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Dilwara Temples, Mount Abu, Rajasthan
Dilwara temples located at Mount Abu in Rajasthan date back from the 11th to 13th century. These exquisite temples made of marble are dedicated to Jain Tirthankaras.
 
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 Dilwara Temples, Mount Abu, RajasthanJain Dilwara temples are one of the finest Jain temples and are regarded as the epitome of Jain art. It is known for its extraordinary architecture and marvelous marble stone carvings. The temple is located about two-and-a-half kilometers from Mount Abu, Rajasthan`s only hill station. These temples date back from the 11th to 13th century and are world famous for their use of marble. This is a pilgrimage site for the Jains. According to the inscription found at Mount. Abu, it was basically a seat of Shaivism and Jainism made its appearance only in 11th century.

The door opens on to a blend of irresistible beauty and elegance. The temples are surrounded with mango trees and wooded hills and a high wall that shrouds the entire temple complex. The ornamental detail is spread over the minutely carved ceilings, doorways, pillars and panels and is truly stunning. The first of these temples was built in 1032 AD.

History of Dilwara Temples
Mount Abu located in the southwest part of Rajasthan is a part of the Aravalli Mouintain Ranges and is separated from the Aravalli by a narrow valley and Guru Shikhar is the highest point at the northern end.

Sculpture of Dilwara Temple According to legend, Hindus revere this place because once Nandini, the cow of the sage Vashisht was trapped in a deep gorge and could not free itself. The sage asked for Lord Shiva`s assistance. Shiva sent Goddess Saraswati, the divine stream, to help flood the gorge so that the cow could float up. Sage Vashishta then decided to ensure that such mishaps would not occur in future and asked the youngest son of Himalaya to fill the gorge permanently. He took the help of the snake Arbud. This spot came to be known as Mount Arbud since then and was later reduced to its present form Mount Abu. Ancient Hindu and Jain scriptures refer to it as Arbudgiri. The Dilwara temples are dedicated to the Jain Tirthankars and served as storehouses of illustrated manuscripts and treatises. The temples at Mount Abu were constructed between 800 AD and 1200 AD. Vimala Shah, Vastu Pala and Teja Pala contributed a lot toward the development of Jain art and architecture.

Temples of Dilwara
There are five temples in all, each with its own identity and these are named after the village in which they are located. These temples are Vimal Vasahi (Shri Adi Nathji temple), Luna Vasahi (Shri Nemi Nathji temple), Pithalhar (Shri Rishabh Deoji temple), Khartar Vasahi (Shri Parshavnathji temple) and Mahavira Swami (Shri Mahaveer Swamiji temple). The most famous of these are the Vimal Vasahi and Luna Vasahi temple.

Vimala Vasahi Temple
It is the earliest and most important temple here and is dedicated to the first Jain Tirthankara, Bhagwan Rishabh Dev. It stands in an open courtyard with 58 cells containing the small icons duplicating the saint`s image found in the main shrine. The plan of the temple resembles that of Sun temple found at Martand in Kashmir. It is elaborately columned with porticoes surrounding the main shrine and front cells that line the courtyard. The entire temple is carved out of white marble. The corridors, pillars, arches, and mandaps are richly carved. The ceilings feature engraved designs of lotus-buds, petals, flowers and scenes from Jain and Hindu mythology. The Rang Mandap is an impressive hall and is supported by 12 decorated pillars and carved arches with a spectacular central dome. It has 11 concentric rings, five having patterns of figures and animals. The lowest part contains 150 figures of elephants with intertwined trunks. The pillars have carved female figurines playing musical instruments and 16 Vidhya devis or the goddesses of knowledge each holding her symbol. The Navchowki i.e. collection of nine rectangular ceilings, contains beautiful and different designs carved and are supported on ornate pillars.

The Gudh mandap is a simple hall with a heavily decorated doorway. Installed here is the idol of Adi Nath. The mandap is meant for Aarti of the deity. The Hastishala (Elephant Cell) was constructed by Prithvipal, a descendant of Vimal Shah in 1147-49 A.D and features a row of elephants in sculpture.

Ceiling of Dilwara Temples, Mount Abu, Rajasthan Legend: According to the local legend before becoming the minister, the two brothers Vastupala and Tejapala went on a pilgrimage carrying huge wealth, which they decided to bury under a tree, but while digging they found more gold. At this point Anupama Devi, wife of Tejapala advised them to build temples at Shatrunjaya and Girnar with their wealth. During their term in office they heard about the holiness of Mt Abu and decided to build a temple there dedicated to Lord Neminath to commemorate the death of their brother, Luniga.

It is also believed that when the elaborate and intricate carvings were finished, Tejapala asked the carvers to add greater delicacy to the floral patterns by more chiseling, offering them reward in silver weighing as much as the marble filed. Later Tejapala offered gold in weight to the marble if it could be chiseled further.

The Luni Vasahi
The temple is dedicated to Lord Neminatha. It is also known as Tejapala temple and resembles the architectural plan of Vimala Vashi temple built nearly 200 years ago. The temple stands as the last of the monument built in the Solanki architectural style, which came to an end with the occupation of Gujarat at the end of the 13th century. Vastupal and Tejpal built this temple in 1230 AD.

The striking feature of this temple is its dome, which stands on eight pillars. The pendant of the dome drops from the ceiling looking like a cluster of half open lotuses. Next is the Garbhagriha, which when lighted reveals the massive idol of Neminatha. There are 39 cells here each containing one or more images. Most of the ceilings in front of the cells are highly ornamented. The reliefs in the porticoes of the cells depict incidents from the life of Neminatha, his marriage, deification etc. The representation of the marriage pavilion describes the scene and portrays the reason for the conversion of Neminatha who was betrothed to Rajimati, the daughter of the king of Girnar.

The Rang Mandap has a central dome from which hangs a beautifully carved ornamental pendent. 72 figures of seated Tirthankaras are portrayed in a circular band and just below this band are 360 small figures of Jain monks.

Figurines of Dilwara Temples, Mount Abu, Rajasthan The Hathikhana has 10 carved elephants inside the cell. Formerly these elephants carried the idols representing the members of Vastupala`s family, but these have now disappeared. Behind the elephants are 10 panels, each bearing a male and female figures on it (representing Vastupala`s family). In northern end, the 7th and 8th panel carries the figures of Vastupala with Lalitha Devi and Viryta Devi and Tejapala with Anupama Devi, the guiding spirit behind this venture of Tejapala and is rightly described in the inscription as a "flower of celestial beauty, whose whole family was distinguished for prosperity, modesty, wisdom, decorum and talent."

The Navchowki features the most magnificent and delicate marble stone cutting work in the temple. Each of the nine ceilings exceeds the other in beauty and grace. The Gudh mandap has a black marble idol of the 22nd Jain Tirthankara Neminath. The Kirthi Stambha is made of black stone pillar and stands on the left side of the temple. It was constructed by Maharana Kumbha of Mewar. The remaining three temples are smaller but just as elegant.

Pittalhar Temple
This temple was built by Bhima Shah, a minister of Sultan Mohammad Begada of Ahmedabad. A massive metal statue of Bhagwan Rishab Dev (Adinath), cast in five metals is installed in the temple. The main metal used in this statue is `Pital` (brass), hence the name `Pittalhar`. The shrine consists of a main Garbhagriha, Gudh mandap and Navchowki. The temple is also known as Shri Rishabh Deoji temple.

Parshavanath Temple
This temple is dedicated to Lord Parshavnath and was built by Mandlik and his family in 1458-59 AD. It is a three-storied building, and is the tallest of all the temples at Dilwara. On all the four sides of the sanctum on the ground floor there are four big mandaps. The outer walls of the sanctum comprise of beautiful sculptures in gray sandstone, depicting Dikpals, Vidhya devis, Yakshinis, Shalabhanjikas and other sculptures. The temple is also known as the Khartar Vashi temple.

Mahavira Swami Temple
It is a small structure constructed in 1582 A.D. and is dedicated to the 24th Jain Tirthankara, Lord Mahavira. There are pictures painted by artists from Sirohi on the upper walls of the porch in 1764 AD.

Apart from this there are many other types of attractions here that include the Bikaner Palace, the Nakki Lake, the Adhar Devi temple, Achalgarh Shiva temple and the Gaumukh Shiva temple.

Architecture of Dilwara Temple
Dilwara Temples stand as a unique example of perfect architecture with intricately carved ceilings, entryways, pillars and panels that reflect the aesthetic appeal of this temple. The temple is built in the Nagara style of architecture. The temple is spread across a vast area and most of the temples are single-storied structures. There are total 48 pillars in the temples. Even all the parts of the ceiling at "bhamati" (cloisters) which surrounds "Vimana" (main shrine) are adorned with carvings such as lotuses, gods, and abstract patterns.

(Last Updated on : 27/02/2013)
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Dilwara Temples, Mount Abu, Rajasthan - Informative & researched article on Dilwara Temples, Mount Abu, Rajasthan
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