"In western Hindostan, 400 miles directly north of Bombay, Mount Abu arises abruptly from the desert. Its inaccessible cliffs are 6000 feet high, and the only practiable approach to its summit are through steep ravines. Away up on the top of the mountain is a fertile region three miles by six in extent, and here in the eleventh and twelfth centuries the Jains built this temple of white marble. This building was taking form here in Indiaduring the days of the Romanesque and early Gothic cathedrals in Europe. The marble must have been quarried three hundred miles away and brought up the precipitious mountain roads.
The Jains of India are native non-conformists to the prevailing religion of Brahmanism, and their faith dates back five or six centuries B.C. to the times of their leader Vardhamana, a contempory of Buddha. They believe in the transmigration of soles but deny the sacredness of cast. They do not worship any one diety as supreme, but pay direct reverence to certain prophets who taught liberality, gentleness and repentance for sin.
This particular temple (called by its merchant builder, Vimala Sah) is dedicated to a saintly prophet called Parswanatha, whose seated image is seen yonder on the elaborately carven shrine. There are fifty-five shrines or cells in this one building, all dedicated to the same saint. Repetition is a favorite ceremonial device among the Jains; this structure is a sort of litany in stone.
The patient devotion and wonderful skill shown in the lace-like elaboration of the sculptured ornament can hardly be over-estimated. Minature figurines of Parswanatha are used over and over as details of the decoration and are intended to remind the faithful of traditional sceens and acts in his life. They are to devout Jains what the images and pictures of Christian saints are to the faithful in the old churches of Europe.
J. Ferguson: Indian and Eastern Architecture.
Encyclopaedias: Articles on Jains and Mt. Abu.
Worshipers in Temple on Mount Abu, India