SET IN A SECLUDED, wooded valley of the Aravalli Hills, the 15th-century Ranakpur temple complex, dominated by the great Adlnath Temple, is one of the five great holy places of the Jain faith. The grand scale and sheer architectural complexity of the white marble temple, along with its exquisite sculptural ornamentation, distinguish it as perhaps the single most impressive example of Western Indian temple architecture . The temple has an unusual four-sided plan, with four separate entrances. Each entrance leads through a veritable forest of columns, and a number of beautifully ornamented halls and chapels, to the central sanctum containing a four-faced image of Adinath.
Each of the temple’s 1,444 pillars is carved with different patterns of floral motifs, and the play of light and shadow on the pillars, as the sun moves from east to west each day, is one of the glories of this monument. Equally stunning is the superb filigree carving on the concentric ceiling pendants, and the exuberant grace of the goddesses who form the support brackets, On one of the columns facing the sanctum, a carved panel with two figures on it depicts Dharna Shah, the builder of the temple, who was a minister of the maharana of Mewar, and his architect, Depa. A wall topped with spires surrounds this serene temple complex, which also has a Hindu Sun Temple, and two other Jain temples. Of these, the 15th-century Parsvanatha Temple is distinguished by the exceptionally fine pierced stonework on its windows.