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Mount Abu - The Aravali Range that divides the Thar Desert in its west from the semi-arid regions as well as fertile regions in the eastern Rajasthan, has its highest peak in the Mount Abu area, the Guru Shikhar. Its altitude is 1722 meters or 5650 feet above sea level. It is about 15 kilometers or 9.3 miles from Mount Abu City. Situated in the southwest corner of Rajasthan, it borders the state of Gujarat on its west. The nearest railway station is Abu Road that is 27 kilometers or 17 miles from Mount Abu. Fast trains connect Abu Road with all major cities of Rajasthan, New Delhi in the east and Ahmedabad on its west. An express train takes only four hours to cover the 214 kilometers or 133 miles to Ahmedabad, the capital of Gujarat State.
In 1960 the Indian Government declared an area of about 290 square kilometers (180 square miles) in the surrounding region as “Mount Abu Wild Life Sanctuary”. It ranges in altitude from 300 meters to 1722 meters and has about 81 species of trees, 89 species of shrubs, 28 species of climbers and 17 species of tuberous plants of medicinal importance apart from animals like leopards, sloth bear, sambhar deer, jungle cat, small Indian civet, wolf, hyena, jackal, Indian fox, common black faced languor, wild boar, pangolin, common mongoose, Indian hare, porcupine and hedgehog etc. Asiatic lions are recorded to have lived in the region as late as 1872 and the Indian tigers were present until 1970.
The oldest reference to Mount Abu is in the Hindu ancient texts of the Puranas, wherein it is mentioned as “Arbudaranya” or the forests of Arbuda. There is an ancient Hindu temple dedicated to Datta-treya, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu in Mount Abu. The temple is a rather plain white washed building. Opposite its main gate is a huge brass bell. Another Hindu temple that is very popular with pilgrims is the “Brahmakhadd”, a Shaivite temple that is very unique because it does not have the usual Lingam icon. Instead it has a pit which goes deep into the earth in a water spring. According to popular legend, Lord Shiva pressed his foot into the earth to create this pit. There is a statue of Lord Shiva’s consort, Parvati outside this temple along with a statue of Nandi Bull, Lord Shiva’s vehicle. The name of this mountain top resort and pilgrimage center is derived from the Hindu goddess Arbuda. The temple dedicated to her is in a series of caves that are about 100 feet above the Dilwara Group of Jain temples. In this temple there are idols of goddess Arbuda and her three attendants.
Mount Abu derives its fame from the elegant and intricately carved Dilwara Jain temples. Altogether there are five temples that were built between eleventh and thirteenth century CE. They are all made with white marble from Makrana, the same quarry that supplied the marble for the construction of Taj Mahal. Vimal Vasahi and Lun Vasahi Temples in the Dilwara Group are the most famous. The other three, also very beautifully carved, temples are Pithalhar, dedicated to the Jain Tirthankar, Swami Rishabh Devji Bhagwan; Khartar Vasahi, dedicated to the 23rd Jain Tirthankar, Swami Paraswanathji Bhagwan and Mahavir Swami temple that is dedicated to Swami Vardhaman Mahavirji Bhagwan who lived in Bihar region in 6th century BCE.
According to contemporary chronicles the construction of Lun Vasahi alone cost equivalent of about US$ 2.9 million. It is dedicated to the twenty-second Jain Tirthankar, Swami Neminathji Bhagwan. Vastupal and Tejpal were two brothers who were ministers in the court of Raja Varadnawarkar, a Vaghela dynasty ruler of Gujarat. They had this temple constructed in 1230 in memory of their late brother Luna. It was built after the Vimal Vasahi Temple and its architecture was influenced by its forerunner. Its main hall (mandap) is the Rang Mahal that distinguishes itself by its massive and elaborately carved dome. A circular band with seventy-two statues of Jain Tirthankars in sitting posture decorates this dome. Below this band is a second one with 360 figures in small dimensions of various Jain monks. Another striking feature of the temple is the marble dome in the porch, which is made up of a cluster of half open lotuses, which appear to be almost transparent. The ten polished marble statues of elephants are sculpted very realistically in its “Hastishala” or the elephant cell. This temple also has the “Navchowki” ceilings above its mandaps that feature some of the finest and most delicate carvings in white marble. The sanctum sanctorum of this temple has a black marble idol of Swami Neminathji Bhagwan. To the left of this temple is a “Kirti Stambha” (a beautifully decorated pillar) also in black marble that was built under the patronage of the famous Mewar warrior, Maharana Kumbha of Chittorgarh. Outside this temple there are two statues popularly called the Devrani and Jethani Goklas respectively. There are legends that the two wives of the builders of this temple were very jealous of each other and insisted on their statues being placed at the entrance to this temple.
Vimal Vasahi Temple is believed to be the oldest Jain temple and is dedicated to the first Jain Tirthankar, Adinathji Bhagwan. Vimal Shah, a minister in the court of Raja Bhim Deva I, the first Solanki dynasty ruler of Gujarat, had this temple constructed in pure marble in 1021 CE. The temple is situated conspicuously in the center of an open courtyard surrounded by a corridor that has cells with idols of the Jain Tirthankars. On its exterior this temple is very simple which is in stark contrast to its interior, which is profusely sculpted. The ceilings have intricately carved motifs of lotus-buds, petals, flowers along with scenes depicting tales from Jain and Hindu mythology. The Rang Mandap in this temple is a magnificent hall with twelve carved pillars topped with beautiful arches that support a breathtakingly amazing central dome. There are carvings showing female figurines playing various musical instruments and sixteen “Vidhyadevis” – the goddesses of knowledge that are distinguished from one another by their individual symbols. The nine rectangular ceilings in the temple are referred to as the “Navchowki” and the pillars supporting these ceilings have different decorations on each one. The main sanctum of the temple is called the “Gudh Mandap” that is quite simple in decoration but the passageway leading to it is very profusely carved. The main idol of the temple is that of Swami Adinathji Bhagwan (he is also referred to as the Swami Rishabhdevji) and is installed in this sanctum. The Hastishala or the elephant cell was added to the temple subsequently by Prithvipal, a descendent of Vimal Shah in 1147-49 and consists of beautifully sculpted row of elephants. Arti, the oil (Ghee) lamp offering is one of the daily rituals that is conducted in this mandap.
The other three temples of the Dilwara Group are dedicated to the Jain Tirthankars, Shri Rishabhdevji, Shri Parshvanathji and Shri Mahavir Swami. The Pittalhar Temple, dedicated to Swami Adinathji (Rishabhdevji) Bhagwan, was built under the patronage of Bhima Shah, a minister of Sultan Begada of Ahmedabad. A massive “Panchdathu” or five metal sculpture of Swami Adinathji is installed in its sanctum. “Pittal” or Brass is the main ingredient of the five metals in this statue giving the temple its name of Pittalhar. The temple has a main sanctum or Garbhagraha, a Gudh Mandap secondary hall and Navchowki or the nine halls. Its Rang Mandap was never finished. The original statue was replaced by the present one in 1468-69 and weighs about four metric tons. An inscription on the statue mentioned that there was an original statue in its place before. The statue was sculpted by Deta, a religious sculptor. This statue is 8 feet high and 5 ½ feet wide. Within it the figure of the main idol is 41 inches high. On one side inside the Gudh Mandap is another big marble statue of “Panch Tirthi” Adinathji.
The other of these three temples is dedicated to Swami Paraswanathji Bhagwan, the 23rd Tirthankar, and was built under the patronage of Mandlik and his family in 1458-59. The three storied Paraswanathji Temple is the tallest of the five “Dilwara” Jain temples. The sanctum of this temple is surrounded by four large mandaps (halls). The exterior of this sanctum is decorated with beautiful sculptures of Dikpals, Vidhyadevis, Yakshinis, Shalabhanjikas and other sculptures from Jain mythology in the tantric tradition of the temples of Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh and Konarak in Orissa on the coast of Bay of Bengal.
The third of these three less significant “Dilwara” Jain temples is dedicated to Swami Mahavirji Bhagwan, the 24th Jain Tirthankar. It is a relatively small structure that was constructed in 1582. In 1764 the artists from the region of Sirohi in Rajasthan painted murals on the upper walls of the porch of this temple.
To view all the five temples one requires two half day excursions with a break in between for lunch, back at the hotel. The temples are located at some distance from most hotels used by tourists. One requires to drive to the temples.
The world headquarters and the “World Spiritual University” of the Brahma Kumari order of female spiritualists are located in Mount Abu. This international center attracts many devotees from all over the world to this mountain resort city.
Nakki Lake is in the center of Mount Abu. There is a legend that a sage named Balam Rasia carved this lake with his finger nails (Nakk) when he was frustrated with the demands of his going to be mother-in-law. The cunning mother of the beloved of the sage was successful in thwarting the aspirations of her daughter and her lover. The two beloveds are immortalized in the “Kunwari Kanya Temple” or the temple of unmarried girl. There are small islands in the lake that can be reached by boats. The rock formations around the lake are famous for their resemblance to Toad, Nun, Nandi Bull and Camel. The Nun Rock is a large and very smooth rock that looks like a veiled woman. Sunset point is a romantic area on the lakeside where people gather to watch the beautiful Sunset of Mount Abu.
Hotel Hilltone – 68 rooms
Hotel Hillock – 40 rooms (excellent facilities, cuisine & services - stayed with group in 2008)
Bikaner House Palace Hotel – 33 rooms & suites
Palanpur Palace Hotel – 51 rooms
Kesar Bhawan Palace – 23 rooms & 2 suites
Hotel Silver Oaks - 20 rooms
Hotel Ratan Vilas - 15 cottages
Jaipur House – 20 rooms
Hotel Connaught House – 14 rooms
Cama Rajputana – 42 rooms
Hotel Udaigarh – 8 rooms
Distance from Mount Abu in Kilometers & Miles:
Abu Road 27 Kilometers or 17 Miles
Ahmedabad 214 Kilometers or 133 Miles
Udaipur 185 Kilometers or 115 Miles
Ranakpur 180 Kilometers or 112 Miles