Ranakpur is a small temple town about 90 km’s from Udaipur and falls in the Pali district of Rajasthan. You can do a comfortable day trip to Ranakpur from Udaipur along with Kumbhalgarh. It primarily has old Jain temples.
Ranakpur Jain Temple
The biggest and the most prominent one is Chaumukha temple which is huge by any standard. This temple was constructed by the minister of Rana Kumbha in the 14th century. Which makes this temple about 700 years old. But it would be difficult for you to believe that it is so old when you see it with your eyes. The temple was destructed by the Mughals and has been restored over time. Some restoration work is still on as if the work on the temple is always on.
This 102 ft high temple has three floors and is spread in about 45000 sq ft, primarily made of white marble. There are 1444 pillars in the temple, none of which are alike. The legend says because of the design of the temple, it is literally impossible for you to count the no of pillars in the temple. We tried making a rough estimate of pillars. We realized that actual counting would need some effort and a lot of time. There are some pillars on one floor and there are pillars which go across the three floors of the temple. The whole of temple including the pillars, columns, walls, and roofs are intricately carved and you can just get mesmerized looking at them.
Marble Toran at Adinath Temple
Most of them depict the age-old legends and mythologies. Like there is a depiction of a snake with multiple tales that has no end. The depiction of apsaras with various dance poses on columns. Roof designs that are so intricate that you may need binoculars to observe them completely. Interestingly there is one pillar which is intentionally kept leaning, you can find it on the right side of the main temple if you are facing the temple. The priest there said that the pillar was kept so as to avoid the evil eye. As the temple is so beautiful that it invites envy from most visitors.
There is a very intricately carved Toran outside the Adinath temple. It is very similar to the ones you find at Khajuraho except that it is not Makar toran. In fact, the color of this Toran is yellowish resembling the color of sandalwood. hence this piece stands out in the otherwise white temple.
All Four Side Facing Temple
The temple has four faces and hence the name Chaumukha. it has been designed in such a way that the temple gets the appropriate light and air at any point in time and in any weather. The carvings on the pillars are done in such a manner that from wherever you look the carvings would appear the same. There are big elephant figures on the sides of the temple with a sari-clad woman riding the elephant. I could only guess that these are the people who probably contributed to the construction of the temple. And hence have a place for themselves in it.
On the outside, there are quite a few Gumbaj on the temple and some of them adorn the red and white flag. As you go around the temple, from some angles it would give you the feeling of being a fort rather than being a temple. There is a decently developed park in front of the temple where you can stroll if the weather permits. You are not allowed to take any leather or tobacco items in the temple. You are expected to be fully covered and not wear any revealing clothes while on the premises.
Chaumukha temple is dedicated to the first Jain Theerthankar Adinath. There are other smaller temples also in the complex devoted to other Jain Theerthankars. And a Sun temple outside the main complex. Even the smaller temples have a lot of work done on them. Of course, nothing matches the grandeur of Chaumukha temple. Just like the Kandariya Mahadev temple is the epitome of art in Khajuraho.
Like most Jain temples which are spread in the wilderness across the country, this temple also has all the facilities available for the devotees to come and stay. There is a Dharamshala where you can stay. Spend a few days admiring these temples, though I am not sure if this requires some kind of membership.
If the temple architecture and sculpture interest you, Ranakpur is a must visit for you.
Temple with Maximum Number of Pillars
PS: Till I visited this temple, I was under the impression that Meenakshi temple in Madurai which has a hall with 985 pillars is the structure with maximum no of pillars. But that myth got broken after visiting Ranakpur. I am curious to know which is the single structure with maximum no of pillars in it. But my Google search really did not help, so if anyone knows please do share the information with me.
Recommend you to read following Places to visit in Rajasthan.