I was under the impression that travelling could be an experience only if I travel solo. I was completely fascinated by the tales of solo travelling. But my trip to Shravanabelagola in Hassan in Karnataka broke that myth.
Solo travelling might work for many, but for me a trip with somebody who would just like to travel can work. I have cautiously and deliberately avoided the words 'share the same passion'. After this trip, I firmly affirm the above mentioned quotes. To me, travelling is not about seeking new places, but new perspectives.
When I look back, this trip proved to be the most wonderful trip ever.
The experience and that 'so good feeling which you feel from inside' could not have happened if I had travelled solo. The 600 steps to reach the biggest monolithic statue would have been a big hurdle if I had travelled alone. I could not have managed them by myself.
Those hours we spent under the shade of a rock - after climbing majority of the steps chatting about personal, professional and worldly things - made the experience more personal. A light breeze that blew during those hours made it more memorable.
I am neither against solo travelling nor am I making a sweeping generalisation. My point is: if you love travelling, grab any opportunity that comes your way. Whether it is solo or travelling in a group does not make a difference. It's all about you and your personal experience.
We travelled to Hassan from Bengaluru. As it was an unexpected trip, we started off a bit late. It took around four hours to reach Hassan. Once you are out of the chaos of the city traffic, the rural landscape will make your drive a pleasant experience. When you reach Shravanabelagola, you can see the statue from afar.
The 58-foot tall statue of Jain deity Gomateshwara is the tallest monolithic statue in the world, and is one of the most important thirthas (pilgrimage destinations ) in Jainism. Shravanabelagola has two hills Chandragiri and Vindhyagiri. The statue is located on Vindhyagiri.
Since I do not love crowds, the month of September proved to be the right time.
At the entrance, I saw her.
As footwear are not allowed, you can buy socks from the local vendors for Rs60. After the visit, most of us discarded them in a trash box. If you think you cannot handle the steps, there is a chair-carrier resembling a palanquin. The views are different and mesmerising after climbing each step. It's all about the rocks.
This white pond and the view are majestic.
When you think you have finished the herculean task of climbing the steps, this appears. You can sit for a while here and start the next phase of climbing. There is no doubt that you will get thirsty after climbing all those steps. There are big tanks setup for drinking water.
Every 12 years, thousands of devotees come here to perform the Mahamastakabhisheka, a spectacular ceremony in which the statue is anointed with water, turmeric, rice flour, sugarcane juice, sandalwood paste, saffron, and gold and silver flowers. It is called 'Statue of Gommateshvara' by Kannadigas, but Jains refer to it as "Bahubali". The next Mahamastakabhisheka will be held in 2018.
The descent was much easier. We returned by 6 pm.
(Shalet Jimmy is a freelance journalist, book reviewer and travel writer. Her day job is with an NGO as Communications Manager. Before stepping into the world of development sector, she worked with The New Indian Express, Kerala, as Senior Reporter)