Located at a distance of about 90 Kms. from Udaipur on the border of Pali district in Jodhpur division, is the famous beautifully sculptured Jain temple at Ranakpur in a tranquil valley of the Aravali range. Surrounded by the sylvan valley, the land for the famous temple was given to the Jains by Mewar ruler Maharana Kumbha in the 15th century. The Jain community like several others had always enjoyed the patronage of  the rulers of Mewar and quite a few important positions in the administration were held by persons of the community. The Maharanas were also supportive of the temple-building activities of the Jains. The temple was named Ranakpur and has become one of the five important holy places of the Jains. Considered to be one of the most massive buildings and with exquisitive architectural beauty, the temple covers an area of about 40,000 sq.ft. It is said that about 600 years ago in 1446 Vikram Samvat started the construction of this temple and about Rs. 99 lac were spent on its completion in more than 50 years.

          The awesome temple came into existence due to the vision and efforts of Dharanshah, a Minister of Maharana Kumbha one of the erstwhile rulers of the neighbouring kingdom of Kumbhalgarh in Mewar, Maharana Kumbha was a valiant and devout king who was open to developmental projects in this area. It is said that Dharanshah came in contact with the famous 25th century Acharya Somasunderji and was deeply impressed by his teachings and guidance. Later on, at the age of 32, when he visited a Jain temple Shatrunjaya, the foremost among Jain- pilgrimages, he took a vow of life-long celibacy and at the same time to build a temple for the ‘tirthankar’ Rishabhadeva which he resolved would be without parallel in beauty.

          Soon after one night, he dreamt of Nalinigulma Viman, which is considered to be most beautiful among the celestial planes. He began the search for the right architect who could transform his dream-image and give it an earthly form. Several artists and sculptors submitted blueprints, but none came close to what he had visualised. Then came along Depaka, who was an eccentric and headstrong sculptor. He was not to be easily swayed by money and the like as he placed high value on his art. Impressed by his plan as well as attitude to life, Dharanshah deided to assign the task to him. Depaka was deeply touched by the devotion and commitment of Dharnashah and painstakingly and with utmost devotion created the riveting rhapsody in stone. Dharanshah then approached Maharana Kumbha to give him enough land to convert his dream into reality. A great patron of art and architecture, the Maharana readily agreed. The site of the old village of Magdi in the valley of Mount Magdi was selected as the venue. According to the wish of the Rana, construction work begun simultaneously on the temple as well as on the establishment of a town in the neighbourhood. As a mark of respect to the Rana, the place was named Ranpur, which later on began also to be called Ranakpur.

          The construction of the temple took a good 50 years by which time Dharnashah had become quite old and due to his failing health, decided to had the main deity installed in the temple. In spite of the complexity, the vast expanse and loftiness of the temple, its symmetry and architectural balance were not affected at all.

          Not a single part of the temple has been neglected, not any one corner is less attractive than the other. Not a single part of the temple is neglected.  Each little nook and corner has been endowed with a sort of a spiritual light as if each artisan has put in a little bit of his soul in this divine creation. The creative genius of man, especially when he is spiritually driven, is manifest here in all its ecstasy, literally overwhelming one by the sheer intricacies.

          Dedicated to Adinath, the first Jain Tirthankar is the main Chamukha Temple constructed on an extensive platform, this three-storey temple is most complex and intricate in design. It has 29 halls, 84 domes and 144 pillars. What is worth noticing is the fact that no two pillars are identical. There is most intricate carving on each pillar. The grace with which these pillars are arranged, the tasteful admixture of domes having different heights with flat ceilings, and the mode in which light is introduced, combine  to produce an excellent effect. With equal delicacy is carved, not only the pillars but also every conceivable surface.  In front of the main temple, is a Shrine of Lord Parashavanath which has the image of the Tirthankar in the inner sanctum. The entire temple is encircled with corridor having images of the Tirthankars. There are four artistic entrances to the temple with four white marble images of Lord Adinath, about 72 inches tall facing the four entrances of the temple.

          Within the complex, there is a Surya Mandir, here the depiction of seven horses of the Sun about sixty times is extremely fascinating. Outside the door of the main temple is an idol of Ganpati that has four idols of  other gods including Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. Besides this is Gaj Samuha engaged in battle.

Opposite the temple is Tiranthkar Nature Trail dedicated to Jain

Teerthankars that is persons who propound the teachings of true

religion and work towards the salvation of oneself as well as others. The trail is about four kms long and represents the rich Aravali eco

system. Nineteen of the twentythree Tirthankars adopted natural objects as their symbols. They attained enlightment while meditating under some particular tree. Along the natural trail have been planted

different species of such trees. Biography of each Tiranthakar along with the tree and symbol associated with him have been displayed. The aim of all this is to highlight their love for trees and in turn create awareness about preservation of nature among others.

                         The temple was ruined with passage of time due to natural calamities and foreign invasions. The renovation started in 1923 and continued till 1944.  After renovation Pratishtha took place again in 1952.

With the aim to lure a larger number of tourists both Indian and foreign to visit Ranakpur and get a taste of Indian, especially, Rajasthani culture, a two-day festival is organized here every year.

          Renowned the world over for its excellent sculpture and exquisite architecture, this temple is one of the five main pilgrimage centres of the Jains.

                                                            ASHOK  MATHUR

Q Road, 194, Bhupalpura, Udaipur (Raj.)

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