Thursday, March 08, 2007

JUNKET = BELUR, HALEBID, SRAVANABELAGODA

I hate early morning journeys, but you gotta lose some to gain some. Early morning heralds the take off to Belur, Halebid and Sravanabelagoda. Some journeys have little to do than twiddle your thumbs in transit. This is one of them. The time spent at the monuments though, proves worth its while.

After stale idlis and watery sambhar, Sravanabelagoda is the first destination. Six hundred and eighteen steps are all it takes to get the top of the hillock to get a glance of the temple and the famous Jain statue. Six eighteen is a large number, and palkhis [palanquins] are available. In true adventurous & religious spirit, I intend to conquer those six hundred & eighteen steps (that I don’t have money to spare for the palkhi is irrelevant banter). The sluggishness of daily life & the sins of zero exercising catches up when only on the 50th step itself, the lungs are screaming for air, the feet are trembling and buckling under their own weight. But grit and determination (and a resolve not to embarrass myself) gets me going anew to the summit. This gargantuan task is accomplished bare foot, creating a record of sorts of banging my toes painfully into every rock or stone I encounter on the way up.

The Mahamastakabhisheka festival [anointing of the statue with milk, ghee & the like, along with big-time ceremonies & worship] happens once every 12 years, and the arrangements made for the festival held 2 years back still stand, decaying – bamboo & thermocol arches on the verge of being blown away by the strong gale of wind, worn signs and scaffolding for the tourists/pilgrims. The statue of the Jain Tirthankara stands at 58 feet, much smaller than I expect it to be. One of the largest monoliths in the world, it depicts a naked God with stone vines growing from a rock around him onto his thighs. The posture – erect. The expression – serene. The view from the top? Breathtaking – literally!!!! The tikka finds a place on my forehead, and proceeds with giving me an allergic rash.

The descent is deceptive. Though it looks easy, it is so easy to trip & go rolling down the hill. No Jack & Jill here. One tumble and hello Humpty-Dumpty. As always, hordes of hawkers selling everything from postcards to chess boards to imitation Ganeshas storm troop me. A cold, indifferent glance is all they get…

Surprisingly good noodles for lunch in a South Indian restaurant pave the path to Belur and Halebid. Both these places could pass off as the poor-man’s Hampi. The temples belong to the same dynasty and the same time period, hence the uncanny similarity in the architecture. From a distance, I can’t tell one from the other, but a closer look at the thousands of stone human figures, elephants, warriors, Gods and Goddesses adorning the temple clearly sets a clearer picture. The sculpted inner & outer walls of the temple tell a tale of dedication and sheer hard work by the craftsmen. Each figure is carved to perfection and straining to come to life any moment.

Each figure carries a different story, sometimes amusing, sometimes amazing and sometimes downright insane. Like how once Lord Vishnu was so pissed with a demon that he literally ripped the skin off his face [a la autopsy]. Also, how the word GOD actually stands for the Holy Hindu Trinity –

G - Generator (Brahma)

O – Operator (Vishnu)

D – Destroyer (Shiva)

That one has me rolling on the floor.

Two figures that really catch my eye are of figures attired in what appears like the European judges’ wig and coat, and also space suits of astronauts. And these temples were built in the 12th century!!!! I wonder if these guides just make up these fantastic stories to make us believe our ten bucks is worth the banter!

The peripatetic tour of the temples becomes a game of hop-scotch as the sun-heated stones play havoc with our bare feet. I won’t walk easy for many days, but the entire trip is a feast for the eyes, and an artist’s delightful dream come true. Though I keep wondering why the women in stone are depicted with such enormous breasts!!! Is this the same country which denotes much of its time on sexual taboos and on debates on how western influence is corrupting us sexually? Two sides of the same coin…

Journeys back home after an enjoyable trip are never happy ones, knowing that the getaway from the mundane daily routine has come to an end. I still find my bike where I left it, and zoom back home. The tired body has taken a beating, and it calls it a day.

13 comments:

  1. Meiyang,

    Looks like you had a great trip. These pics remind me a lot of the pictures that were taken in Andhra Pradesh when we went to visit some family friends. I was just 3-4 yrs old but similar architecture. I do have to say that I was a bit disturbed to see the naked statue ... hmm, personal opinion I guess.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing your journey with us and now I'm REALLY wanting to buy a CD of Zakir Hussain's music!!! :)

    Cheerio,
    ANdrea

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  2. Nice pics and words to match ur trip to BELUR, HALEBID, SRAVANABELAGODA ... :)

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  3. Hi Meiyang,

    I enjoyed reading your travel blogs. I love travelling and exploring different places, cultures, and people. India is one of my favourite places due to the fact that in addition to many great architectures, temples, amazing scenery, rich culture and tradition, India offers diversity and contrast like no other country! In India there is something for everyone!

    In addition from your blogspot I have picked up some more titles (music, book and film) that I would like to read and places that I would like to visit when I am in India next, so many thanks and I look forward to your future contributions.

    Best wishes,
    Bhumi

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  4. Hey Meiyang,

    Me again....loved the pics....reminds me of the time I was there with my friends years ago. The intricate chiselled work is mesmerizing but the place needs better maintainence I think. It is a piece of heaven that deserves more attention!! Maybe they could use spot lighting inside the temple to highlight its incredible craftmanship!

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  5. Nice coverage of my state... Karnataka and Wow! Why and when did I come to your site before... when... when... when... its getting irritating. Especially when I realise that I have been extremely fond of you on Indian Idol and think you are awesome and forgot that I visited this blog before! Until now... Duh! Man, I am really really sorry you are out of the competition but so is life. I felt really bad for a long time till now. Wonder how come no one discovered your blog yet? Can I speak about it in my site?

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  6. hi chang,
    well these places r a treat to our eyes .......but never dared to visit it on foot[rather scared if only i had to come back and look in the mirror to find only bones]but the words"to conquer the steps were enuogh to rise a hard core interest in me to visit the place again on foot
    .....thank u ..lakshmi swain

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  7. This is Digambar Jains Temple and nakedness in them means socialism and APRIGRAH... meaning possession less of very high order, where they discard gold, silver, money, other necessities even required to protect body. Digamber means the one whose clothes are all directions i.e. East, West, North, South, Earth and Sky.
    They have no place for pride, wickedness, greed, sexual thoughts, bad customs
    Lord buddha himself has lived naked initially and later left Digamber path and adopted the middle path

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  8. hello chang this is one of your fan from canada...by origin i am nepal. i am married women with 2 beautiful daughters and such a caring husband. i never missed your performance in Indian idol....i got shocked when you eliminated ...but you have bright future ahead ...luckly i got your blogs posted by you. i want to be your sister (well wisher) if you want...if you get this message do mail me at bura_mala@yahoo.ca

    cya
    sister

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  9. HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHANG!

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  10. I think it's pretty amazing that you made the journey all the way to the top by yourself. I myself am Jain and hope to one day catch the same view you did. :o)

    Thanks for sharing your talents and best of luck to you in the future.

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  11. Hi Sir, Nice coverage of the monuments... I too recently had a trip to Belur and Halebid... and I heard one speciallity in thousands of elephantrs carved there.... There are thousands and thousands in count.. But even one elephant would not resemble the other...

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  12. These are three most recommended places near Bangalore... Hoysala's temple are the finest example of stone-craftmanship...intricate sculptures, insciptions, fine carved statue...a delight to a archeologist...

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  13. Anonymous5:05 AM

    hahaha very true when you said " Though I keep wondering why the women in stone are depicted with such enormous breasts!!! Is this the same country which denotes much of its time on sexual taboos and on debates on how western influence is corrupting us sexually? Two sides of the same coin… "......most of them are Hippocrates...as an example.... my mom fills her show case with agenta artifacts and asks switch off MTV.....was a confused kid by then. - apg

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