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  • Shelley Dark

22. Sravana Belgola

John took these bird photos yesterday. Two Brahminy kite chicks. When we return after our tour today at 5pm, we worry that they have come to grief. There are no parents to be seen, and no little fluffy heads sticking up. Nothing for 15 mins. John says that at this time yesterday they were being fed constantly. They are so defenceless in that deciduous tree. We're sad.

But no! Suddenly the parents are back. Both of them. The chickens stick their heads up. There is one pure white and one with a little bit of darker colour. Th white one seems to be getting the lion's share of the food.

Today we go to Sravana Belgola, a pilgrimage destination for Jain devotees. They form a minority religious sect mainly in India, and believe in non-violence to all living things, even trees. They wear masks so that they don't breathe in any living organism thereby destroying it, they carry brooms and sweep ahead of themselves so that they don't step on anything live.

On the bus, Sue reads us an excerpt about a Jain nun from William Dalrymple's 'Nine Lives'. I remember little of it, except the girls' parents were vehemently opposed to her joining. She had to have her hair pulled out by the roots to confirm her commitment. When she became a nun finally, she had to pull it out again herself.

One type of Jain monk wears no clothes at all. We didn't see any of those. Fortunately. The others wear white robes and carry begging bowls. Jains can worship as Hindus or Muslims or a religion of their choice without compromising their Jain faith.

They abide by five principles. Non-violence, truthfulness, not stealing, celibacy and renouncing materialism. To attain moksha, it once was the practice to starve one's self to death. Not any longer.

As usual, on the bus I'm taking photos through the window. Most of them are blurred and I have to bin them. Occasionally one is ok. This shows the beautiful soil which has just been ploughed.

Here are bullock carts laden with sugar cane. The harvest is on. This would be about one-twentieth of the number of carts in this huge holding area, hundreds and hundreds waiting to be unloaded for processing. I can't believe my eyes.

There are also sole trader refineries like this one.

I take this man ploughing his field from the bus as we go past.

Then we stop for a photo shoot. I wish he'd feed his bullocks better. He is wearing nothing at all on his feet. No hat of course.

There are lots of opportunistic birds waiting nearby for whatever might be turned up by the plough. This bird is a pond heron.

These two are the great egret and the black-headed ibis. Aren't we luck to have our bird enthusiast to identify them?

We are going to see a 19 metre high statue of Gommateshvara Bahubali, the founder of the Jain religion. He renounced all material things after a serious competition with his brothers. Took off all his clothes. Then he meditated standing up motionless for an entire year which is why the statue has carved creepers growing around its legs. It's on top of a high hill. We have to climb about 600 steps cut into the granite and no shoes are allowed.

The views are quite spectacular.

Dark brown stripes stain the stone of the building at the top of the hill.

The carvings look modern on the freehand striped background. I wonder if they date from the construction of the builiding, over a thousand years old.

An elephant picking bananas?

The stripes heighten the sense of perspective.

Carvings represent the different poses of Jainism, standing and sitting.

A small shrine on the rock before the final ascent.

Not everyone finds the steep stairs intimidating. They're moving fast. One is checking her texts.

The parapet walls feature circles.

How to look elegant while sweeping. Short hair is unusual.

The statue is very impressive. I like his hair.

A Jain monk (of the dressed kind) stands at the base of the statue and blesses those who come to him. He takes a petal from this dish of milk and ghee and drops water on their hair. Some leave money in his plate.

There is a pile of fabric lying on a low wall. I wonder what it's for.

Such a vision. Running full tilt across the granite.

We have lunch at a small restaurant owned by a Jain family. The beer drinkers have to go to the kitchen as it is not permitted to drink alcohol in the restaurant. I'm so glad I'm drinking beer. I can watch lunch being made. This girl is the cook.

She has a lump of dough which she is forming into balls. They are rolled into circles with the rolling pin.

Then masala powder from a big plastic cannister is put into the centre of each circular pastry.

It's squeezed up into a ball, firmly.

Then it's rolled out flat again until the masala shows through.

It's put in an oiled pan. When it starts to puff up, it's flattened with a wooden press.

Pooris are made too, over a direct gas flame. They're turned quickly.

Corinader is chopped as a garnish.

These are put on the tables to go with the bread.

As we leave the restaurant I cross the road to watch a woman ironing on the street.

Here she opens the lid of the iron and using a stick, she pushes red hot coals into it from a wok.

Another lovely face.

I'm constantly surprised at how people enjoy being photographed. Grown men point at their own chest, meaning 'what about me'?

These women are sitting on stone steps, chatting.

The man with the cap wants to be photographed. The boy laughing can't believe I want to photograph them, or that the older man is keen on it.

A man in a shirt and matching scarf. It's a beautiful clear colour.

Sari detail.

There are coconuts for sale everywhere on the street. Don't they have decorative ends?

The villagers tell our guide that on the way back to Mysore, there is a place which has old stone memorials to those who died in the practice of suttee or sati. It means good woman or chaste wife. The practice dates from the fourth century BC. A wife was burned to death on her husband's cremation pyre. We stop to look.

Nearby, rice stubble in rows.

It's a picturesque spot, a gnarled old neem tree on guard.

The meditative pose of the Jains. Tomorrow it's Nagarhole National Park and tiger hunting. It's where the Maharajah of Mysore actually hunted. I suspect seeing one would be a miracle. A maharajah or a tiger.

Wifi may be a problem at the Kabini River Lodge where we are staying. We'll be there for two nights, so if I don't post for a couple of days you'll know why.

But if I can, I will. Until then, travelling buddies.....

shelley dark, writer 

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