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Tradition Meets Technology


A Dream in Marble
(Dilwara Temples at Mount Abu, Rajasthan)

Foreword: The Jain Temples at Mount Abu, built in the Nagara Style are among   the finest monuments of India. The first of these ornate temples dates back to 1032 CE, approximately the period in which the grand Brihadeeswarar Temple at Thanjavur in Tamilnadu (South India) was built in the Dravidian style of architecture . The Dilwara temples have been described as a dream in marble. Mount Abu - a popular hill station, located in Rajasthan is on the Ahmedabad - Jaipur - New Delhi railroad, off of Abu Road, the nearest railhead. Other attractions here include the Nakki lake, the Adhar Devi temple, Achalgarh Shiva temple and the Gau Mukh Shiva temple.  P. Ramakrishnan (Mumbai, India) takes us on an illustrated tour of these temples.

Introduction: It is a well known fact that the art & architecture of a countryabu1.jpg (55095 bytes) reflect its intensity of religious devotion as well as economic prospreity, without which great & elaborately carved temples could not have been raised.In every phase of Indian history,art & architecture found supporters in rich merchants and Princes who spend lavishly on the  commemoration of their religious beliefs.Gujarat and Rajasthan,the traditional centers of the merchants and Princes,also became centers of great architectural activity,in which Vimala Shah, Vastupala and Tejapala contributed immensely to Jain art and architecture.

According to the inscription Mt.Abu was basically a seat of Saivism and
Jainism made its appearance only in 11th century.The first Jain temple of Dilwara,the Vimala Vasahi was built in 1032A.D. by Vimala Shah,minister of Bhimadeva I. Besides the famous temple at Abu,there are five temples of Neminatha at Girnar,built in honour of Vastupala's wife  Lalita Devi.

The Vimala Vasahi temple: This is the earlier and more important of the temples here and  is  dedicated to the first Jain Tirthankara, Adi Nath.  It stands in an open courtyard defined by 58 subordinate cells which contain small icons  duplicating the saint's image in the main shrine.The plan of the temple   resembles that of Kashmiri Sun temple at Martand.Elaborately columned porticoes surround the main shrine and front the cells lining the
courtyard.The entire temple is carved out of  white marble.

According to the local legend before becoming the minister,the two brothers
Vastupala and Tejapala went on a pilgrimage carrying with them huge
wealth,which they decided to burry under a tree,but while digging they found
more gold.At this point Anupama Devi,wife of Tejapala advised them to build
temples at Satrunjaya and Girnar with their wealth.During their term in
office they heard about the holliness of Mt.Abu and decided to build a
temple there to Neminatha to commemorate their dead brother Luniga.

It is believed that when the eleborate and intricate carvings were
finished,Tejapala asked the carvers to add greater delicacy to the floral
patterns by more chiselling,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 chiselled further.Whatever the truth there may be in the
story,there is no doubt that it must have taken a good deal of encouragement
to complete a monument of such beauty and refinement.

The Tejapala temple although resembling the architectural plan of Vimalaabu3.jpg (42145 bytes) Vashi temple,(built nearly 200 years earlier),nevertheless stands as the last of the monuments built in the Solanki style,which came to an end with the
occupation of Gujarat by the Muslims towards the end of 13th century.The
striking feature of the Tejapala temple is its dome which stands on 8
pillars.The pendant of the dome is a perfect gem;where it drops from the ceiling it looks like a cluster of half open lotuses.

From the dome one's attention is diverted to the principal abu4.jpg (30826 bytes)
cell(Grabagriha),which,when lighted reveals the massive idol of
Naminatha.There are in all 39 cells 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 depicts incidents from the life of Neminatha, his  marriage,deification etc. The representation of the marriage pavilion in one  of the panels identifies the scene and graphically portrays the cause of the
conversion of Neminatha who was betrothed to Rajimati,the daughter of the king of Girnar.

The Hathikhana or the elephant room next claims our attention.There are 10   elaborately carved elephants inside the cell.Formerly the elephants carried the idols representing the members of Vastupala's family,but now they have disappeared. Behind the elephants are 10 slabs,each bearing a male and female  figureson it ( it is believed that these figures represent the members of
Vastupala's family).

In northern end,the 7th and 8th slab carry 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.

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