The magnificent fifteenth century Ranakpur temple in Mewar region of Rajasthan, India, is dedicated to Adinath, the first Tirthankara, of this era.
The grand scale and sheer architectural complexity of Ranakpur temple is alluring.
It also boasts of being one of the five most important holy shrines of the Jains.
Factually it is not a temple but a ‘Jinalay’.
Literally ‘Jina’ means a conqueror, that is, one who has conquered the worldly passions like desire, hatred, anger, greed, pride, etc.
Jinalay therefore refers to the abode of a human being who is a spiritual victor and not a supernatural being or an incarnation of an all mighty God.
However, for the sake of convenience and familiarity, I have referred the Ranakpur Jinalay as temple in this post.
The Ranakpur temple is designed as Chaumukha (four-faced).
Built in 1439, the construction of Ranakpur temple followed a strict system of measurement based on the number 72 (the age at which the founder of Jainism, Mahavira, achieved nirvana).
The entire temple sits on a pedestal measuring 72 yards square and is held up by 1440 (72 x 20) intricately carved pillars.
Inside, there are 72 detailed carved shrines, some octagonal in shape, along with the main deity (four, 72-inch-tall images of Adinath, the first tirthankara) encased in the central sanctum. (Source)
Its roof is a cluster of spires surrounding the temple’s domes.
We were at the temple gates at 9 am. Only Indian pilgrims are allowed to enter till noon we were told.
With no Camera and mobiles allowed inside the premises till noon, we entered with all our senses opened up to experience this architectural marvel in full.
Ranakpur which is in the desert state was warm even that early in the day. But as we stepped in, it felt like a different world all together.
Soothing and quiet!
The temple is so made that the pillars allow the wind to flow creating a cooling effect. There was sufficient light inside the temple without the aid of electricity.
The entrance door is intricately carved with Pratihars – the door guardians. There are carvings of meditating Tirthankaras and dancing nymphs.
The entrance door which is rather small leads to a dimly lit staircase. As we climbed up the stairs, it led us to a bright and magnificent pillared hall, the beauty of whose interior took our breath away.
After passing through a forest of exquisitely carved pillars we reached the praying altar.
Only Indian Pilgrims are allowed in this area and photography is not allowed in this section.
The facility of guide is available only between noon and 5pm. Photogharphy is also allowed only during these hours.
Since we were staying in Ranakpur, we came back at noon for a guided tour armed with OnePlus 5T.
History of Ranakpur
Legend has it that there was a rich merchant named Dhanna Shah who dreamt of a ‘nalini-gulmavimana’, which literally means ‘pillar-cluster-flying-palace’ reserved for celestial beings.
Accomplished architects were called in but they failed to visualise the dream temple of Dhanna Shah.
Depa who was a carefree artist didn’t care much about money or sycophancy but was a lover of art.
He came up with a design which greatly pleased Dhanna Shah and thus began the construction of this temple which took 50 years to complete.
The Architectural Marvel
Ranakpur Temple is one of the many architectural marvels that India abounds in.
The temple has four separate entrances, one on each side. For tourists only the west side has been kept open. Aged and Handicapped pilgrims can access the temple from South Gate.
Each of entrances lead through a series of columned halls to a central arena.
At the central sanctum, there are four statues of Adinath, each statue facing the four directions.
ELEPHANT: On the west gate, an elephant pays homage to the deity. On his back sits Marudevi, mother of Adinath who is on her way to listen to the sermon of her son.
VIDYADEVIS – The domes have images of Ganesha, vidyadevis, musicians and dancers. The intricacy of the artwork grows as one moves from the west to north to east to south hall.
The leaf of Kalpavriksha (wish fulfilling tree) adorns the entrance of the west side.
Friezes depicting the life of the tirthliankara are etched into the walls.
The carvings are detailed and exquisite. Interestingly, no two pillars are alike in design and sculptures.
One of the intricately-carved pillars was deliberately erected at an angle with the intention of having imperfection in the otherwise perfect temple to ward off evil eye.
Carved on a single block of stone, there is a sculpture of Parshvanath, the 23rd Tirthankar in a Kayotsarga posture protected by a 1008 headed serpent.
The snakes are interlaced around the lotus pattern and it is difficult to find the tail of the snake.
On the north side of the temple is an incomplete pillar. Maharana Kumbha was enchanted by the beauty of the temple and wanted to build a pillar so spectacular that people would remember him for time immemorial.
However, when constructed beyond a certain height, the pillar would collapse.
Maharana Kumbha realised that his personal glorification was coming in his way of spiritual growth.
He left the pillar half constructed as a remembereance that no one is more powerful than the divine scheme of things.
Auctioning at the Temple
Few pilgrims sat in the prayer area. One priest could be heard saying,
‘sau maand ek’
‘Sau maand do’
There was some indistinct chatter amongst the pilgrims. Someone said,
The priest started again,
‘do sau maand ek’
‘do Sau maand do’
I could hear them bid. I could understand what sau (100) meant but Maand was confusing.
My Mother-in-law suggested it was a unit of measurement for ghee.
Curious, I asked a priest standing close by what was going on!?
He said the bidding was going on for various activities related to the temple. These biddings help in the maintenance of the temple.
The highest bidder of Aarti would get to do Aarti, the highest bidder of Ghee for ‘diya-Baati’ would donate ‘ghee’ for the diya and so on.
Maand is an old unit of measurement; one maand of ghee used to mean forty kilos.
At some point of time, forty-kilos of ghee must have been available for five rupees.
So now no matter what you are bidding for, if the priest says Maand, it means 5 times. So, for example, ‘Sau Maand’, means the bidder is bidding for 100 x 5 = Rs 500!
Other Temples in Ranakpur
The most stunning is the Parshwanath Temple, around 100m from the main temple.
Further 100m walk brings you to the simpler Neminath Temple.
Also in the vicinity is a contemporary Hindu temple dedicated to Surya.
There is yet another abandoned temple structure on the left side of the temple (there is no idol there). It’s a little steep climb but gives a good view for capturing the Temple on camera.
If you are commuting between Jodhpur and Udaipur, the Ranakpur Temple and the Kumbhalgarh Fort are worth visiting.
We reached Udaipur early morning by train. We had pre-booked a self-drive Zoom Car .
Zoom Cars are available at Rana Pratap Nagar railway station which happens to be the second railway station located in Udaipur, Rajasthan, India, besides the main Udaipur City railway station.
As a long weekend getaway from Delhi, our Itinerary looked something like this:-
Udaipur – Eklinji Mandir – Nathdwara – Ranakpur – Kumbhalgarh Leopard Safari – Kumbhalgarh – Haldi Ghati – Maharana Pratap Museum – Udaipur.
We stayed 2 nights in Ranakpur and 1 night in Kumbhalgarh.
How to Reach
- At a distance of 35 kms from Ranakpur Temple, Falna is the closest railway station. It takes almost one hour to cover this distance.
- Falna Bus Depot (RSRTC) is at an approximately 10 minutes walking distance from the Falna Railway station. You can catch a state transport bus to Ranakpur Temple from Falna Bus Depot (RSRTC), RJ SH 16, Rabariyan Mohalla.
- From the temple, the bus stand is only 100 meters far.
- Private buses and cars can go right up to the gates.
- Nearest airport is that of Udaipur which is 90 kms away and the airport of Jodhpur is 170 Kms away from this place.
- Both these cities run cab and bus services to Ranakpur via Falna. It is roughly 2 hours 30 minutes from Udaipur and 5 hours from Jodhpur.
When to Visit
Best Time to Visit – Winters – October to Mid-March is the best time to visit Ranakpur. Rajasthan in general in winters is very pleasant.
Ranakpur Festival in October attracts tourists from all over the world.
Summers in Ranakpur – Summers in Ranakpur are typically hot and dry. The maximum temperature during the season rises up to 42 degrees Celcius and should be avoided.
We were in Ranakpur towards the end of March and though the Mornings and evenings were pleasant the day was extremely warm.
Monsoon in Ranakpur – Though it hardly rains in Ranakpur but a slight drop in temperature is observed.
- Temple is open for prayers from 7am to 7pm
- Only Indians are allowed to enter from 7am to noon and 5pm to 7pm
Where to Stay
We had a pleasant stay at WelcomHeritage Maharani Bagh Orchard .
- It takes around 45 Minutes to 1 Hour to visit the temple.
- There is no entry fee unless you want to carry camera or Mobile for which you need to pay Rs. 100.
- For Video Camera and Tablet, the fees is Rs. 300/-
- As above, there is an abandoned temple structure on the left side of the temple (there is no idol there). It’s a little steep climb but gives a good view for capturing the Temple on camera.
- Though photography is allowed between noon and 5pm, taking picture of the main deity Adinath is forbidden.
- Like all other Indian Temples, you cannot enter with footwear. You need to take off your shoes at the entrance.
- Leather articles be it wallets or belts are not allowed inside the temple. You can either leave them behind in your vehicle or take lockers in the premises on rent.
- There are Audio guides available at the Ranakpur Jain Temple on payment of Rs 200. For Non-Indians this is compulsory. The Audio Guides are available in Hindi, English, French, German, Spanish and Italian.
- The priests of the temple also guide you about the temple in exchange of a small donation.
- If you wish to enter the temple, your arms and legs till knees need to be covered with cloth. Scarves are available on rent at the ticket counter.
- Aged and Handicapped pilgrims can access the temple from South Gate. Contact the security guard to guide you.
- Shrenik: Jain Tales (Amar Chitra Katha)
- Rana Kumbha (Amar Chitra Katha)
- The Rough Guide to India (Rough Guides)