Travel Shot: The sun temple of Ranakpur

Ranakpur in Rajasthan is synonymous with its world-famous Jain temple. So much so that another, older temple located less than half-a-kilometre from the Jain temple lies virtually forgotten, visited only by the someone who knows about it existence – the 13th century Suryanarayan Temple or Sun Temple.

Ranakpur, Sun Temple, Suryanarayan Temple

It is around 3 in the afternoon when our group arrives at the Sun Temple. Looking back, I’m still astonished that we made it to the temple for there are no signboards or markers to guide a visitor to the Sun Temple. If the manager of our tour group had not known about the Sun Temple, I doubt we would have visited it.

Built from low-grade marble, which has weathered beautifully over the centuries, the exterior of the temple is intricately carved with Surya or the Sun God seated on a chariot drawn by horses. The temple faces east, and has a sanctum topped by a shikhara in the nagara style, and an octogonal mandapa preceding the sanctum. The mandapa has some of the most exquisitely carved pillars and sculpted toranas I have seen. This is the first time I’m visiting a sun temple and I’m fascinated by the unusual motifs and iconography on the walls here.

Ranakpur, Sun Temple, Suryanarayan Temple

There is nobody at the temple and our small group has the temple to ourselves. As I walk around the Sun Temple and note its details and delight in its carvings, the harsh afternoon light does not deter me from imagining how this east-facing temple would appear during sunrise.

As the eastern sky pinkens with the readiness of sunrise, the horses neigh impatiently. And with a burst of light they are off drawing the chariot bearing Surya in his day’s journey across the skies.

What a sight it must be in the mornings, I tell myself. I wish I can visit it during sunrise, but know that it is not possible as I am in a group and we are on a schedule. I’m happy that at least I got to visit the temple unlike many people who pass through Ranakpur completely unaware of the existence of the Suryanarayan Temple.

Have you visited this Sun Temple? If yes, do tell me what you thought of it and its unique sculptures?

13 thoughts on “Travel Shot: The sun temple of Ranakpur

    1. I’m sorry to hear that, but I’m not surprised as there is absolutely no information on this at Ranakpur. To add to the confusion many people call the Suryanarayan Temple as the Jain Sun Temple. This automatically makes people assume that the Jain Temple is the Sun Temple !

      Look at the positive side, you have a chance to visit Ranakpur again, don’t you? πŸ™‚

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  1. I visited Ranakpur about 5 or 6 years back, Sudha.. and had no idea it existed!!!! now, reading your post makes me want to go back! I especially loved the part about the horses coming to life and bearing surya across the skies!

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    1. The Sun Temple had just finished a round of renovation when I visited it in Feb. 2013. It would have been interesting to see what its condition was 5-6 years back. And 5-6byears back is almost like a lifetime. You need to go back just to see the Sun Temple.

      And as I mentioned in my comment to Puru above, there is a lot of confusion regading this Temple as some people call it the Jain Sun Temple. Now, I’m not very knowledgeable about Jainism, but do they have something like a Sun God?

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  2. I visited the temple several years ago and remember being as awed. The sculptures are amazing and the whole aura around the monument is reminiscent of a magnificent time. Puri remains one of my favourite beaches. πŸ™‚

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    1. Good to see you here after so long, Deboshree. Welcome back. πŸ™‚ The sculptures are indeed amazing and I have seen nothing like this before.

      Your mention of Puri’s beach made me wonder if you were referring to the Konark Temple? I haven’t yet visited that one, and this Ranakpur SunTemple remains the only one I have seen so far.

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      1. You must visit the one in Konark too. We clubbed a Puri-Bhubaneshwar-Konark trip and it remains one of the best we have ever had. πŸ™‚
        The Ranakpur temple is relatively less known but extremely beautiful as well.

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  3. I have only heard of the Konark Sun temple. What a beautiful temple! The carvings are absolutely marvelous. One can spend hours looking at them. I can understand how you must have felt to leave it to keep to a schedule. Even tourist spots are decided by commercial considerations and viability, which explains why this temple is bypassed by tourist guides.

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    1. And I have seen only the Ranakpur Sun Temple ! There are quite a few standalone Sun Temples. Konark is the best known. Gujarat has the Sun Temple at Modhera which is supposed to be just as magnificent.

      I agree with your reason for why this Temple gets missed out. But I think there is a larger, more important reason. Available literature refers to this Temple as the Jain Sun Temple. This is actually quite confusing as I don’t think the Jains worship the Sun God. Also, once you are at the Ranakpur Jain Temple,, it is difficult to even go elsewhere – the structure is so grand.

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  4. Truly a beautiful temple. It just makes me wonder at the amazing craftsmanship of the artists and sculptors at that time. I hope I get to see it too.

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