I am sure most of us would have read about Bahubali(psst! not the movie) in our history textbooks, but the obsession of seeing this mammoth of a statue had pulled me all the way to Shravanabelagola. While the place is just 140 km away from Bangalore, it was a back-breaking distance for me to attempt on my Activa. In the vicinity, there was Melukote another place of historic significance and Basaralu, a not-so-mainstream place which I had come across from a magazine. Since the mode of transport was on the bus for most of the distance, I spent a long time solving my ‘ traveling salesman problem’ to find the optimal route.
Visiting Shravanabelagola was definitely the first because this open hill would be unbearable to climb on a sunny day. My plan was to reach at least by 9 AM and start the ascend while the weather is still bearable. The train will always be the best option and there was one available starting from Yeshwantpur (Bengaluru). The arrival time was 9:45 which was a bit late than what I had expected. My hunch was any bus towards Mangalore would take me there much earlier. Yes! plans do go wrong and there wasn’t a single bus that would drop me by 9 AM from Majestic bus stand.
After a dilemma of reworking on the timings, I picked a bus towards Subramanya which promised me to reach Channarayapatna a town 15km away from Shravanabelagola by 10 AM. While I was on the bus, getting down at the town Hirisave turned out to be a better option. Though it was 18 KM away from Shravanabelagola, it would save a bit of detour. It was a day journey after a long time. Luckily I had my unfinished Alchemist by Paulo Coelho which instantly transported to the deserts of Africa. Continuing the tradition, a box of Puliyogare (tamarind rice) wasn’t a miss in my backpack to boost the energy.
The rain god was merciful and it was pleasant and not so sunny weather when the bus dropped me off at Hirisave. While I was waiting for a bus towards Shravanabelagola, an autorickshaw driver offered to drop me at 300/- for an individual trip or 40/- if he adds another 7 people along. I managed to catch another autorickshaw en route which dropped me off about a kilometer away from the Vindhya Giri hill in Shravanabelagola. The route to Shravanabelagola had farmlands and tiny villages on either side with greenery all around.
The Bahubali statue was already visible from a distance and all I had to do was to point at the hill to ask for the direction. The Vindhya Giri has 620 steps cut on the surface of the hill to reach the top. Other than the statue, there were tiny temples called Basadi, pillars with detailed carvings and smalls ponds on the top too. I stopped twice to catch a breath while climbing up and the almost vertical climb increased the difficulty.
About a hundred steps before reaching the Bahubali statue, there was Thyagada Khamba pillar where Chavundaraya the then minister in 980 A.D. used to donate groceries for people in need. The pillar has a detailed floral design and inscriptions. On the other side of the pillar is Vadegal Basadi which as the name suggests is built resting on inclined pillars. The shrine houses first three of the 24 Teethankar(teachers) of Jainism namely Adinatha, Neminatha, and Shanthinatha.
There is a temple built around the Bahubali statue and climbing the steps inside the temple was getting harder as I reached towards the end. When I entered the temple, right in front of my eyes were two gigantic feet hinting at the massiveness of the statue. There it was, the monolith marvel, the tallest sculpture in India. For a few moments, I was awestruck by its beauty and magnificence. Sculpted in the 9th century, this statue has retained its glory ever since. Years have passed by, rulers have come and gone, the town has changed with the people, but this statue has seen it all from the top since millennia.
The exit to the right side of the temple leads to an open space on the hill where one can get a bird’s eye view of the lake, the coconut farms, never-ending roads, and tiny matchbox like homes. I stretched my legs for a while, but the sun was probably a little jealous that day and I had to start moving towards the next places. Cousins had suggested the hotel ‘Raghu’ for lunch at Shravanabelagola. Their spicy rasam was worth the visit and an energy refill to continue the journey.
‘Maktub’ (it’s all written), a word that was stuck in my mind from the ‘Alchemist’ throughout the trip was planning the day for me without my awareness. Few friendly autorickshaw drivers suggested catching a private bus towards Bangalore which would pass right next to the foothill of Bahubali temple. I had to then get down at Bellur cross to go towards Basaralu. The plan was catching its momentum.
The tiny village of Basaralu lies on the way towards Mandya from Bellur cross. While I was expecting to go to a place called Nagamangala somewhere on the midway and then figure out a way to Basaralu, another private bus waiting at the Bellur cross happened to stop directly at Basaralu. What a lucky day! Maybe I should have prayed for something better 😉
Probably it’s just the temple that we can visit in Basaralu. After about an hour’s journey from Bellur cross, I was dropped right next to my destination. The Mallikarjuna temple dedicated to god Shiva was built in the 13th century during the Hoysala dynasty. While the temple is small in size, the sculptors haven’t left a single inch without detailed carvings. Idols representing the scenes from Ramayana, Mahabharata, gods and goddesses, elephants, and horses are all carved on either side of the temple. Inside the sanctum sanctorum, an idol of god Shiva is worshipped even today. It’s a prototype-like the kinds of temples in Belur-Halebeedu minus the hustle-bustle of the crowd. The temple is maintained neatly by Archeological Survey of India, yet lacks its charm and exposure due to very few visitors.
It was about 3 PM and there was ample time to check-off Melukote from the list too. Got a bus back to Nagamangala and then one more towards Mysore to reach Jakkanahalli. The town of Melukote is just about 7 KM from Jakkanahalli cross. There were buses going directly uphill almost close to the Cheluvanarayana temple. I opted for an autorickshaw instead to save some time who agreed to drop till the gates of the temple and suggested possible routes to return to Bangalore.
Both the Cheluvanarayana temple and Yoga Narasimha temple are a must-visit if you are in the vicinity of Shravanabelagola. While it is just 25 KM away from Shravanabelagola, I had to make a round-about trip due to lack of bus services. Nonetheless, a relaxed trip was all I needed. Watching the sunset from the Yoga Narasimha hill while being constantly disturbed by monkies was my favorite moment of the day. They sell some amazing Puliyogare(tamarind rice) paste on the hill and I didn’t miss picking up one to fill my tummy in the next trip.
Luck was still on my side and a direct bus leaving from Melukote at 6:15 PM dropped me off at Bengaluru. Never-ending journey in the bus had already exhausted me, but that’s the fun of traveling: Hours of journey for a few blissful moments.
1. If you have the time in hand, always opt for public transport. They are comfortable, economical and environment-friendly.
2. Places like Shravanabelagola must be visited either early in the morning or in the evening unless you want to get super-tanned.
3. Talk to the locals. They are the best travel guides you can ever find.
4. Pack a lunch box if time permits. Hunger can kick-in anytime, anywhere.
5. Have patience. Not everything goes by the plan. Maktub!
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