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Day Eleven: Relaxing in Ranakpur’s Jain Temple

We got a late start to the day.

After some breakfast and much needed poolside quiet time, Sono drove us to the Ranakpur Temple, a well known Jain temple nestled in the Aravalli foothills of the surrounding lush mountains.

Constructed in the 14th century, this marble masterpiece is supported by 1,444 carved story-laden pillars and comes together in perfect symmetry. After 50 years of work across 2,500 workers, the temple was finally erected and has now become a pilgrimage site for Jainists all over the country.

When we arrived, there were several checkpoints and steps – a place to buy your entry ticket and camera ticket, a place to show your ticket for your camera (aka the booth right next door), a place to leave your shoes, a sign to read with strict guidelines like “no entry if you’re having menstruation” or “no entry if you’re carrying a leather wallet,” and then finally, the place to get your ticket ripped for entry. And as expected for a temple, I was required to wrap a scarf to hide my shoulders. It just wouldn’t be a true Indian experience without all the excessive steps J

Finally, we made it inside and it was absolutely magical.

The architecture’s stories came alive through the pillar’s carvings and tucked away statues, and the timelessness was manifested in a 500-year old tree sprouting from the heart and center of the temple’s grounds. The foundation of Jainism, we learned, are based on five main tenets: nonviolence, truth, no stealing, celibacy, and non-attachment.

There are actually two types of Jain practitioners, one of which is the more extreme ascetic type. They wander the world completely in the nude to practice detaching themselves from all worldly desire and pleasure, and will go so far as to spend no more than three days in any given place or community. They’ll accept whatever food or offerings along the way, but will never seek this out. Since non-violence is the cornerstone of their practice, Jainists are limited in their professional options as well – they were never able to farm (as that would involve killing insects) and were never able to join the army ranks (as that would involve killing humans). So ultimately and ironically, they were left with the very lucrative world of trading.

As we explored the nooks and crannies of the temple, we made a little friend along the way. Where there’s a camera, there’s always a cute Indian child waiting to have their own personal photoshoot…

Right before heading out, a high priest of the temple came by and asked if he could sing us a prayer to bless us with good fortune and prosperity (you don’t say no, right?). We closed our eyes and received his sonic blessings. On the way out, we heard loud mortar and pestling coming from a temple worker making some kind of turmeric-based liquid, which we soon pieced together as the third eye tikal that you can self-smudge with a small q-tip.

 

After the temple visit, we stopped by for some hot bar food, and guess who had their first real meal in days? All the non-spicy sauces and rice please!

We spent the rest of the afternoon straight chillin, only to come out during sunset. Sono drove us through some mountain brush up to the Ranakpur Dam overlooking the mountains. Best oxygen I’ve smelled in a long time (aka there wasn’t a slight fog of curry in the air). Apparently there are lots of deadly cobras and alligators in this region, but sadly for us, no spotting them this time around.

Tiffany Wen