‘Waahhhh!!’, yelled a nine-month-old Akash. His loud bawling echoed through the multi-colonnaded Ranakpur Jain temple sending flocks of pigeons flying away in alarm. We were in Rajasthan, on a day trip from Udaipur and I had planned that India trip around this magnificent Jain temple. It was on my wish list for a very long time and I finally managed to include it on that trip. Now, it seemed that a crying baby was marring it all until I put him down. The touch of the soft weathered marble strangely soothed him and after that, baby Akash crawled all over the temple under the watchful eyes of his mother. I believe that some places have a certain magical aura; some kind of magic that you feel instantly the moment you step in. Ranakpur Jain temple had that aura and the entire time I spent there, I felt an intense peace enveloping me. It was not just the exquisite beauty of the temple but something special that even a baby felt.
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A morning drive to Ranakpur
For that special day trip, we based ourselves in Udaipur. We spent a few days enjoying slow travel there and on the last day, we planned a day trip for Kumbhalgarh and Ranakpur. A rented car was hired for this trip and we left Udaipur in the morning. The traffic was light and the drive through the Pali countryside was delightful. It is hilly terrain with a dense cover of semi-arid forests and monsoons see the region burst forth in wildflowers. On that winter morning, although there was no wildflower, a silvery gauzy veil of mist hung over the land. Flocks of birds flew from hill to hill and specks of neon green of parrots stood out against the denser green of the trees. Little farms lay between the hills and neat squares of agricultural land stretched to the hills. Old fashioned wooden water wheels rotated in tiny streams and a young river sparkled in the bright morning sun.
The patrons of Ranakpur
Ranakpur Jain temple was already buzzing with people when we arrived and the parking area was half full. Touted as the holiest place for the Jain community, Ranakpur temple is located in the Pali district of Rajasthan around 93 Km from Udaipur. Dedicated to Lord Adinatha, this complex was built in the 15th century by a Jain businessman Seth Dharna Shah with the aid of Rana Kumbha, who ruled Mewar during that time. As a mark of gratitude, the temple was named after the Rajput monarch and till today, it remains one of the five major Jain pilgrimage sites. Apart from its religious importance, Ranakpur Temple is also famous far and wide for its architectural beauty and exquisite carvings.
An architectural gem
Built over 40,000sq feet of land, the temple complex rests on 1,444 pillars and it is believed that the carvings of no two pillars are alike. Wholly constructed in a light white or cream coloured marble, the complex comprises several temples. These include the Chaumukha temple, Parsavanath temple, Amba Mata Temple, and Surya Temple. The Chaumukha Temple is the most important and it is dedicated to Lord Adinath, who is the first ‘Tirthankara’ of the Jains. The image of Adinath is positioned in the main hall and it is surrounded by many small shrines and domes. The Ranakpur temple complex boasts of additional four shrines, twenty-four pillared halls with eight domes that are supported by four hundred columns. The temple ceilings are decorated with intricate foliate scrollwork and geometric patterns. The two parts of the domes – the upper and lower parts – are linked with brackets that are heavily embellished with sculptures of different deities.
The stunning details of the Ranakpur temple complex
Delicately engraved nymphs playing the flute in various dance postures peep from all corners and the details of the carvings of Ranakpur temple will leave you spellbound. Every inch of this complex is intricately carved and you can almost feel the deep love and faith that has gone into the making of this architectural gem. The sun rays filtering through the multitude of columns render the interiors an almost unreal look and this clever play of light also makes the columns change colour. Depending on the time of the day, the columns look dazzling white, golden, or pale blue and the mandapa or the prayer hall has two big bells of 108 kg each that produce a harmonious sound on the slightest movement. The whole atmosphere of Ranakpur temple is one of complete harmony and the peace you find there despite the crowd is almost divine.
The patron and an artist
With so many architectural details, it is no wonder that the Ranakpur Temple complex took almost 65 years to complete. According to legends, one night, Dharna Shah saw the vision of a temple in his dream and he decided that his complex should resemble that divine construction. He invited many renowned artists and sculptors from far and wide to submit their plans and designs. However, none captured even the essence of the great man’s dream and he slowly grew despondent. Then, at last, an idealist poor sculptor called Deepak from Mundara presented Dharna Shah with a plan that seemed to make the patron’s dream come true on the blueprint.
A Jain temple or a dream come true
Deepak and Dharna Shah made a great team. The artist was a conscientious man who set a high value to his art and preferred poverty to servitude. Dharna Shah too was a profoundly devout man who sought spirituality and wisdom. Thus began the construction of this magnificent complex in 1446 and approximately ninety-nine lakhs of rupees were spent on the project. The patron and the artist seemed to have spent every inch of their spiritualism and creativity in the temples and as you look around at the magnificent carvings that surround you from everywhere, you can almost feel their devotion. The carvings, the light, the sculptures, and the pillars transcend you to another space and you can sense the artist feeling light and spent after the completion of the temple. His spirit seemed to have got mixed with the temple and you can almost feel the joy with which Deepak must have created his masterpiece. Also exquisitely carved and worth visiting are the two other Jain temples, dedicated to Neminath (the 22nd tirthankar) and Parasnath (the 23rd tirthankar). Both these temples are within the complex and there is a Sun Temple nearby.
Ranakpur Jain Temple Travel Guide
On the western slopes of the Aravalli Hills, around 93km northwest of Udaipur, and 12km west of Kumbhalgarh lies the Ranakpur, one of the most beautiful and important Jain temples in India.
How to Reach
Ranakpur is easily accessible by car and bus. The closest airport is Udaipur Domestic Airport and the distance from Udaipur to Ranakpur Temple is 93 kilometers. It is approximately a 2.5-hour drive. The closest railway station is in Falna, which is 36 kilometers away. One can even take a drive down from Jodhpur or Jaipur 156 kilometers and 357 kilometers respectively.
- Distance to Udaipur – 93 km (2.5 hours)
- Distance to Jodhpur – 156 km (3 hours)
- Distance to Jaipur – 357 km (5 hours)
What is the Best Time to Visit Ranakpur Jain Temple?
The winter months of October to March are the best time to visit this Jain temple.
Things to remember when visiting Ranakpur Temple
- This is a religious complex and modest clothing is mandatory. Bare shoulders and shorts are prohibited. Scarves are available for a small fee at the ticket counter.
- Leather items like wallets, shoes, etc are not allowed inside the temple. Lockers are available outside the temple for keeping them safe. The locker fee is 10 INR. Alternatively, you can leave them in your vehicle.
- The priests inside the temple are very helpful and help the guides. They are well-versed in French and other foreign languages. However, they expect a ‘donation’ for their services.
- Menstruating women are asked not to enter the temple premises.
- Audio guides are now available in different languages.
Ranakpur Temple is open every day. Tourists are allowed to enter the temple from 12:00 pm to 5:00 pm. The temple is open for prayer prior to 12:00 pm.
Entrance Fee and other expenses
- Indians – free
- Foreigners – 200 INR
- Camera or cell phone charges – 100 INR
Follow the rest of the Rajasthan series
- SHEKHAWATI TEASER
- THE PAINTED HAVELIS OF MANDAWA
- SONE CHANDI KI DUKAN IN MAHANSAR
- THE FATEHPUR PAINTED MANSIONS
- THE CROWN JEWEL OF NAWALGARH
- HOW TO VISIT THE PAINTED HAVELIS OF SHEKHAWATI
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE