Route and Site
There are two routes or tourist circuits for Ranakpur (Ranakpore):
1. Udaipur to RanaKpur – Via Gogunda Sayra
This distance from Gogunda is only 100 km. Gogunda is the highest town, except Mt. Abu, of Rajasthan, with fine climate and closely associated with the life of Maharana Pratap. While passing for Gogunda, Iswal is the turning point towards Haldi Ghati and Kumbhal Garh. In the course to Ranakpur there are many spots where we can see the traditional harvesting and irrigation system. This route is good for real rural tourism.
The Chow-mukha (four faced) temple, also called Trai-lokya Depak at the time of its foundation, is the main tample of the group. It was got constructed by one Dharna Shah, Porwal Jain by caste, during the reign of Rana Kumbha of Mewar in 1439 A.D. for which a piece of land was obtained from the Rana. The original word ‘Ranpur, of which the current ‘Ranakpur’ is a changed form, consists of two words, viz, ‘Ran’ (to connote Rana Kumbha) + ‘pur’ (to connote ‘Porwar’ to which sect Dharna Shah belonged). Rana Kumbha, who was a great lover of art and architecture is also said to have contributed financially to the construction of the temple.
This Ranakpur region was a part of Mewar during the reign of Rana Kumbha, and hence, this association of the Rana with the temple. Though no correct idea could be gathered about the total cost of its construction, yet, it can conveniently be assessed in figures of several lakhs of rupees in. the terms of maney-value of the time as back as five hundred years.,This group of Ranakpur temples is an important teertha (place of pilgrimage) of the Jain punch teertha of this region (popularly called Godwad region).
The other four places of pilgrimage are Mushala Mahavir, Narlai, Nadolgram and Verkana. Other temples of the Ranakpur group are the temples of Neminathji and Parasnathji in front of the Chow-mukha temple. The exterior part of Parasnathji’s temple contains many erotic scenes sculptured on stone. Another Surya (Sun-God) temple is in ruins. Facilities for boarding & lodging for pilgrims are available within the premises of the temple. For the tourists there are many good resorts in Ranakpur.
Art and Architecture
The Chow-mukha temple is dedicated to Lord Rishabhnathji or Adinathji, the first Jain Teerthankar. The temple is three storeyed and constructed on a huge and lofty basement of 48000 sq. ft. This area of the basement, as an English expert has said, is sufficient to accommodate a college of Oxford. Of the four gates of the temple, each opens in each direction, but the main gate is on the west with spacious open ground in the front. There are 24 , mandaps of various sizes and 44 gracefully rising devkulikas (spires) imparting sobriety and sublimity to the whole structural mass of the temple. The sobriety and sublimity are further enhanced by the five grand shikhars (large domes on sanctuaries) majestically rising behind the array of devkulikas.
On entering the temple one is placed in the serene and devotion inspiring atmosphere and galaxy of fabulously rich art and architecture. The whole sculpture of the temple handled with delicacy and details appears to be a manifestation of magic of the sculptor’s masterly chisel. It bewilders one’s imagination to see as many as 1444 massive pillars containing sculptural decoration on which the whole heavy mass of the temple has been resting securely in peace for the last five hundred years. A notable peculiarity about the pillars is that no two pillars are exactly alike. The overall impression the temple leaves on the soul and mind of a visitor is that the whole beauty appears personified and stooped—and so the visitor—in complete calmness and devotion to her gracious Lord.
Another peculiarity about the temple is that its exterior is studded with erotic poses carved on stone. But. this aspect of the sculpture is to be understood properly in the context of the philosophy of Jainism which preaches in aversion for and renunciation of, the worldly life full of miseries. There- fore, keeping in view this cardinal principle of Jainism, these erotic carvings are to be interpreted as intended for creating aversion for this worldly life to secure ultimately the renunciation of the same.
Though, on account of its secluded location, the temple has been left quite undisturbed by foreign sacks, yet, it could not unfortunately escape the notice of Aurangzeb whose iconoclastic fit impressed its vestiges on some of its idols whose limbs are consequently found mutilated. How - ever, the structural grandeur of the whole massive and expansive edifice of the temple coupled with the superb beauty of art and architecture sometimes conspires to claim superiority over Delwara temples of Mt. Abu.
To sum up, the structural grandeur, sculptural dexterity and artistic and religious catholicity of the temple—all present an amazingly unequalled blend of all that human soul and mind could feel, conceive and produce in the field of art and architecture in that age. To quote Mr. Furgusson, the engineer-historian, “The internal effect of this forest of columns may be gathered from the view (wood-cut No. 134) taken across one of its courts, but it is impossible that any view can reproduce the endless variety of perspective and the play of light and the shade which results from the disposition of the pillars and of the domes and from the mode in which the light is introduced.
“I know of no other building in India, of the same class, that leaves so pleasing an impression or affords so many hints for the graceful arrangement of columns in an interior.”On account of the solitary and secluded location of the temple and lack of handy literature therefor, it, for its architectural grandeur and sculptural richness, is comparatively less known to the outer world, though mostly Jain tourists visit it for the darshan of Lord Rishabhnath. Therefore, a visit to this place will be, for the visitor, more or less a sort of discovery of the treasure of art and architecture imparting glory to this solitarily wooded land.