“भाई क़ुतुब मीनार खड़ी कर देते, बस इतने पर ही क्यों रुक गये|”
When the bumper of our car touched an irregular and unusually high, privately constructed speed-breaker, the driver starts venting his irritation on a person who is sitting in the verandah of his house holding his small daughter in his lap. The person gives no response. He is unconcern; However, we are smiling with admiration on the driver’s witty outburst.
As I wrote in the previous article, this is the beginning of September, a season of Jaatrus in Mewar and Marwar regions. We have hired a taxi and are driving towards Ranakpur. In and around Rajasamand we cross truck-loads of big marble stones. On roadside there are open showrooms/godowns of marble dealers, displaying varieties of marble. This is the most uninteresting part of the journey and soon we leave it behind. Our vehicle is now passing through scenic rural Rajasthan.
It has rained recently; the vegetation around is washed clean of dust and is sparkling green. We are crossing women in colorful kaanchli-ghaghra and odhni, the hands covered with white bangles, and proud handsome men in colorful turbans.
After driving for a while we take a break and I walk in a nearby village. A villager suggests me to visit the old temple of the village. For the moment, I am more interested in their care-free relaxed life. A family is sitting in the porch of their house looking at the passers-by. The family reminds me of a picture-perfect moment of an ideal family time; being together, doing nothing, silently looking out, observing everyone around.
We then cross a Rawla, a small garrison fort, on a steep mountain strip. It generates an instant desire to have a close look at it and to know more about it, but today we are late and do not have much time. The surrounding hills are riddled with many such structures.
We are now passing through jungle area. The road is in good condition in this area as well. It is surrounded by big trees. Several langur are swinging on them. We stop to enjoy their activities from close quarters. It appears they are equally enchanted by us and decide to observe us even more closely. One of them jumps on the bonnet and glance inside with his piercing gaze from the front glass. There are some on the car-top as well. We are not able to see them, but can hear them walking on the top. Ghosh! We start the car and drive slowly and carefully, not to hurt them with the sudden acceleration. As we get rid of them, we pick-up the normal speed.
We reach Ranakpur at around two o’ clock. The temples are open for tourists from noon to five pm. In the morning and after five p.m they are open only for the devotees. Photography is permitted inside the temple and tourists have to buy a hundred rupee ticket for each camera they plan to take inside. For the interested tourists audio-guide is also available at the counter.
After quickly finishing the formalities of camera ticket and audio guide, I look at the temple in relaxed reflective mood. The jaw-droppingly beautiful temple appears as an ascetic in deep meditation in the peaceful surroundings of steep-wooded escarpment of the lush green Aravali-Hills; unperturbed by anything happening around. In rainy seasons numerous streams of barsati River Maghai further enhances the beauty of the surroundings. This exquisitely carved white marble temple is located in a village of Desuri Tehsil near Sadri town of the Pali District in Rajasthan. It is situated between Jodhpur and Udaipur, the two popular tourist destinations of Rajasthan. It is around one hundred and sixty kilometer from Jodhpur and is around ninety kilometer away from Udaipur. The nearest railway station of Falna is only thirty-two kilometers away. Mavli Junction is the nearest rail-head for the tourist coming from Delhi.
This multi-pillared temple has four main pillars that played an important role in envisioning, commissioning and constructing the temple in fifteenth century. These important historical persons are Seth Dharnashah, Acharya Somsunder, Depaka and Maharana Kumbha. The story behind the construction of the temple starts in the fifteenth century.
Maharana Kumbha is ruling over Mewar. Mewar is passing through its golden era under him, a benign rule and a connoisseur of art and music. Shresthi Dharnashah is a minister in his durbar. The minister is a devout Jain and is heavily influenced by Acharya Somsunder. He is so inclined towards the religion and his own spiritual growth that at a young age of thirty-two he has done many pilgrimages and also taken a vow of celibacy. He is equally valued and regarded by Maharana for his understanding of worldly matters. Maharana likes him for his astute decision-making, shrewd management of political affairs and his loyalty.
One morning, Shresthi Dharnashah discusses his strange dream with Acharya Somsunder, “Acharya, yesterday night Goddess Chakreshwari appeared in my dream and showed me the celestial craft Nalinigulm, the most beautiful craft of the three worlds. From the time I woke-up I am thinking what could be the reason behind that unusual dream”.
Acharya ruminates and replies, “In my opinion, the Goddess probably inspired you to construct a temple. The construction of a temple provides a mean to its patron to travel to heaven while still on the earth”.
Dharnashah replies, “Now I can correlate. Sometimes back, I had an intense desire to construct a grand temple of the first Tirthankara Lord Adinath; a temple that is unique, incomparable to anything around. May be the Goddess has given me a glimpse of how it should look like. I will now publicize my desire and ask the architects to submit the blueprints of their designs”.
Dharnashah contact architects, shares his dream and requests them to submit the design. However none of those submissions matches his dream and his desire. Then Depaka who is leading an ascetic life and considers his profession as his worship learns about Dharnashah’s desire. He creates a design and submits it to Dharnashah.
Dharnashah looks carefully at the design and exults, “Impressed! This matches my vision. Start working on the design from today itself and let me know the area you need to construct the temple. I will discuss it with Maharana and take his permission. There is no constraint of money and time. The temple must be unique and beautiful.”
“The best of artists hath no thought to show,
which the rough stone in its superfluous shell, doth not include;
to break the marble spell,
is all the hand that serves the brain can do.”
Depaka starts elaborating the design and realizes that his project would need an area of around four-thousand square meters. He conveys the need to the patron.
Dharnashah then visits Maharana Kumbha and shares his desire, “Maharana, if you permit, I desire to construct a spectacular temple of Lord Adinath, which would be spread over an area of around four thousand square meters.”
Maharana Kumbha himself is a promoter of art and architecture and replies, “I am elated to learn about your desire. I suggest you to find a place where you would like to construct the temple and I assure you of my full cooperation.”
Shresthi Dharnashah and the chief architect Depaka survey several places and then zero on a piece of land near Madri Hills. This piece of land has a tranquil surrounding. When Dharnashah informs Maharana about his choice, Maharana magnanimously donates the land and also expresses his desire to settle people around the area so that the temple can be cared and looked after properly. Because of the active interest of Maharana in settling people here, people starts calling it Ranapur that later becomes Ranakpur.
On the day of foundation, Depaka uses seven-metals and other expensive materials. All the materials he demanded are supplied without any question. In the evening, Depaka shares with one of his confidant, “Today I evaluated the Shresthi. You know me very well. I am moody and I do not like others interfering while I am working. I want free-hand, empowerment and complete trust on me. Though merit for the construction of a temple on a spiritual plane belongs to the donor but my prestige is also on stake. I wanted to check how freely Seth Dharnashah will allow me to work; with today’s event I am convinced that his only desire is to construct a beautiful temple. He took time to finalize the design, but now as the design is final he seems to have a complete trust on me”.
It is believed that in the construction of a temple or for that matter in any grand building so much money, time and work-force was involved that the architects who even have an iota of doubts about their capabilities, never dared to take the charge. They were certain that any mistake or false claim in these matters would be treated high-handedly and may result in death sentence. At the same time the ancient scriptures also decree capital punishment for someone who causes a craftsman the loss of a hand or the eye.
This is in contrast with the legends we hear about the treatment meted out to the artisans who worked on Tajmahal; their hands being chopped off so nobody can ever produce something as marvelous as Taj. I wish these barbaric tales are fabricated ones. The best way to keep the best brain busy is by giving them more work.
The architects of these temples were usually polymath. They need to have complete authority on the subjects of Mathematics, Puranas, art of painting and sculpting, should know the essence of religious literature, have a good understanding of the religions iconography, and must be well verse in shilpa-shastra. It was also expected that such people should possess character of happy disposition, righteousness, they should be kind, free of any jealousy and should be well-disciplined.
I look at the Ranakpur temple and I am convinced that to construct such a splendour, architect do need these qualities. Then I think about Depaka. He was not someone who constructed many buildings or temples. What if, he could never find a Dharnashah in his life? Would he allowed all his talent to go in vain? All the knowledge he attained might then be worthless. Then what was his motivation to learn so many things?
The construction of the temple started in 1446. It was not finished even after fifty years. Dharnashah and Achraya Somsunder were also getting old. Shresthi wanted to get the statue installed and consecrated by Acharya Somsunder only. So without waiting for the final completion, the statue of Lord Adinath was installed and consecrated by Acharya Somsunder. It is believed the construction continued for fifteen more years.
Fifty Years! How was it possible to remain focussed on the initial design. Why we do not see time-induced variations in the design. Was it designed with perfection in the draft itself? Were there no improvements at the time of execution of the plan? or they were done so perfectly that we cannot find them out with our undiscerning eyes.
However, the time took its toll on the temple of Ranakpur as well. The pilgrims started to feel unsafe reaching the secluded temple, in an area that got infested with wild animals and dacoits. The temple needed serious maintenance and renovation. In 1897 AD, the congregation-Shri Sangha of Sadri, handed over the charge of temple to Seth Anandji-Kalyanji trust. The trust not only renovated the temple, they also provided means to protect and maintain it and also built dharamshalas(guest-houses) for pilgrims. This renovated shrine regained its fame in the world of art and religion. These days every year thousands of art-lovers and spiritual seekers from all over the world come to this idyllic place and it is one of the most sort-out excursion from Udaipur.
Let us enter inside the temple together and learn more about it.