It is almost impossible to describe the glory of this tirth. It is one of the rare jewels amongst all the Jain pilgrimages.
It is located in a remote and enchanting valley of the Aravalli Mountain range. As soon as you enter the gates,
the breathtaking grandeur of the Chaturmukha (four murtis facing the four directions) temple captivate you. It is placed on a lofty plint, the three-storeyed marble edifice with exquisite artistic grace is a poem in stone. It is majestic and in complete harmony with Mother Nature. The surrounding hills dwarfed by its imposing beauty appear absorbed in mute meditation.
The inspiration behind this temple was Dharana Shah who belonged to the Nandia Village. He had migrated from here to Malgadh. His father’s name was Kurpal and his mother was called Kamalde. His elder brother was called Ratanashah. They belonged to the Porwal clan.
- Came into contact with Acharya Somasundarsuriji who infused a strong spiritual inclination in his heart
- At the age of 32, he visited Shatrunjay mountains and took the austere vow of lifelong celibacy
- Was a minister in the Court of King Kumbha Rana due to his leadership, sharp intellect and keen administrative power
- Felt he should build a glorious temple of unparalleled beauty dedicated to Lord Adinath
- One night he dreamt of Nalinigulma Viman (celestial plane) and decided that the temple should resemble what he dreamt of.
- Many sculptors and renowned artists invited to design the temple, but none could even remotely capture the Minister’s dream-image. Finally, a simple and humble sculptor Depak from Mundara presented a plan which appealed to him leading to a partnership of art and devotion.
- Kumbha Rana gave him land for the temple and the town was named Ranpur (Ranakpura) after King Kumbh Rana.
- Construction of the temple began around 1380AD and after fifty years it was still not complete. Dharanashah considering his advancing age decided to install the main deity of Lord Adinath around 1440AD with the blessings of Acharya Somasundarsuriji. By 1500AD the construction is believed to have been completed.
Legend has it that Rupees 99 lacs (9.9 million) were spent at that time. Some believe that Depa challenged Dharanashah’s devotion by asking him to offer various metals and gems while laying the foundation. The vast construction was complex. The archtectural balance and symmetry of the lofty temple is mind boggling. There are various minute and delicate carvings on the various festoons (Toraṇa (तोरण) → ornamental canopy set at the entrance). It is believed that there are 1444 lofty pillars (reaching 40 feet in height) supporting the temple.
No two pillars are identical and from each pillar you can pay obeisance to a murti as all around the temple there are a total of 84 shrines with murtis of Bhagwan. 84 has a unique significance to the Jains as it implies that all humans strive for emancipation from the 8.4 millions factors conducive for life (84 lacs yoni → Yoni (योनि) which means any place of birth or origin).
Legend has it that after Dharanashah passed away Kumbha Rana wanted to complete the remaining construction with even more grandeur to show his authority over the property and to show off his superiority over Dharanashah. It is believed that every day as the pillar was being constructed at night it would fall down. The incomplete pillar depicts how pride and ego is dreadful and nullifies all good done. All four domes have Goddess Saraswati with Ganesh attached to her feet.
There are four entrances to the temple. On one pillar, there is a small unassuming carved image of Dharanashah (figure standing with folded hands)
There is also a figure of Depak (figure holding a long ruler in one hand and a pot of water in the other) facing the Lord.
The domes and ceilings have innumerable carvings depciting the various incidents of the Lord in the past. One gets mesmerised walking around the temple with utmost devotion and oblivious to time and space. On one of the stone slabs there is Sahasrafana (snake with thousand hoods) Parsvanath.
There is a sacred “Omkar” intricately engraved on the ceiling (it is called kalpavalli and looks like leafy garlands but on closer examination you can observe the sacred OM symbol).
In the north of the temple, there is a Rayan tree with footprints of Lord Adinath replicating what is at Shatrunjay.
The temple is three storeys. There are also underground cellars to preserve the sacred idols in the event of a crisis. A popular aphorism amongst the Jains is “Carvings of Abu and Structural Architecture of Ranakpura are unique”. The temple covers an area of 48000 square feet. It is thought that it took 2500 craftsmen more than 50 years to build. They dug foundations 10 feet deep to sustain the colossal structure. There is a statue of Lord Adinath’s mother, Mata Marudevi, seated on the back of the elephant and facing the image of her son Lord Adinath in the central altar.
There are two solid ghants (Ghaṇṭā घण्टा) bells next to the main temple weighing around 250kgs each. When struck simultaneously one can hear the “OM” sound as far as 3kms away the local claim.
For many years this temple was desolete due to destruction by foreign invaders, danger from wild animals and dacoits. In 1897AD the administration of the temple was handed over to Anandji Kalyanji Pedhi.
There are other temples in the temple complex dedicated to Lord Neminath and Lord Parsvanath.
The quintessence of this masterpiece temple is difficult to express in words.
1. Some photos from World Orgs
2. Ranakpura Tirth Booklet