Chennai Journal
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Udaipur Part II

As mentioned in the previous post, while in Udaipur we took a side trip to a famous Jain temple at Ranakpur. This was about a three hour journey on narrow, often narrow one lane roads, through small villages and cow paths, in a Tata Indigo that had its windshield taped to the body (see right). A bit of a harrowing trip, but well worth it when we arrived at Ranakpur.

Jainism is one of the world's oldest religions although today one of the smallest in terms of followers. It is not a sect of Hinduism; it predates Hinduism and in many ways is similar to Buddhism, with an emphasis on enlightenment, non-violence and self control. (Some scholars believe that Buddhist sprang from Jainism.) Jains are strict vegetarians- and the more extreme followers may wear a covering on their face to avoid ingesting, and thereby, killing, small insects. Similarly, potatoes, garlic and onions are also avoided. The holy symbol of the Jains is the swastika. Of course, the swastika--despite its horrific appropriation by the Nazis-- has an ancient and sacred heritage in India. It is seen commonly here---and connotes peace and well being. Typically, you will see it on buildings and in the form of rangoli lovingly made by women in front of their homes as part of the morning prayer ritual.

The temple at Ranakpur is a marvel of art and architecture. It has 1444 columns in all, and according to one source took 22,000 manyears to construct. Each column is meticulously carved and supposedly, every one is different. Below, you can see Marty in awe as he looks up at the dome.

I thought both Buddhism and Jainism began as reformist movements in Hinduism, a protest against the excessive ritualization of the religion. If I remember correctly, the founders of both were contemporaries. I think the genealogy of the tirthankaras was extended back in time after Mahavira's preachings gained wide following.
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