The instant imagery that came to mind when it was suggested that I visit Ranakpur, Rajasthan, in the month of May was that of a desert, scorching heat, dry weather and parched landscape. But the real thing was something completely different.
Located in the heart of the Aravallis, Ranakpur lies about 70 km from Udaipur. A local person later told us that it derives its name from a Jain temple, which remains the main attraction in the area. We were also informed that the state government has paid a lot of attention to develop the area as a tourist destination in the last five years.
A good weekend getaway, there is quite a bit on offer if you are making the trip.
Products from camel wool, milk and dung
The project run by an NGO, Lokhit Pashu Palak Sansthan, seeks to diversify income opportunities from camels to support local livelihood and conserve the animal that is an essential part of the state’s heritage. They also provide aid to the camel breeding community. Women in the area are trained to develop new products from milk, wool and dung. The ladies here, despite no formal academic qualifications, could make camel milk soaps, as well as impressive diaries and envelopes with paper made after processing dung. We also saw them utilise wool to make shawls and caps. Interestingly, many foreign students stay at this place while researching camel husbandry.
Located 45 km from Ranakpur, we visited it on our way back to Udaipur. The Kumbhalgarh Fort was the birthplace of Maharana Pratap and has the second largest continuous wall after the Great Wall of China. You can get an exquisite view of the Aravallis from here.
The Ranakpur Jain temple
Ranakpur Jain temple
The first place we visited, the temple is among the five most important pilgrimage sites for Jains. Conceptualised to provide employment to the locals in the 15th century, it was under construction for 50 years. The architectural genius that Rajasthan is famous for is reflected in craftsmanship on display here. There are about 1,444 pillars within the temple and each one is designed differently.
Since guides are not allowed inside, an audio system is in place for tourists. Information is available in Hindi and English, as well as in foreign languages like French, Italian and German, among others. A Sun temple is situated close-by and is named so because the first rays of the sun fall on it in the morning.
It is a lodge run by the forest department of Rajasthan and you need their permission to enter the area. Located at a high altitude, it is ideal for trekking. You can walk to the Kumbhalgarh Fort, which is about 12 km away. The place is characterised by solitude, freshness and the slight drizzle while we were there added to its charm. Wildlife enthusiasts can spot leopards, black buck deer, crocodiles and migratory birds here.
(Disclaimer: The writer travelled to Ranakpur as a guest of the Mana Hotel)
How to reach?
By air: There are frequent flights to Udaipur from Mumbai. It takes about 1.5 hours from Udaipur’s Maharana Pratap Airport to reach Ranakpur by car.
By train: You can board a train to Falna or Khimel (both are around 30 km from Ranakpur).
Where to stay?
The Mana Hotel provides luxury even an obscure place. With unconventional décor that fuses contemporary and traditional architecture, it offers a variety of indoor and outdoor recreational activities, an elaborate menu with multiple cuisine options, comfortable rooms and villas and has attentive staff.
Best time to visit
The best time to visit Ranakpur is during the monsoon. The place, which is surrounded by the Aravallis, is lush green and comes alive with numerous waterfalls.