The builder of the shrine, Dharna Shah belonged to a Rajasthani Jain family that held the title of Sanghapati (one who has borne the costs of the community pilgrimage). The name Shah or Sah indicates that he accumulated his wealth as a banker or as a merchant.
The Adinatha temple has been conceived of as a Chatur-mukha-prasada, i.e., the idol faces all four cardinal directions. This necessitates a cell (garbha griha, No. 1 in the plan) with four doorways. The entire ground plan, which is almost a square, derives from this basic conception.
In the balana mandapa on the southern side, there are two reliefs measuring approximately a metre each. The reliefs face each other and apparently complement one another.
Facing this is the relief of the Nandishvara dvipa, the eighth island continent. In this case too four groups, consisting of thirteen mountains each, with temples atop them, surround the centre and form the figure fifty-two, which the Jains regard as holy. Although the centre looks identical to the one represented in the earlier relief, which is apparently the complement to this one, yet it is interpreted as being a pulsating 'Om'.
Stylised representations of the holy mountains are common to Jain temples. In page 2-3, the Shatrunjaya can be seen, appearing like a letter case in which the figure of Tirthankaras and temple towers has been arranged.
On the southern side of the temple, there is a splendid relief of Parsva, the twenty-third ford maker; He is seen standing flanked by two Jains and two female serpents carrying fans. A one thousand-headed serpent hood protects his head. Serpent gods and goddesses with human bodies frame the whole scene, their serpent tails knotted together. The two fan-carrying serpents are also joined with them.
As mentioned earlier in the paragraph on Parsva in the chapter on Jainism in all the previous incarnations of the Tirthankara. In contrast to him a hostile and evil brother who personified the darker side of human existence: selfishness and a craving for power.
Thus, a cycle of three pious lives as human being, animal and god was completed and an evil counterpart was always at his side. The animal existence represents the primary stages of religious experience for the seeker. In Christianity, the corresponding level would probably be that of the Lamb of God.
I have narrated the cycle of his births in detail as it could serve as an example of the ideal evolution towards moksha as imagined by the Jains. At the same time, these stories about Parsva, who was probably a historic personage, provide enough parallels with other religions of ancient times.
During the reign of Aurangzeb (1658-1707) Muslim armies advanced through Mewar and pillaged Ranakpur. In later centuries, famines decimated the population in the surrounding area. The temple, which in parts had collapsed, abandoned and for a time it became a hideout for gangs of robbers.