The Dilwara or Delvada Temples are a group of Jain Svetambara temples located about 2 + 1⁄2 kilometers from the Mount Abu settlement in the Sirohi district, the only hill station in Rajasthan. The former were built by Vimal Shah and supposedly designed or at least financed by Vastupala, Dholka’s Jain minister. They date back to the 11th and 16th centuries, forming some of the most famous monuments in the Māru-Gurjara style of architecture, famous for their use of very pure white marble and intricate marble carvings. They are managed by Seth Shri Kalyanji Anandji Pedhi, Sirohi and are a pilgrimage site for Jains and a major general tourist attraction. Although the Jains built many temples elsewhere in Rajasthan, the Dilwara temples are believed to be the most impressive
The five Dilwara temples are among the most famous Jain temples. The Vimal Vasahi is the oldest, built in 1031, the Luna Vasahi in 1230, and the others at intervals between 1459 and 1582. All are in very white marble which greatly increases their effect and is still in use. The two oldest and largest have large amounts of intricate carvings even by the standards of the style, reaching a peak at the Luna Vasahi temple. The main buildings of the first three named are surrounded by “cloister” screens of devakulikā shrines, and are quite plain on the outer walls of these; in the case of Vimal Vasahi, this screen was a later addition, around the time of the second temple. These three have an axis from the sanctuary through a closed mandapa, then open to an open rangamandapa, or a larger room for dance or theater. Surrounding the main temple with a curtain of shrines would become a distinctive feature of Jain temples in the West Indies, still in use in some modern temples.
In later Māru-Gurjara style temples, a very pure white marble like that of Dilwara came to be considered highly desirable, even essential. In modern times, when the style has become popular in other regions of India, and with the Hindu and Jain communities in other countries, local Rajastani marble is often carved and transported to the new building.
The temples have an opulent entrance, the simplicity in the architecture reflects Jain values such as honesty and frugality. The ornamental detail that extends over the ceilings, the doors, the pillars and the elaborately carved panels is considered remarkable. It is said that the workers were paid in gold according to the weight of the marble dust that was scraped off.
The temple complex sits in the middle of a series of forested hills. There are five temples in total, each with its own unique identity. The five temples are enclosed within a single high-walled enclosure. The group is named after the small town of Dilwara or Delvara in which they are located. The five temples are:
- Vimal Vasahi, dedicated to the first Jain Tirthankara, Shri Adinatha
- Luna Vasahi, dedicated to the 22nd Jain Tirthankara, Shri Neminatha.
- Pittalhar, dedicated to the first Jain Tirthankar, Shri Adinatha.
- Mahavir Swami, dedicated to the last Jain Tirthankara, Sri Mahaviraswami.
- Parshvanath, dedicated to the 23rd Jain Tirthankara, Shri Parshvanatha.
Vimal Vasahi Temple
The Adinatha or Vimala Vasahi Temple is carved entirely from white marble and was built mainly in 1032 by Vimal Shah, a minister of Bhima I, King Chaulukya of Gujarat. The outer mandapa is an addition of the next century. The temple is dedicated to Lord Rishabha. The temple stands in an open courtyard surrounded by a corridor, which has numerous cells containing smaller idols of the tirthankaras. The corridors, pillars, arches and richly carved ‘mandaps’ or porticoes of the temple are simply astonishing.
The ceilings feature etched designs of lotus buds, petals, flowers, and scenes from Jain mythology. Figures of animal life, life’s journey from dream to incarnation of tirthankars are carved. There are 59 devakulikas (small shrine) in front of the main image of Rishabhanatha. There are 7 additional cells, 1 cell houses the image of Ambaji and 2 cells of Munisuvrata. The mulnayak idol of Rishabhanatha is finally carved with accompanying deities and carved images of 4 tirthankar, giving the name of the idol Saparikar Panchtirthi.
The Navchowki is a collection of nine rectangular ceilings, each with carvings of different designs supported by ornate pillars. The Gudh mandap is a simple hallway after entering its densely decorated entrance. The Gudh mandap, houses two idols of Parshvanatha in the position of Kayotsarga. The idol of Adi Nath or Lord Rishabdev, as he is also known, is installed. The mandap is intended for Aarti to deity. The ceiling has carvings of horses, elephants, musician, dancers and soldier.
The Hastishala (elephant yard) was built by Prithvipal, a descendant of Vimal Shah in 1147-49 and features a row of elephants in sculpture with family members mounted on them.
The Luna Vasahi or Neminatha temple is dedicated to Lord Neminath. This magnificent temple was built in 1230 by two Porwad brothers, Vastupal and Tejpal, both ministers of Virdhaval, the Vaghela ruler of Gujarat. The temple built in memory of the late brother of Vastupal and Tejpal, Lunig, was designed after the temple of Vimal Vashi. The temple has a similar structure to that of Vimala Vasahi, but the richness of the carvings inside is even greater. The main hall or Rang mandap features a central dome from which hangs a large ornamental pendant with elaborate carvings. Arranged in a circular band are 72 figures of Tirthankars in seated posture and just below this band are 360 small figures of Jain monks in another circular band. The Hathishala or Elephant Cell features 10 realistic polished and modeled marble elephants. One of the special features of the temple are the two niches of Derani (younger brother’s wife) and Jethani (older brother’s wife), the wife of Vastupal and Tejpal. Both niches have the image of Lakshmi with sculptures of Sambhavanatha and Shantinatha respectively.
The Navchowki features some of the finest marble stone cutting work in the temple. The roofs of the temple depict scenes from the life of Neminatha with the image of Rajmathi (who was to marry Neminatha) and Krishna. The Gudh mandap features a black marble idol from the 22nd Tirthankara Neminatha. The Kirthi Stambha is a large black stone pillar that stands on the left side of the temple. The devkulikas and Chakreshvari carvings on the temple roof are also noteworthy. The Kirti Stambha (Pillar of Pride) was built by Maharana Kumbha of Mewar. The three remaining Dilwara temples are smaller.
This temple, also called Adinatha temple, was built by Bhima Shah, a minister of Sultan Begada of Ahmedabad, between 1316-1432 AD. A huge metal statue of the first Tirthankara, Rishabha Dev (Adinath), cast in five metals, is installed in the temple. The main metal used in this statue is ‘Pital’ (brass), hence the name ‘Pittalhar’. The name of the temple is also mentioned in an inscription dating from 1432, found in the Digambar shrine in the Dilwara complex.
There are a total of 107 images in the main sanctuary. The Shrine consists of a main Garbhagriha, Gudh mandap and Navchowki with an idol of yakshi Chakreshvari and yaksha Gomukha on both sides. It appears that the construction of Rangmandap and the corridor was left unfinished. The old mutilated idol was replaced and installed in 1468-69 AD weighing 108 maunds (four metric tons) according to the inscription on it. The image was issued by an artist ‘Deta’ who is 8 feet (2.4 m) tall. tall, 5.5 ft (1.7 m). wide and the figure is 41 inches (1,000 mm) tall. At Gudh Mandap, on one side, a large Panch-Tirthi marble sculpture by Adinath is installed. Some shrines (devakulika) were built in 1474 and 1490, before construction was abandoned.
Shri Mahavir Swami Temple
It is a small structure built in 1582 and dedicated to Lord Mahavira. It is a small temple with carvings on its walls. On the upper walls of the porch are pictures painted in 1764 by Sirohi artists. There are detailed carvings of flowers, doves, court scenes, dancers, horses, elephants, and other scenes. On each side of Mahavira, there are 3 idols of tirthankar. Outside the shrine, there is a rectangular-shaped marble slab with a triangular stone on top that contains 133 miniature tirthankar images with a larger image in the center.
Shri Parshvanath Temple
This temple, dedicated to Lord Parshvanath, was built by Sangvi Mandlik and his family in 1458-1459. According to popular belief, the masons offered the remaining stones of Vimala Vasahi and Luna Vasahi for free to add the marble, as the temple was built with gray stone. It consists of a three-story building, the tallest of all the Dilwara shrines. Not the whole tower remains. On the four faces of the shrine on the ground floor there are four large mandapas that house a Choumukha idol of Parshvanatha. On the first floor, the idol Chaumukha, the frontal iconography is of Chintamani Parshvanath, the second Magalakar Parshvanatha and the third Manoratha-Kalpadruma Parshvanatha are represented with a hood of nine cobras. The image of the fourth image of Parshvanatha is unreadable. In the hall there are images of 17 tirthankaras and flower paintings. There is a representation of 14 dreams that the mother of tirthankars had before her birth. On the second floor, the Chaumukha idol is of Sumatinatha, Parshvanatha, Adinatha and Parshvanatha. The idol of the goddess Ambika is also present. On the third floor, the idol of Chaumukha is from Parshvanatha.
The outer walls of the shrine comprise ornate gray sandstone sculptures, depicting Dikpals, Vidhyadevis, Yakshinis, Shalabhanjikas, and other decorative sculptures comparable to those at Khajuraho and Konark.