Thursday, June 21, 2012.  Udaipur, Rajasthan, India.
Distance driven: 1,931 KM / 1207 miles.

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The landscape changed dramatically as we drove today from the mostly flat arid sands and scrubland of the Thar desert up into hills and forest. 

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Along the road we say lots of monkeys hanging out in small troupes.

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Our first stop was Ranakpur and the Adinath Temple, one of the five great holy places for Jains.

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One of the problems with taking photographs in India is that there is so much to see, it is hard to absorb it all.  I felt like I was being fairly conservative in the number of photos I took, which ended up being a lot.

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These are just the edits of some of my favorites, designed to give an impression of the size and breadth of the place.

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The Temple was started in 1439 and took 63 years to finish.  The principles architect was an illiterate man who ended up with a carving of himself on one of the columns.

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The temple is a stunning house of some 1,444 different carved pillars with incredibly intricate ceilings.

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All but one of the pillars is perfectly straight.  One was deliberately made at an angle to “ruin” the perfection as a reminder that only the divine is perfect.

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Various statuary is to be found around the perimeter of the temple, but the main object of veneration is the statue of Adinath, the first tirthankara or religious teacher of 24 that are sacred to Jains.

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After looking around for a while on our own, the loosely robed high priest’s son (who recently graduated with a business degree from a college in Mumbai) took us around and showed us several things that were easy to miss in all multitudinous elements to be seen at the temple.  He also insisted on praying for our good luck and health.

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As we exited the temple, we noticed that there was an armed guard sitting near the entrance.  On closer inspection we noticed that his gun was a flintlock!

Our next stop was the Saas Bahu Temple, which translates as the “Mother –in-Law and Daughter-in-Law” temple. This is actually a corruption of some similar sounding words which really mean thousand arms and has to do with the fact that the place is actually a temple dedicated to Vishnu and incorporates scenes from the Ramayana epic saga where one of his avatars shows up with a thousand arms and defeats the enemy.  There are also lots of carvings of couples, some of whom are quite amorous!

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The temple was built in the 11th Century and features a finely carved triple arched torana gateway.

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Not too far away is the small town of Eklinji which for a time was the local capital  It contains 108 temples and shrines dedicated to Shiva, including some right on the lake’s edge.   

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Also in the town is an active Shiva temple that was the personal temple of the ruling family, the Mewars.  The boys and I went in just around the time they were preparing to put the main statue “to bed”. 

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A series of loud bells and drums attracted a crowd to the main part of the temple. The high priest first performed a ceremony using a lantern, waving fire all around the idol.  Then a curtain was drawn by his assistants while something went on shielded from view.  One of the locals told us the idol was being washed and its clothes changed for the night.

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Despite obvious differences, I could not help but think of the ancient temple rites in Jerusalem.  High priest, candelabrum, offerings, curtain (parochet).   Very primal.

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