In my humble opinion there are three temples that are “must sees” in India: The Golden Temple (of the Sikh religion) in Amritsar (in the very north of India), the Mount Abu Temple complex (Jain religion and not too far from Ranakpur as the crow flies but quite a long drive via road) and Ranakpur Temple (also Jain).
Unfortunately due to the vast distances it’s difficult to see all three temples in a single trip. We at least were able to visit one of them. We were traveling from Udaipur to Jodhpur and made two stops during the day’s drive, Kumbahlgarh Fortress and Ranakpur. The two sights are about 50 km (31 miles) apart by road. From Ranakpur it’s about 170 km (105 miles) to Jodhpur and 75 km (47 miles) to Udaipur.
Ranakpur Temple leaves one almost speechless. It’s difficult to truly convey its beauty in either words or images.
The temple was built in the 15th century and is huge. It contains 29 halls, 80 domes and 1444 individually carved columns. The detailed carvings are astonishing – intricate designs in beautiful white marble.
The Jain religion is fascinating and would require a whole separate discussion. It is one of the many religions found in India, and its followers are extremely devout. We saw many Jain pilgrims walking on the side of the road and our driver explained that they walk for hundreds of kilometers with few if any personal belongings. They wear a covering over their mouths so as not to destroy life by accidentally inhaling an insect.
With your Ranakpur entrance fee you’re given a handset and headset that provides an audio tour of the temple with numbered stations to guide you through this amazing complex.
For a better view of the temple, hike up the nearby hills.
You will also see some other temples around the vicinity.
Ranakpur is located in the center of the Kumbahlgarh Wildlife Sanctuary, and we had monkeys jumping all over our van as we drove up the mountain road to the temple! There are leopards, wolves, and many other forms of wildlife nearby.