1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Abu

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ABU, a mountain of Central India, situated in 24° 36′ N. lat. and 72° 43′ E. long., within the Rajputana state of Sirohi. It is an isolated spur of the Aravalli range, being completely detached from that chain by a narrow valley 7 miles across, in which flows the western Banas. It rises from the surrounding plains of Marwar like a precipitous granite island, its various peaks ranging from 4000 to 5653 feet. The elevations and platforms of the mountain are covered with elaborately sculptured shrines, temples and tombs. On the top of the hill is a small round platform containing a cavern, with a block of granite, bearing the impression of the feet of Data-Bhrigu, an incarnation of Vishnu. This is the chief place of pilgrimage for the Jains, Shrawaks and Banians. The two principal temples are situated at Deulwara, about the middle of the mountain, and five miles south-west of Guru Sikra, the highest summit. They are built of white marble, and are pre-eminent alike for their beauty and as typical specimens of Jain architecture in India. The more modern of the two was built by two brothers, rich merchants, between the years 1197 and 1247, and for delicacy of carving and minute beauty of detail stands almost unrivalled, even in this land of patient and lavish labour. The other was built by another merchant prince, Vimala Shah, apparently about A.D. 1032, and, although simpler and bolder in style, is as elaborate as good taste would allow in a purely architectural object. It is one of the oldest as well as one of the most complete examples of Jain architecture known. The principal object within the temple is a cell lighted only from the door, containing a cross-legged seated figure of the god Parswanath. The portico is composed of forty-eight pillars, the whole enclosed in an oblong courtyard about 140 feet by 90 feet, surrounded by a double colonnade of smaller pillars, forming porticos to a range of fifty-five cells, which enclose it on all sides, exactly as they do in a Buddhist monastery (vihāra). In this temple, however, each cell, instead of being the residence of a monk, is occupied by an image of Parswanath, and over the door, or on the jambs of each, are sculptured scenes from the life of the deity. The whole interior is magnificently ornamented.

Abu is now the summer residence of the governor-general’s agent for Rajputana, and a place of resort for Europeans in the hot weather. It is 16 miles from the Abu road station of the Rajputana railway. The annual mean temperature is about 70°, rising to 90° in April; but the heat is never oppressive. The annual rainfall is about 68 inches. The hills are laid out with driving-roads and bridle-paths, and there is a beautiful little lake. The chief buildings are a church, club, hospital and a Lawrence asylum school for the children of British soldiers.