Next on the itinerary after Kumbhalgarh were the Jain temples at Ranakpur. They’re not as famous as the Dilwara temples at Mount Abu, but I wasn’t going there, and Ranakpur is pretty impressive in its own right.
The Jains have some very strict requirements for entering the temples. I removed my leather belt, prepared a lie about leather-effect plastic in case they asked about my wallet, removed my boots yet again, checked I wasn’t menstruating, and went in, with my trousers falling down.
The main Jain temple at Ranakpur is an extraordinary mass of marble. Its design is based on numerology around the number 72, the age at which Jainism’s founder, Mahavira, died.
For example, there are supposed to be 72 subsidiary shrines in a gallery around the outer wall. I walked the entire circuit and counted them. There are indeed 72, plus 4 hidden ones in the corners, which have no windows, though you can see them by peering sideways from the ones on either side. There are also several larger ones in unlit chambers, dimly visible through grills.
The most striking feature of the temple is the forest of pillars inside it. Most references say there are 1444, a few others 1440, but since 1440 = 72 * 20 I suspect the latter is correct. The same references are the ones who mention the 72 thing, so I’m surprised they don’t do their sums. I decided not to try counting all the pillars too – I’ll leave it as a project for if I ever visit again.
There are various other crazy things to find, like bizarre fantastical creatures sticking out of tower bases, a tortuously knotted snake relief (count the snakes) and the huge bee colonies hanging from projections on the outer walls. They’re like Easter eggs. You could write an I-Spy book for it; it’d be great fun.
One thing you wouldn’t have trouble spotting is sculptures of buxom naked girls in sassy poses. The Jains apparently love them and seem to adorn all their temples with them. It’s a pity they don’t have any real ones, dancing around the building: just robed men stopping you going to the main shrine if you don’t look Jain enough.