The Jain temple Ranakpur known as the Ranakpur Tirth is an exquisite confluence of art, architecture, and religion. Spread over 48000 sq. feet, the temple is made of Sevali and Sonana (light coloured marble) stones and the high domes and colossal structure are supported by over 1444 intricately carved pillars.
The chief deity of the Ranakpur temple is Bhagwan Rushabhdev, the first of the 24 Jain Tirthankars. Rushabhdev is believed to be the creator of the human civilization and said to have established the family system, social order, and rule of law and formulated systems of governance. He is also said to have introduced people to fine arts.
The Ranakpur temple owes its existence to two Jain brothers – Dharnasha and Ratnasha who held key positions in the court of Mewari king Rana Kumbha. It was Dharnasha, inspired by the discourses of Acharya SomasundarsuriJi, who succeeded to convince the king to allot land for the temple. According to legend, a Devi appeared in Dharnasha’s dreams and showed him the Nalinigulm Viman, a celestial vehicle of the twelfth heaven. From that day onwards, he was driven by a desire to build a temple in the shape of that Viman. Rana Kumbha acceded to the construction of this temple under the one condition that it would be accompanied by a township. Constructions for the temple began in the late 14th Century. The accompanying township was named Ranapur after the king and is now known as Ranakpur.
The architectural design of the Jain temple Ranakpur is not only fascinating but also symbolic. It has four sides or four faces (Charmukha). The construction is symbolic of the Tirthankar’s conquest of the four cardinal directions and therefore the cosmos. While each face of the Jain temple is identical in terms of features, no two pillars in the temple are the same. The architect for the temple, referred to in stone inscriptions as Depaka, was evidently a genius. For him, art was an expression of his soul and prayer, rather than a means of earning money. An ascetic himself, he was impressed by Dharnasha’s lifestyle and religious conviction, which was the reason why he agreed to take on the monumental assignment.
It’s not surprising that it is faith, determination, charity, and simplicity that has resulted in this magnificent temple. The Ranakpur Jain Temple is one of the grandest Jain Temples and is 160 kilometers from Jodhpur and a mere 90 from Udaipur.