Śravaṇa Beḷagoḷa (Kannada: ಶ್ರವಣಬೆಳಗೊಳ): First stop on our three-day trip out of Bangalore, India, this ancient Indian town wedged between two rocky hills, gets its name from a tranquil reservoir (literally, “white tank of the monk”). A barefoot climb up ~650 steps hewn into the granite took us to a 57 foot monolithic statue, carved from a single stone, said to be the tallest of its kind.
• Nearly 1,800 years old, the statue of the naked Gomateshwara (a Jain monk) is symbolic of renunciation of worldly pleasures. According to legend, the prince Bahubali threw down his weapons after a hollow victory over his brother Bharatha for the throne. Meditating in penance, anthills grew at his feet and vines coiled around his limbs, as seen in the statue. Inscriptions dating back prior to 10th century AD include texts in Kannada, Sanskrit, Tamil, Marathi, Marwari and Mahajani languages. They describe the rise of dynasties of Gangas, Rashtrakutas, Hoysalas and other empires. More on the beautiful carvings of the Hoysala dynasty in my next post.
• From the hilltop, where a cool breeze rewarded our exertions, we watched school children march in a straggly Independence Day parade with their youthful voices singing the national anthem. A few naked monks strolled nonchalantly past us while my 13 year old remarked that a _namaskara_ (lying prostate at the feet of elders or holy people) might be a “bit dicey” given the view.