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Delwara Temple, Mount Abu
Location: 2.5km from Mount
Built by: Vimala Shah
Built in: 800AD-1200AD
Description
The Jain temples at Dilwara, near Mount Abu are considered to be masterpieces of temple architecture. Mount Abu's chief claims to fame are the Jain temples architecture at Dilwara, about 5km from Nakki lake. The Dilwara temples were built during the age of Jain supremacy and are one of the finest Jain temples India has to offer. Many experts consider them architecturally superior to the Taj Mahal. The architecture is marked by carvings that are not just ethereally beautiful in form but are often presented in a highly poetic context. For instance, one of the marble nayikas (maidens) is depicted as having just emerged from her bath. Droplets falling from her long hair are shown being drunk by a swan sitting by her feet.
Exquisite Temple Carvings
erhaps the most outstanding feature of Jain temple architecture is its carvings. and that is an understatement. Wherever one looks, be it pillars, ceilings, walls and floors, Jain temples go to the extreme – and beyond it – when it comes to adorning their temples with the very stone they work with. Jain mythology, saints, gods and goddesses, monks, devotees or just good old religious motifs all find their way in a spectacular rendezvous in marble and rock. Each nook and corner of Jain temples are so diligently carved that it’s a wonder that the edifice was created out of plain stone. Carving is perhaps not the right word for Jain temples – chiselling would be more appropriate. Their fragile delicacy merged with an architectural lexicon is what constitues the basis of these amazing temples. Simply put, there is not an inch where one can place his hand and not encounter a spectacular frieze.
The Methodology of Carving
In the temples in Mount Abu even chiseling was put aside, and artisans adopted the sedulous task of thinning the marble into carved images, a worth noticing architectural splendor. This was done by gently scraping away the surface till a figure eventually emerged, so intricate and fine that it was intelligibly magnificent. This is the reason why the temples in Mount Abu and Ranakpur are said to be the finest Jain temples in the world.
Marvelous Architecture Splendor
The architectural vocabulary of the region included ornamental rendering of flowers and creepers. The portrayal of Yakshini Chakreshwari, the attendant deity of Adinatha (first Jain saint) is an integral part of the temple. Keeping with the prevailing aesthetic norms the figures have sharp facial features set in broad faces and narrow waists. The intricately sculpted arches here are of two types; one with regular wavy undulations and the other, which is seen in the Vimala Vasahi, with exaggerated curves. Two of these temples have been singled out by many experts as outstanding. These are the Vimala Vasahi built in 1031-32AD and Luna Vasahi built in 1230.
This Jain temple was built by Vimala Shah (variously described as a merchant and a minister of the Solanki ruler of Gujarat) to atone for his sins. This temple, dedicated to the first Jain tirthankar (fordmaker) Adinatha, involved a work force of 2,700 men and took a total of 14 years to complete at an exuberant cost, a worth noticing specimen of architectural splendor. Prithvipala, a descendant of Vimala, is also known to have added to the magnificent temple in 1150AD. The temple of Vimala is supposed to the oldest and the most `complete’ example of Jain temple architecture. The rather simple façade hides an amazingly beautiful interior.
The Gateway
The entrance to the temple is from the east through a domed porch which leads to a six-pillared pavilion with a three-tiered smosan (a conventional representation of the holy mountain of the Jains) in the center. The smosan is surrounded by 10 statues including that of the founder Vimala and his family, each seated on a beautiful elephant chiseled out of a single block of white marble, about four feet high. These representations are now badly defaced, having been destroyed by plundering zealots.
The Shrine of Jina Adinatha
From the pavilion one passes into a secluded courtyard. Here the temple resolves itself into a colonnade which forms an open arcade containing the shrine. Seated in the center of this shrine is the cross-legged seated figure Jina Adinatha, to whom the temple is dedicated. The entire interior architecture is leniently covered with elaborate carvings, but the splendour of the domed ceiling of this hall is what sets it apart from all others. Percy Brown, in his book Indian Architecture: Buddhist and Hindu Period, details the profusion of imagery that went into this ornate ceiling: "This dome is built up of 11 concentric rings, five of w
 
   
 
 
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