Ranakpur JAIN TEMPLES is one of the five holy Jain sites and a popular pilgrimage centre. The temples are only open for Jains in the mornings and tourists are not allowed in until after lunch. When we arrived the huge car park was full of coaches and cars.
The temple complex is set in beautiful grounds surrounded by the Aravali Hills.
We followed the crowds to CHAUMUKHA MANDIR TEMPLE first. This is the biggest and the best of the temples and is huge. It was built in the 15thC and stands on a massive plinth covering 1000 square meters. The temple is surrounded by an outer wall and has 4 main entrances. It is a complicated series of separate halls with domes held up by 1444 highly carved pillars (no, we didn't count them).
We took off our shoes and climbed the steep steps to ‘security’ who were checking bumbags for food, drinks and cigarettes. Any found were confiscated and there is no point in arguing. The guards also wanted to see a camera pass. No one was allowed inside with a camera unless they had a pass. You can take pictures inside the temple but not of the gods. Inside the temple there were many security guards who were watching visitors and blew a whistle if they thought anyone was trying to take pictures of the gods.
We could hardly move inside the main doorway but lost the crowds as soon as we walked round the sides of the temple.
There is a walkway round the outer wall with tiny shrines built against wall. The pillars are all beautifully carved with gods, flowers, elephants, birds and decorative friezes which supported the domed roof. There were hanging carved ‘pendants’ from the roof. The smaller domes were all beautifully carved and each one looked different. Some had beautifully carved lotus flowers. There were large carved elephants by some entrances.
The large central shrine had a god (Adinath) facing each of the entrances. The gods have piercing silver and black oval shaped eyes which seem to follow you everywhere.
A monk was busy putting silver leaf on one of the smaller gods carved by the side of the central shrine. He offered incense smoke to the god once he had finished. A monk came to welcome us and put a yellow spot on our forehead (and collect a donation).
A large group of school children arrived and went in single file to the main shrine, had a quick look at Adinath, walked round the shrine and then out again.
By time we had finished in temple and taken all our photographs, the crowds had gone.
We stopped to have a look at the smaller SURYA NARAYAN TEMPLE on the way back to the car park. This was highly carved outside with goddesses and Brahma (recognised by his long beard) and another male god with short beard holding a severed head. Inside was a small shrine area beneath high dome.
Ranakpur is the centre for Dhurrie Weaving and there are several small workshops with displays of carpets hanging on the fence outside. Dhurries are the traditional mats used throughout the area. I think this may have been our ‘shopping trip.’ We watched a cotton carpet being woven. We were offered a cup of char and then shown examples of the finished carpets. Woollen carpets are thick and last for 50-60 years. Cotton carpets are thinner, can be washed but only last for 30 years. Cotton and silk looked luxurious but wore less well.
Our pictures of Ranakpur can be seen here.