Continuing our quest to visit the ultimate Jain treasures of India, we’ve made our way here to Mt. Abu. In addition to being the location of the spectacular Dilwara temples, Mt. Abu is the only real hill station in Rajasthan providing a cool relief from the blistering heat of the surrounding desert.
Mt. Abu comes as somewhat of a shock to us because it is a kind of resort area for middle class Indians, mostly from the neighboring state of Gujarat. Gujarat is considered the most prosperous state in India and Gujaratis are well known for being exceptionally generous and hospitable. These generalizations are very true and we have been overwhelmed by their kind, welcoming nature. The change in behavior towards us is highlighted by the lack of beggars in Mt. Abu and the fact that rickshaws are banned (thereby eliminating all the hassles associated with rickshaw touts.)
The atmosphere is strangely new and unexpected. Most of the Gujaratis wear western clothing. The streets are filled with ice cream parlors and tourist shops geared towards Indian rather than foreign tourists. Middle class Indian families blow their bucks on food, alcohol (banned in Gujarat), cheesy religious paraphernalia (black velvet Ganesh painting anyone?), and paddle boat rides on the beautiful mountain lake. Actually, there is a strange resemblance to the town of Big Bear back in California.
Of course, the piece de resistance is the phenomenal Dilwara Temple complex. These treasures of Indian architecture, which appear quite simple from the outside, have stunningly ornate white marble interiors. Legend has it that stone carvers were paid by the amount of dust they produced thus motivating them to carve their little hearts out (ooh, that sounds a little painful.) It is unbelievable what the carvers managed to produce from stone. How the outrageously delicate floral roof pendants have survived the centuries left me completely baffled. I feel quite confident saying that Dilwara represents one of humanity’s ultimate sculptural achievements.
Unfortunately, photography is not allowed within these incredibly beautiful temples.