Ranakpur, an amazing Jain temple in the middle of the forest

Our next stop is Ranakpur, about two thirds on the way from Jodhpur to Udaipur. Driving in India includes dodging stray cows, trucks overloaded with hay, and people driving on the wrong side of the road. And then there are the occassional processions with walking people on the highway. Life on the road in India is never dull!

We stop for lunch at the Ranakpur Safari Resort. The resort is another heritage place, rustic and relaxed. You get the feel you parked your landcover outside, next to your polo pony.

We are definitely out of the desert now, driving through forested areas and alongside and across rivers. We are climbing up into the hills towards Udaipur. The road become winding and narrow, along the west side of the Aravalli Range, and we drive through valleys and over mountain passes.

Countryside on the foothills of the Aravalli Range, Rajasthan

There are a lot of monkeys along the road, and they are not afraid of the cars at all. At one point an entire group climbs on our minivan and tries to get inside through partial open windows. Although looking cute, these are still wild animals, and a bite from one would end up in a nasty wound and a hospital visit.

Langurs (monkeys)

There are a number of things to do in Ranakpur and its surrounding area, but the most popular is a visit to the 15th century Jain temple; Sheth Anandji Kalyanji (also called the Chaumukha Mandir, the four faced temple). This temple was built in a light coloured marble and is one of the best examples of Jain architecture.

Constructed in the middle of the forest, this three story temple consists of 1444 marble pillars, 426 columns, 80 domes, 29 halls, and has many amazingly detailed carvings.

Sheth Anandji Kayanji, Jain temple in Ranakpur

You need to be modestly dressed and take your shoes off. There is an area to store bags, shoes, any type of food and any items made of leather (belt, wallet, etc!) which are not allowed in the temple.

This temple is considered one of the five holiest Jain shrines in India, and draws many pilgrims as well as tourists.

Central Hall with a Jain priest in yellow garments

When paying the entrance fee, you get an audio guide which takes you from point to point. Again, I like to follow the guide whereas Mike enjoys walking around by himself. There is something to say for that; the atmosphere is so relaxing, and I definitely recommend to take time tout o just sit and observe, turn the audio tape on pause. Just soaking up the peace and quiet, listen to the sounds of temple life, sitting on the cool marble in the shade.

One of the domes

Jainism is an ancient Indian religion, focussing on acquiring perfect knowledge of self and universe as well as perfect joy, through extrasensory means. It dates back to around 800 BCE, making it one of the world’s oldest religions. Followers take five vows; non-violence (in speech, thought and action), speak the truth, not stealing, celibacy (for monks and nuns, or faithfulness for laypersons), and non-possessiveness.

Non-voilence leads to a mainly vegetarian diet, to not kill or harm any living being, whether tiny or large, moveable or immoveable. Some Jain monks wont sweep a path on the floor as they could step on an ant, or cut their hair as it may endanger head lice. Other Jain monks do not wear any clothes.

Carved Marble pillars and roof
Parshvanatha with 1008 serpent head

We really enjoyed this stop before moving on to Udaipur, arriving there in the evening.

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