People of different religions flourished in the state of Rajasthan and have kept their identities intact. There are somber chants and strict austerities of the Jains is at odds, festive rituals full of zest of Bhils, Rajputs who have devout medieval faith and offer sacrifices and Muslims who mourn and fast for one whole month, come what may. All the religions have places to worship, some of which are fine examples of art and architecture.
Hindu Pilgrimages Pushkar: One of the seven holiest cities of Hindus pilgrimage, Pushkar is the only place where there is a much-renowned temple dedicated to Lord Brahma (Creator of the World, one of the Holy Trinity of Hindus). Hundreds of temples surround the Pushkar Lake and the common belief is that one dip in this lake washes all the sins of a human being. As the legend goes, the lake was formed when one of the petals of the lotus in the Brahma's hand fell off. The lake is also the venue where the renowned Pushkar Fair is held annually in the month of Kartik that usually falls in November or December.
Eklingji Temple, Udaipur: 24 km from Udaipur, this temple complex is dedicated to Ekling ji (Lord Shiva). It is said to be built by Bappa Rawal, the founder of the Mewar dynasty. The complex has 108 temples, the tallest being Eklingji's, with a black stone idol that represents the linga with four faces of Surya, Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra. There are many other idols and carvings of gods and goddesses such as Ganesh, Ambamata, Kalika, Shivalingas and celestial nymphs along with a life size image of Bappa Rawal.
Govind Devji Temple, Jaipur: The erstwhile royal temple of the Kachchwaha family of Jaipur, it is said that the idols of the temple were brought here from Vrindavan and have been carved by Vajranath (grandson of Lord Krishna and a great sculptor). The image of Krishna is worth seeing. Sawai Jai Singh II consecrated the temple as part of the City Palace complex. A simple temple marked by an open pavilion, surrounded by columns, and a tiered courtyard, the idols of the temple are mounted on a silver throne and adorned with gold jewellery.
Shrinathji Temple, Nathdwara: 48 km from Udaipur, Shrinathji of Nathdwara is actually a temple of Lord Krishna with his image carved out of a single block of black marble. It is said that Goswami Dev fled from Mathura to escape from Aurangzeb and carried this particular idol in a chariot with an intention to take it to Udaipur. However, his chariot got stuck in this place and finally, he took it as a token of the divine will and decided to consecrated it on the spot. Glimpses of the idol are permitted only for short intervals five times a day in different moods. It is said that famous pichwai paintings originated from the custom of painted curtain cloths behind the idol. The royalty of Udaipur pray at the temple and as the head of his clan, the Maharana is also called as Shriji among his people.
The beauty of the simplicity and just a touch of exuberance in their temples that just add to the tranquility of the sacred shrines compliment the restrained austerity of the Jains.
Ranakpur: The Ranakpur temples are constructed on the site gifted to the Jain community for the purpose by the ruling Ranas in the 15th century. Chaumukha is the principal deity in the main temple but it is mainly known for it has 1,444 pillars, all of them are carved yet not one of them is alike in its carving. With 29 halls and cupolas surrounded by the five spires, there are three entrances leading to the temple. The valley also has a polygonal sun temple along with two 14th century Jain temples, dedicated to Neminathji and Parsvanathji.
Dilwara Temple, Mt Abu: An ancient mango grove of Mt. Abu, Dilwara temples are considered a world heritage site with their intricately carved architecture. There are images of Jain tirthankaras within the sanctums, and the two main shrines are dedicated to Adinathji and Neminathji. An excellent example of the craftsmanship of the stone-carver, it has a separate hall that has been built as a tribute to those who have contributed to build these grandiose temples. It houses their life-size images in which even the delicate traceries and minute details of their garments have been captivatingly captured in marble.
Parsvanath Temple, Nakoda: Situated on Jodhpur-Barmer highway, in a beautiful valley, this temple is dedicated to the tirthankara Parsvanathji and has been carved in black stone. Many other temples including Jain temples dedicated to Shantinathji with a steep flight of stairs and some ancient Hindu temples surround it.
Shri Mahavirji Temple: 90 km from Ranthambhor, it was made when a cowherd unearthed a statue of Mahavira on this very spot. Made of white sandstone with cupolas of red sandstone, the chhatris and spires of the temple are visible from all around. The walls have been painted to depict the religious scenes and on a tower facing the temple, the footsteps of Mahavira have been consecrated.
Rishabdeo Temple, Dhulev: 64 km from Udaipur, this beautifully carved temple complex from 15th century has been dedicated to Rishabdeoji and the images of several other tirthankaras have been carved into panels on the walls. Its entrance has been adorned with the stone elephants and a rath yatra is held annually that attracts thousands of pilgrims.
Few of the most famous sacred pilgrimage sites for Muslim faith have been cited here:
Dargah Sharif, Ajmer: Dedicated to a famous Sufi saint, Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti who was said to be a descendent of Prophet Mohammed, it was the place where he spent most of his life and left this world for the heavenly abode. Every year Urs is held here for six days in his remembrance. It is said that when he was 114 years old, the saint locked himself in a room for six days to pray and left his mortal body in solitude. Several thousand devotees throng to this place during this time of the year and food is cooked in huge cauldrons and served to the devotees. The surprising part is that the people serve the food while standing inside the scalding hot food in the cauldrons. These cauldrons are said to be offered by Emperor Akbar when the saint blessed him with an heir for the throne. Qawwalis at the shrine and fragrance of the incense sticks together create a divine effect.
Tarkin ki Dargah, Nagaur: A disciple of Chishti, this saint was said to possess the powers of miracle cures and has a tomb in Nagaur.
Folk heroes and family deities
Rajasthan is known for its family deities that have been passed on through generations and the folk heroes that have been sanctified and honored with the positions of the deities and their shrines.
Karni Mata in Deshnoke, which is 30 km from Bikaner, a the tutelary deity of the royal family of Bikaner, with her origin in 15th century, was considered as a reincarnation of Goddess Durga when her prophecy of the foundation of the kingdom of Bikaner came true. Her temple has carved marble façade and is known for the large number of rats that roam here and are believed to be the incarnations of the Charans who serve at the temple. It is customary for the devotees to offer them milk and sweets and it is also considered lucky to spot a white rat here.
Ramdevji was reputed to have miraculous powers and fought with demons. He was born into a Tomar Rajput family at Runicha, near Pokharan, and it is said that he even earned the respect of maulvis who had come from Mecca to challenge his powers. It si said that since he attained a divine state of meditation (samadhi) at Ramdevra, he has been seen by people on horseback from time to time. Every year, two fairs have been held in his honor in this region.
The other icons of the state worshipped here, as deities are Pabuji, Gogaji, Mehaji, Harbhuji and Ramdeo Baba. All these folk heroes worked for the village and community welfare and often died in the process and since then attained the status of folk gods with shrines in almost all the Rajasthani villages and towns. They are believed to possess miraculous powers and their devotees are said to be often safe from the common rural life problems such as cattle diseases, snakebites, poverty and sickness.
The following paragraphs contain information on pilgrim places and pilgrimage in Rajasthan.