The Magnificent Ranakpur Jain Temple With 1444 Unique Pillar Designs

Ranakpur Jain Temple was built by a local Jain businessman named Dharanashah, somewhere in the 15th century, however, the temple and town of Ranakpur hail its name after the provincial ruler monarch, Rana Kumbha who patronaged both.
I am known to be a crazy workaholic. People often wonder and ask me how I work continuously without relaxing. I tell them, ‘Do what you love; it is the best way to relax.’ Well, if there’s a super-human somewhere, who does not need to recharge, rejuvenate, and refresh to stay focussed, energetic and precise – that’s not me.
Leading Surfaces Reporter for the last 7 years has kept me moving throughout the globe, especially Europe. I have extensively traveled by road, for days, from South to North of Spain just for the photographing delight and to experience the local culture. Same was true for Italy, Holland, and parts of Germany, France, Switzerland and more. Though there are countless other places to visit in the foreign lands, my heart equally yearns to travel across India. Kumbhalgarh and Ranakpur Chaturmukha Temple were in my traveling radar since long, and I was waiting for an opportune moment. I checked my ‘todo’ list and instantly knew if I decide without delay, the visit to this place would be possible before the international trip.

Ranakpur Jain Temple

Ranakpur Jain Temple was built by a local Jain businessman named Dharanashah, somewhere in the 15th century, however, the temple and town of Ranakpur hail its name after the provincial ruler monarch, Rana Kumbha who patronaged both. This temple is one of the biggest and most significant temples of Jain culture.

The temple worships Lord Adinath who according to Jain cosmology is the first known Tirthankar of the present life-cycle.

It is indeed an impressive white marble structure with gorgeous complex carvings amidst a lovely jungle-like valley. The first thing you notice when you enter the temple is the sudden steep drop in temperature, surely facilitated by the three-storied marble wonder. The place is known for radiating and injecting calm and peace, and I was longing for it.

Magnificent Ranakpur Jain Temple

The designing of the temple is chaumukha – with four faces. The geometrical progression of the temple and quadrupled images signify the Tirthankara’s conquest of the four fundamental directions. The sculpture, architecture and stone carvings of the temple emit aesthetic pleasure is said to be inspired by the Ancient Mirpur Jain Temple at Mirpur in Rajasthan. In the main hall (Sanctum sanctorum) there are four massive white marble depictions of Bhagwan Adinath. Each 72 inches tall, these statues are placed facing four different directions.

Just like the four faces or doors of the temple, the realization of this intricate piece of art is the result of deep devotion of four sincere devotees - Acharya Somasundatsuri Dharanashah (the minister to the king), the king himself, Rana Kumbha, Dharanashah (the businessman) and last but not the least, Depa or Deepaka, the architect who has graced it with exquisite structural & artistic grace. The immense significance is given to the symmetry of the structure which is maintained despite the vast complexity of the work.

In one of the stories that local people tell, the temple is said to be constructed at the expense of about one crore rupees. Also, the devotee Dharanashah is said to have offered seven types of precious stones, gold, silver, pearls, and other expensive materials while laying the foundation. Currently, the shrine is taken care of by sheth Anandji Kalyanji Trust.

The designing of the temple is chaumukha – with four faces. The geometrical progression of the temple and quadrupled images signify the Tirthankara’s conquest of the four fundamental directions.

Chief Architect of the Chaturmukha Temple

Chaturmukha Temple

Another tale talks about the dream that Sheth Dharanashah saw about a beautiful celestial plane thought to be ‘Nalinigulma Viman,’ the heavenly aircraft. While many artists submitted their designs, nothing came close to what architect & sculptor Deepaka provided. He was a carefree artist who gave more importance to art over money. Utterly thrilled and deeply impressed, the work was given to Deepaka to realize this dream temple which is a rare confluence of creative spirit and bhakti. 

It is so good to learn about the foresight of the designer who while constructing has created nine cellars in which statues and other valuables of the temple can be safely stored in the event of crises. During various invasions, these rooms might have been used for safety.

The Unique 1444 Pillars

The Unique 1444 Pillars

Ranakpur shrine has 29 halls and about 84 big and small domed shrines. It seems pretty impossible to count all the pillars, but the audio guide informed that the temple stands on over 1444 marble pillars, carved in exquisite detail. Is it not sheer brilliance and imagination of craftsmen and the head architect Depaka that all the pillars have different engravings and no two components are the same? Each one is uniquely ornate with artistic carvings, and images of gods and goddesses, absolutely stunning to behold. I was mesmerized at the magical creativity of the craftspeople who have readied this work-of-wonder 600 years ago. In fact, all the statues also face one or the other, as if communicating with each other. None of the figures face blank.

The Ancient Sacred Tree

Unique 1444 Pillars

There is a holy tree inside the temple which is the several centuries old Rayan tree (Manilkara Hexandra). Under the tree, there is the footprint idol of Lord Adinath. Shri Adinath is said to have given his first sermon under this ancient tree. I sat there for a while to immerse myself in the purity of the place and spirit.

The Incomplete Pillar

The Incomplete Pillar

There is an exciting story about the famous incomplete pillar of Ranakpur temple. Rana Kumbha wanted the pillar to touch the dome. He would often look at it proudly and talk about his contribution to the temple as a symbol of his personal glory. The strange thing that happened was, whenever artisans wanted to erect beyond a certain level, it would collapse. Even Deepaka started doubting himself. One day, Rana Kumbha saw a dream wherein Goddess Ambika appeared and told him to drop his ego & pride which were apparently obstructing his spiritual growth. Since then Maharana realized his mistake and left the pillar half constructed as a reminder of how insignificant a person is in front of almighty.

Other details

The 84 domed shrines comprise of seventy-six smaller domed shrines, four assembly halls, four principal shrines, which stand embellishing the temple, soliciting and inspiring men to get rid of greed and free oneself from the 84 lakhs of birth and death for the ultimate eternal salvation.

Magnificent Ranakpur Jain Temple

In one corner towards an opening is the statue of a huge elephant with Marudevi, mother of Lord Adinath. It is said that when she visited him, the sight of his enlightened son destroyed all her karmas. She died instantly and attained Moksha. Another chief attraction is the unique emblem called Nagdaman made of single marble rock, which has 108 ssnakeheadsand tails. The USP of this neatly carved riddle is that you cannot find the end of the tails.

As the day progressed, there was indeed a feel of purity, a sense of bliss, and emotive closeness with the place and the experience it gave. Art is said to make the mind delve deeper into the consciousness, stirring the latent thoughts. The amalgamation of devotion, art, and architecture touched me deeply, and I felt being transported to the heavenly world as envisioned by the creators.  With memories and impression that will last for a lifetime, we departed for the next destination.

Photography: Vertica Dvivedi

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