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Published: August 21st 2009
Yet again we caught a taxi to our next destination - it is becoming too easy to take the simple, all be it , more expensive option of a taxi! We were off to Udiapur, considered to be one of the most romantic cities in India. The famous Lake Palace Hotel (where we wouldn't be staying!) will actually be surrounded by water which it hasn't been, until a fortnight ago, for over 2 years. The drought has hit this area of Rajhastan pretty hard. We were taking a detour though en route to the Jain temples at Ranakpur - which came highly recommended but which we had never heard of. What an absolute delight they proved to be. The Jain religion principles are not to harm any living things and the pilgrims sweep the footpath in front of them so they won't step on an insect as they walk .Once they used peacock feathers for this task. The rat temple in Bickaner was a Jain temple. On the TV we have seen men preaching with plastic masks over their mouths - they are Jains - they wear them in case they may accidentally swallow an insect. They are very strict vegetarians,
practice celibacy and give up all their possessions, sometimes including clothes. Not that we've seen any naked pilgrims yet - though some have not had a lot of clothes on. Religion in India is such a large part of their daily lives - there are hundreds of gods . Puja (performing worship rituals) is practiced daily. Puja involves making offerings to God hence the enormous industry which has developed around all temple sites with sales of flowers etc to be used as offerings.
Anyway we had read that the Jain temples at Ranakpur were very beautiful so decided to visit them. We are so pleased that we did! The temple is in the top 5 places I've ever seen - stunning can hardly describe it. They (there were a few smaller ones) were surrounded by a wildlife reserve. At first sight the exterior of the main complex was large, similar to many that we've seen, and grimy. We weren't allowed in as visitors until midday so wandered around exploring the smaller temples and enjoying the surrounds until then. The whole temple is made from white marble and once inside we faced a forest of carved pillars - 1444 of them
- all intricately carved and all different. They supported dozens of domed ceilings and arches, all equally finely carved. The ceilings were really amazing - the photos certainly don't so them justice but may give you an idea. They looked like lace - how people can carve marble in such detail is beyond me. The whole temple took 64 years to finish. The temple was symetrically planned around a central shrine which was 4 sided and all the exterior walls were lined with smaller shrines - at least a hundred of them. The Gods looked like Buddha figures which all had silver edged eyes. There was a priest covering one of the smaller shrines with silver leaf when we were there. Scattered throughout the temple were carved elephants and in the very centre (the roof had been built around it) was a very large living tree. There were a lot of tourists at the temple - both foreign and Indian - and they were all as amazed as we were. It was a totally beautiful place and I'm so pleased that we didn't miss it.
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