Around 150 kilometers away from Jodhpur and 90 kilometers from Udaipur, in the Pali district of western Rajasthan lies Ranakpur village which is famous for its Jain temple dedicated to Tirthankara Adinath. One of the 5 major pilgrimages of the Jains, Chaturmukha Jain temple is known throughout the world for its intricate, architectural brilliance and is an eloquent testimony to India’s cultural heritage.
If the local legend is to be believed, the exquisite temple is the simple realization of 4 devout seekers’ visions, namely Somasundara Suriji, Rana Kumbha, his minister Dharna Shah, and Depaka. Suriji infused a spiritual urge in Dharna Shah’s heart which led him to an austere vow of lifelong celibacy. Once in a dream, he had a vision of Nalinigulma Vimaan (Lotus Plane), one of the most beautiful celestial planes, and he felt an urge to come up with a temple resembling the divine plane. 50 renowned artists were invited but none of them were able to capture Dharna Shah’s dream. It became difficult to execute the minister’s wish of combining the Chaturmukha temple (4-faced image of Tirthankara Adinath) and Nalinigulma Vimaan. It was then that an easy-going architect by the name of Depaka showed up and presented a plan that not only felt accomplishable, but also began a confluence of art and devotion. The minister then approached Rana Kumbha, Mewar’s ruler and presented his plan of building a temple and asked for land. The king not only agreed, but also advised to build a township around the temple and then in the 15th century, began the construction of the temple and the town. The town today is known as Ranakpur.
Covering an area of 48000 square feet, Chaturmukha Jain temple is surrounded by lush, green forests and edges the river Maghai. Placed on a lofty foundation and enveloped in solitude, this three story marble superstructure stands in sublime glory in complete harmony with the Mother Nature. Defying comparison and bathing in celestial bliss, the temple has 4 Mahadar Prasads (Principal Shrines) in 4 different directions which can be accessed through artistic entrances. Through the chambers you get to the main hall where the 4 marble images of Lord Adinath are positioned. These are about 72 inches tall and are placed in 4 different directions symbolizing Adinath’s quest for the 4 directions, and ultimately the cosmos. All the upper floors have similarly placed images. The marble images are surrounded by domes and shrines. The entire complex is home to several other temples including Parsavanath Temple, Amba Mata Temple, and Surya Temple. Chaturmukha Temple, a masterpiece of architectural beauty also boasts of 76 smaller shrines, 4 assembly halls, and a number of subsidiary shrines. The temple is sometimes also referred to as the treasure house of pillars. This is because there are 1444 intricately carved pillars that are arranged in a manner that none of them obstructs the view of the Adinath idol.
Time and foreign invaders rendered much damage to this holy shrine and for a long time it wore a deserted look and was infested with animals and dacoits. The administration of Chaturmukha Jain Temple was then handed over to Shetah Anandji Kalyanji Trust who took over the charge and provided safety and necessary amenities to the devotees. They also launched a renovation program which took around 11 years to complete.