Our trip to Ambaji was combined with a visit to Mount Abu and Udaipur. We travelled mostly by local buses, and thanks to the timing of our bus to Udaipur, we had a few extra hours at Ambaji, which we used to visit a few more temples located in the area. We hired an auto for the purpose, and left the temples to his discretion. Here is where he took us to.......
There seemed to be just one road leading from Ambaji – the highway, and we turned off suddenly into a side road, which we hadn’t even noticed. The path (I can’t even call it a road) weaved in and out of fields, and our noisy auto scared away birds, as we made our way towards a temple spire we could see in the distance.
What we took to be a temple turned out to be a math, an ashram, and we were the only visitors on that day. The glass inlay work at the entrance caught our eye at once.
The temple was empty; except for a couple of people busy cleaning it. We approached the sanctum and prayed, and as we came down, we were approached by a man who asked us where we were from. Hearing that we were from Mumbai, he started reminiscing about the days he lived in the city. It seemed he was a student there, who had given up the busy life of the city to live in the peace of the ashram. He showed us around, taking us to the Samadhis (resting places) of his guru as well as the previous heads of the math. Meanwhile, a couple of dogs had succeeded in scaring Samhith, so we decided to move on to the next temple on our agenda.
The second temple turned out to be a south Indian temple, dedicated to the goddess Kamakshi. The temple is maintained by the Kanchi Math (of Kancheepuram in Tamil Nadu) and houses images of the goddess in the 51 Shakti Peethas.
The next temple was dedicated to Lord Shiva. This is believed to be an ancient temple, built over the place where the sage Valmiki had his ashram.
However, the place draws pilgrims, not for the temple, but for a small pond, into which water flows perennially from a small opening in the mountain, which is decorated with a cow’s head made of marble. It appears as if the water flows out of the cow’s mouth. This is said to be the river Saraswati, which is believed to originate in these hills. There is also a small cave located below ground level, with a small idol of the goddess Saraswati.
Kumbhariya Jain Temples
We had seen enough Jain temples at Dilwara, so we had kept the Kumbhariya Jain temples to the last, so that we could skip them if we didn’t have time. We walked into the complex, all set to make a cursory round before turning back. As it turned out, we spent more time here than we had anywhere during the entire trip!!
As with all the other temples, this one was empty too. Surprising, considering that it was the vacation, and that the Ambaji temple was packed! Guess most visitors are ardent devotees who don’t go sightseeing!
The temple complex is comprised of five ancient temples dedicated to the Jain Teerthankars – Neminath, Mahavir, Parshvanath, Shantinath and Sambhavnath. These are believed to be older than the temples at Dilwara. The temple to Neminath is believed to have been built by Vimal Shah, minister to the Solanki ruler in Gujarat, in the 11th century, before he built the more acclaimed Adinath temple at Dilwara. The other temples were built in the 12th century by the brothers Vastupal and Tejpal, who also later built more temples at Dilwara!
While some of this information was posted on a board right at the entrance, I heard some more interesting things about the temple when I went into the office to ask permission to take photographs. To begin with, the official there, a representative of the trust, which maintains the temple, was thrilled to have someone come and ask permission to take photographs. He informed me that a small charge was levied, but once I had paid, I could take all the photos I wanted. He further took on the role of unofficial guide and came along, pointing out the more interesting sculptures and carvings. It was he who told us of one of the legends surrounding the temple. It is believed that the goddess Ambaji appeared to Vimal Shah in his dreams and instructed him to build 360 temples dedicated to the Jain Teerthankars. He did so, and when people appreciated the temples, and asked who built them, he proudly replied that he had built them himself, disregarding the role of the goddess. The goddess was, of course, enraged, and one night, she destroyed 355 of the temples, leaving just five as a reminder of his pride. Vimal Shah, of course, realised the error of his ways, and, in the temples he later built at Dilwara, placed an image of the goddess as atonement. Much as the story was interesting, it obviously did not agree with the historical facts. However, it does make things more interesting. Also, according to the board at the entrance, there were indeed more temples in the complex, but they were destroyed by the Mughals.
We were the only visitors that day, and had all the time to look around and enjoy the beautiful work. Besides, after Dilwara, where I had to leave my camera in the car, I was thrilled to have a free run with my camera! I wandered around, clicking so many photos that I cant possibly post all of them! Besides, I cant possibly give details of all the sculptures and temples I have taken photos of, so I can only post as many photos as I can and show you the place through my eyes... or rather, my lens!
|on the ceiling..|
|this is also the ceiling|
these are remnants of broken arches... we were told that these were found on the site... remnants of the other temples?
By the time we were through, it was time to bid goodbye to Ambaji and proceed to Udaipur, where more exciting places awaited us!