The rock-cut steps, hot from the summer afternoon sun, literally burned my feet as I hurried towards the couple of steps a little up ahead which looked cool, thanks to a temple next to them. I was not even half way through the 614 steps. Heck, I hadn’t even crossed 50 steps and I was already questioning my decision to climb the Vindhyagiri hills, on this scorching August afternoon. “Is it worth?”, I asked myself. “Maybe it is but for now, I need to get to the steps which were not as hot as a furnace.” I had wanted to see this more than 58 feet tall statue of Bahubali (also know as Gomateshwara) since a while now, so atleast I knew there is no looking back.
I wanted to see the monolith up close for which Shravanabelagola is famous for, up close. Not because of its religious or its historical importance but because it is said to be the tallest free-standing statue in the world. And the fact that it was one of the seven wonders of India increased the temptation to visit it even more. However, in that excitement, I overlooked a crucial fact. The fact that a hot summer afternoon was probably not the best of times to pay a visit to Bahubali. More so when you have to walk all the way up barefoot, taking a flight of stairs chiselled into the mountain itself which were no cooler than a furnace, quite literally. If that was not enough, let me also mention that because I was returning from a ride to Chikamagalur, I had a significant weight with me in the form of my riding jacket and backpack.
Dragging myself to what I think was the top took around half an hour if not more. I was there but surprisingly, the huge statue of Bahubali which can be seen from far away seemed missing. “Did I climb the wrong mountain?!”, a thought crossed my mind for a second. I was about to start getting irritated when thankfully I noticed a big door a little up ahead. A steady stream of people crossing it on their way in and out. I was not on the wrong mountain, thankfully! Walking now on a surface which was comparatively much pleasant, I too made my way up to the big door.
As I walked on this section of the hill, I noticed century-old carvings on the surface of the hills, mostly texts in Kannada. They have successfully stood against the tides of time but now lay covered under protective glasses. It is not a surprise if you have travelled in India or have seen the way most of the Indian tourists behave. So this seems to be the only way to protect/preserve what we ourselves should be proudly preserving. If not, in a matter days someone would find the great idea of writing his and his beloved’s name there.
As I stepped inside the door and then walked a little, I got my first view of the monolith. In fact, what I saw was only part of the huge statue. It’s literally impossible to see it in full unless you have craned your neck and are trying to look at the sky almost straight above you. I had never seen a statue this tall ever. It was HUGE and I was completely awed by its enormity. I sat there on the floor, my gaze stuck at the monolith and my mind going wild with so many questions. It was hard for me to even fathom, how did the people back then (remember, we are talking centuries here) even think of building something like this when the ‘technology’ was not there. And how on earth were they actually able to come up with something so imposing and so perfectly made!
It was only once I left the temple compound where I spent a good half an hour staring at the huge statue of Gomateshwara that I noticed the view below and ahead. From atop the Vindhyagir hill, the red tiled roofs of the old houses in the town seemed something straight out of one of RK Narayanan’s stories. Of-course there were almost equal number of modern buildings too but it was the view of the old Jain houses that gave the place its character. The pushkarni down below added to the beauty of the place as the sun played hide and seek from behind packs of clouds above, which were on a constant move.
“It was totally worth it”, I answered myself remembering the questioning me that I was, at the start of the climb. The cool breeze ruffled my hair as I took one step at a time on my way down. To my right, a thin straight line ran through the plains below, one whose end my eye could not see Turned out it was the highway which I would be taking back to Bangalore.
I couldn’t get enough of the view and even slowed down my descent so that I could soak in a little more but as the breeze slowed down and the hunger pangs kicked in I regained my pace and headed straight for lunch.
Good To Know:
- Sravanabelagola is around 160 kilometres from Karnataka’s capital city Bangalore.
- It is situated off the Mangalore – Bangalore Highway (NH – 38).
- It is a religious place both for Hindus & Jains there are no eateries selling non-vegetarian food.
- You have to walk all the way to the top of the hill barefoot and there are no resting areas in between.
- You can store your shoes and other stuff at lockers near the base of the hill for a nominal fee.
- Parking at Sharavanabelagola is available.
Have you been to Sravanabelagola? Do you think you would walk all the way to see Bahubali up close?