The Dilwara temples near Mount Abu, comprising five shrines adorned with marble carvings, stand as a proof to human ingenuity and creativity, writes V Guhan
Mount Abu is a famous pilgrim centre. But there is more to the place than meets the eye. The Dilwara temples, barely three kms from the town, are truly worth a visit. These Jain Shvetambara temples are set on a hill in the midst of a mango grove. The interiors defy the lassitude of the exterior, barricaded by high walls and barbed wire. Every nook and corner of the temples is adorned with beautifully carved marbles. There are five shrines – Vimal Vasahi, Luna Vasahi, Pithalhar, Khatter Vasahi (Parshwanath) and Mahaveer swami – belonging to different centuries. The first two shrines are completely made of white marbles with mind-blowing carvings and ornamentation on the walls, doors, pillars, mandaps, torans, ceiling etc. The carvings take floral designs besides various forms depicting the beliefs of Jains and the life of Thirthankaras. With none of the designs repeated anywhere in the structure, the temples stand as a proof to human ingenuity and creativity. Temple of Mahaveer swami: This is a small and simple structure constructed in 1582 AD and dedicated to the 24th Jain Tirthankar, Lord Mahaveer. There are pictures on the upper walls of the porch painted in 1764 AD by the artists of Sirohi. The real treasures of Dilwara are inside the Vimal Vasahi and Luna Vasahi temples.
Vimal Vasahi temple: Vimal Shah, the patron after whom the temple is named, was a minister of state in the early 11th century. He is said to have spent Rs 18.53 crores to build this temple to atone for his sins committed on the battlefields. It took 14 years to build this temple by 1500 artisans and 1200 labourers.The marble was brought from Arasoori hill near Ambaji, 20 kms from Abu Road. The temple is dedicated to Adinath. According to a historian, the artisans were paid in gold and silver. The shrine is less ornate thus making the carving seem more fine and beautiful.
While entering the embellished door of Vimal Vasahi, we get a glimpse of the grandeur of sculpted marble, exquisite carvings on the domes, pillars and arches. It has a circumambulatory corridor comprising 57 cells. In each cell, image of one or the other Jain Thirthankar is installed. In front of every cell, carved roofs are screened by double arcade of pillars. And the pillars have fine carvings of nymphs and musicians. The most celebrated section of the temple is the 'Rang Mantap' which is supported by 12 pillars whose brackets are elaborately carved to resemble garlands or 'torana's. The brackets stretch from the edge of the Rang Mantap's ceiling towards the centre and carved with fluid grace in the shape of dancing women. They seem to hang from the ceiling rather than hold it up.
Rang Mantap: In the centre of the dome hangs a big ornamental pendant. It hangs from the centre more like a crystal drops and is finished with a delicacy of details and appropriateness of an ornament which is probably hard to find anywhere else. How the weight of the hanging mass of fretted marble is supported is a mystery.
Luna Vasahi: Luna Vasahi or Neemnath temple (1230 AD) is structurally identical to Vimal Vasahi though different gods are depicted on its walls and ceilings. Built by two brothers, Vastipal and Tejpal, this splendid shrine, though smaller than Vimal Vasahi, is far more in perfection when it comes to design and depiction.
Hastishala (elephant cell): This cell has 10 beautiful elephants made from marble with details such as ropes, garlands, tusks, trappings etc.
Pitalhar temple: A massive metal statue with rich carving of Rishabadev (Adinath), cast in five metals, mainly 'Pittal' (brass) is installed in the temple and it is due to this reason that the temple is called Pitalhar temple.
Parshwanath: This is the tallest of all shrines at Dilwara. Made with sandstone, the sanctum has the marble idol of Parswanath. The statue is canopied by nine snakehoods and elaborate 'parikar' around each figure. The outer walls of the sanctum contains some beautiful and vibrant sculptures in grey sandstone.
No description or drawing can truly explain how beautiful an architecture these temples carry. It has to be seen to be believed. Vimal Vasahi temple: Vimal Shah, the patron after whom the temple is named, was a minister of state in the early 11th century. He is said to have spent Rs 18.53 crores to build this temple to atone for his sins committed on the battlefields. It took 14 years to build this temple by 1500 artisans and 1200 labourers.The marble was brought from Arasoori hill near Ambaji, 20 kms from Abu Road. The temple is dedicated to Adinath. According to a historian, the artisans were paid in gold and silver. The shrine is less ornate thus making the carving seem more fine and beautiful.