The very sight of these centres evoke feeling of purity and devotion, in the hearts of the pilgrims and draws them close to the Drive. The monuments make one feel that eternity has been preserved by mortal men, who have built brilliant architectural wonders to act as places of worship.
Be it the Jain temples of Mount Abu and Ranakpur, the Hindu temples built by the Birlas at Jaipur, the Ajmer Sharif dargah that sees the largest turnout of Muslims in any place in India – all these have been symbols of India’s inherent dichotomy and the harmony that exists between all traditions and beliefs.
One of the most popular pilgrim sites for Hindus in the state is Pushkar. Pushkar is more popular among international travelers due to its annual camel fair, which is held at the same time as the pilgrimage to the holy city. According to legends, when Goddess Parvati had died as Sati and Lord Shiva, maddened by grief, was carrying her body across the earth, one of the goddess’ arms fell where Pushkar now stands. This belief has provided devotees the reason to travel from all over the world to take a dip in the Pushkar Lake, close to the Brahma Temple, the only such temple in the world.
Pilgrimage in Rajasthan
Some other popular pilgrim destinations for Hindus are the Ekling Temple in Udaipur, Shrinath in Nathwara, Rishabhdev in Dhulev, Karni Mata in Deshnok and Govind Devi in Jaipur. Associated with many of these temples are local legends and devout people living in the area come here everyday to offer flowers, sweets, and anything else their pocket and devotion can afford. These temples are old, and it is not just the history that attracts the visitors. The architecture is superb, and it is easy to see that the ancient artisans put their heart and soul into their creation. The deities residing in this temple grant wishes, acknowledge prayers, and keep the villages and areas surrounding the temple safe.
The Jain temples here were built by wealthy Jain merchants and ministers in the kings’ courts. These temples are old, with the Mount Abu temples reportedly having been built between the eleventh and fifteenth centuries. Each of these temples are dedicated to a particular tirthankar, or Jain teacher. The carvings on the sandstone and marble walls and ceilings are superb, and depict not just the Jain teachers, but also lovely demigoddesses and dancers.
Pilgrimage in Rajasthan is about faith, tradition, and piety. But if you were to visit these sites, you will realize that it is also about the timelessness of certain values and an appreciation of beauty, particularly evident in the Jain and Hindu temple architecture.
The dargah Sharif or the place of Where the Muslim saint KhajwaMoinudin Chishti lie sburied, draws piligrams and devotees from all parts of the Islamic world.
But his admirers today come from all religions as the Dargah Sharif is considered a shrine where wishes are fulfiled.
The flow of piligrams is quite steady throught the year but at the time of the annual urs (death anniversary ceremonies of the saint ) which lasts for six days, lakhs of pilgrims from all parts of India as well as from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Eastern Asia converge upon the shrine.
Moti Doongri is a small palace which is a replica of a Scottish castle. Once occupied by Maharaja Madho Singh's son who was confined here, it was also for a while home to Maharani Gayatri Devi. The entry is prohibited in here.
At the foot of Moti Dungri fort is the Birla Temple. This temple forms one of the major attractions of Jaipur. This Temple looks stunning, when it is brightly lit in the night. The enormous temple was built during the year 1988, by Birla Group of Industries, one of the business tycoons of India
Dilwara TemplesThe Dilwara Temples are situated on Mount Abu, the highest point in Rajasthan. Mount Abu is part of the ancient Aravalli hill range of Rajasthan. This location has the distinction of being the only hill station in Rajasthan – the only place where you find cool temperatures when the rest of Rajasthan sizzles in the desert summers.
The Dilwara Temple is a cherished part of the itinerary of the Jain pilgrim. The temples were built more than a thousand years back. The builders hauled blocks of marbles up the hill, placed them in formation, and chiseled away till they had crafted a monument of wonder. Because Jainism is against all forms of ostentation, the temple is not lavish on the scale of Hindu temples.
The decorations and embellishments are toned down. But that does not take away from the beauty and wonderful architecture of these ancient Jain temples. There are a total of five temples here, each dedicated to and named after a Jain Tirthankar, or Teacher: Adinath, Neminath, Rishabhdev, Parshwanath and Mahaveer Swami. The Adinath Temple was built by Vimal Shah.
The temple has arches, pillars, and mandaps, carrying carved representations of plants and flowers. Of note is the Rang Mandap, with a huge domed ceiling and colonnades depicting female deities in carved marble. The sanctum sanctorum of Adinath itself is simple, and this is the place devotees gather to offer prayers. The Neminath Temple was built by two brothers, who were in the employment of the local ruler.
The temple, while dedicated to Neminath, was actually built by the grieving brothers for the solace of the soul of their deceased brother Luna. The Rang Mandap features a domed ceiling, from which a huge chain is suspended. Of particular note are the carvings of 72 Tirthankars. The idol of Neminath in the Gudh Mandap room is made of black marble.
The Rishabhdev Temple is famed for the statue of Rishabhdev in the sanctum sanctorum. The temple was built by Bhima Shah, the Jain minister in the court of the local sultan.
The Parshwanath Temple was built considerably later than the first three temples. It has four mandaps done in sandstone. The walls have carvings depicting demigods and goddesses from Indian mythology and folklore.
The Mahavir Swami temple was built in the sixteenth century. The highlight of this temple is the artwork on the walls done by Sirohi artists.
Ranakpur Temples are located in the town of Rakanpur, nestled in the Aravalli ranges, about 50 kilometers away from Udaipur. The town is small, but the Jain temples here are a major attraction for pilgrims as well as tourists. The temples were built by a Jain merchant, Dharna Shah, on land donated by Rana Kumbha in the fifteenth century.
The largest of these temples has an area of more than 50,000 square feet. The temple has a unique appearance, since it was carved in the shape of a vimana, or aircraft, mentioned frequently in mythology. This temple has four "mandaps", and 24 large halls with domed ceilings. The halls have pillars of stone on which figurines of demigoddesses are carved. The largest hall has two huge bells, whose sound echo all over the temple complex on ringing.
The sanctum sanctorum holds a statue of Adinath, to whom the temple is dedicated. The statue depicts Adinath with four faces, each facing a different direction. It is an artistic representation of the omnipresent Adinath, who is present in every direction.
The second of the Ranakpur Temples is dedicated to Parshwanath. Of particular note here are the carved windows. The Suryanarayan Temple, dedicated to the sun god, has unique architecture, depicting the journey of the sun in the course of a day.
The third temple in the same complex is dedicated to Neminath. Surrounding the Ranakpur Temples are vast, silent forests of the Aravallis. The place is sparsely populated, and you will not find many people here apart from tourists and the odd shepherd leading his flock to better pastures.
Brahma Temple, Pushkar
The Brahma temple is an important pilgrim centre for the Hindus. It is nestled in the Pushkar valley which lies beyond Nagaparvat and the Anasagar lake. This place, full of natural beauty, holds a special place in the hearts of Indians for it is believed that Lord Brahma, together with all the gods and goddesses, performed a Yagya here. Legend also has it that the ancient lake Sarovar had appeared miraculously, when a lotus fell from the hands of Lord Brahma and dropped into the this valley. The image of Brahmaji in Pushkar is in a seated Palthi position.
This temple built with marble is decorated with silver turtle on the floor of the temple. The Rangnath temple has been built in southern style and is simply magnificent. Its images are almost true of life. This temple has an image of Lord Vishnu, life-size dwarpals (door men) and Garuda pillars showing the mythical bird styled in gold. Pushkar has around four hundred temples. There is a temple dedicated to Mahalaskmi, who is the goddess of wealth and the Godamba Temple. Worth special mention are the temples of Vishnu. Atmeshvara, Gayatri, Savitri and the old Ranagnath Tourism Development Corporation also provides facilities to the tourists, specially during the Pushkar fair, when a tented village is put up.