Tucked in the westernmost Indian city of Jaisalmer, within
the bastions of a “living fort” is an
array of Jain Temples of exquisite
beauty. Jainism, an Indian religious
denomination that came into being between the 9th and 6th century BC, prescribes a path of
non-violence towards living beings. As a religion, it subscribes to the
practice of several vows:
non-violence (ahimsa), truthfulness (satya), non-stealing (asteya), celibacy (brahmacharya), and non-materialism (aparigraha). This has amassed a following of approximately 6
Within the sturdy walls of the Jaisalmer Fort, seven Jain
Temples stand amidst time-worn, narrow alleys. The temples are rather small
compared to many temples we’ve seen in our travels, but they’re among the most
intricately designed artworks; engaging in their soft and warm hues of yellow
sandstones; lush in ambitiously calculated geometrical patterns and lavish in
artistic grandeur. These temples are dedicated to the Jain hermits (tirthankar).
Most of the temples are situated beside each other, mostly
without English signs. In entrances are reminders not to “tip” the Holy Men (“place
them instead in donation boxes” reminded one). Leathers of any kind, except those that are part of a musical
instrument, are not allowed anywhere
within the temples. Main altars, found in inner sanctums, are strictly for “worshippers” only, thus there were parts
of the temple I couldn’t see – but these are few. Most of these temples have
limited viewing time, mostly in the morning before midday. I had to pay an entrance fee of 30 rupees and a camera fee of 70 rupees. Video cameras fetch higher
rates at 120 rupees. These days, an all-in rate of 150 rupees is asked from visitors.
For completion, here are the seven temples at the fort: Chandraprabhu, Rikhabdev, Parasnath (with
its beautiful “torana” or gateway), Shitalnath, Sambhavanth, Shantinath and Kunthunath.
In this post, we shall focus on two of
them: the Rikhabdev and the Chandraprabhu Temples, the first two temples
visitors are likely to check out first.
I proceeded to Rikhabdev
Temple when I saw a big group enter Chandraprabhu. Rikhabdev boasts of
beautiful sculptures framed with apsaras (celestial maidens), adorning the pillar walls. It’s easily
navigated because there are only four narrow hallways in its rectangular room. I was, of course, tempted to trespass the inner sanctum. These nooks rankle with a sense of mystery for an outsider like me.
has affinity to the concept of the moon, the symbol associated with the eighth tirthankar – named Chandraprabhu - for whom this temple is dedicated. Reference to the moon has something
to do with the holy man’s conception - or is it gestation? The story itself, fashioned like a fairy
tale, is fascinating. According to legend, one day the queen was looking at the glowing full-moon all of a sudden, she had a strange desire to
drink the glowing streak of moon light. The king cleverly managed to
satisfy this strange desire of a pregnant mother. On the thirteenth day of the
dark half of the month of Paush the queen gave birth to a healthy son who was
fair and glowing like the moon. The name literally means “glow of the moon”.
The temple has an imposing exterior. Inside, you’re ushered
into a two-story complex punctuated by the main altar that houses a white
marble Buddha. Similar forms characterize the surroundings. The ceiling has an
ornately sculpted design that reflects most of the balustrades, pillars, and arches
in the circular hallway. I imagined an intimate amphitheater where performers
could dance and sing at the central hall while an audience stands looking down
from the upper level – but then this was designed as a temple, not a theatrical
venue. The things your mind conjures when faced with boundless beauty.
This is the Eye in
|The local tourists contribute to the fascination in visiting these temples. They have such colorful dresses. |
|Leathers not allowed inside. Leave your foot wear outside.|