Surrounded by river Koyal on three sides in the west and located at a distance of about 65 km. from Udaipur on way to Ahmedabad is the small town of Rishabhdeo. The main idol in the ancient temple is that of Lord Rishabhdeo. On the occasion of the birthday of the Lord on Chaitya Krishna Asthami is held a huge fair that attracts lacs of devotees from not only places such as Bagidara, Pratapgarh and Dhariawad but also other states like Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.
Another name of the temple Kesariyaji makes it a special temple of Rishabhdeo. Devotees offer ‘kesar’ as it is felt that saffron is extremely pure, good for health and has a sweet fragrance. It also makes the stone of the idol stronger. It not only saves the atmosphere from pollution but creates a feeling of elation among worshippers. It is also believed that gods shower ‘kesar’ here every day. The main idol of Rishabhdeo has a carving of a bunch of hair (‘kes’ or ‘kesh’) from which the temple gets its name. Its another name is Kalaji temple as the idol is made of black stone. Dhulev is its yet another name. May be it is because it is believed that a villager name Dhoolia had seen the idol of the Lord at the spot in a dream.
About the ancient temple, no documents are available. According to historians, the idol was brought from the ancient capital of Vagad Pradesh Vatpadrak, Baroda town in present Dungarpur district, that was once a big centre of Jainism. According to another version it was shifted from Jawas or Khunadari village that used to be a state of Mewar for reasons of safety. The temple is believed to have been built in the second century with unbaked earthen bricks and was built again with ‘pareva’ stone in the eight century.
Considered to be a highly sacred place by different communities such as Digambar and Swetambar Jain Sects, Shaivas, Vaishnavas, Bhils and others, the temple is a living symbol of communal harmony. It is a big pilgrimage site for Hindus as they consider the deity to be one of the nine incarnations of Lord Vishnu. As also for Jains who consider it to be of the first of their twenty for Tirthankar’s. The Bhils also have a great reverance for Kesariaji.
Placed on a 1.5 ft. high seat is the attractive 3.5 feet high idol of Lord Rishabhdeo in black stone in the inner part of the temple. There are nine small Jin idols which are the forms of Navagraha as also depiction of sixteen dreams. On the sides and upper part of the idol is the attractive throne with the idols of the 13 Tirthankar’s that are made of metal. Except the throne, the inner temple and its door are coated with silver.
One comes to a chowk after entering through the first door of the Nakkarkhana. One has the darshan of Padmawati in the south and of Chakreshwari Devi in the north. To reach the main temple one has to climb up ten stairs. Another three steps take one to Nau Chouki Mandap that gets its name as it rests on nine pillars. On entering the third gate, comes Rang Mandap and connected to it is Garbhaagrah. The domes over artistic ‘Shikhars’, Rangmandap and Nau Chowk are very attractive. The divine, singing and dancing forms, ‘apsaras’ and other figures carved on the outer walls are really exquisite.
There are Hindu temples of Charbhujaji and Eklingji on the other side of the outer ‘parikrama’ of the temple. The former is on the left temple of that of Eklingji is at the back.
In the morning at about 7.30 there is ‘abhishek’ of the idol with water and then with milk. Water is used again and the idol is dried with cloth.
This is followed by Dhoop Khewan (incense) and ‘poojan’ with kesar and flowers. Then at about 2 in the afternoon this whole process is repeated. In the evening is done ‘aangidharan’ that is worn till 8 pm.
Days in advance of the famous fair that attracted tourists not only from nearby places but also from distant ones in states such as Maharastra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, shopkeeper from different places started setting up shops at the fair site. Cosmetic items and objects made of plaster of paris were in great demand. Arms such as bows and arrows were also sold in large number as the fair is attended by a huge number of tribals. Swings for children, ‘doller chakri’ and magic shows attracted big number of devotees. Some religious organizations distributed free food to the pilgrims. The presence of rural tribal folk dressed in traditional costumes and dancing on folk music is a special attraction of the fair
With the sounding of a buzzer in the temple at about 6.30 in the morning and the firing of twenty one canons by the ‘jawans’ of the temple force, the gates of the Mandir were thrown open to devotees for ‘Mangladarshan Pooja. They gathered outside the main gate of the temple after a bath in the nearby Koyal river, Surajkund, and ‘baoris’ near Paglyaji. The men were dressed in ‘dhoti’ and ‘pachewadi’ and women wore ‘abotiyan’. Abhishek with water, milk and saffron was performed. Bids were invited for ‘dhwajarohan’ that was done just after midday. Tastefully decorated with flowers, fruits etc. the chariot with the idol of Rishabhdeo was taken to the main gate with the playing of religious songs by the band of Bhandar Dhulev. Gun Salutes were also given. The 80-year old ‘ratha’ is made of 50 kg. silver and has 2 silver horses in the front. It is drawn by devotees. Passing through the main streets Rishabh Chowk, Johri Bazar, Sadar Bazar, Nehru Bazar and Hospital Road, the big procession reached Paglyaji. Devotees kept singing and dancing all along the way. For ‘pooja archana’ bids were invited. At about 8 pm the procession returned to the temple where it was welcomed by firing of guns. Jannakalyan and Mangal Deepak Aarti were performed at midnight. The Rishabhdeo fair is not only a big religious congregration but also showcases the rich folk culture of Mewar.