Ranakpur is some 5 hours drive from the blue city of Johdpur. The 15th century temple in the Aravali Valley hardly invited my attention for 2 reasons. First, I knew zilch about Jainism. Second, I have the beginnings of temple and fortress-fatigue by now. It didn’t help that the roads leading to Raknapur was such a rugged landscape, no lush forests nor vegetation, and our long trip was marked only by an occasional strange rock formation here and there.


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Out of the mud, cow dung and rubbish littering Johdpur’s narrow alleys into Aravali Valley past processions of holy cows and goats meandering along the major roads, we came face to face with monkeys guarding the temple gates. I confess monkeys scare me out of my wits but these monkeys were quiet, oblivious to our presence and obviously uninterested in humans. The nearly peaceful demeanor must have something to do with the tenets of Jainism which invokes that all living things have divine souls.




This belief kept the Jains inside their homes by sunset, wont to linger outside in the dark where they may accidentally step on bugs and other tiny insects. You bet you won’t see a Jain swat a fly or shoo shoo a flying beetle. The idea drives me insane but such is their faith which commands respect and yes, admiration.




Jainism is one of 3 ancient Indian religious traditions along with Buddhism and Hinduism. It promotes not only non-violence to living creatures but also non- possessiveness or absence of wordly attachments. Some Jains believe monks should be naked, completely renouncing all passions and bodily instincts and senses. A tough order, if you ask me. Yet for all its non-material attachments, I do find their temple an architectural wonder in marble. What with the corbelled ceiling and ornately designed arches as well as all 1,444 pillars — no 2 pillars are the same —intricately decorated.


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It may not have spread across oceans outside India, but there remain Jain communities within this incredible nation. Naked Jains? We spotted one. And frankly, it’s easier for me to understand that than letting tiny bugs bite them young babies. I won’t, can’t aspire to be a Jain. Non-violence yes, but I think I’d still instinctively hit a mosquito within swatting distance. 😔




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