Ranakpur Jain Temple - Why it should be there on everyone's Rajasthan itinerary.


Ranakpur Jain Temple - Why it should be there on everyone's Rajasthan itinerary


Ranakpur Jain Temple
Ranakpur Jain Temple

                                                                                ॐ

When I was studying Engineering, We were taught about redundancy in every design, that is when a critical component or member of a design fails, another one(s) take(s) the load, and the collapse of the system is avoided. However, how would you feel about designing a building with 1400 + pillars, with no redundancy that is if one pillar collapses, the whole building comes down ( As told by Sadguru in one of his lectures). That is ladies and gentlemen Depa or Depak the chief architect of Ranakpur Jain Temple for you. To me, Ranakpur Jain temple seems to be a meeting place of the eccentric minds. Depa, who would choose to build the projects of his choice only, Dharna Shah the Jain Seth, who spent all his wealth to build this temple.

Location and History of Ranakpur Jain temple

Ranakpur Jain temple is located at Ranakpur in the Pali district of Rajasthan and is situated in a barren valley in the Aravali hills. 

This temple was an effort of Dharna Shah – A Rich businessman, Rana Kumbha – The Ruler of Mewar, and Dwepa or Depa – The chief architect. The temple is dedicated to Lord Adinath the first Jain Teerthankar. Teerthankars in Jainism are revered spiritual leaders, who have conquered the cycle of life and rebirth on their own. They open the passage to get rid of the cycle of rebirth for their followers, so they are sacred. Till date, there have been 24 such spiritual leaders that are Teerthankars. 

As per the Legend, Dharna Shah once had a dream, in which Goddess Chakreshwari showed him Nalinigulam, a pillar clustered flying palace, the celestial plane. Unable to interpret on his own, he discusssed his dream with Acharya Somsundar. Acharya said maybe the goddess wants you to construct a temple. Dharna Shah could now correlate this with his urge to construct a grand temple some time back. He thought that the goddess had given him a glimpse of how the temple should look like.

He started discussing his vision with craftsmen and architects. They all submitted their plans, but none could match the Shreshthi's dream. Depa was a highly skilled architect, but was leading an ascetic life and never ran after money and fame. Someone suggested Dharna Shah his name. Dharna Shah contacted him and discussed this vision with him. On seeing Dharna Shah's passion, Depa agreed and submitted his designs. These were what Dharna shah was looking for. He asked Dharna Shah to start working on elaborate designs. 

On receiving an estimate that the temple will be needing 4000 sq mts of land, Dharna Shah approached Rana Kumbha, the Ruler of Mewar, who was a great builder of his time and built 26 forts including Kumbhal Garh. ( To read more about it click here). Rana immediately alloted the piece of land selected by Depak, where the temple stands, but also asked them to build a township around the temple and also gave land for the same. In Rana Kumbha's honor, the place was called Ranapur, which later got distorted to Ranakpur.

The construction of the temple started in 1446. Though the free hand to construct the temple in his own ways was the precondition set by Depak, to check this he asked for huge quantities of seven precious metals to be put in the foundation and was supplied the same. This further strengthened his belief. Temple took 50 years to build. As Dharna Shah and Acharya Somsunder were getting old and Shreshthi wanted the temple to be consecrated by Acharya. So without waiting for the completion of the temple, the statue of Lord Adinath was installed and consecrated, by Acharya Somsundar. The construction continued for another 15 years after that.

Bhagwan Adinath
Bhagwan Adinath  - source facebook


Ranakpur Jain Temple – Lost and Found 

For nearly two centuries, the temple was paragon of pilgrimage. However, when Aurangzeb ascended to the throne in Delhi, the area was raided frequently by Mughal forces. At one stage, when Mughal forces were advancing towards Ranakpur, the priests hid the idols in cellars and fled. With no priests to take care of the temple, it fell into neglect. The forests surrounding it got infested with wild animals and dacoits, due to which, people started feeling unsafe visiting here. This was the downfall of the temple and it went into oblivion. In 1897, the charge of the temple was handed over to Seth Anandji Kalyanji trust. They renovated the temple, built Dharamshalas in the complex and are maintaining the temple till date.


The architecture of Ranakpur Jain Temple

The temple is built in Maru Gurjara style common in Rajasthan and Gujrat and is built in the shape of Nalinigulam, the celestial plane. This is the epitome of architectural brilliance. The temple has 80 domes and 29 halls. They are so built, that the natural light always fills the temple.

Plan of Ranakpur Adinath Temple


Plan of Ranakpur Jain Temple
Plan of Ranakpur Jain Templel
                                                                                          reference-  Penguine Guide to Monuments of India Vol 1 - by George Michell

 The Garbh Griha or sanctum sanctorum is called "Mool Prasad" is the epicenter of the temple. The style is Chaumukha meaning having four faces. This is attributed to its four entrances and in the garbhgriha four statues are placed back to back facing all four cardinal directions. No matter, which entrance you take, you land up in Garbhgriha facing the idol of Bhagwan Adinath. The four openings of sanctum lead to the dancing/meeting hall – rangmandapa (A). The Rangmadapa is in turn connected to three-storied hall or mandap, called Meghnad Mandap (B).  These are further connected to two-storied mandaps known as Balana and Nalinimandap.

                 Also, there is a line of "Dev Kulikas" ( small shrines ) along "Bhamati" surrounding the entire complex holding statues of other Teerthankars and other deities.

The entire structure is made up of marble. It is said that as per the basic characteristic of marble, it changes its colour, with the movement of the Sun. We had witnessed the same during our sunrise tour to Taj Mahal . To read more about it click here. The temple has five spires or Shikhar. The largest one being over the central shrine. The shikhars symbolize mount Meru. As per Jain belief, Mount Meru is the axis connecting Jambudweep (old Name for India) and the Samvarsana – The preaching hall of the Teerthankars. The temple is said to have 84 underground chambers to protect the idols.


Shikhar or spire of Ranakpur Jain Mandir
The Temple Shikhar

The Three storied Balana of west facade
The Three storied Balana of the west facade


The Famous pillars of Ranakpur Jain Temple

Above all things, the most astonishing thing about the Ranakpur Jain mandir is its pillars. It is said to have 1444 pillars, however the legend says that it is not possible to count the pillars. These pillars are intricately carved. No two pillars are the same in design. When one reaches the main shrine, he seems to be surrounded by the jungle of pillars, however, none of the pillars obstructs the view of the main idol and the idol can be seen from any corner of the mandap.

The Famous Pillars of Ranakpur Jain Temple
The Famous Pillars of Ranakpur Jain Temple


One of the pillars is skewed. It is said that it was intentionally made so to add imperfection to an otherwise perfect temple. Some believe that this imperfection was added to ward off the evil eye.

The incomplete pillar of Ranakpur Jain temple
The incomplete pillar

Pillars all around at Ranakpur Jain temple
Pillars all around


Pillars all around at Ranakpur Jain temple
Pillars all-around at Ranakpur Jain temple

Another interesting thing is an incomplete pillar. Some say that it will fall the next morning every time the artisans completed it. It is also said that Rana Kumbha wanted a pillar to be built as "Kirtistambh", which was most beautiful. Initially like all other pillars, it was supposed to touch the dome. When the pillar was half-built, Rana Kumbha felt proud about his contribution to the temple and wanted it to be most beautiful as a symbol of his personal glory. But after that whenever artisans tried to complete that pillar, it would collapse. This left everybody worried. Then Rana Kumbha had a dream, wherein goddess Ambika made him realise that his personal pride was obstructing the path of his spiritual growth. Maharana realised his folly and ordered the pillar to be left incomplete as a symbol of the God is the biggest creator of all and we human beings are nothing.


Beautiful carving on Pillars at Ranakpur Jain Temple
Beautiful carving on Pillars at Ranakpur Jain Temple

No two pillars are alike
No two Pillars are alike


Tour De Ranakpur Jain Temple

Ranakpur visit was during our return from Rann of Kutch – To read more about this amazing experience click here. Today we had started from Udaipur ( click here to read more about it). After visiting, Kumbhalgarh fort. We were all set for Ranakpur. The drive of approx. 50 km was through small villages and forests in the foothills of Aravali hills.

Upon reaching the temple, we found ample parking space. After freshening up we deposited our phones, bought a camera ticket and an audio guide. 

A flight of stairs led us to the main entrance. The entrance was so beautiful that you have to pause before entering. On the roof just outside the main entrance was carved a figure of Keechak. It had 01 head and five bodies. It is a common figure in Jain temples. We had seen the same at Jain temples in Jaisalmer Fort. ( click here to read more about it ) There are a lot of theories behind this mystical figure. On says that this represents five elements that create one human being so five bodies and one head. There are so many other explanations to this.

Keechak with one head and five bodies
A figure with one head and five bodies - is it Keechak of Mahabharat or is there some other explanation

At the threshold is a small semi-circular platform with a conch and a snake on each side. Conch representing peace and serenity, whereas snakes are there to ward off bad energies. The snakes are considered to be protectors of wealth and the ones carved at the entrance are in angry posture, with bulging eyes, and also the fangs are out. They looked like protectors of the temple to me. The threshold or "Dahleez" has a very special significance in Indian homes also and all the efforts are done to allow only positive energies to cross it and repel negative or bad vibes from there itself.


The entrance with conch and guarding serpants
The entrance with conch and guarding serpents


The main entrance has intricately carved Pratihars – the door guardians and four goddesses also known as Vidyadevis on both sides. There are carvings of meditating Tirthankaras and dancing nymphs. Also on the top slab are figures in erotic poses and figures dancing and playing music, symbolising the celebration of life.

Main Entrance of Ranakpur Jain Mandir
Main Entrance of Ranakpur Jain Mandir with Pratihars and Vidya Devis



Beautiful carvings on the upper ledge of main entrance
Beautiful carvings on the upper ledge of the main entrance of Teerthankars meditating

Erotic carvings at Ranakpur Jain Temple
Celebration of life


As one enters the temple, there aren't any artificial lights during the daytime, but the temple was well lit, thanks to the innovative design allowing ample sunlight to keep the temple lit. As people were entering, the priests were approaching them for help. Basically, the priests double up as guides and dish out imaginary stories for some money. More about it later. As I was carrying the Audio guide, I was not a potential customer so we received a cold look and a big ignore from them. 


KalpVriksh
The Kalpvriksh


When we entered, after taking a small flight of stairs, two things that hit me hard were the pillars all around and the other was the Kalpvriksh carved in the ceiling. It was a real masterpiece and was one of the finest specimens of carving with delicately carved flowers, tendrils, and foliage. The Kalpvriksh is supposed to be the wish-fulfilling tree and probably the never-ending pattern represents the unending human desires.

View of Bhagwan Adinath inside Garbhgriha from entrance
View of Bhagwan Adinath inside Garbhgriha from entrance

Sightly ahead, Luckily the platform on which Garbhgriha is built, was vacant and we could see the presiding deity - " Moolnayak" from there itself. The bright eyes were very captivating.


It is a Forest of Pillars at Ranakpur Jain Temple
It is a Forest of Pillars at Ranakpur Jain Temple


A little ahead was the garbhgrih on a raised platform, in which was a 6 feet high statue of Lord Adinath sitting in Lotus posture. Jain devotees were doing Puja on the platform. There was some special ceremony going on in which a Jain had taken the sewa and the statue of Lord Adinath was being clad with silver coverings. There were gold sparkles all over these silver coverings. The sight of the glistening statue of Lord Adinath was the one divine sight to behold. As photography is not allowed, so could not capture this divine moment. 

Garbhgriha and the devotees - Ranakpur Jain Mandir
Garbhgriha and the devotees - Ranakpur Jain Mandir


Intericately carved Pillar
Intricately carved Pillar


Beautifully carved ceilings of the Rangmandap
And equally beautifully carved ceilings of the Rangmandap compliments the pillars

Another beautiful view of Pillars around Garbhgriha
Another beautiful view of Pillars around Garbhgrih



Another interesting element was two huge bells each weighing 108 kgs. The sound of the bell is said to last for one minute and can be heard even at a distance of three miles.

On the left is a Ryan Tree, said to have been planted by Dharna Shah himself. Ryan tree holds a special significance as it was under a Ryan tree, Bhagwan Adinath gave his first sermon. Under this tree, footsteps of Bhagwan Adinath are carved.

Ryan Tree
Ryan Tree


A few monolithic elements in the temple are carved out so beautifully and tell the stories of Jain belief in such a way that they need special mention

Bhagwan Parshvnath 

The first masterpiece carving is that of Lord Parshvnath, being protected by 108 hooded snake and its tail entwined around him in such a way that you cannot find the end of the tail. As per the legend, Lord Parshvnath was born as a prince. One day, when he was going somewhere, he spotted a snake trapped under the pile of wood kept by a sage for performing yagna. He set the snake free, upsetting the ascetic. Later in his life, when Lord Parsvnath gave up the materialistic things and was doing penance, the same ascetic using his diving powers set a storm to drown him. The snake he had saved was now the lord of Nagas. On seeing this, he spread his hood around the meditating lord saving him from the rage of sage. 


Bhagwan Parshvnath
Bhagwan Parshvnath


Jambudweep and Nandidweep

To understand this we will have to go a bit into Jain Cosmology. As per Jain Texts, the Universe is divided into three parts

Urdhva Loka – The reals of gods and heavens

Madhya Loka - The realms of humans, animals, and plants

Adho Loka – The realms of hellish beings and infernal regions  source wikipedia

That is why this world is called Trilok

Jain Cosmology also believes that the Universe is divided into eight continents. These continents are concentric and are separated by seven seas. The innermost being Jambudweep- A continent with Jamun trees pointing towards India or South Asia. The outermost is Nandishwardeep


Nandeeshwardeep
Nandeeshwardeep

Jambudweep
Jambudweep

Kalia Mardan

In this plaque, Bhagwan Krishn is depicted to be surrounded by Nagins. Another school of thought says it is depicting the scene of Kalia Mardan i.e. Fight between Bhagwan Krishn and Kalia the Naag. Krishna is known as Vasudev in Jain scriptures and is considered as the protector. 


Shri Krishn
Shri Krishn


Mount Shatrunjaya


Mount Shatranjaya
Mount Shatrunjaya

Shatrunjaya meaning victory over inner enemies is a hill situated in Gujarat. On this hill, Bhagwan Adinath gave his first sermon. This hill is said to have 865 temples on its top.

Inverted Lotus or Lotus with thousand petals

The prominent feature in Jain temples is Torans and roofs. The roofs or domes are done so beautifully that they do not seem to be carved out of stone rather looks like a very delicate lacework. The domes are in the shape of an inverted lotus. Lotus has a special place in Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist religions. Maybe because it is considered pious. A lot of gods and goddesses Brahma ji, Saraswati ji, Lakshmi ji are shown sitting lotus. Another prominent feature in the ceilings is the presence of nymphs and at some places images of Ganesh Ji.

The octagonal ceiling with inverted lotus in the centre
The octagonal ceiling with inverted lotus in the center


A closeup of the Ceiling
A closeup of the Ceiling

               The Closeup of the ceiling shows the lace-like pattern so delicate to believe that is carved out of stone with hand.

Marudevi

In one pavilion an elephant statue carrying a lady vies for your attention. This is Marudevi. As per legend, when Bhagwan Rishabhdev attained enlightenment, his mother Marudevi along with her grandson Bharat visited him on an elephant. Just the sight of enlightened Rishabhdev freed her from worldly sins and she died immediately and attained Moksha. People pass under the belly of the elephant to get rid of their sins. We also did so more for the fun of it and moved further.


Beautiful Pavilion with statue of Maru Devi sitting atop elephant
A Pavilion containing the statue of Maru Devi atop an elephant


Maru Devi sitting atop elephant
Maru Devi atop an elephant and visitors crawl below the elephant to get rid of sins

Dharna Shah

A Pavilion containing the statue of Ratna Shah
A Pavilion containing the statue of Ratna Shah
         
                As the temple could not be completed during Dharna Shah's lifetime, it was completed by his brother Ratna Shah, whose statue is installed in one pavilion.
               

Dharna Shah
Dharna Shah
               
                      

Dharna Shah never wanted to promote himself, but on persistant persuading by others, he agreed to have his figure carved on one of the pillars with folded hands as if alwars be the in attandance to his Lord, or another thought says he was rewarded with the darshan of his lord 24X7.

Depak
Depak

              Parallel to  Dharna Shah, a figure of Depak the architect has also been carved.


Priests and Security Guards


During the tough times, when Mughals were raiding this area and priests hid the idols in underground vaults and fled. They somehow remained in touch with the temple. Till date, their descendants serve as priests in the temple. I found them to be very rude and greedy. As explained earlier, they would offer to guide you. When one person wanted to leave without paying, the priest became abusive. A foreigner lady unknowing started ascending the steps of the platform, where garbhgrih is situated, the security guard and the priests literally pounced upon her and she was frightened. There is no signboard saying it is out of bound for foreigners. They have all the right to keep anything out of bound for anybody, but this could have been told softly also maintaining the sanctity of the place. This would have increased the respect in the eyes of the lady instead she left in bad taste. In the place of “Atithi Devo Bhav “ and Padharo Mhare Des” it is completely unacceptable. I told the guards to behave properly. On my way out, I went to the trust office and narrated the same incident to them. They seemed to be unable to reign the priests and from their expression, it seemed that such harassments happened daily. The office-bearer told that they are slowly trying to reign in the priests and audio guide is one step in that direction


We were famished by now. We were told that food is provided in the temple dining hall for a small payment. We immediately pounced upon the idea and relished the non-spicy Jain food. It was nice saatvik food. Without tummies full, we started for our next destination.



Parting Shot Ranakpur Jain Temple
Parting Shot Ranakpur Jain Temple


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