RANAKPUR – A HYMN IN MARBLE RAJASTHAN
Tucked away in the wrinkled folds of the Aravallis, Ranakpur, unlike other temple towns, turned out to be one of the last refuges from urban chaos. There were no stalls nor importunate vendors and beggars, clamoring for our custom. “It is the sort of place where movies have yet to replace local fairs as entertainment,” said an American tourist and we added that the closest thing to skyscrapers were the temple spires!
The main splendid Chaumukha Temple or Four Faced Temple dedicated to Adinath, the first of the 24 tirthankaras.
The complexity of the temple design endless carved pillars, ornate domes, open and covered courtyards and small shrines encircling the main house of ‘ worship. All around us was a profusion of delicate carvings of various deities, saints, celestial beings and playful nymphs. We quietly skirted around a solitary nun sitting in deep medi-
tation before the central altar, undisturbed by the family performing puja at the foot of a garlanded deity, on the outer walls of the shrine. A newly wed bride blushed in her silks
An overwhelming profusion of carved pillars dominates the temple complex.
while her husband, his beard trained in the Marwari fashion (parted outward at the center of the chin), looked on. An air of piety softened his martial features.
Slowly, the complexity of the temple dawned on us—all of its five spires, 20 domes, 29 halls and about 1,444 pillars covered with lavish and delicate carvings. A young pujari deferentially told us that no two pillars were alike and pointed to. the overhead domes which were adorned with intricate images. The entire complex was beautifully planned so that all the courtyards outside the temple were open to the sky, and natural light streamed in throughout the day. And no, it was not the light playing tricks but one pillar was distinctly crooked. According to the pujari, it was intentionally built that way, a flaw in the perfect scheme of things.
In addition, there is a panel that depicts the story of Prince Parshava. According to a legend, one day when the Prince came upon an ascetic performing the fire penance, he realized that a snake lay trapped in one of the burning logs. Swamped by pity, he grabbed an axe and split the log open and set the reptile free.
The entire temple area is enclosed within a wall and there are four subsidiary shrines which pale in comparison to the main one. A corridor around the temple has niches for the tirthankara images and each niche has its spire or shikhar. Little bells are festooned atop each shikhar and their jingling in the breeze makes celestial music.
A small compact shrine dedicated to Parsvanath faces the main temple. It has a black image of the tirthankara in the inner sanctum. A Surya temple embellished with a running band of solar deities, seated in racing chariots, is another jewel.
How and Where
Ranakpur lies 60 km from Udaipur in the forested Aravalli range. A few statd transport buses ply the route but services are ciowded and irregular. The pilgrim town is basically a day’s excursion from Udaipur and figures on Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation’s (RTDC) daily sightseeing tours which take off only when booked by the requisite number of people. From Udaipur, the journey takes about four and a half hours by bus. A daily bus service from Mt Abu terminates at Sadri, 4 km away.
The Castle Ranakpur Resort has doubles. Maharani Bagh Orchard Retreat offers comfortable accommodation in 11 cottage rooms on the European Plan.