India - Hassan, Halebid, Belur
Are Indians spiritual - check out our observations...... We do have some indian friends who are spiritual. So please, we do not want to offend anyone. We are just talking about the mass of people and what we observed on our travels. But later some thought on this.
From Madikeri we took one of the many buses down to Hassan. If you want to travel this route: just be warned! The road is really bad and during these 4 hours we were shaken quite a bit. But again we had been lucky, having seats in the front of the bus with great views. We arrived at the bus station in Hassan and were really surprised how clean and well organized this bus station is. As it was early afternoon, we quickly decided to make our way to Halebid. Our plan was to visit the Hoysala temples in Halebid and Belur the following day and we were afraid that we would not make it in one day. So we decided to move on to Halebid to save some time instead of stay in Hassan for the night. Well, to be honest, that was one of the worst decisions we made on this trip. The bus ride to Hassan was only 1 hour on a full and dusty bus. We arrived in Halebid and quickly found the only decent hotel in this grab little town, the Mayura Shantala Hotel. Unfortunately, it was fully booked. Really bad luck for us, as there was only one alternative: the Shree Lodge a few meters away. Already from the
outside we knew it - that was about to be a horrible experience. But we had no alternative. They had a free room (well, no one is staying there voluntarily) for only 400 Rupees. At least, it was cheap (even though for the shithole we got, we should have paid not more than 100 Rupees). The lodge is about 10 years old, we guessed. When it was new, they put on some bedsheets and never changed them again. The bathroom looked about the same (like being cleaned for the last time about 10 years ago). We just left our stuff there and decided not to spend more time than really necessary in this shithole.
For sunset we went to visit the famous Hoysaleswara Temple. The temple was full of people especially school classes. But it is really impressive and beautiful. The construction of the temple began around 1121 and went on for 190 years. It was never really completed. But still today the temple is a masterpiece of Hoysala architecture. The outside walls of the temple are richly sculpted and are covered with Hindu deities, sages, stylised animals and Hoysala rulers. There are also 2 statues of Nandis (Shiva's bull) facing the inner sanctum of the temple. The whole temple is in the middle of a nice and well kept garden. It would have been wonderful and we could feel a very good energy in the temple. The only problem were the hordes of school classes and families. The closer we went to the inner sanctum of the temple, the louder they became. For us, a temple is a place for meditation, a place of peace. For 99% of the visitors the visit to the temple was a big event. They spoke loudly, took pictures and always asked us for pictures. One moment, I was kneeing down in front of the main deity for praying, some guys were standing beside me asking me for a picture. It opened our eyes to the fact, that India is indeed a holy country. But there are not more spiritual people in India than in the rest of the world. They are born Hindus, they obey to the religious rules and ceremonies, but they are definitely not more or less spiritual than other people. We were kind of shocked. In fact it was really annoying as we could not find a place to quietly sit for a while and taking it all in. We tried to loudly recitate some mantras - but people were ignorant to that. They kept asking us for pictures, pushing us, shouting at us all the time. In a far corner of the garden they finally left us in peace. We sat there and thought about the indians, their religion and their lifes.
Some of our thoughts to India and religion: as we had experienced especially in Kerala, a very conservative part of India, people try everything to fullfill the social norm. They do not show any kind of emotions. Still, 90% of the marriages are arranged and especially younger people are extremely unhappy with that. But the fear of being an outsider of society and the fear of not fulfilling the karma is to big to change the situation. Oh yes, they think, obeying their parents and getting married to a random woman/man is their karma. But this is only society pressure. And this again is caused by the way religion is lived today. Spirituality goes beyond this. In spirituality one follows the heart. Because the heart is never wrong. It maybe wrong in concern of the society rules but not for oneself. Of course, this is the more difficult way as one has to face his own problems and his own decisions. Anyway, this is a thinking most of the people do not understand (or they do not want to hear that). We met some people on our trip who already have realised this problem of the society and who have solved it for themselves. They opened their hearts, made their own decisions and are highly spiritual people (and we are not talking about some saints or gurus, just "normal" people). Some of them nearly never go to temples as it is always to loud, to crowded and full of people not caring for others. They agreed to our thoughts. One wonderful lady even said: "It is crazy. In India, we live in a holy country. And all the people want to go to the gym, train in Zumba, drink and party. And all the westeners come here and bring us back the spirituality. They look for peace of mind, they visit temples in a way, they do yoga and eat real ayurvedic food." The world is indeed crazy. Just some thoughts......
Back to our trip. As the sun was setting down, we left the temple and went for a walk around Halebid town. Well, this was done in 10 minutes as it is mainly just one dusty main street. There is another, very colourful temple, the Kedareswara Temple, which was quite peaceful and nice to visit. That's it. So Markus decided to take the time for a haircut in one of the streetside shacks. For 60 Rupees he got a perfect cut and the time was coming closer when the only restaurant in the big hotel opened. We had dinner (it was quite ok) and then went back to our awful room. We put our sarongs on the bed and did not even get undressed. It was one of these moments when you try not to touch anything. The flush of the toilet was not working anymore. But luckily we did not need it too much anyway. ;-) The night nevertheless was ok, we slept well. We got up the next morning very early as we wanted to escape out of our room quickly. At that time we even did not have any running water at all. We just put the few things we unpacked together and left at 6 am. From the bus terminal we took the first bus to Belur. It was about 40 minutes. There we went to Mayura Velapuri Hotel for having a nice breakfast. It was delicious and we could even wash ourselves in the bathroom. Luckily, we could leave our luggage there while visiting the temple. We were happy again.
And off we went to the Channakeshava Temple. On our way we realised that Belur is much bigger and much more pleasant than Halebid. We should have stayed here. Well, sometimes you make stupid decisions.... The temple was simply stunning and even worth spending the night in a shithole for it. In fact, there are different smaller temples around the main temple. It was also very crowded. But most of the people and school classes just visited the main temple. Like this, the other temples were peaceful and quiet. We spend a lot of time in the temples and could even meditate without being disturbed. Again, the architecture was stunning. The carvings and scultpures on the walls left us speachless. In some smaller temples ceremonies were going on and visitors even got blessings. Wonderful.
Finally, we took our backpacks from the hotel and went to the bus station again. It was 1 hour by bus till we reached Hassan. From there we took a rikhshaw that brought us to the Mayura International Hotel . We had read good reviews about it on tripadvisor. As the prize was reasonable we just gave it a try. It was like entering into paradies for us. They had a huge and cheap room available. As it was quite cold at night we did not need an AC room, so it was even cheaper. Everything was well kept and extremely clean. The towels were not stained, the bedsheets nicely white (!) and the bathroom had a wonderful hot shower. It was the first "normal" (that means no bucket shower) hot shower after 4,5 weeks! Wow!!!!! After the previous night we felt like kings. We showered, washed all our stuff and went down to the restaurant for lunch. Another surprise. This restaurant was excellent! Never before did we have such a great variety of freshly cooked, vegeterian indian food. And sooooo tasty! Later, we discovered that a lot of well-off families from Hassan come here for eating as well. Well, accomodation is sometimes a lottery while travelling. This time, we got the jackpot. We went for a walk around Hassan. There is nothing to see in Hassan but it is ok for some cheap shopping. Later, we had more wonderful food for dinner before we simply relaxed in our room.
To some it up: the temples in Halebid and Belur are worth a visit. But base yourself in Hassan and make a daytrip. Both temples can easily be visited in 1 day.
The next day we made a day trip to the pilgrimage town of Sravanabelagola. More about this in another blog....