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Adinatha Temple at Ranakpur, Rajasthan.
Oriented around a square plan with an octagonal garbha griha, the temple must be one of the finest examples of medieval Jain architecture.

It features a complex floor plan with multi storied porches and balconies. The temple has a strong directional orientation, with entrances at the four compass points and, in the central chamber, images of Adinath facing in each of the four directions.

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from "The Penguin Guide to the Monuments of India" vol. 1, Buddhist, Jain, Hindu, by George Michell, 1989)

The central main shrine is called "Mula-Prasada", the interior of which is "Garbagriha" (sanctum), and its main statue is "Mulanayaka". For a Chaturmukha (four-faced) shrine, unlike the temples of Mt. Abu, there are no "Gudha-mandapa" (closed hall) or "Trika-mandapas" (vestibule), but four "Ranga-mandapas" ( A, assembly hall) in front of four portals of the main shrine. Each Ranga-mandapa is connected with a three storyed "Meghanada-mandapa" ( B, high hall) in front. 
Having four "Mahadara-prasada" (two-faced-shrine) diagonally in four directions of the main shrine, the temple type is "Panchayatana" (five-shrined-type). In addition to this, there are two "Bhadra-prasada" east and west sides, making the total composition much more intricate. A line of "Deva-kulika" (small shrine) along "Bhamati" (cloister) surround the whole complex. All these shrines hold a statue of Tirthankara or Jina (four in Chaturmukha, two in Mahadara-prasada), there are more than 100 statues in total.

The interior is elaborately carved and decorated throughout with Jain saviors, plant and floral motifs, and other figures.

The standard Jain pattern of richly decorated columns in the interior and an overwhelming use of marble dominate. It is interesting to note that none of the pillars is exactly alike in terms of carving and disposition.

A modern glass chandelier depends from the top of the corbelled dome, surrounded by carvings of celestial dancers and musicians.

Exquisitely detailed carving covers nearly every available surface in the temple.

The beautiful diagonal arch (in the shape of an upside-down "V") seen here, is formed by two sinuously curved brackets issuing from makaras. This kind of arch is a typical decorative (not weight-bearing) feature of Hindu and Jain temple architecture, where it defines a ceremonial entrance or gateway. It can also be found, as a borrowed element, in some early Mughal buildings.

The Five Elements
This odd figure, which combines four animal bodies and one human body, represents the "five elements" (earth, water, air, fire, and soul). Soul, being the only conscious element, is the only one represented as a human body, and the only one with a head. However, in Jain philosophy even inanimate particles of matter have souls, so the other four bodies symbolically "borrow" the head (consciousness) that comes from the soul within them.

The purpose of life, according to Jain religion, is for souls to shed their material bodies so that they can become free and pure again.

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The Adinath temple is very large. It stands on a basement of 60m x 62m , which looks like a stronghold. On the top of a flight of stairs at the central entrance, there is a three-storied "Balanaka" (entrance hall), which has a domed roof. Its entrance door is rather small in order to defend itself from incursion. Passing through the portals and walking up a dark staircase, there suddenly appears a bright and magnificent space, and the splendor takes our breath away.

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The temples are over 500 years old but well preserved. No other place in Rajasthan has the same ambience and setting as that of Ranakpur whose beauty has been emphasized by its isolation. The temples in Ranakpur are quite unique in style and design. The ceilings of the temples are carved with fine, lace-like foliate scrollwork and geometric patterns. The domes are carved in concentric bands and the brackets connecting the base of the dome with the top are covered with figures of deities.

According to a legend, Dharna Sah dreamed of a celestial vehicle. Enchanted by that vision he made a promise to himself and invited architects from all over India to design a temple. Finally he recruited the sculptor Depa who brought to him a draft that suited Dharna Sah's vision. The construction of the main shrine alone took more than 50 years. 

To name the works of architecture that provide us with the closest impression to this temple, it would be Ennis House and Imperial Hotel (in Japan), which were designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in his middle period. These two buildings are filled with unique concrete blocks, terra cottas, and tuff stones that are elaborately carved.

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Manish Jain Architect
Tel: +91 141 2743536 


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