Osian: An Offbeat Desert Recreation that blends History and Adventure
It cannot be denied that there is a different charm to visit a place which proudly stands boasting its glorious history. And what can be better if it is located amidst one of the best desert settings? Osian, an oasis in the Thar desert of Rajasthan, is such a place that you must visit at least once to experience how it unfolds some known and unknown chapters of history. I was in a haste to plan a very short trip to Rajasthan and so, I was searching for a new location that I haven’t attempted before. When I heard about this place and its associated history, I made sure not to miss out Osian on this trip and I am glad I didn’t!
In this trip, I had included Jodhpur again because this city never fails to surprise me. However, I was in search of a new recreation and that’s how I landed up in Osian. At a mere distance of 60 kms from Jodhpur, Osian has a lot to offer to its visitors. Although there are a number of transportation means to reach there, I hired a car to approach my destination because I was inclined to explore the place rather than just stop by the tourist spots.
Situated in the middle of the Jodhpur-Bikaner highway, Osian is an ancient historic town, now a populated area amidst the desert. However, signs of metro commercialization have not contaminated the place yet like the other popular cities and towns of Rajasthan. I could still spot a lot of local folks in their traditional attire which was quite a regular omission at other cities here. My cab driver Man Singh had started voicing the history of Osian since we started our journey from Jodhpur. It was a delight to listen to his proud voice and I was getting all the more excited as the wheels rolled over the tar carpet.
The town of Osian is found mentioned in ancient inscriptions that date back to the Gupta dynasty (300 CE – 550 CE) where it was popular as a stopover for camel caravans. However, the place got built and developed as a town during the reign of the Gurjara Pratihara dynasty (mid 7th century CE – 1036 CE). The location was a centre of Brahmanism in the early ages and was later developed as a major propagation site for Jainism, especially after the conversion of Upaladeva. The town was deserted as Muhammad of Ghor invaded in 1195, thereby resulting in the destruction of most of its temples and dwelling.
Out of the 100 temples that once glorified Osian, currently only 16 Hindu and Jain temples built between 8th and 10th centuries remain erect, though ravaged by time. Carved on red sandstone, the brilliant edifices are a glorious mark of the masterpieces created during this period. Among the 16 temples, the most popular ones today are the Sachiyan Mata Temple, Mahavir Jain Temple, Sun Temple and Kali Mata Temple. All the structures bear witness to the wonderful confluence of both Hindu and Jain culture that resulted due to the cultural shifting over the historic period. The architecture and sculptures on the walls of the temples will leave you astounded at their brilliance.
Sachiyan Mata Temple is dedicated to Goddess Sachi, wife of Lord Indra. However, there are a number of mythological indications that bring forward different variations regarding the name and origin of the temple. The temple is visited by both Hindu and Jain followers. According to folklore, this temple is very popular among expecting mothers who pay visit and worship Sachiyan Mata for the welfare of their children. The Bafna clan of Jains consider this temple auspicious and conduct their ‘Mundan Sanskar’ here. The architecture of the temple also showcases Jain influence.
The alleys and lanes connecting the place give you an ancient feel. Old structures, houses, dilapidated buildings, everything has a magical and mysterious charm. As you walk from the Sachiyan Mata Temple towards the Jain Temple, you get thrown into the historic age.
The Mahavir Jain Temple of Osian was built by King Vatsa of the Pratihara dynasty in 783 AD. An important pilgrimage site of the Jains, this temple boasts of some of the most stunning sandstone architectures and sculptures in India. Dedicated to the 24th Tirthankara Mahavira, a grand idol of the Lord is housed in the sanctum. The other popular temples like Sun Temple and Kali Mata Temple are also wonderful instances of royal craftsmanship.
A desert sojourn is incomplete without a camel safari. Spending some time in the temples, I moved on to take a camel ride. With mini sand dunes stretching through the area, this part of Osian looks alluring. It is the gateway to the scorching Thar deserts and a camel ride is worth trying here.
The sunset is a memorable experience here as the sand turns red with the golden touch of the setting sun. As the sun went down the horizon, I got back to my car to reach Jodhpur. Sitting in the car, I quickly rewound some moments to note down what all I learned from the day. Within a single day, I could visit some chapters of glorious Indian history, could visit some of the most wonderful architectures of this part of India, could see so many devotees with the flames of hope ignited in their eyes and their silent prayers, the lifestyle of the common people that go on despite the intrusion of hundreds and thousands of visitors, the universal sun touching the place with the same affection as the other corners of the world and lots more. Well, that’s the magic of travelling! As I drove back to Jodhpur, I took a piece of Osian in my heart overwhelmed by its history, warmth and beauty.