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Published: June 18th 2010
India 2009 211
Chaumukha Mandir 'Four-faced temple', Ranakpur
Our 'pit-stop' at one of the Jain temples at Ranakpur turned out to be one of the most awe-inspiring places we visited and our free meal there was actually the best food we had the whole trip in my humble opinion!
First of all we had an amazingly great day weatherwise with brilliant bright blue skies and sun so hot it sent us running for the shade. Chaumukha Mandir (Four-Faced temple) is the biggest and the most important Jain temple in India. The Jain religion is very interesting in that they believe in a very pure form of non-violence such that many cut of all hair, including plucking all hair including eyelashes as it is thought that the micro-organisms in them may get damaged or killed when hair is brushed/washed or rubbed! This also obviously affected their food. As a vegetarian I have been treated to some splendid food since arriving in India but the Jains practice a stricter concept of vegetarianism in that they don't eat root vegetables such as potatoes, garlic, onions, carrots, sweet potatoes etc. as they believe that vegetables grown underground contain far more bacteria, eating them would therefore be destroying these living bacteria! They do
however eat rhizomes such as tumeric and dried ginger as they are thought to have less. Some Jains avoid seedy vegetables too as a seed is taken to be a form of life. Wow! And I thought I was fussy!
Seriously though, the food was great and as Papi told us that as it's free it is rude not to finish, finish I did! Several times. And bless them they kept refilling, and I kept politely finishing so I wasn't entirely sure how this arrangement would end. I had visions of myself in a few months time landing on the dusty floor after the dry wooden bench cracked beneath my gigantic weight after consuming this delicious food solidly from now till then! But end it did, sadly and we went for a walk around the temple.
The temple was a very meditative place, very still and quite. Coming in from the heat of the day, the deliciously cold marble enveloped us. A ceremony was going on around a massive golden deity decorated beautifully with flowers and offerings. We were told this place was extremely holy and therefore photos were not possible. Around the corner a further 3D marble
sculpture emerging from the wall was being decorated by a Jain man (I checked, he still had his eyelashes! you'll be glad to know) with various different coloured powdered paints. There was what looked like gold leaf all over it in various places and green paint. The man was just adding fingertips of the brightest red to various areas picking them out of the marble with such quick efficiency, he had obviously done this so regularly it was almost as if he could do it with his eyes shut! It brought the deity to life and seemed such a deeply devoted thing to do.
We wandered round the vast marble halls and a few of us ended up in quiet contemplation (for the first time in a while in some cases!) We came out and warmed up in the sun enjoying the beauty of this amazing sight.
On to Jodhpur tonight!
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