Gateway to the Thar Desert, the hamlet of Osian, 70 km from Jodhpur, takes us back in time to the days when camel trains trudged endlessly along silk road, loaded with precious items.
Long before being a caravanserai, Osian was known as a Brahmin center specializing in the learning of Vedas, the Indian sacred texts. During the reign of the Gupta kings (320 – 550 CE), it became an important halt for caravans on the famous silk route. Osian then prospered very quickly and particularly under the reign of the Gurjar Pratihar (7-11th century CE).
This city of desert is also an important centre for the Jain faith in the 8th to 12th centuries. In the old days there were about a hundred temples in Osian, but most have not withstood time and successive invasions. The town was abandoned after attacks by the armies of Muhammad of Ghor in 1195.
Four monuments stand out today: the Jain temple dedicated to Mahavira and the Hindu temples to Sachiya Mata, Harihara and Surya.
If you are passing by Osian during the month of October, you may be interested in attending the Marwar festival which highlights the music and dance of Rajasthan with, as a bonus, the Osian sand dunes as an amphitheatre for the concerts…KNOW MORE ABOUT IT
Osian is also famous for a culinary speciality called badha or dal Pakora, a kind of lentil fritter. The most famous place in Osian to taste it is the Jeevan Ji Wade Wale restaurant near the bus station. Bon appetite!
The Jain temple in Osian was built by the Pratihara king Vatsaraja in the 8th century CE. Dedicated to Mahavira, the 24th Jain Tirthankar, the temple is regarded as an important pilgrimage centre for Jains. It is famous for its astonishing architecture. The main entrance is sculpted with figures of young women and the torana (archway) leading to the main shrine is particularly finely worked.
Sachiya Mata temple stands on a hill on the edge of the town. The existing complex, also called Shri Mataji Osiya, was built in the 12th century CE by Upaldev, brother of King Punj, on the site of an 8th-century temple erected by King Upendre Parmar.
Sachiya Mata temple is devoted to the goddess Sachi Mata, Indra’s consort and one of the forms of Durga. She is worshipped as a kuldevi (patron saint) by Hindus as well as Jains.
This religious tolerance is shown at the entrance of the temple: a series of beautifully carved arches in the style of Jain temples encircles the steps which lead us to the main altar.
About a hundred meters south of the Sachiya Mata temple, we discover a group of delicate temples covering a period from the 8th to the 10th century AD. Lovers of Indian architecture like me will enjoy the visit for sure!
Three temples at the southern entrance to the town are particularly old. They date from the 8th and 9th centuries CE and are dedicated to Lord Harihara (a deity who is half Shiva, half Vishnu). Standing on raised platforms, the temples are finely carved and decorated with sculptures.
The ceilings of these temples are particularly remarkable. Look at the finesse of the sculptures in the image below where snakes intertwine and are wrapped around lotus flowers.
Just opposite the temples of Hariharan, on the roadside (what a pity!), Stands a set of small temples, the one dedicated to Vishnu being the most elaborate. The door frame, the pillars and the sikhara (bell tower) are finely decorated; it includes an altar with several idols including that of Varaha (the wild boar), one of Lord Vishnu’s avatars. The colored powders on the images and the oil lamps placed in front of them, tell us that the temple is still active.
In the group of temples, there is also a 10th century sanctuary dedicated to Surya (the sun god)…. That I forgot to visit due to lack of information … It will be for next time!
Apart from the temples, Osian’s charm lies in its close contact with the Thar desert. The landscapes are breathtaking and few tourists are brought to this part of the desert, so enjoy it right now!
A few camps and furnished huts have been set up with the locals, in the middle of the desert, a great opportunity to come into contact with the people of the desert and learn a little more about their traditions. Camel rides can also be organised.CONTACT ME FOR A STAY IN THE DESERT