Treks And Temples: A Weekend In Ghanerao

Treks And Temples: A Weekend In Ghanerao
A shepherd leads his pack in Ghanerao

Ghanerao was established at the beginning of the 16th century

OT Staff
March 14 , 2023
05 Min Read

At the Sainsbury Centre in England’s Norwich, on display is a compelling Indian painting on paper. The subject, the work of Bikaner painter Shahib Al-Din, is Raja Viram Dev of Ghanerao, haughtily puffing on his hookah as he rides across the lush Aravali landscape. In the background, at one end of the painting, a procession of elephants and horses is headed for a temple. It’s what a Hollywood Western could have been like if it were set in India, only, the horses and the men riding them would be dressed a lot better, and a lot pricier than your standard bounty hunter.

The painting is also an evocative reflection of the grand lifestyle and leisure activities of the rulers of Ghanerao, amongst them horses and riding, something that resonated rather well with its English audience. In fact, horse riding is one of the most popular holiday activities on offer at Ghanerao even today. The leader of this band of men, Raja Viram Dev, belonged to a long line of thakurs of the Mertia clan, descended from the Rathores of Marwar.


The Origins

Ghanerao is located halfway between Jodhpur and Udaipur, 19km north of Ranakpur. Lush fields enclose the village, with the temples scattered all around. About 7km from the Rawla, inside the precincts of the Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary, and close to the Muchhala Mahaveer Temple stands the Jungle Lodge, which once served as the private hunting preserve of the Ghanerao rulers.

At the beginning of the 16th century, Ghanerao was established as a thikana comprising 37 villages, and helped maintain the balance of power between the neighbouring kingdoms of Marwar and Mewar, owing to its unique strategic location.

Ghanerao might not compare to the grandeur of Mehrangarh and the gleaming lakes and opulent palaces that define its more illustrious neighbours such as Udaipur, but it has its own exciting attractions. The historical Jain and Hindu temples and crumbling havelis strewn around are worth a dekko, as are the baoris—33 of them. The network of backstreets, with their close-knit line-up of houses and shops, offers opportunities to mingle with the locals (and often cattle). Your wanderings will also lead you to a complex of interesting chhatris.

The Rawla

The town proper isn’t particularly large, and asking around will lead one to a stately marble and red sandstone structure with its façade painted in lemon yellow. The Royal Ghanerao Castle, which now operates for the most part as a heritage hotel, was built by the Mertia ruler Gopal Das Rathore in 1606 upon receiving his jagir (fiefdom) from its parent kingdom of Mewar (House of Udaipur).

The tumbledown-yet-dainty features of the impressive mansion, with its jharokhas, domes and latticework, are reminiscent of the familiar Rajput style of architecture. The sun-drenched central courtyard is overgrown with bougainvillea and the inner walls have finally begun to reveal the scenes painted on them centuries ago, obscured by the blistering effect of limewashing. The grand structure recently underwent a restoration under the present-day erstwhile prince Shakti Ghanerao, who worked in close coordination with local craftsmen to reverse the ravages of time and neglect.

The Shikar Ghar

Nestled in the erstwhile hunting grounds of its owners, the Jungle Lodge entails a short drive up from the Rawla, through the narrow streets of the town. The manor-style stone building is the usual ‘base camp’ of treks and horse safaris starting from Ghanerao. Enter a not-so-smooth jungle trail (680m) leading up to the property. The surrounding area has been devoted to an organic farm, part of the Navdanya initiative by Vandana Shiva.


The 14km trek to Kumbhalgarh Fort through the Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary is sure uphill, but a rewarding one. The trek begins post-breakfast, at Baaghon Ka Baagh, or The Jungle Lodge, passing through a dense forest cover, revealing macaques, jungle cats, antelopes and a wide variety of avian life. Spotting a leopard or sloth bear, however, needs a little luck. The Thandi Beri forest rest house is the first stop. Also called Crocodile Lake, the water reservoir is a frequent favourite for crocs looking to sunbathe! The trail also passes through a village that’s home to the native Bhils. The final leg of the trek requires you to take the testing climb up to the majestic Kumbhalgarh Fort. 

Packages generally include one night’s accommodation, daily buffet, an English-speaking guide, entrance fee, transportation, and taxes. Also on offer are cycling tours, leopard safaris and treks in Jawai, Ghanerao and nearby areas of Udaipur. Outfitters also arrange the permits required for entering the sanctuary. You could also ask the staff at the Ghanerao Rawla to plan your own tailored trek. A jeep safari, which the hotel can arrange, takes you to tribal areas and you can witness crocodiles at sundowners.

The Temple Circuit

The road from Ranakpur passing through Ghanerao cuts south into the Muchhala Mahaveerji Road. After driving for a few minutes, one reaches the Muchhala Mahaveerji, the most prominent amongst the 11 Jain temples in the area. Constructed in the 10th century, it features the statue of a mustachioed Lord Mahavira—the only one of its kind—and with quite a legend behind it. But don’t let the caretaker convince you that it is 4,000 years old!

The Muchhala Mahaveer Temple is just 5km from the town and can be walked to as well.

The Gajanand Temple houses idols of Ganesha and his wives Riddhi and Siddhi. You’ll discover on your wanderings that Ghanerao is home to quite a few Hindu temples as well, including the Badmata Mandir, Gupteshwar Mahadev Mandir, Khetlaji Mandir and Sri Britweswar Mahadev Temple.

Ranakpur Jain Temple Complex

Barely half-an-hour of leisurely driving takes you back to the famous Jain shrines of Ranakpur, so try to arrive an hour in advance of the temple’s opening time.

At the Chaturmukha Dharana Vihara, dedicated to the first Jain master, Adinath, stroll around to marvel at the intricate carvings on the pillars, sculptures, mandapas and toranas as you take a self-guided tour instead of being taken in by the fleecing ‘priests’ offering personal tours. Do remember: food and leather accessories/clothes aren’t allowed inside the complex.

RELATED: Things To Do In The Quaint Hill Town Of Yercaud

ALSO READ: Under The Night Sky: Camping in Tamil Nadu


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