February 23, 2024

A morning at Ranakpur


A couple of years ago, I was in Udaipur during winter, staying with an extremely warm and friendly family at their homestay. My host was perplexed when I wanted to see the Ranakpur temple, and suggested other “sightseeing” options around the area, and if I must see temples, then why not these and those Hindu temples? But I had seen photographs, and was sure Ranakpur was what I wanted to see.

I started early one morning, hoping to come back before the day got too hot. The town of Ranakpur is 95 km far from Udaipur, a couple of hours by car. The temple façade itself is beautiful, and I was not expecting to see the grand and imposing structure that I saw. I read later that the Ranakpur temple is the best of the Jain temples in Rajasthan (and the country, I guess), even grander than the Dilwara temples at Mt. Abu, although not as famous. That is good in a way, I suppose, since it keeps the loud weekend vacationing crowds away.

Now, guidebooks say that the temple opens at 7 AM, but I knew only after reaching there that entry for non-Jains was only after 12 noon, after the morning’s pooja and ceremonies were over. I had, thus, over three hours to kill, and spent some time wandering around the complex. There are a couple of other small shrines inside the complex that you can visit; if I remember right, Parsavanath, Surya, and some form of Amba. I also chatted with the locals who had come for prayers, as always trying to take candid portraits, making them giggle and blush.

Finally, at noon, I walked inside. The temple interior was stunning. The carvings were lush and intricate, covering every inch of the temple, built in the 15th century with cream-coloured marble that has a slightly golden glow. In the hour or so that I spent inside, I felt like the pillars were changing colour constantly, depending on the amount of light falling on them.

As I stood looking around in awe, a priest saw me and offered to take me around. It seemed like every statue, every pillar, every corner of this temple has its own story, and I found it difficult to keep track of them all. The temple is said to have 24 pillared halls, and a total of over 1,400 pillars supporting the roof. Then, there are the countless statues, each of them facing another statue.

There are a few stay options in the area, including an RTDC resort. It is, however, better to stay in a hotel in Udaipur or Kumbalgarh, since there is nothing else to do in Ranakpur. The temple has a bhojanshala (dining hall), which serves very simple but delicious food that, if I remember right, is free or comes at a nominal cost.

The Girl Next Door asked me for a guest post on her lovely blog and I wrote this for her. She also made a nice collage of the pics I had sent her for the post. I like her thoughts on life and books and the cities she lives in and has lived in. Go read her blog if you haven’t yet…

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