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Ranakpur

Rising out of the Aravalli foothills to the north of Udaipur, near the banks of the Magai River, Ranakpur is one of the most significant Jain sites in India. This 15th century pale marble temple is dedicated to the first Teerthkar, or leader, Lord Adinath. Visitors coming to Ranakpur will be wowed by this impressive structure which will leave a lasting impression long after they leave Rajasthan.

The spectacular Ranakpur complex is three storeys high, with 27 halls and domes supported by over a thousand pillars.  Each pillar is uniquely carved and different to one another – no pillar is the same and legend has it that it is impossible to count all of the pillars. Its outer surfaces are carved with superb reliefs including one piece of marble depicting the deity of Parshwanath entwined with thousands of snakes. The walls of the Ranakpur temple are topped with pepper-pot turrets.

Inside the main temple are 45-foot-high statues of dancing nymphs. Below is a massive chamber used for hiding the statues of saints from raiders. On the ceiling of the entrance way you will find detailed carving of akichaka – a bearded man with five bodies representing fire, water, heaven, earth and air. There are also two subsidiary temples and, opposite, an often overlooked Sun Temple that is actually much older, originally built in the 13th century, and intricately carved with erotic images.

Nearby to Ranakpur, visitors might be interested in a trip to Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary, which occupies around 600 sq kilometres of old Aravalli forest, plains and rivers: a welcome oasis within the arid Rajasthani desert. Here, jeep safaris take visitors around the sanctuary to spot leopards or wolves. Also inhabiting this dense woodland are sloth bears, antelope, gazelle and a rich diversity of birdlife.

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