Special HereNow4U Newsletter: [08 - 17] 'Jainism And The Temples Of Mount Abu And Ranakpur' by Dix, Clermont & Surana
- Part 2Other voices on this book: Manish Modi, Publisher, Mumbai:JAINISM AND THE TEMPLES OF MOUNT ABU AND RANAKPUR
An Exquisite Coffee Table Book on JainismText by Lothar Clemont, Photographs by Thomas Dix. Edited by Dilip Surana
2006 310 x 245 mm 96 pp all art plates in full colour
Deluxe Hardcover Edition Rs. 1500
This is a truly exquisite coffee table book on Jainism! Beautifully conceived, gorgeously shot. Each photograph is worth framing.
Jain temples are known for their architectural excellence and extravagant iconography. This book presents magnificent examples of Jain temple art - the temples of Mount Abu and Ranakpur. Replete with awesome sculpture and stunning photography, the book is a collector's item.
It has been lavishly printed in full colour. The accompanying text is insightful and well researched, a fine introduction to Jainism for the layman.
We are proud to sell this book.
The social motivation for constructing temples in medieval times, the 9th and 15th centuries saw building of the majority of important Jain temples. This period forms the golden age of temple construction all over India. There is an Indian belief, from times immemorial, in the merit of erecting, repairing or restoring a temple. The ruler was expected to undertake this as a religious and special task. In the value of patriarchal duty, a king expected to take care of the religious needs of all his flock comprising different religious groups, irrespective of his own religion. Particularly during the middle ages, the intense religious favour of the kings encouraged their ministers, even rich merchants, to act as patrons and donors. The growing affluence of large sections of the population led to a democratisation of temple donations to a degree never before witnessed.
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At the beginning of the second millennium, the Solanki dynasty of Gujarat ruled over the west coast of northern India. The Parmars of Mt. Abu were the tribute paying vassals of the Solankis. One of the Solanki ministers, Vimala Shah, an underling of King Bhimdeo (or Bhima Deva), was dispatched to the city of Chandravati to quell the rebellion in a princely state. At the end of his mission, he asked a Jain monk how he could atone for the bloodshed. The monk informed him that wilful killing could not be atoned. However, he could earn good virtue by constructing a temple at Mt. Abu.
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Vimala Vasahi Temple ground plan
The temple, which is actually quite small, has a base measuring 33 x 14 m. It stands in the middle of a courtyard, surrounded by a double arcade of pillars and an ambulatory lined by devakulikas or subsidiary shrines. The bright light, which overwhelms the visitor on entering the temple, is due to the whiteness of the marble and the light filtered through the courtyard. Unlike Hindu architecture, the Jain shrines are never shrouded in mystical semi-darkness since the focus is on the brightness and clarity of the soul and on knowledge.
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The dance pavilion construction in 1147-1149 and is the most exquisite structure in the temple complex. As the interior had to be free of supporting pillars, a shikhara tower was not possible due to its heavy weight. Instead, a wide vaulted dome with a diameter of 6.6 m is covering the hall. This is the largest existing example of such a construction during the Solanki period. However, it still remains unknown how the static engineering of the temple is working since no tests have been made so far. Probably a ring beam runs through each of the eleven concentric stone rings of the dome and this absorbs the horizontal thrust.
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The tourist cannot proceed beyond this point. However, from here, through the gudha mandapa, the Sanctum Sanctorum and the bright statue of the first Tirthankara are visible. The entrance to the cell is flanked by two standing Parsva statues standing erect, and by relief of monks and nuns. The idol of Adinatha or Rishabhanatha deliberately made to appear impersonal and not human. Tirthankaras are carved preferably in alabaster or in any translucent stone in order to indicate the spirituality of a body, which has been liberated from all earthly shackles and is thus no longer a part of this world. The eyes stare into the transcendental sphere of the next world. Even the odour and breath are not comparable with that of human beings.
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The image of Goddess Chakrasuri is three-dimensional and femininely rounded (no. 5 in the plan). Chakrasuri is the esoteric consort of Vishnu; she holds in her six arms, symbols, which also coincide with Jain concepts and philosophy. For example, the bow symbolises the ego and the arrow the senses, which bind humankind to the material world; the round form of the discus personifies the soul, the sceptre the power of knowledge, the thunderbolt spiritual power and with the noose, Chakrasuri captures the restless spirit of the faithful.
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The Luna Vasahi Temple is situated a little above the Vimala Shah Temple. This temple was constructed by two brothers, Tejapala and Vastupala, who are perhaps the greatest builders of all time in Indian architectural history. They were the ministers of King Viradhavala. Apart from the Luna Vasahi Temple at Mt. Abu, the brothers also constructed numerous shrines; of these, only the Neminatha Temple of Girnar remains.
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The shrine, measuring 52 x 28.5 m, is a close approximation of its model, although it faces west and is the exact reverse of the Vimala Vasahi Temple, yet, the sequence of the structural parts is the same as in the Vimala Vasahi Temple. Consequently, a description highlighting the differences between the two temples will suffice here. The T-shaped temple stands in a courtyard, surrounded by fifty-two devakulikas screened by a double row of colonnades. Only in the north and south does a cell project a little out of the closed ground plan. At the back, there are no shrines, only an enclosed hall with very old jali work, i.e., a latticed wall with ornamental tracery. It contains the shockingly mutilated statues of the founders and their families.
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The Adinatha Temple of Ranakpur is also named Dharna Vihara temple after its builder. The impression it conveys is very different from that of the Dilwara temples. In the Dilwara temples, the atmosphere is one of peace and seclusion; this engendered by the smallness of the temples as well as by the illusion of their being hidden and concealed. In comparison, the temple at Ranakpur is grandiose and majestic, it has soaring shikhara towers and domes visible from a great distance.
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The builder of the shrine, Dharna Shah belonged to a Rajasthani Jain family that held the title of Sanghapati (one who has borne the costs of the community pilgrimage). The name Shah or Sah indicates that he accumulated his wealth as a banker or as a merchant.
According to Jain tradition, Dharna Shah gained the confidence of the king and was appointed minister. At the age of thirty-two years, however, greatly influenced by the sermons of the monk Shri Somasundara Suriji, he retired from the world to practise celibacy. In a dream, he saw a marvellous heavenly vehicle, the nalini-gulm-vimana (lotus flight), which impressed him so much that he suggested his idea to the king that he wanted to construct a temple in this shape. The Rana agreed and donated land for the temple and township.
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