Author Archives: Sebastian Gammill

The Jain Temple in Ranakpur

We visited a Jain temple in Ranakpur (half way between Udaipur and Jodhpur) that is one of the most well known for the religion and attracts practicing Jains from all over India and the world. Before we start, lets explain who Jains are and what they believe:

Jains believe that all living things have a soul that should not be destroyed. That means everything, literally, from animals to bacteria.

The Jain population in India is approximately 4 million strong. The whole population of India is over 1 billion (2nd to China) which makes the Jain group 0.5% of the general population.

Jains are strict vegetarians; some of them are so strict on their food they wont eat any vegetables that have roots because the vegetable itself will have millions of bacteria. In other words, food like potatoes, radishes or carrots that grow under the ground are sacred.

Jain temples are expertly carved as you can see in the photos. The time that it takes to do this expert work takes years and costs a fortune as you can imagine.

Jains are known to be a very wealthy group and excellent business people in India and abroad; just as they take their religious practice seriously, so do they in work.

On our drive to Jodhpur, we stopped to tour the 15th century Jain temple in Ranakpur. We did not know about it but our guide thought that we would appreciate the temple and our timing was perfect because non-Jains may only enter for a few hours each day when they are not worshipping. We paid and got the audio guide before entering the temple. We learned many things such as the Jains believe that if they crawl under a statue of an elephant in the temple it will bring good luck.

After further research for this post, this temple was dedicated to Tirthankara Adinatha*. We found interesting nooks and crannies that the audio guide pointed out including one of the pillars was slightly leaning to one side and this was done on purpose! The reason the pillar is not straight is to show that life is not always perfect and there is always something that is needed to get closer to God or excellence.

This temple is completely made out of marble and is said to be one of the most spectacular. I believe it too after walking through this place! Jains come from all over the world to worship there. The man who created the temple (Dharma Shah) dreamed about making a temple. He hired workers to build it exactly as he had seen it in his dream. There are over 400 pillars and no two pillars are the same when you look at the intricate carvings of animals, Gods, and flowers.

While I could never be a Jain because of my love for foods especially burgers and steak, I definitely appreciate the Jain people and their commitment. We saw Jains walking along the highway wearing white robes as the walked miles and miles on a pilgrimage to visit this temple and others in the Rajasthan region.

*Lord Rishabhdev also known as Lord Adinath was the first Jain Tirthankar of present time cycle. He lived before civilization developed. Because of this, he had the name of Adinath – the original lord. He became a Siddha, a liberated soul which has destroyed all of its karma.

DSCN5242 DSCN5250 DSCN5256

Birthday Recap

I noticed that I have not given the world a thorough read of my birthday last month. Lets start with the fact that I turned 14 on March 16th in Vang Vieng, Laos which is north of Vientiane (the capital). VV is known as an outdoors activity town where there are a bunch of really fun things to do – perfect place to celebrate if you ask me.

The first order of the day was that I allowed my family to sleep in until 10 (I am the birthday boy so rule the family)! We decided on a place for breakfast that my parents like because of the coffee; I didn’t mind because I chose a special spot for dinner. After breakie, we went back to our rooms to get ready for the activities planned for the day.

First stop ZIPLINING!!!! The zip lining was loads of fun! We were flying through the air like a monkey and bird combined in one. Spoiler Alert: at the end they did a long zip-line and pulled the ropes up and down so that you were bouncing as you flew down to the base camp. I’ve done zip lines before and this one ranks up there with the best.

IMG_2347_2IMG_2359_2

After that there is a water cave where you go into a pitch-black cave on inner tubes. They have ropes that you hold onto so that you don’t drift off into the darkness and luckily they give you head lamps to see (my dad’s did not work!). I remember humming to myself the batman song as we pulled ourselves deeper into the cave. It took about 10 minutes or so going into it and we went as fast as we could to get out because there were 20 Korean tourists coming in (No Photos unfortunately).

After the zip line and cave adventure, we headed back to town to Smile Beach which has a bar for fruit shakes and hammocks to chill out. The river has rapids there and it’s fun to wade in the water on tubes but even more fun when you splash the other tubers coming down the river! I was a big surprise to quite a few people that got wet coming by our beach! We stayed until sunset and then we went to my birthday dinner. I wanted to have Mexican and the good news is that VV has a really good Mexican spot. We shared french fry nachos which is like regular nachos except with fries instead of chips – yum! I ordered an enchilada that filled me up. We walked back to the hotel after a hearty meal and went to bed quite easily after a great day of fun. One that I will never forget!

DSCN4743

I splashed the guide!!!

I splashed the guide!!!

We Went To Bagan

I will start from the beginning in the overnight bus ride. We left Rangoon at 11pm and arrived in Bagan at about 5:30am. It was a brutal bus ride. Although not as bad as some other ones we have done. They kept the A.C. at full blast and it was really cold (especially our toes where the blanket could not go). When we arrived taxi drivers bombarded us asking if we need a taxi. After a little while my dad works up a deal with a taxi driver to drive us to the hotel. While we were driving to the hotel the taxi driver kept trying to persuade us to hire him to take us to the sunrise at a temple. After a lot of negotiating we finally went. We got some pretty good photos that you will see below. It was cool out and you have to climb three or four stories to get to the top of the temple. Once we climbed to the top, we noticed that everyone else had the same idea and it was really crowded with photographers waiting for the sunrise.

DSCN4075

When we got to the hotel we did not do much because we had to wait for the room to get ready. When it got ready we had 2 rooms. one was in another building and the other was in another (aka the nice building with nice rooms). We requested to have the rooms in the same hall or next door from each other. To make this paragraph short we ended up upgrading the room Louisa and I would have stayed in to a NICE room like mom and dads and ours was right in front of the pool!

We also rented 2 mopeds and rode around viewing temples around town. That was pretty much it that day. The next day we did a chill day because we were going Hot air ballooning. We went in the pool and had fun. We did have a really good dinner at an Italian restaurant which was a nice noodle break.

Finally time to hot air ballon! It is truly an amazing sight! We left early so we could be high in the air with the sunrise. It was awesome! And it was the first time we used the gopro/selfie pole. We got some awesome photos that you can see below. The balloon goes up and down a lot.

DSCN4176

Our balloon heating up!

DSCN4251

We are flying higher than these guys above a temple

DSCN4211

Balloons everywhere each sunrise