India - Shravanabelagola
After our "shithole experience" in Halebid, we did not feel like staying overnight in another pilgrimage town. Furthermore, the sleeping options in Shravanabelagola sounded, well let's say, limited. Most of the guesthouses are for pilgrims and are rented by the local jain organisation for as little as 210 rupees for a double. So we made the trip to Shravanabelagola from Hassan in 1 day - and it was a perfect decision. But as this place was an extraordinary place for us, we feel like giving it some space in an extra blog.
Why did we chose to go to Shravanabelagola? On this trip we wanted to visit some smaller, remoter places around Mysore as this area is considered to be kind of a holy area with lot of sacred places and a special energy. Shravanabelagola was supposed to be one of these places. It is famous for the huge, 17.5m-high statue of the Jain deity Gomateshvara. The statue is said to be the tallest monolithic one in the world and it is carved out of a single piece of granite.
To get there was quite easy. Well, very, very few western tourists come here, but lots of indian ones. Therefore, the bus connections are perfect. From the Hassan bus terminal we took a local bus to Channarayapatna. It was a quick ride of about 40 minutes on the main Mysore-Bangalore highway. In Channarayapatna all signs were only written in Kannada (the local language). Bad luck for us. Also, people do not really speak english here. But somehow we managed to find a local bus to Shravanabelagola. It was another 30 minutes on the bus through beautiful, rural landscape. The whole trip set us back about 1 US$ per person one way - that looked like another really cheap day!
By arriving in Shravanabelagola one can see the huge statue already from far away. The little town is nestled in between two holy hills (Vindhyagiri und Chandragiri), lots of big boulders and some small beautiful lakes. We were much surprised how beautiful it was! We decided first to climb up Vindhyagiri hill where the big statue of Gomateshwara is. Entrance was free (!) but you have to pay a small amount to leave you shoes at the foot of the temple (you must climb the mountain barefoot). The barefoot walk uphill was pleasant beside hordes of school children and families constantly asking us for pictures. Next time we will come prepared - we are seriously thinking of wearing a T-shirt saying "picture - 10 rupee, video - 20 rupee, touching skin - 100 rupee, screaming right into my ear for a picture - 1000 rupee" ;-)..... Anyway - if you walk up the hill in the warm season at midday, consider wearing some socks as the rock really gets hot. You quickly get an amazing view over town. On the way up, there are some small temples and viewpoints. The statue cannot be seen while walking up. Only by entering the main temple you suddenly stand right in front of the amazing statue of the naked Gomateshvara. Oh yes, although we are in India, the jain deity is completely naked - and yes, you can see everything! No wonder, you can hear a lot of giggeling of school classes, especially with girls only.... whereas most married couples just overlook the detail a bit ashamed. It was very funny to watch the reaction of the people, we have to admit. Anyway, the place has a nice atmosphere and some strong energy around. The statue is amazing. Every 12 years there is a Mastakabishekam and millions of people come there. That means that the statue is dowsed in holy waters, yoghurt, kumkum powder etc.. What we have seen on youtube , they need tons and tons of milk and other things. Well, the next ceremony will be in 2018. We enjoyed the place and tried to sit in a more or less quiet corner - but that was nearly impossible. But this is India....
We walked down again and quickly left the stalls and the hassle of the sellers around the entrance behind us. For lunch we tried the Raghu Hotel. This hotel is the only decent sleeping option here. Well, let's say, this time we were glad we had chosen to stay in Hassan! But lunch was more than amazing! They have only jain food, that means, no animal products are used in the food. It is purely vegan. Great for us, as we are strict vegetarians (althouh not vegans). We ordered a thali which was a huge, really tasty and so cheap. The owner was very friendly and chatted with us - well, not a lot of westeners do come here. So he was extremely pleased to welcome us.
In the afternoon we climbed Chandragiri hill. This hill is nearly deserted. We met 5 people there in the afternoon - not more. It was stunning. We had amazing views of the statue on the other hill, of the town and all the surrounding area. It was so peaceful and quiet!!!! On top is the Chandragupta Basti, a lot of very old jain temples. Actually, these are some of the oldest jain temples in India. The atmosphere was amazing as were the temples. Some of them had a very good energy. Entrance again was free and we visited 11 temples in total and one cave. It was just fantastic and we spend all afternoon there. In the evening we went back to town and took a bus back to Channarayapatna and then to Hassan.
What a cheap and fulfilled day it was! We can highly recommend spending a day in Shravanabelagola. In the evening we had another fantastaic dinner at the Mayura International Hotel in Hassan. Then it was time to pack our backpacks again. Our next destination is a place where we have been already 1 year ago and which we loved: Mysore!