Mt. Abu was not on the Lonely Planet itinerary I was following but was recommended to us by Chetana for having a very impressive carved temple. We thought we would take her up on her suggestion, especially after reading about the town. It is Rajasthan’s only hill station and is a popular summer retreat from the heat of the surrounding desert for Indians. For this town we splurged on our hotel a bit and wound up here:
Very picturesque setting.
Our main goal was to see the Jain temple Chetana had spoken of. The rest of the time spent there we just wanted to relax and maybe go hiking a bit and explore the hills.
We arrived by bus at about 3pm so we decided to visit the famous temple first and then go to Mt. Abu’s “Sunset Point” to see a beautiful sunset.
To get back into town we opted to take a “Jeep taxi” which ran “every 15 minutes” and by that I mean a Jeep with an open back that if you yelled loudly enough while it went by (whenever it felt like it) and somehow got across where you wanted to go then he would somehow take you and the 10 other people in the back somewhere close to where you wanted to go maybe. For 30 cents. Worth it.
Anyhow, so we went to the Jain Dilwara temples and we weren’t expecting much. After all, we were surely experienced enough in temple going to have seen it all, right?
We were so wrong. These temples were absolutely incredible. They were made of white marble and every single surface was carved into fantastic figures, shapes, swirls, flowers—it was just brilliant. We were just walking around with our mouths hanging open as we saw each new surface covered in adornment. Most impressive, perhaps, was the ceiling. Each ceiling tile had a different arrangement of lotus flowers. And we’re not talking about 2D releifs, we’re talking like each flower had it’s own stem that hung from the ceiling carved out of marble.
Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed inside, so I can leave you only with publicly available photos to convince you of the dizzying detail of the carvings.
So after we had our minds fully blown by that incredible piece of work, we headed out to catch the sunset and contemplate the meaning of all we had seen. Unfortunately, the TTAMA (Tourist Tout Association of Mt Abu) figured out that Sunset Point is a popular spot and the way to the top was lined with vendors selling waters, peanuts, “American corn” (grilled corn on the cob), popcorn, horse rides, and wagon rides. We got to the top and watched the sun go down while being harassed to buy all sorts of things, having people stand right in front of us, and to top it off, it wasn’t really a great sunset anyway (yeah, I know, boo hoo). To make up for it, we decided to take a pony ride down. For whatever reason, the horse handler was in a hurry so he encouraged my horse to trot so I got to show off my mad posting skills.
The next day we woke up early to go on a mountain hike organized by the hotel. We had heard from other guests that it involved a lot of “scrambling” so I left my camera in the room. It turns out my camera would probably have been fine, but I took a few pictures with my phone.
The guide didn’t speak much english but he picked a flower for me. I thought it was a crazy looking flower and it had sort of a menacing look and then it cut me! If you look closely, you can see tiny white barbs that are strong enough to break skin.
Also remarkable were the rock formations. There were fantastical rounded holes and dents in many of the rocks. The guide said (I think) that it was where a softer part of the rock had been worn away by the wind. The rest of the rock composite was made of harder material so it was not worn away as easily. According to him there is only one other place in the world with similar rock formations, and that’s in….South Ameria (sorry, forgot the country…). Whether rare or common, they were still really neat to see.