Dilwara Temples,  Rajasthan, India

These remarkable Jain temples are Mt Abu’s most remarkable attraction and feature some of India’s finest temple decoration. They predate the town of Mt Abu by many centuries and were built when this site was just a remote mountain vastness. It’s said that the artisans were paid according to the amount of dust they collected, encouraging them to carve ever more intricately. Whatever their inducement, there are two temples here in which the marble work is dizzyingly intense.

The older of the two is the Vimal Vasahi, on which work began in 1031 and was financed by a Gujarati chief minister named Vimal. Dedicated to the first tirthankar, Adinath, it took 1500 masons and 1200 labourers 14 years to build, and allegedly cost ₹185.3 million. Outside the entrance is the House of Elephants, featuring a procession of stone elephants marching to the temple, some of which were damaged long ago by marauding Mughals. Inside, a forest of beautifully carved pillars surrounds the central shrine, which holds an image of Adinath himself.

The Luna Vasahi Temple is dedicated to Neminath, the 22nd tirthankar, and was built in 1230 by the brothers Tejpal and Vastupal for a mere ₹125.3 million. Like Vimal, the brothers were both Gujarati government ministers. The marble carving here took 2500 workers 15 years to create, and its most notable feature is its intricacy and delicacy, which is so fine that, in places, the marble becomes almost transparent. The many-layered lotus flower that dangles from the centre of the dome is a particularly astonishing piece of work.

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