With origins in the 6th century in the era of King Vatsaraja, several Jain temples were built around the 11th to the 14th century under the dynasties of Chauhan, Gohil and Parmar. By the 15th century, Rajasthan was firmly established as the indispensable pilgrimage destination for Jains under the patronage of the rulers of Jaisalmer, Dungarpur and Mewar and the support of resourceful members of the Marwari community.
Of these, the Ranakpur temple in the Pali district of Rajasthan was built in the 15th century by a Jain businessman Dharma Shah inspired by a divine vision. The royal patronage of the local ruler Rana Kumbha greatly facilitated this endeavor. The Rana also patronized the construction of three other Jain temples – the Bavan Deola that has 52 rooms, the Golera Jain temple famed for its exquisite carvings and the third temple that houses an ancient idol of a Jain in marble believed to be installed in 1551 AD.
This colossal complex took 65 years to be constructed. Primarily dedicated to Adinath Tirthankar, the main temple in the complex is the Chaumukha temple symbolizing the four cardinal directions of the cosmos. The creative genius of the carvings is evident in that none that adorn the marble pillars numbering more than 1444 are alike.
The engraved nymphs striking dance poses is not surprising as the Adinath is believed to have taught seventy sciences that include the dance, music and visual arts. The cosmic symphony resonates in the two bells each weighing around 108 kg in the main prayer hall.The ceilings of the temple are decked with geometric designs and scrollwork.
Do not miss the 108 snake heads carved on a single marble piece. And do notice the effect of light in the changing colour of the pillars. The Ranakpur complex also includes the temples to Neminath (the 22nd Tirthankar), Parsvnath (the 23rd Tirthankar), Amba Mata and Lord Surya.
So … quench your soul’s thirst, feed your aesthetic senses, breathe in the Ranakpur temple and be one with the cosmos.