Rajasthan’s only hill station – Mount Abu is home to Dilwara temples that are highly appreciated for their use of marble and intricate marble carvings. That justifies them being the most remarkable Jain temples in India. They were built between the 11 and 13th-century when the site was just a remote mountain wilderness.
There’s a great story behind the glorious marble work on the temples: the workers were paid according to the marble dust they collected therefore pushing them into putting extra hard work in making the carvings so beautifully intricate.
There are two temples here in which the marble work is dizzyingly intense. The older of the two was financed by a Gujarati chief minister named Vimal and is known as Vimal Vasahi. The work began on it in 1031 and it was dedicated to the first tirthankar, Adinath. Built by 1500 masons and 1200 labourers, the temple took 14 years to complete. One of the best features of the temple was build outside the entrance and was called the House of Elephants; featuring a procession of stone elephants marching to the temple, that was sadly damaged long ago by the plundering Mughals. However, a forest of beautifully carved pillars surrounding the central shrine, is still intact inside the temple.
The second one was built much later in 1230 and is known as the Luna Vasahi. It is a temple dedicated to Neminath, the 22nd tirthankar, and was built by the brothers Tejpal and Vastupal. Like Vimal, the brothers were both Gujarati government ministers. It took 2500 workers 15 years to create the marble carvings on the temple, so intricately and delicately carved that the marble is almost transparent in places. Don’t miss the many-layered lotus flower dangling from the centre of the dome which is a rather astonishing piece of work.
As at other Jain temples, you’re not allowed to carry a couple of things inside: leather articles, cameras and phones. It is also taboo for menstruating women to enter the premises of the temple. Dilwara temple is about 3km north of Mt Abu town centre: you can either walk there in less than an hour, or hop on a taxi from the street opposite Chacha Cafe.