A sacred pilgrimage of the Jains, the five legendary
marble temples of Dilwara are an overwhelming, blend of simple beauty
and exquisite elegance
The entrance to the
legendary Dilware overwhelmed me. What overwhelmed me was not
magnificence or majesty, nor the beauty or glamour, but its
simplicity and unpretentiousness, for there was no gateway to write
home about Reacing Dilwara that crisp and clear morning in January,
my mind was crowded with those innumerable textbook lessons about the
temples of Dilwara, the thirthankaras of Jainism, and marble
architecture. Little wonder that I expected an opulent entranceway to
these famous temples. This modest announcement of a much acclaimed
architectural marvel of the 11th century A.D. reminded me
of something A.L.Basham-the great historian-wrote in his book The
wonder that was India. Basham said that Jainism as a religion
encouraged honesty and frugality. Frugal it certainly
seemed, I thought, as I removed my shoes and submitted the leather
jacket of my camera at the counter.
The sun was bright and
dazzling. Absent-mindedly rejoicing at the clear sky I stepped into
the temple complex. What I saw was a far-cry from the stiff and
clichéd prose from those unavoidable school books. There was a
wide path of un-kissed marble to the left of which was an exquisite
square and open temple with just a dome, no walls. I had read
somewhere that there are five Shwetambara temples at Dilwara.
Raised from the ground
like a stage, this building certainly had a story of its own- and it
was all that the gateway was not. My rather strong willed guide told
me that we would come back to this temple later and, knowing how
important a chronological sequence is to history, I didnt
argue. He, however, designed to tell me that this was one of the
five temples of Dilwara-Parsavanath, with the name sounding familiar,
that much-cursed text-book of my childhood rose in my esteem- only
infinitesimally of course.
Passing another small
temple on our left we took a few steps to the right. Entering a
shelter I turned to my left and what I saw left me speechless. Many
months hence, I still feel at a loss while trying to give tangibility
in words to that totally beautiful sight of the Vimal Vasahi which
seemed like a sharp and luminous ray of light in the gloom of the
pandaal where I stood. A description of its incredible
loveliness would never hold a candle to that real sight. As my guide
entered this temple with reverence and in silence, I was not
surprised that this was the oldest-and the best!
That sight from the
entrance was only an overture to what followed-a courtyard surrounded
by pillars with a glorious bronze idol of
Adinath in the
centrally built sanctum sanctorum. Knowing I couldnt afford to
just flit through the temple in my euphoria, I asked the guide to
tell me about Vimal Vasahi.
The oldest amongst the
five temples of Dilwara, this exquisite piece of architecture was
constructed by Vimal Shah, completed in 1032 A.D. During the reign of
Maharaja Bhimdev I, Vimal Shah was a minister and Commander-in-chief.
The legend goes that exhausted by the massacres he had indulged in,
Vimal Shah prayed fervently to Ambika Devi. When she appeared he had
two requests to make of her, one for a son and the other asking for
blessing to build a temple on Mount Abu. When the goddess instructed
Vimal Shah to ask only one favour of her he conferred with his wife
and decided he would rather build the temple, since a son could never
be an immortalisation of his self.
It took 14 years to build
the Vimal Vashai temple the marble was brought from Agasuri- a good
20 kilometres from Mount Abu-on elephant back. Stone worth two crores
was brought. The life in this marble at Dilwara is incredible and
the ceilings, the 48 pillars, doors and archways all have their own
story to tell. As I looked about the eyes took in a myriad patterns,
flowers, animals, sculptures of the tirthankaras, dancing figurines
and idols of various gods and goddesses. With suns warn rays
playing on the courtyard the Vimal Vasahi looked bright, lively and
beautiful. The most incredible sculpturing I found on the toran
and on the inner part of the dome, intricate carving which must have
required such diligence.
Just opposite this most
important of Dilwaras temples is the elephant house which my
guide took me to next. I saw there a statue of Vimal Shah on
horseback behind which are sculptured ten bedecked elephants.
Prithipal, belonging to Vimal Shahs family, built this in 1147
A.D. such intricate sculpturing and fine art as I saw at Vimal
Vashahi and the elephant house is certainly numero uno, and those
images in marble are still with me, full of life.
My guide took me on to
Lund Vasahi which was built by Vastupa! And Tejpal, ministers during
the reign of Bhimdeo the Second. Luna Vasahi is very much like Vimal
Vasahi, and is dedicated to the 22nd tirthankara Neminath.
The Luna Vasahi has some
particularly beautiful sculptures of dancing figurines, each
expressing a different mood. Such a mosaic of patterns and designs,
each different, each so fascinating, was something that I hadnt
ever seen in stone anywhere.
The temple of Parsvanath
which we had left for later stood proud and glistening. Also called
chaumukhi(four-faced), the temple has four idols of Parsvanath
facing the four directions. Simplicity characterizes this temple
where one does not chance upon glamorous and refined sculpturing as
seen in the Vimal Vasahi and Luna Vasahi.
So this was Dilwara, a
historical pageant of many years and many stones, much sweat and much
love. Dilwara, I must say, can never be comprehended by just reading
about it-perception and appreciation is what Dilware is all about, a
legend in marble.