Mount Abu, Rajasthan
The area arount Mount Abu in southern Rajasthan has been a major center of Jain culture since the Middle Ages, and there are number of Jain temples at this ancient site. Among these is a complex of five temples collectively known as the Dilwara Temples. The Dilwara Temples are comsidered by many to be the most beautiful Jain temples in the world, and among the most amazing religious shrines in India. The most important of these temples are the Vimal Vasahi Temple and the Luna Vasahi Temple.
Jainism has been practiced in the area around Mount Abu for a thousand years, perhaps longer. Mount Abu has a long and turbulent history, having been conquered numerous times through the ages. The region seems to have peaked during the reign of the Gurjars, who may have originated near Mount Abu.
It was during the Gurjar period that the great era of Jain Temple construction here took place. The first and most famous temple, the Vimal Vasahi Temple, was completed around 1031 AD. It was dedicated to Rishabha, the first Tirthankara, the first person to overcome the cycle of reincarnation.
Other temples followed over the next four centuries, all dedicated to various Tirthankara. The second to be completed was the Luna Vasahi, built in honor of Neminatha (the 22nd Tirthakara). Later came the Pittalhar Temple, the Parshvanatha Temple, and the Mahavir Swami Temple. The last was not completed until the 16th century.
In the 20th century, Mount Abu became home became an important center of a new related religious movement, the Brahma Kumaris. The Brahma Kumaris maintains an important university here. Because of this, the Dilwara Temples receive an extraordinarily larger number of pilgrims than would be normally expected.
The Dilwara Temples are all closely clustered together, and are for all intents and purposes a single destination. The main point of interest is the Vimal Vasahi Temple. Constructed almost entirely out of marble, the exterior a wedding cake feast for the eyes. But the real magnificence is the interior: a sea of intricately carved white marble columns supporting a white marble ceiling over a smooth marble floor. The place practically glows with light, and there are few other religious sites in India to match it.
The other four temples here are the Luna Vasahi, Pittalhar, Parshvanatha and Mahavir Swami. Each is magnificent in its own way, and all boast yet countless more variations of the magnificent carvings common to the site. Architecturally the most impressive one is arguably the Pittalhar Temple.
The Dilwara Temples are clustered in the village of Delwara just north of Mount Abu, approximately 400 miles southwest of New Delhi. As of this writing no visitor information was available for the site. Web: www.mountabu.com (official website).
Rajasthan is home to many clusters of Jain Temples. The next closest cluster to Mount Abu are the Ranakpur Temples in Ranakpur. Another important Jain temple in the region is the Shingara Chauri Mandir Temple of Chittaurgarh.