Had our breakfast at the resort restaurant and left around 11 AM for Ranakpur. Ranakpur is about 50 km from Kumbalgarh and is up the ghats. If you are like us poor in geography and thought Rajasthan is synonymous with deserts, this trip to Ranakpur will set that right. The road to Ranakpur from Kumbalgarh is mostly on village road 10, which is a blacktopped one lane road. Thanks to the spurt in tourism, quite a lot of vehicles ply this route with road shoulders either deep or non-existent that navigating is a bit of a challenge. It had been raining quite heavily in 2016 and the locals said that they have not witnessed such heavy rains in over 42 years. Whether or not that statistic is right, it sure rained cats and dogs when we had reached a village called Saira about 30 km from Kumbalgarh. The road from Kumbalgarh to Saira is on a relatively flat terrain. The last 20 km, from Saira to Ranakpur, the road is a winding mountain terrain road, with mountain to the right and either a deep fall or a stream to the left. The thrill factor was augmented – thanks to the rains – by less than 10 m visibility on a one and half lane. In many places, we drove through water that was draining from the stream on the left to a gorge on the right.
It took us about an hour and 40 minutes to reach Ranakpur. I am sure the journey time will be cut to an hour and a quarter once the roads are repaired after the rains stop.
The Jain temple was built by a local businessman Dharna Shah, from Rana Khumbha’s court and was designed by architect Shri Deepaji and it took 63 years to complete the structure. The work commenced in 1433 and was completed in 1496. The result is spectacular.
The puja is performed in the mornings. Tourists, both Indians and foreigners, are allowed into the complex from Noon to 5 PM. During the tourist hours, you are allowed to take photos of the temple from the inside. You will not be allowed to carry cameras, mobile phones before that when Pujas are performed. So, if you are keen on visiting the place to worship reach earlier. Conversely, if pilgrimage is not high on your agenda, reach after noon.
Entry to the complex is free for Indians and costs Rs.200 for foreigners. However, there is a charge for carrying either a camera or a mobile camera (Rs.100 per item). You can also rent an audio guide for Rs.200.
We entered the main temple and were approached by a priest who doubled up us a guide during his off hours. The temple is built entirely of marble and is supported by 1444 pillars. The temple was built in 4 phases. The quality and intricacy of carvings on the pillars and ceiling show marked improvement from one phase to the next. The carvings include many Hindu gods including Lord Krishna depicted in his Kalinga Nardhana, Lord Ganeshaa and Goddess Saraswati on the ceilings.
The temple has underground cellars where the main deities and temple treasures were hidden during times of Mughal invasion. We saw quite a few bee hives, massive ones. When questioned, our holy guide of course had an interesting story. Aurangzeb’s army laid waste to parts of the temple and razed the surrounding villages. When they planned to return and destroy the rest, the temple’s guardian deity, Lord Rudra sent his army of bees to attack the invaders. The bees stung and killed several soldiers and the rest fled in terror. Ranankpur has not been attacked since. We still see parts of the temple damaged by invading armies. They are being restored slowly, apparently by the descendants of the original architect.
We were asked to pray standing under the image of the Celestial Tree on the way out. This is intricately carved using only the symbol of “Om” on the ceiling above the steps facing Shri Adhinath’s shrine and were told our wishes would come true. Of course, we prayed!
It was raining for over an hour and a half when we were inside the temple. We came out of the main complex. There is a Bhojanalay in the complex that serves Satwik food. But were late and it was closed for the day. If you are keen on trying the food at the Bhojanalay, reach there before 1:30 PM.
We left at 2:15 PM and negotiated the treacherous drive back as rain continued to batter us. The photo shows the state of the caved-in road and the wild stream flowing by its side.
Quite a few roadside restaurants of different hues on the road from Ranakpur to Saira. Stopped at a place called Hotel Harmony. The food was average. Will rate it a 2.5 on 5. These restaurants do busy business only during 4 months of a year – from November to February – their pricing reflects that – it is 3 times as expensive as an equivalent restaurant in a large city. Though clean with good service, the quality of food is average.
The rain slowly started petering out as we finished our lunch. Left around 3:30 PM. Stopped for a tea at Saira and reached Club Mahindra Kumbalgarh Fort around 4:45 PM.
Took a nap and chilled the rest of the day.