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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Diwali Bike Trip - 1/2

We had planned on a 6:00 A.M departure. By the time I put my bike on first gear and set the trip meter to 0, it was 6:10. 7:00, and we were on the outskirts of Bangalore and I could see the sun being reflected on the rear view mirror of my bike as we headed north west towards Neelamangala to hit NH48. Just after crossing Neelamangala, we were greeted with dense fog which reduced visibility to about ten meters. The sun was nowhere to be seen as suddenly the plains of Karnataka became more like some foggy hill station in North India. Drops of water were accumulating on the helmet visor and the hand brake. We dropped our speed to 20 kmph and put on the headlight. Half an hour of driving in the fog and mist, and we were at Kunigal. The sun had finally triumphed, dissipating the fog which had slowed down our progress. A couple of idlis and a cup of coffee later, we were on our way to Shravanabelagola with the sun on our back. The helmets went off soon enough.

I had expected Shravanabelagola to be just this huge monolithic statue which would hardly take half an hour of our time. It turned out to be much much more. It is in fact a set of Jain temples set atop two hills, Chandragiri and Vindyagiri. We climbed up the flight of 650 steps. I was gasping for breath at the end of it but the view from the top more than made up for it. The weather, needless to say, was lovely. This particular part of a conversation caught my attention as I heard a guide talking to a foreign tourist explaining the concept of tirthankaras in Jainism.
"The British taught us to preserve our monuments. They also taught us this language. And so we can earn a living now. I'm very thankful to them."

After spending a couple of hours there, we left for Halebid via Hassan. It was hot. All that walking on the rocks and climbing up the stairs, and that too barefoot, had left us a little tired. But the road can do wonders. The moment we started from Shravanabelagola, the wind hitting our face, everything was alright.

Have you ever experienced moments when everything feels ok. When there is no past or future to worry about. Nothing to look forward to or look back at. There are no ties that bind you to anybody or anything. It's just you and that instant. Try to hold on to it and it vanishes. You are just happy to live that moment. Nothing more, nothing less. There were a few more of those on the trip but this was the first one.

Riding on the very scenic NH48, with fields of paddy, sugarcane and other crops on either sides and the occasional coconut grove, we reached the relatively large town of Hassan late in the afternoon. Halebid took another hour or so to reach as the road snaked through small hills and jungles. The 11th century Hoysaleshwara temple, the pinnacle of Hoysala architecture, was spectacular in its detail. A treasure trove for anyone interested in Indian history, iconography, mythology or just the art of sculpture making, the Hoysaleshwara temple managed to amaze us and hold our attention for more than an hour. Be it the identification of a familiar sculpture of Brahma or one of the avatars, the intricacy of a piece of jewelery adorned by the human figures and figurines, the uniqueness of the hundreds of elephant sculptures that formed the lowermost panel of the temple (not one was completely similar to another!) or the mere thought of how it must have been a thousand years earlier, in its full glory and might, it was an unforgettable experience in any way you look at it.


At around 5 o' clock we headed for Belur, a 16 km ride from Halebid. And then, we saw the sunset. The second magic moment of the trip. Seeing the whole day roll by in front of your eyes from dawn till dusk is a rarity for me. Sitting in my office cubicle, I can hardly differentiate between day and night, let alone the periods of the day. From the first rays of the sun as we left Bangalore, to the foggy ride. From the heat and dust of the afternoon to the calm and cool of the twilight, this day had turned out to be very special.

By the time we entered the Chennakesava Temple in Belur, it was already evening. We went inside the temple complex which is open till 8 (it being a live temple where puja is still done) and just sat there on one of the platforms. Inside, the bells would ring once in a while and the sound of a lady chanting some mantras floated in from a nearby loudspeaker. The atmosphere was surreal. As per our plans, we checked in a hotel, took a much needed bath, had dinner and went out to take a walk in the town. The way people in this small town in Karnataka were celebrating Diwali, warmed our hearts. Especially this set of firecrackers which sent off an array of over 200 crackers up in the air one by one in a spectacular display of light. The day had been special. The night, it seemed wasn't going to be left far behind.

Next day we were to head for the hills, Mullaingiri and Kemmanagundi.

P.S. If you dont like some of the pictures, its probably because I have taken them! If you love them, its Naman, my friend and partner on this trip.

3 comments:

nandeeta said...

oh i've been to these places!! shravanabelagola, belur-halebid.. my dad loves driving.. so :)
man. brings back memories! an old maruti car, amazing views and old sixties pop songs (bobby darin, the seekers "georgie girl".. paul anka, and that crazy peter sellers-sophia loren song.. dont think anyone remembers that one! .. also cliff richard, california dreaming, if you're going to san francisco "be sure to wear some flowers in your hair" .. oh god i shd stop :D)

but thank you! good way to start a Monday :)

sunny said...

"Have you ever experienced moments when everything feels ok. When there is no past or future to worry about. Nothing to look forward to or look back at. There are no ties that bind you to anybody or anything. It's just you and that instant. Try to hold on to it and it vanishes. You are just happy to live that moment. Nothing more, nothing less."

every night.... ;)

Shreyas said...

i think if there is an amateur blogger crown you should get it...i dont know what is more amazing, your writing or the experience
and dont worry i liked all the pictures :)

btw i really dint get what the sunny meant by every night with that wink smiley...any thoughts?