Anish said “Hey Sidda! Let’s go see Mahamastakabhisheka”
Mom said “No” as usual.
Dad said “Go. Let them go or they’ll have to wait another 12 years”
We left home at 2am, a cold night, on my Kinetic Honda. The cold was bearable within city limits but once on the highway it was freezing, especially while riding in the front. Fingers became numb, nose would freeze… The ride was somewhat lonely, hardly any traffic on the highway. Somewhere near Kunigal, we saw a car with a smashed front with a sole occupant seemingly waiting for help to arrive.
The chill factor got worse as we rode on… at times we shivered. Somewhere after Channarayapatna, we left the highway at Hirisave and took the road to Shravanabelagola
…. Another 18km ride. I was just waiting for this journey to end. Few minutes, we saw tents, thousands of them. It looked like a refugee camp. People were just coming out fighting the bitter cold. Small groups were huddled around fire here and there. We rode slow, looking at the sights… then we saw a row of shops set up for the camp area. We stopped as soon as we saw a tea-shop. As I remember it took us a minute to get off the scooter… our joints were frozen stiff. We stood close to the coal stove trying to soak up the warmth. The first few minutes we had difficulty holding the glasses… cold meets hot. After three glasses of tea we felt little better but it was still cold. We chatted with the shopkeeper and few visitors about the event which would commence in few hours.
We parked the scooter in the bus-stand and positioned ourselves on Chandragiri, the smaller of the two rock hills of Shravanabelagola. We got a good view of Vindhyagiri and could see Bahubali‘s head and shoulders and the massive scaffolding erected around the statue. Cold was giving way to sun’s heat now. The place was getting busy now with people filling up the hill we were on and we could see the privileged ones, mostly in white, slowly trudging up Vindhyagiri towards Bahubali. Down below, police had barricaded the streets and vehicles were off limit and we suddenly realized our scooter… We moved it to a different spot and came back to our place on the hill. The hill was almost full now. The time was nearing… I’m not too sure the order of colors, we saw water, milk, sandal paste, turmeric, vermilion, flowers… Just imagine the quantity of liquids required to bathe the almost 18m statue! It was a sight worth looking at. Once in twelve years!
We watched just the first one hour of the event and decided to head back… we did not have plans of getting stuck in the ever increasing crowd… it was a sea of people. We said bye to Bahubali, Shravanabelagola and the people and moved towards Channarayapatna where we had lunch and started off towards Bangalore.
Four years later, Gulli and visited Shravanabelagola during a weekend. We reached late afternoon, checked into a hostel, a simple little place, went for a walk, saw Bastis… it was relaxing, silent, peaceful and serene. Morning, we woke up early, bathed and went up Vidhyagiri and stood before Bahubali’s feet. Wow! What a statue it is! I was wondering how it was created, how much it weighed, there was no chance for any mistakes while the artists sculpted... We spent about an hour looking around the cells where the monks used to live. As I type out the words, I feel I should revisit the place.
India is full of such wonders, be it natural or man-made. There’s so much to see; our temples, forts, towers, mosques, tombs, What kind of talent and skill gave such wonderful forms to stones! Truly amazing!! Surely people of those times had put in lot of effort and time to create these wonders. They also lived in synch with nature. Modern man somehow ends up messing up with Mother Nature… sad but true.