Located at a distance of about 65 km from Udaipur and surrounded by river Koyal on three sides is the small town of Rishabhdeo on way to Ahmedabad. The main idol in the ancient temple is that of Lord Rishabhdeo. On the occasion of the birthday of the Lord on Chaitya Krishna Asthami is held a huge fair that attracts lacs of devotees from not only places such as Bagidora, Pratapgarh, and Dhariawad but also other states like Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.
Kesariyaji is another name of this ancient temple. Devotees offer ‘kesar’ as it is felt that saffron is extremely pure, good for health and has a sweet fragrance. It also makes the stone of the idol stronger. It not only saves the atmosphere from pollution but creates a feeling of elation among worshippers. It is believed that Gods shower ‘kesar’ here every day. The main idol of Rishabhdeo has a carving of a bunch of hair (‘kes’ or ‘kesh’) from which the temple gets its name. Its another name is Kalaji temple as the idol is made of black stone. Dhulev is its yet another name. Maybe it is because it is believed that a villager name Dhoolia had seen the idol of the Lord at the spot in a dream.
According to historians, the idol was brought from the ancient capital of Vagad Pradesh Vatpadrak, Baroda town that is now in Dungarpur district. It was once a big center of Jainism. According to another version it was shifted from Jawas or Khunadari village that used to be a state of Mewar for reasons of safety. The temple is believed to have been built in the second century with unbaked earthen bricks and was built again with ‘pareva’ stone in the eighth century.
The temple is a living example of communal harmony and is considered to be a highly sacred place by different communities such as Digambar and Shwetambar Jain Sects, Shaivas, Vaishnavas, Bhils, and others. It is a big place of pilgrimage for Hindus as they consider the deity to be one of the nine incarnations of Lord Vishnu. As also for Jains who consider it to be of the first of their twenty-four Tirthankars. The Bhils also have a great reverence for Kesariyaji.
The attractive 3.5 feet high idol of Lord Rishabdeo in black stone is placed on a 1.5 feet high seat in the inner part of the temple. There are nine small Jin idols which are the forms of Navagraha and also a depiction of sixteen dreams. On the sides and upper part of the idol is the attractive throne with the idols of the 13 Tirthankars that are made of metal. Except for the throne, the inner temple and its door are coated with silver.
After entering through the first door of the Nakkarkhana one comes to a ‘chowk’ and has the darshan of Padmawati in the south and of Chakreshwari Devi in the north. To reach the main temple one has to climb up ten stairs. Another three steps take one to Nau Chowki Mandap that gets its name as it rests on nine pillars. On entering the third gate, comes Rang Mandap and connected to it is Garbhaagrah. The domes over artistic Shikhars, Rangmandap and Nau Chowk are very attractive. The divine, singing and dancing forms, ‘apsaras’ and other figures carved on the outer walls are really exquisite.
On the other side of the ‘parikrama’ of the temple, there are Hindu temples of Charbhujaji and Eklingji. The former is on the left of the temple while that of Eklingji is at the back.
A fascinating feature of this ancient temple is the use of ‘jal ghadi’, water clock that decides the timings of all the rituals that are performed in it. The clock is set up near the main gate of the temple. In a wooden box is put a big copper pot that is filled with water. There is another small copper cup with a hole in it. It is full of water in 24 minutes. As soon as it is full, the guard rings a bell to signal the time. There is a difference of about 45 minutes in the time indicated by this water clock and Indian Standard Time. Forty-five minutes make one ‘ghadi’, eight ‘ghadis’ make one ‘prahar’ and four ‘prahars’ make one day.
The ‘Abhishek’ of the idol with water and then with milk is performed in the morning at about 7:30. Water is used again and the idol is dried with a cloth. This is followed by Dhoop Khewan (incense) and ‘poojan’ with Kesar and flowers. Then at about 2 in the afternoon this whole process is repeated. In the evening is done ‘aangidharan’ that is worn till 8 pm.
The famous fair attracts tourists not only from nearby places but also from distant ones in states such as Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, shopkeepers from different places start setting up shops at the fair site days in advance. Shops are put up especially in areas like Purana Bijlighar, new bus stand, Pagliaji Marg, Patuna Chowk etc. A main attraction is the ‘jhoolas’ and shops in Patuna Chowk and big ‘jhoolas’ in Gurukul Ground. Cosmetic items and objects made of plaster of Paris are in great demand. Arms such as bows and arrows are also sold in large number as the fair is attended by a huge number of tribals. Swings for children, ‘doller chakri’ and magic shows attract a big number of devotees. Some religious organizations distribute free food to the pilgrims. The presence of rural tribal folk dressed in traditional costumes and dancing on folk music is a special attraction of the fair.
With the firing of twenty-one canons by the ‘jawans’ of the temple force at about 6:30 in the morning, the gates of the Mandir are thrown open to devotees for ‘Mangladarshan Pooja’. They gather outside the main gate of the temple after a bath in the nearby Koyal river, Surajkund, and ‘baoris’ near Pagliyaji. The men are dressed in ‘dhoti’ and ‘pachewadi’ and women wear ‘abotiyan’. Abhishek with water, milk, and saffron is performed. Bids are invited for ‘dhwajarohan’ that is done just after midday. The highest bidders are given the first chance to perform the rituals.
Tastefully decorated with flowers, fruits etc. the chariot with the idol of Rishabhdeo is taken to the main gate with the playing of religious songs by the band of Bhandar Dhulev. In the afternoon gun Salutes are also given. The 80-year old ‘ratha’ is made of 50 kg silver and has 2 silver horses in the front. It is drawn by devotees. Passing through the main streets of Rishabh Chowk, Johri Bazaar, Sadar Bazaar, Nehru Bazaar and Hospital Road, the big procession reaches Pagliyaji. Devotees keep singing and dancing all along the way. For ‘pooja archana’ bids are invited. At about 8 pm the procession returns to the temple where it is welcomed by the firing of guns. Janakalyan and Mangal Deepak Aarti are performed at midnight.
A huge number of devotees congregate here on this occasion that also showcases the rich folk culture of Mewar.