I expected this temple to be more of a simple old Jain Temple. however did not expect it to carry the legacy of the Jain architecture of post Ellora period. We probably have carried the rains from Pune, and Udaipur was a leak in the clouds. It was pounding and to some extent, spoilt our trip. The plan for the day was to visit the Kumbhalgarh Fort and then visit the Jain temple at Ranakpur. We were late and reached the Sukhadia Circle in Udaipur at around 10 AM.
We were staying the Banjara Hostel near Jagdish Mandir, and the road would be blocked for any 4 or above wheeled vehicles from 7 AM. We took a tum-tum or an auto and went to the designated location. Our driver. Mr. Pratap Singh was ready for us. We had a Kulhad Chai at the Sukhadia Circle. Whatever you google on the best Chai points in Udaipur is all farce. The tea at the Circle Tea stall, Sukhadia Circle is very average (we had it the next day) and you can get the best Malai Milk and Rabdi near to Jadagish Mandir.
We started off to Kumbhalgarh which was the original destination. The rain was pounding. However. after we started we became aware that the road to Kumbhalgarh was water logged and not safe to cross. We then decided that we will just visit the Jain temple and return back to Udaipur. An informed decision is to be taken after visiting the Ranakpur Jain Temple. Once we left the city. it was all good roads. There was a place where the rain water was flowing from the rocks above making it a waterfall and beautiful to watch. We did not stop and this annoyed Srivadana a lot. I promised her that we will stop here during the return. We proceeded ahead and entered into a Ghat Section (roads through hills/mountains).
The road to Ranakpur was extremely picturesque and we had to go downhill into the forest area. On the way, we came across many pilgrims visiting the Ramdev Mandir in Jaisalmer. The pilgrims actually walk from various places in Rajasthan till Jaisalmer converging in Pali. This is similar to the ones held in Maharashtra. We finally reached the Jain temple at around 1 PM.
There are some rules which all visitors must follow. No one is allowed with shorts / half pants / sleeveless shirts. There is a provision at the premises where clothes can be rented with a nominal fee of 20 INR per person. For each photography device (DSLR, Mobile etc. ) 100 INR is charged. So carry only those phones which are intended to click pictures. There is a locker facility with a nominal charge of 10 INR. There is no other entrance fee.
The first glimpse of the temple will take your breath away. It is set in the picturesque surroundings of the Aravali ranges, presenting a blend of religious architecture with that of nature’s scenic splendor. This chau-mukha (Four-Faced) temple is also called ‘Trailokya Deepak’ at the time of its foundation. It was constructed by Dharna Shah who was encouraged by the warrior, administrator and great builder Rana Kumbha of Mewar in the year 1439 A.D. An inscription on a pillar states that Deepak is the builder of this temple, and did so at the behest of a devout worshipper.
One needs to enter from it’s wide side with stairs in the middle. Magnificent towers stretch from side to side which elevates the look. The temple is three storeyed and constructed on a huge basement of 48,000 Sql Ft. It has four subsidiary shrines and eighty domes supported by 400 columns. There are 24 mantapas and 44 spires imparting majesty and sublimity to the whole structural mass of the temple. Five large domes on sanctuaries add to its grandeur. The temple has the appearance of a forest of pillars if viewed from an ascent. Though built in the 15th century, it gives an appearance of a newly built temple.
On stepping inside the main shrine, one feels absorbed by the atmosphere all around and is struck by the sculptural perfection. One is amazed to see the heavy mass of structure, standing in perfect condition on 1,444 pillars for the last 500 years. No two pillars are exactly the same. And it is also said that it is extremely difficult to count the pillars and one tends to find one less or more. It is amazing to note that there is no place in the whole complex there is artificial lighting. Every corner is naturally illuminated and and ventilated.
Another striking feature is the perfect imperfection of one of the pillars in this whole temple. You will notice that it is slightly slanted to the right. The exuberance and splendor of these shrines has attracted critics and they have praised of them eloquently. In the words of Fergusson, ‘I know of no other building in India, of the same class, that leave so pleasing an impression or affords so many hints for the grateful arrangement of columns n an interior’.
There are some extremely beautiful sculptures and their designs are rarely replicated in other temples.
In spite of its secluded location and protection, provided by a natural hill, the temple could not escape the fury of Aurangzeb. It is said that Aurangzeb, though marching in a great hurry on this route purposely stopped for some time to mark his presence in this shrine by mutilating and defacing the artistic and beautiful pieces of sculptural architecture.