It happens once in 12 years. Its one of the most sacred rituals for our Jain Society – Mahamastakabhisheka of Lord Bahubali at Shravanbelagola.
The ‘plan’ (if we can call it one) was finalized very much at EOD (end of day) of 10th. This time, yet again, it was only 2 of us, Abdulla and I. Milind had other plans. He was to go to Ranibennur for his friend’s wedding. Thanks to our unofficial Central Karnataka guide, Raghu (our colleague and mentor here, @hp), we were kind of sure that we would not be spending the entire day at Shravanbelagola. He had mentioned that we may take an alternate route via Srirangapattna. Well, we took his advise, though not exactly in the way he would have expected (more on this later). We started close to 7 in the morning on the next day on my bike. Thanks to the nearly deserted Ring Road Jn after Yeswantpur, we had crossed Nelamangala by 8am.
A known Caller
9am. We were feasting on delicious Kesari Bhaat. Just as I was waiting for Masala Dosa to pitch in, I took my cell out; it showed me having missed a call. It was a familiar no, it was Milind. I dialed back.
“Hey Milind, where are you rite now?”
“I’m taking my breakfast right now.”
“Same here, having Dosa.”
“Am at home, visiting my friend @ Ranibennur got cancelled. When are you starting for Shravanbelagola, coz I’ll also join you.”
“We are in Kunigal (~90kms from Bangalore)…”
“Oh Sh**! I missed it! Anyway, what’s your program?”
“Will be reaching Ranganthittu Bird Sanctuary around 3pm, once we are done with Shravanbelagola.”
“Great! I’ll join you there then. My friend, Mohan, will also be coming along…”
“Ok, see you then!”
So, Milind was not going to be away from us after all!
The Uphill Task
Once we reached SB (enough of ShravanBelagola!!), our next job was to get the darshan of Lord Bahubali, a.k.a. Lord Gomteshwara. His Statue, the largest standing monolith in the world, is about 60 feet tall, and rests atop the Vindhya Giri hill in SB. One has to climb more than thousand steps to get to him. It took us ‘some’ effort and about half an hour before we found ourselves at his feet. Well, kind of sad, you may call us being unprepared – the temporary platform set up in front of him is accessible only to those who take a pass for INR750 in advance. All we got was a little glimpse in the ‘through-fare’. Not satisfied, but contended.
Off to Srirangapattna
We detained our plan to take lunch at SB till we found a good ‘dhaaba’. Gulped down some sugarcane juice followed by ‘badaam’ milked, and off we went. Thanks to the event occurring only once in 12 years, the government successfully managed to get the roads back in shape. All of 50+ kms were done within 1 hour. All we missed was a good place to find food. Srirangapattna came to rescue. The meal followed with a small sight seen into the capital fort city of Tipu Sultan. Though, not many photos could be taken, all my camera batteries had gone dead, and the alkaline ones were not all that promising!
It was exactly 3pm when we entered the bird sanctuary. Milind called up, but the news was not all that great. He informed that it would take him another hour or more to catch us. Not waiting for him, we started for the all famous boat ride. Till we got into a boat, the only bird that we found was, well, the crow! Once onboard, I was seriously missing my SLR camera, and its new 75-300mm lens! The Siberian Cranes were the most populous of them all, though; there were quite a few other birds as well. One thing that was not to be missed was the crocodile, or the ‘magar’. I’d never seen so lazy ones in my entire life! Nothing used to flatter them – the boats and the birds treated alike. For that matter, even the birds had a sense of indifference to the humans around. They simply wore that typical ‘I don’t care’ attitude!
Enter Milind & Mohan
Milind lived up to his reputation of being as late as possible. He showed up only at 5:50pm, 10 minutes before they stop entry into the sanctuary! He was bound to miss the boat ride, and he did miss it. Even after quite a bit of persuasion, he was not successful in getting the boating guy along… We stayed there till it got dark, and then, in magnificent moon-light, proceeded towards our last stop for the day, Brindavan Garden.
The Light Show
We found ourselves at the entrance of the famous garden around 7:20pm. This was the precise time that I had come here last, with my Sis. Just like the last time, we were not allowed to go on the Krishna Raja Sagar Dam; entry is prohibited from that direction. Now, the only way to enter the park is directly near the sluice gate reservoir. The only difference this time was the timing of illumination: Monday – Friday: After dark till 7:55pm (instead of 7:25pm) Saturday – Sunday: After dark till 8:55pm (instead of 8:25pm) As usual, the lights provided a spectacular view. We noticed that the sluice gate reservoir had been completely drained out and some de-silting kind of activity was going on near the North Side of Garden.
The return journey
We started around 9pm from the Garden, and after some 1 and half hours found ourselves in Maddur, feasting on some ordinary dinner. Yes, I didn’t misuse the word – feasting we were, as all of us were just so hungry! The break was a pretty long one. Apart form this, there was only 1 break, for tea near Bidadi. Milind and Mohan parted ways with us at the beginning of Lalbagh Road. I was not home before 2:25am, as I dropped Abdulla at his place around 2:10. Exactly 420kms done for the day and bottom still not complaining! This time was really different – The ghost of bad roads (which ALWAYS accompanies Abdulla) somehow didn’t find a great company in us. May be, it was Lord Bahubali’s blessings that did the trick for us…
The photos can be found here.