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.