Ranakpur is a village located in the lush green valley of Aravalli mountain ranges in Pali district of Rajasthan, in western India. It is home to one of the biggest and most important Jain temple complexes of India, covering an area of nearly 48,000 square feet area, and has 29 halls, 80 domes and supported by 1444 marble pillars, each of them intricately and artistically carved, yet no two of them are alike.
Ranakpur Temple is thought to have been built by Seth Dharna Shah, who was a prominent Jain businessman, with the help of Rana Kumbha in the 15th century. The king helped the Seth on a condition that the temple would be named after him and accordingly the temples were tabbed. The temple is undoubtedly laudable for their wonderful architecture. The huge structure of the temple is entirely raised in light color marble.
The construction of the temple which had begun in 1446, could not be completed even after fifty years. Dharanashah, considering his advancing old age and failing health, decided to install the idol of the Principal deity without much loss of time. In the year 1496, after the completion of the temple, the idols were ceremoniously installed by Acharya Somalsundarsunii. At last, hard work and devotion of some 50 years brought the Minister’s dream down to earth in the form of a magnificent temple. According to one legend, about ninety-nine lakhs of rupees were spent on the construction of the temple. It is believed that the master builder Depa had put the devotion of his patron Sheth Dharanashah to test by making him offer seven precious metals, pearls, rich stones, musk and other fragrant substances while laying the foundation. In spite of the complexity, the vast expanse and the loftiness of the temple, the architectural balance and symmetry are not the least affected.
In the complex, there are several temples including Chaumukha temple, Parsavanath temple, Amba Mata Temple and Surya Temple. Amongst all of them, Chaumukha Temple is the most important and as the term Chaumukha suggests, this temple is four-faced. Chaumukha temple is dedicated to Lord Adinath, who is the first ‘Tirthankara’ of the Jains. The Temple structure is highly compound having four different doorways to get into the chambers. These chambers ultimccately takes one to the main hall where the image of Adinath is positioned.
Thcce most outstanding feature of this temple is its infinite number of pillars. This temple can be called a treasure house of pillars or a city of pillars. There are pillars in each and every direction of the temple. But the ingenious designer has arranged them in such a manner that none of them obstructs the view of the pilgrim wishing to have a glimpse of God. From any corner of the temple one can easily view the Lord’s image. These innumerable pillars have given rise to the popular belief that there are about 1444 pillars in the temple.In the North of this temple, there is a Rayan tree and the foot prints of Bhagavan Rishabhadev on a slab of marble. They remind us of the life and preaching of Bhagavan Risabhadev and of Shatrunjaya, the foremost among the places of Jain pilgrimage.
Around the 17th century, the entire region was ravaged by war. Fearing that the statues would be desecrated, the priests hid them in cellars under the temple and fled the area. The invading forces vandalized the temple and left, but the priests never returned. The temple fell into neglect and gradually the elements began to take over. At one point Ranakpur became a refuge for dacoits and no person dared to venture inside. It was only around the first quarter of the 20th century that people realized the immense crime they were committing by allowing this structure of beauty and devotion to rot away, and the temple was restored to its former glory.