Monday, July 20, 2015

A Fort and Temples. . . and bumpy roads

Sunday brought an exciting day trip out of Udaipur to explore Kumbhalgarh Fort and Ranakpur, home to a beautiful Jain temple.  The day hosted us with some cooler weather, a little rain here and there, awe-inspiring sights and heights, and the most efficient driver with whom I have ever ridden.  The drive is definitely worth mentioning -- as another volunteer on the trip said, "I usually have to pay for this much excitement."  Truth. Our driver was tearing up the roads in our mini-suv, I can only imagine him in a high-performance car.

Perhaps our last stretch of level, straight road passing behind us.
To get to Kumbhalgarh from Udaipur, we drove westward through the Aravali mountain range.  A very luscious green and leafy area, it is easy to see why this serves as a retreat to so many.  The fort began construction in the 15th-century and is now a World Heritage Site.  Interestingly, the fort contains the "Great Wall of India," the world's second largest wall after China's.  The area included within the fort demesnes is massive and incorporates farmlands, ruins, Hindu and Jain temples, and small hamlets.  Once we arrived to the fort, the altitude and cool winds met the enshrouding fog to give the whole atmosphere a mysterious intrigue of the history in the spot on which we stood.

Shot from the Ram Pol (Ram Gate) along the fort wall.

Following the track of the wall from the fort's top level.

Amid one of the over-300 temples inside the fort.

After a lunch with some curious monkeys, we starting on the second half of our day towards Ranakpur.  Also, constructed in the 15th-century, Ranakpur houses a Jain temple devoted to the first Jain Thirtankara, Adinatha.  In Jainism, there are 24 such "ford-makers," or those who have successfully left this cycle of rebirth and redeath, from our current cosmic period. The 24th in the line is Mahavira, who is said to be a contemporary of the Gautama Buddha.  I don't know as much about Adinatha, but could read his name on most of the murtis (images) around the temple (sorry, no pictures of those!).  Tradition holds that as the first of the jinas in our age, Adinatha, taught basic human civilization:  farming and commerce, politics and art, and the proper teachings of caring for mendicants, such as dana "alms."

The temple is known for its intricate carvings and cool marble finish. What really astounds me, though, is how well preserved everything is.  For the shear magnitude and detail, the structure seems pristine.  Enjoy the pictures, and stay with me for more this week.

Jai mata di.

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