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Jain Temples of Ranakpur

Forty miles (60km) north of Udaipur are the Jain Temples of Ranakpur. It is the largest temple complex of its kind in India, and boasts some truly staggering marble work - easily on a par with any in Asia. The main temple was built in 1439, and is dedicated to the first tirthankara Adinath, whose image is enshrined in its central sanctuary. The temple is two or three storeys high in parts, and its roof, topped with five large shikharas, undulates with tiny spires that crown the small shrines to Jain saints lining the temple walls. Within are 1444 pillars, each sculpted with unique and intricate designs, and dissecting the 29 halls. The carving on the walls, columns and the domed ceilings is superb. Friezes depicting the life of the tirthankara are etched into the walls, while musicians and dancers have been modelled out of brackets between the pillars and the ceiling. While exploring the temples at Ranakpur, visitors may see Jain monks walking about with masks on their faces to avoid eating insects: the most important teaching of Jainism is 'Ahimsa', meaning non-violence, and this is applied to all sentient beings. Many monks also carry a brush to sweep surfaces to avoid standing on bugs. Ranakpur's isolated position means it is not on the major tourist trail, but it makes a good stop for those travelling between Jaipur and Udaipur.

Address: Ranakpur, Pali district