options.