Every time you go on a trip you discover something new. In our case it is much easier because we do not usually study the itineraries much or what we are going to find, it is about being surprised and being carried away. So much so that, on our trip to India, we met a religion of which we had no news – well, we knew something about it, but we did not identify it by name. Have you heard of Jainism? Maybe not, or maybe because of one of its most extremist branches, but what left us with our mouths open were its temples. After meeting them in Jaisalmer we did not miss the opportunity to visit as many as we could in the rest of the Tour of the Indian Rajasthan.
Jainism, a New Religion
When I say that Jainism is a new religion, I mean it to me, because its history dates back to the sixth century BC, or before the year 3000 according to some, which would make it one of the oldest religions in the world. It was Mahavira, the last Tirthankara, who attained enlightenment , who spread the religion in the 6th century BC, but Jain history tells us that there have been 24 Tirthankara, that the first, Adinath, was born 10 ^ 224 years ago and that the next It will in 81,500 years.
Its principles are based on the rejection of violence and the equality of all living beings. So much so that they are strict vegetarians, they don’t even tear anything from the ground because they could kill some animal in the process.
In the temple of Mahavira, in Osiyan , they explained to us that they cannot move more than walking and barefoot – some even carry a kind of broom with which they sweep the ground before stepping on to separate the insects, the digambaras -; you can’t cut your hair with scissors , just tear it off with your hands – although then we saw monks with short hair … -; some wear a mask, but not to not swallow insects, but so that their saliva does not fall on the books when praying or on other people when speaking to them; and they only drink boiled water – the idea is to avoid killing the microorganisms, but boiling the water kills them … -.This is what the temple restorer told us … that he worked there but was not a Jainist.
Jaisalmer, the First Jainist Contact
The most impressive thing we had seen until the moment we crossed the doors of the first Jain temple of Jaisalmer was left behind. We were not prepared for the incredible vision that entered our eyes. Maybe being in India – where cleanliness and relaxation are not house marks – will help. Going through that door was to find a small oasis of calm in the sandstone fort. Cleaning? There were the monks cleaning the figures. Figures that occupied until the last square centimeter of space, but without overwhelming, with an almost ethereal beauty of fine and precise features: dancers, warriors, freckles, psalms … carved in marble.
If you wonder if the outside is up to it, the answer is yes, but no. It is impressive to see the pyramidal domes, such as those of Angkor Wat, pointed that represent Mount Meru, a sacred mountain for Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. But they are not up to the work of the interior, although in other cities there are carvings also abroad.
Osiyan, Chandi Ka Mandir, Amba Mata Mandir and Mahavira
In Chandi Ka Mandir and Amba Mata Mandir, the temples of Chandi Ka and Amba Mata, there are carvings in the pyramid domes in memory of Mount Meru. To get there you have to climb a ladder that rungs you down the stairs – in our case with the sweat that the premononic heat of June caused us.
The Thar Desert continues to make its own and the sand gives that aspect of dream, of dreamlike fantasy, to what your eyes see. As if a mirage had escaped from the depths of the dunes and had sneaked in the middle of Osiyan. Some sand will take you on your feet, which you will have to barefoot to be able to enter these and all the Jain temples of the country. On the altars you will find food offered to the gods.
The Mahavira temple was built in 775 although, as our restorer told us, much of what is seen today is his and his son’s work … will it be true?
Ranakpur, How to Be Out Of India
Again the circumstances could have something to do, we arrived after two days without stopping running from one place to another: trains, buses, races … and we found a haven of peace in the middle of all that stress. Ranakpur is like a well-kept green park, in which temples are the most spectacular flowers, connected by paved roads. There are no cows, no horn noise, and no people asking … it’s like being out of India.
Carved marble as we were used to, but a white marble, without the desert sand making a dent in it. The company of a monk, with perfectly cut hair that made us doubt that of pulling it off, completed the visit. Details like there is a column with a failure made on purpose so that the perfection of the gods would not be tarnished by a human, or a Ganesh inside a tree would have gone unnoticed.
Here there are carvings outside the temples, but it is the interior that overwhelms. It is said that the main temple, dedicated to Adinath, is the most beautiful Jain temple in the whole country and it seemed to us at that time. More than 3,600 square meters with various heights, stairs, rooms, columns – nothing less than 1,444 -, images … and all carved.
Mount Abu, the Monastery of Dilwara, Is Not Going Anymore
When we arrived at Monte Abu, we already thought it was impossible to find something more beautiful – and yes, I say beautiful, filling my mouth with the word. Again, reality showed us that it is above our imagination. If I tell you that just after crossing the door of the monastery of Dilwara we had to sit on the floor and stay there for more than half an hour looking at the ceiling, the columns, the walls, the floor … trying to memorize everything because, if the other temples could not be entered with shoes or water, it cannot be entered with a camera either.
The Mount Abu, along with Ranakpur, one of the most important centers of Jain pilgrimage: this mountain was a refuge for meditation of Mahavira. The complex has five temples to which most incredible, the most important being those dedicated to Adinath and Neminath.
Legend has it that temple workers earned their salary based on the amount of marble dust they raised when carving the figures. When we managed to recover, we began to walk through the 59 rooms of the temple, reaching a point of saturation of beauty that Stendhal could not even imagine.
Udaipur and the Jagdish Temple
There are 32 steps that are up to enter and, it is already impossible, it is not prettier than the previous ones. Perhaps if the order had been different, with Ranakpur and Mount Abu later, we would have also hallucinated with the Jagdish temple, but above perfection there is nothing left.
Ajmer and the Red or Golden Temple
The last of the Jain temples we visited in India was the Ajmer Red Temple. Ready to see more marble carvings, we were surprised. There is not here. Instead, there are golden figures that represent the Jain concept of the ancient world. Here is Mount Meru, with the continent Yambu Duipa at your feet. It is surrounded in concentric circles by seven other continents separated by seven seas.
Unlike everything we had seen so far.
And you, did you know the Jain religion and its temples?
If after this you have wanted to visit India, do not miss our tour with what to see in each city, way of moving and accommodation.