Stranger in a Strange Land
Tales of a Year Abroad

Picture Pages, Picture Pages (WARNING: PICTURE HEAVY)

In lieu of a "serious" blog post, I give you pictures (cause really, who doesn't like visuals?)! While attending the Fulbright conference in Udaipur, we rented a car for a day trip to the Ranakpur Jain Temple (the Jains are the group that Steve studies, more (basic) information may be found here or feel free to contact Steve). This temple, in comparison to others built in/around the same time (late 14th to early 15th Century--it took about 63 years to complete most of the structure, some parts of the temple remain unfinished merely roughed out sketches of where carvings should go in the white marble pillars and ceilings), is unique in its construction. Most Hindu/Jain temples of this period are dark in the inside, as they are built as fully enclosed structures (four walls and a roof). However, Ranakpur temple is built in three tiers with each tier carved in such a way as to let in as much light as possible. The great Moghul emporer Akbar was so entranced by the beauty of the temple, he made an edict, which is set in stone outside the temple, that no one should ever destroy this marvel of architecture. More recently, the Jain temple at Ranakpur was voted as one of the top 77 "New Marvels of the World" in a competition sponsored by National Geographic.   

Detail of one of the (many) ceiling pendants. That's all hand carved folks... all hand carved.

Detail of the top of one of the over 400 columns that support the multi-tiered temple.

Detail of ceiling

This image of the Jina Parshvanath is the most famous image from this particular temple. The figures standing to the immediate left and right of the Jina are a man and a woman (possible significance=patrons?). The figures to the extreme left and right of the Jina are naga (snake) attendants. The nagas are a race of subterranean semi-divine beings who are worshiped widely in India and present in many different Indian texts. The umbrella structure over the Jina and these other figures is actually a 1,000 headed (be my guest, count them if you want!) cobra. If you look closely within the twisty parts (which are actually continuously entwined naga tails), there are more naga ladies sprinkled throughout. 
A (very) small representation of the number, style, and construction of pillars within the temple

Detail at the bottom of a door

Finished ceiling and...

Unfinished ceiling.

Ceiling of a different variety

 Detail of outside of temple

The carvings are quite marvelous--they go back into the corners (as you an see here) and are actually carved in the round (meaning they're carved ALL the way around the figure)

A god and goddess all decked out, and a snake in a box (not a real snake...)

A temple pujari (pujaris are ritual officiants--they help maintain the temple, make sure all the necessary items for worship are stocked/on hand, and perform rituals if no laypeople are present to do so).

Indra, King of the Gods. Indra is the ideal male devotee; Indra was the first to bathe the Jina post-birth, thus establishing the model for lay ritual.

Brahma (often called the Creator God; ironically, the Jains do not believe the world was created but rather it always existed so Brahma's inclusion on one of the pillars of this temple is interesting.)

I call this "You hurt my toe, now I kill you!" (note the sword this lovely lady is holding in her hand...)

The following images are Steve's favorite portion of the temple. These round disks (carved out of a very thick, heavy piece of marble) are representations of Nandishvara (the mythical continent at the edge of the universe). There 52 Jain temples (represented by the "houses") which only the gods may make pilgrimage. The cone shaped thing in the middle of the circle is representative of continents and oceans of our portion of the universe. The very center of that cone is Mount Meru, or the axis point around which the entire universe spins. The trees are wish-fulfilling trees. 

Here's some perspective just how tall these columns are... this picture ends about 2/3 of the way up the column. These columns, however, are not one solid piece of marble. Rather, they are sections, individual carved, and then placed on top of each other. The craftsmanship is so fine, however, that you can barely detect where one piece of marble is laid atop the other.

A portion of a column. I believe this image is supposed to represent a lotus flower.
This is my favorite column (no two columns are alike, supposedly. There are far too many to, in 3-5 hours, to ascertain whether or not this statement is true). The pictures that follow are close-up details of the figures (from top to bottom they are: a devotee, a kirtimukha (a figure that wards off evil), an elephant, a horse, a goose, and a lion)

This column was unique (as far as I could tell) as it was the only column in the entire temple that included a single elephant head vs. a complementary elephant figure on the opposite side of the column. 

Detail of ceiling--note that these guys are half man, half bird. Also note, their tails (those squiggly things behind them) appear to come out of their bellybuttons... Steve is kerflummoxed.

Dude and Naga Ladies--sort of reminiscent of the Jina, his umbrella of cobra heads, and many, many Naga ladies...

And finally, Steve and I pose for the obligatory touristy picture in  front of the temple:

I took over one hundred pictures of the Jain temple at Ranakpur--so many in fact, I killed my camera battery and was unable to take photos of the two lesser (in size alone!) Jain temples and one Surya (Sun) temple at the complex (which is actually rather unfortunate as there were some interesting and unique elements present at/on these temples as well). Please visit my Photobucket slide show on the front page of my blog for a full complement of the pictures as well as a video of Steve explaining the elements of the famous and iconic circular Jinna image. 

Amazing photos! It is hard to believe that this was build so long ago and still looks so amazing. Gosh! The detail!

i'm pondering if the "tummy-tails" on the bird-men (gosh, sounds so blunt in English) could be the ocean, rather than actual "tails"? There are many relationships between the stomach and water (Shri Vishnu, etc.), but I may be reaching on this one... Would love to hear the follow-up if Steve figures this one out.... Thanks for the pics!

Aw, i love the pic of you and steve in the end. Awesome pics. made me feel like i was back in my Art History class.

Nice pictures..i like pictures very much of my hobby is photography too.for web-based pictures you can see my anohter blog and for my own photography you can see man in the hav great patience too..while taking pictures.and which camera your using?im using nikon.

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The land of dreams and romance, of fabulous wealth and fabulous poverty, of splendour and rags, of palaces and hovels, of famine and pestilence, of genii and giants and Alladin lamps, of tigers and elephants, the cobra and the jungle, the country of hundred nations and a hundred tongues, of a thousand religions and two million gods, cradle of the human race, birthplace of human speech, mother of history, grandmother of legend, great-grandmother of traditions, whose yesterday's bear date with the modering antiquities for the rest of nations-the one sole country under the sun that is endowed with an imperishable interest for alien prince and alien peasant, for lettered and ignorant, wise and fool, rich and poor, bond and free, the one land that all men desire to see, and having seen once, by even a glimpse, would not give that glimpse for the shows of all the rest of the world combined.
- Mark Twain

In India, I found a race of mortals living upon the Earth, but not adhering to it, inhabiting cities, but not being fixed to them, possessing everything, but possessed by nothing.
- Appolonius Tyanaeus

If there is one place on the face of earth where all the dreams of living men have found a home from the very earliest days when man began the dream of existence, it is India.
-Romain Rolland