In South India, there are more Jain sites of interest in Karnataka than in any other state. It appears that Karnataka has been associated with Jainism for more than 2000 years. One of the most important sites is Shravanabelagola. I had visited this many years ago and it is still one of my favourite places in Karnataka. This was the initial motivation I needed to start on a pilgrimage of other Jain sites in Karnataka. A good reference of the Jain sites in Karnataka is listed at the Jain Heritage Centres.
– where I visit the statue of Bahubali.
I have described in a separate post about my experiences at Dharmasthala. Here there is a standing statue of Bahubali. This is quite a recent sculpture completed only in 1970 at Karkala. It was installed at Dharmasthala in 1975 and consecrated in 1982. The installation was initiated by Dr D. Veerendra Heggade whose photo is to be found in every shop in town. He has an almost god-like status here. When I enquired, everyone referred to him as “Dharmadikari“, which when translated means the official or guardian or dharma. He has contributed immensely to Dharmasthala. Later in my travels, I found his name in other places. He has a Padma Bhushan.
The statue is not as mature as the one at Shravanabelagola or as tall. It has an adolescent look. Broad shoulders, disproportionately long arms that stretch to the knees and overemphasized buttocks are some features of this standing sculpture.
I had been initially critical of my appreciation of this sculpture. It certainly lacks the refinement of Shravanabelagola but more than that, the proportions did not seem right. It was only later I discovered that such proportions are characteristics of the Enlightened One – elongated ears, broad shoulders, long arms that reach to the knees. A traveller has to be cautious with criticism. It is only after a proper understanding of local cultures, customs, symbolism and artistic traditions, he earns the right to criticize.
As is normal with any statue of Bahubali, fern-like creepers entwine his still arms and legs. While the one at Shravanabelagola is leaf-like, this one is more detailed. Another important difference is that the eyes at Shravanabelogola are fully open. Here the eyes are half-closed. This befits the meditative state of Bahubali. Hills with trees and ant-hills form the lower base of the statue and help is providing structural support. At the foot of one tree is a cow and a tiger. This comes from a legend in which a Jain ascetic saw a cow playing with a tiger.
The statue stands on a hill from where you can get good views of the surrounding landscape. The tall peak of Charmadi rises above the nearer hills, the reddish hue of its steep slopes peering through the mist. In the long afternoon hours the stone burns your bare feet. So you are always looking for some shade to stand. There is a notice board telling about the transporting and consecration of the statue. There is an installed plaque that talks about the history of Bahubali – how he was a king’s son, how he was drawn into a battle with his brother, how he renounced the world and sought to attain kevalajnana (Supreme Knowledge).
Another place of visit at Dharmasthala is the Chandranath Swamy Basadi, a Jain temple which has been renovated in recent past. The installed image has a brilliant golden halo. The place is peaceful and quiet for a little meditation. The temple has decent stone sculptures and a nice little garden bed that runs around within the inner courtyard.
– where I admire the statue of Bahubali; where I am entertained by children; where I learn about private bus agents.
Arriving at Venoor is a special event. You feel you are in a place that is out of the general tourist trail. When the crowded bus stops, very few get down and very few get on. The street is narrow, devoid of activity and almost empty of people and traffic. After some enquiries you walk into an even quieter street till you come to a Jain temple. Next to it is the statue of Bahubali rising above its surrounding courtyard wall. Unlike the other sites, this statue is not on a hill. While you can see the famous Gomateshwara at Shravanabelagola from a great distance, this one surprises you.
After some moments at the temple, where I found some school boys cleaning the courtyard painstakingly, I moved on to look at the statue. Perhaps about the same height as the one in Dharmasthala, the face is handsome. The only problem was the grain in the stone. It does not have a pleasing effect. Creepers, ant-hills and snakes are common elements as in other statues. I studied how these creepers rise between the legs, entwine the legs, catch the arms and rise up the arms gracefully. Next to the statue is a lovely seven-tiered brass lamp. The entrance to the inner courtyard is flanked by two small shrines with images of Shaninatha Swami and Chandranatha Swami.
The afternoon hour was lazy. Looking at the statue and in the surrounding quietness, it was ideal to while away the minutes doing nothing. I spent some minutes sitting here when a group of children came by. They lived in Venoor and studied in a local school. Two girls were in 4th standard, one in 2nd standard and one in 1st. When I requested them to sing or dance, they were only too enthusiastic to oblige. They sang Kannada, Hindi and English songs. I had heard none of the songs before. When children dance, the steps are simple and beautiful. There is innocence in their dance. After more than 30 minutes of singing and dancing, I had to take leave, much to their great regret. They wanted to keep dancing.
I visited one other temple at Venoor. I do not recall its name and it was closed. I did study closely the tall stone pillar that stood on the outside. The pillar was blackened by age adding to its greater allure. The carvings on this are full of interesting patterns. It was later at Moodbidri and Karkala that I discovered such pillars to be common in all ancient Jain temples. However, just because they are common and found in so many temples, does not make them less valuable or less interesting.
When I waited for the bus, a simple question triggered an interesting conversation. You can ask anyone when a bus is due and you will get a standard answer in Kannana, “Bartha ide“. It means that the bus is coming or on its way. The answer generally does not help you. You may have to wait for a minute or for an hour. So, when I asked this question to a man in his late 50s, I received a specific answer. The bus would arrive within 5 minutes; and he was right.
He happens be an agent for many private bus services that ply in these parts. He takes care of 9 buses. He was proud to say that he has been an agent for some of these buses for many many years. He does the collection on these buses. He gets a record of tickets issued from the bus conductor. You can often here a recitation of numbers in many private buses in these parts. The agent sometimes issues tickets himself. He is sort of a quality check guy. He also advises passengers, as he had advised me, on the best routes and bus timings. He showed me a little folded sheet on which he records the collection. It had bus names matched against numbers organized by dates. The numbers were added up to a grand total along with his commission. He gets a commission of 5%.
Yesterday he had collected only about Rs.1700 and his commission was only Rs. 88. Things used to be much better only some years ago when he could easily get over Rs. 300 per day. Today business is down due to unexpected competition. Government buses have greatly improved on routes and frequencies. Many people travel with private vehicles. While both these reflect well on our progress, they have eaten into the profits of private bus services. So this man, who has been working for years in this private profitable business, today laments that he has no pension plan and his income is reducing by the month.
– where I get a sense of the Western Ghats; where I join a ceremonial procession; where I visit many ancient Jain temples and study Jain temple architecture.
In Moodbidri you get a sense of living in a typical town close to the Western Ghats. You are not in a hill station but you feel like you in one. The roads are narrow, sloping and winding. Houses are closely built next to one another. The entire surrounding is green. Coconut plantations are common. Common too are areca nut plantations. So you can imagine what the place will be during the monsoons.
The evening I arrived at Moodbidri, they was a ceremony and procession in town. I gathered that this was in celebration of a new extension or renovation of a local school or college building. The ceremonial procession involved the carrying of a few Jain idols across town along with a retinue of dancers, musicians, clowns and costumed men with their paper-mache figures standing 10 feet high. It was a street party for sure. A couple of school bands took part. Drummers had come from far away places. A group of women displayed their drum-beating and dance, a folk art called dollina sangha. A group of drummers played on the chenda, a drum that is popular in Kerala for all processions. Classical music, street style, was played on saxophone and thavil. It was truly amazing to see and hear how effectively the saxophone had replaced the traditional nadaswaram.
Young and old joined in. The already narrow streets were packed and traffic came to a standstill at many points. As the colourful procession wound around various streets, people just flowed in and out. The participating groups were all spaced out so that one does not jar the sounds of another. People stood outside their houses with pitchers of water for the thirsty. Most houses were decorated with oil lamps and watched the procession with interest. This town is one of the strongholds of this faith and there are many Jain families here. What started at dusk went on till past 9 pm when I returned to my hotel. However, I could hear the drum beats going on much later into the night.
From all this, what stood out for me was the chenda group accompanied by a traditional curving horn. I followed this group for most of the way. Imagine 30 drums, each one loud enough to wake the entire neighbourhood, playing continously for 2-3 hours. The movement of the curving wooden sticks is too quick for the eye but the ear delights in each distinct sound it makes. After two hours of these drums, my eardrums aching to lose their nerve endings, I had not had enough of it. The sound is mesmerizing but you have to also watch the complete concentration on the faces of these drummers, their dedication to this art form and the long years of practice to give a performance of such intensity. I was too tired to dream that night but if there had been dreams it would have been only the sound of the chenda.
Moodbidri is famous for its Jain temples, 18 of them in total, from the 13th to the 18th centuries. Some of them are completely in stone including the roof. The most famous one is the Tribhuvana Tilaka Chudamani, locally known as the Savira Kambada Basadi, literally meaning the temple with 1000 pillars. Indeed, along the entire perimeter of the temple are two rows of columns. The main mantapa has many pillars that support the well carved stone ceiling. A quick count will give you at best 200 carved stone pillars. Only after talking to the temple pujari did I find that there are many more pillars on the inside. Lay worshippers are not allowed inside. So we have to believe that there are in fact 1000 pillars (some claim 1008 pillars) at this temple just like we believe that there is God.
Some of the pillars in the main mantapa have remarkable carvings. In particular are two pillars adorned with a wealth of carved details. Most Jain temples are designed on a rectangular plan. The length of the temple stretches from where the devotee enters to where the deity resides in the inner sanctum. The stretch is divided into many vestibules, a pair of doors linking one to the next. In some temples like in this one, there are as many as seven or eight such vestibules. The final one that enshrines the statue of a tirthankara. In most cases, very little light reaches the end. At best we can discern the form of the idol. We cannot see the facial expression, the colour of stone or far from it acknowledge the specific tirthankara who resides therein. The idol is shrouded in mystery. Perhaps this is because you are here not to appreciate the art but to believe and pray. In this regard, a little bit of mystery and distance helps for most people.
The next day I revisited the temple for a special abhisheka. This was in memory of one of the past members of the temple management. It was a small affair attended by only a few and I certainly looked out of place. However, no one minded having me around. It was a chance for me to once again appreciate the carvings before proceeding to the other Jain temples in town.
There is a road named Jain Temple Road. At every few paces there is a temple, to your left and to your right. This is like an open air museum of temples. Imagine that! Not a museum of idols, swords, jewellary or manuscripts, but a museum of real stone sculpted temples standing for centuries in exact the same place as ever. I am told that all temples are used. Prayers are performed early in the morning. I visited just before noon. The temples were quiet and empty. Though some were locked, most were open. Visitors can open the doors, go in and shut the doors when they leave.
Among these temples I found Guru Basadi more interesting than others. The priest here informed me that he has been in this temple for 15 years. There are 200 Jain families. At this temple I studied the sloping grey-tiled roof and the lower red-tempered wooden beams that support it. These beams slope upwards and outwards. At the four corners of this roof are the corner beams carved with figures of elephant and lion. This is a combination popular in Hindu temples as well such as the Vidyashankara Temple at Sringeri. Kere Basadi is interesting too as it stands before a large stepped tank, now no longer in active use.
Below this roof structure is the stone roof which is black-silted with age and weathering. It is art and engineering to erect such massive stone beams to such a height, balance them structurally and make them architecturally appealing. These stone beams are stacked at an angle in a pyramidal design. In some cases, a projected window appears under the eaves and joins with the lower stone roof. I have also seen projected gables supported on wooden columns that rise from a sloping roof. To me, these stone roofs of Jain temples are quite impressive elements found nowhere else.
When it comes to pillars, the simplest pillar is universally seen in almost all Jain temples of the region. It is four sided, tapering slightly from bottom to top. The capital is plain. Along the length of the pillar there appear two or three octagonal bands spaced well apart. Thus, although the pillar is quite simple, at the first glimpse it appears to be decorated or with stone arranged upon stone. In fact, pillars are usually of a single stone.
More elaborate pillars are seen in the Savira Kambada Basadi including bands of 16-sides. The perimeter wall of the inner courtyard in the Savira Kambada Basadi bears what appears to be distemper. This runs the entire perimeter with the same pattern. I initially thought that these are remains of structures since then dismantled. After looking at other temples, which bear similar marks in other patterns, I think that they are decorative and perhaps have some symbolic meaning.
Here a little of the influence of Hinduism on Jainism is in order. Jains do not believe in God at the core of their religion. Idol worship of Jain tirthankaras may have originated only to assist the spiritual growth of devotees. Jain temples are full of images borrowed from Hinduism. In Guru Basadi for example, you can find carvings of Ram, Lakshman, Devi, Hanuman, Narasimha, Krishna and Garuda. Kirtimukha is common in these temples. It is perhaps not their intention to embrace Hinduism but it might have just happened that Hindu artists were more common and they could not think of anything else to cover the pillars when commissioned to sculpt. It might have also been the case that Jainism has been cautious to embrace Hindusim for its own good and survival when Jainism was waning and the Bhakti Movement was on the rise. I do not in any case believe that Hinduism has absorbed Jainism into its fold.
– where I begin to take a liking to the region’s cuisine; where I admire the statue of Bahubali and visit other Jain temple sites.
I stayed at Hotel Prakash which is midway between the bus station and the two main sites of Jain worship. I checked into my room and had my lunch at the restaurant below. It was not the best of restaurants in town but it was clean and food was reasonably good. The cuisine in these parts is unique. It is customary to serve buttermilk with every meal. I have experienced in temples that they serve rasam first and later sambar.
One more interesting question I have been asked at Moodbidri and Karkala is the sort of rice I would like to be served – boiled or white? It is a perplexing question for a visitor. If I say white, would it be served raw grains? If I say boiled, would I be served red rice? It turns out that white rice is white and boiled rice has red flecks in the grain. However, both are well cooked. The grains are small and thick. Another interesting item that is served is tamarind pickle. It has a sweet and sour taste. You would do well to come away with a bottle of this pickle as a souvenir for your family or friends.
Just opposite my hotel was the temple of Ananthapadmanabha where the main idol is a reclining image of Vishnu. The image is beautiful. Down the road at the far end are two important Jain sites, each situated prominently on its own hill. The first is the Chaturmukha Basadi, so called because the temple has four entrances with porches and is symmetric in design. Only one entrance is open. A flight of stairs lead up to the inner courtyard but the pujari was closing the gate the evening I arrived at Karkala. He said the he would open it the next day at 7.30 am.
So I returned the next day morning. The pujari recognized me by my voice. He is blind. Day in and day out he looks after the temple. He gave me a quick guided tour of the place with the expectation of a tip. He was not content with an offering to the temple hundi. I believe he was not born blind. It is only because of old age his eyesight had failed him. Three tirthankaras standing in black polished stone are enshrined in this temple. These are the 18th, 19th and the 20th tirthankaras. They stand together facing each entrance. In other words, there are 12 main idols in this temple, forming an inner square as they stand outwards. The idols are protected by pillars that run round the central formation of 12 idols.
This temple is indeed unique. It is not a typical Jain temple of rectangular design with a series of vestibules leading to an inner sanctum where a single idol stands. An interesting aspect is the alignment. Standing at the north entrance you can see through the gaps between the arms and legs of these idols, or gaps between the legs, across to the hill in the south on which the statue of Bahubali stands.
The temple has many more smaller images of all the tirthankaras. Pillars at this temple are marvellous. There are 108 in total, 40 on the outside and 68 on the inside. On the inside, you can spend minutes in admiration and close study of these pillars, the way their capitals support stone beams and the way these beams support the decorated ceiling. While I had described earlier the simplest of pillars where rectangles and octogonals alternate, here on some pillars octogonal and 16-sided bands alternate.
There was a small laminated sheet that listed the three famous statues of Bahuhali in Karnataka:
I had come to see the second one. The statue is the as good as the one at Shravanabelagola. It is supposedly carved out of a single stone and stand on a five-foot platform. Like at other places, it is supported at the back by a large block of stone, sort of buttressed in Western terminology. The diffference here is that this supported is extended to a pillared hall in which images of many tirthankaras are placed. Aroung the main statue is a perimeter of stone railing. Around this is a short laterite wall which forms a pradakshinapatha like in traditional Hindu temples.
The statue, beautiful in face and form, is said to be built by Virapandya of the Kalasa-Karkala rulers, also known as Bhairarasa Odeyars (13th – 16th centuries). The statue is in kayotsagar posture bearing all the mahapurusha lakshanas – elongated ears and palms stretching to knees. Entering the inner courtyard, you will find two shrines dedicated to Sheetalnatha Swami and Chintamani Parshwanatha Swami. The courtyard contains other stones remains. The most notable is a series of rectangular, circular and triangular pits that appear to have been made for rituals and ceremonies.
The hill affords a fantastic view of Karkala and beyond. In contrast to what I had seen when travelling in Bagalkot and Bijapur, here is a different landscape of Karnataka. This is lush greenery in a hilly setting. Here you are in view of the Western Ghats. Here you feel you are in the midst of nature. Aspects of civilization are mere additions to what has always been nature’s own backyard.
Although there are supposedly 18 temples at Karkala, just like at Moodbidri, and although I passed a few of them, I did not take special interest in any. The only other notable thing here was my visit to the village of Hiriyangadi. This is just outside Karkala and can be walked from the statue of Bahubali. In this village is a 14th century stone column called Manastambha. While the pillar facing Bahubali on the hill is quite plain, this one that stands at Neminatha Basadi is more decorated. At 54 feet, it is at an impressive height.
Erected in mid-fifteenth century, the column stands on a stepped pyramidal platform. At the base, the column is plain and square. It then becomes octogonal and then 16-sided. More sides are added as it rises and finally merges to a circle with tasselled decoration. Perhaps this is symbolic of the varied colours of life that finally merge in one brilliant light. The capital carries a flat stone slab with a stellate base. On this slab is a turretted shrine. Carvings on the column are varied – naga (snake) with peacock body and tail feathers; devi seated on a makara; hamsa; lion; elephant at the four corners of the platform; swastika interwined with floral motifs; Garuda; Hanuman; Nandi. One common image I have seen in other places is the hamsa holding a snake in its beak.
– where I enjoy a short walk and a short visit.
There is not much at Nallur except for the delightful walk from the bus drop-off point on the main road. I do not even recall the name of the village where I got off but from here it is a short walk to the temple at Nallur. On the way, the only still picture that made my day was this – green fields with a backdrop of clumps of areca nut groves. Herons stood still in still waters. Egrets picked busily in the fields. The cloudless sky was fresh.
On the first floor of the temple is a representation of one’s sprititual journey to heaven or liberation. The installation is circular with many concentric circles. Each circle represents one stage of spiritual progress.
– where I stop for one short hour at a temple.
I stopped here because it was on the way to Humcha and because there is a 1000-year old temple here – Neminatha Basadi. The temple was closed when I arrived here but I could enter the inner courtyard and admire the sculptures on the pillars. From the portals of this temple you can see a pond at the far end. In the middle of this pond is a another temple which can reached only by boat. There was a long boat roped at shore but I did not attempt to row across. The scene you see here is perfect and serene. With a sweeping backdrop of green hills, a quiet village air and the chirp of country birds, it is a place for relaxation. The early hours of a misty morning or the closing hour of sunset would have been perfect to complete the ambience.
Neminatha Basadi has a wall mural of an elephant in faded colours. Doves have their nests in the little niches between roof and beam. The temple has a main entrance and two side entrances with steps leading up to them. One of the side entrances is today closed with a wall although the steps remain. I spent many minutes at this temple making my usual clumsy attempts to sketch the perspectives, light and shade, artistic details and architectural elements.
– where I sample Jain temple food; where I stay for the night at this matt; where I watch a game of thili.
It was quite a journey to get to Humcha, a Jain place of pilgrimage. I left Varanga by a bus bound for Agumbe, passing en route the town of Hebri. The journey to Agumbe is a classical mountain journey. The roads winds sharply at many places and the bus struggles to climb up the steep slopes. Where the road hugs the mountainous terrain open to the lower valley, you are in fear that the driver may misjudge the next turn. There is a significant danger on this road as drivers often try to overtake with complete disregard to lives.
When I got to Agumbe it was nothing of what I had expected. I had thought of it as a major town but it turned out to be just a point of changing buses. After a short wait I got a bus bound for Tirthahalli. It was another long ride but the terrain was not as steep, as dangerous or as breathtaking as getting to Agumbe.
I must have been lucky on this day. I did not have to wait long at Tirthahalli to get my bus to Humcha. When I arrived at Humcha it was half past four in the evening. I had not had a chance to eat lunch but there was a late lunch waiting for me at Humcha. Lunch is the only meal served at this place at free of cost. Lunch was boiled rice, sambar and a good serving of a cooked pumpkin. I sat along with a family in the dinner hall. As is usual in these places of pilgrimage, we had to sit cross-legged in a line on a mat. We were served quickly. A glass of water and another glass of buttermilk were handed out for each of us.
Some of the Jains who had come from the North were particularly fastidious about the cleanliness of the place. They spoke in Hindi while the kitchen staff spoke in Kannada. After some minutes of sign language and a little help from others, they requested to visit the kitchen. I do not know what happened after that; I could hear neither praise nor sounds of disapproval from the kitchen. However, they did wish there were more varieties of vegetables. We were informed that there are only a couple of shops in town that sell vegetables and they do not keep a varied stock.
I had vaguely planned on looking at a Jain statue at Humcha and move on to Sringeri for the night. I found that people are allowed to stay at this place of pilgrimage and basic rooms are available at nominal prices. So I took a room here and decided to spend a little more time in leisure. Mine was a room with two single beds and devoid of any other furniture. The attached room was a large dressing area combined with a bathroom and toilet. The Indian style toilet was placed on a raised level with attention to cleanliness.
The temple here is apparently an old one. Certainly the building has undergone changes over the centuries. The temple of Goddess Padmavati is a new one. The temple is attached to a school where boys can be heard studying and reciting. You do not hear televisions or radios. You are not disturbed by the sound of traffic or the nightly barks of street dogs as in Bangalore. On the whole, it is a quiet setting for study and meditation.
I walked up to the adjacent hill and looked at the marble statue of Parwanatha standing under the shade of a hooded serpent. The statue is about 20 feet high. It looks small in its open setting at the top of the hill. While on this hill, the reddening sun was setting in the west. The trees and clumps of dishevelled bamboos were put into silhouette. On this hill is a large building long abandoned and derelict. It must have once been a flourishing center of Jainism. There is a similar building next to the matt where I was put up. It appears that this place does not have the funds and the need to repair or refurbish these buildings.
Humcha has a set of temples named Pancha Basadi. This is just a little walk from the matt. These are stone temples with a reasonably good collection of stone images and sculptures. Here I found a group of children playing a game which they name as “thili“. The children form two groups. One group guards the house at one end which the other group has to reach without being caught by the guards. Each guard can only move only in his/her restricted zone. So a little bit of team effort is required to succeed. There are some safe zones where the invaders cannot be caught. I watched this game for a while but for most of the time the children were arguing about team members, rules and foul play.
Back at the temple, later in the evening I was observing some rituals and prayers at the temple dedicated to Padmavati. The goddess was decked in flowers, jewellery and splendid sarees. Offerings are laid out and arati is done. Incense is burnt and coconuts broken. When prayer begins, drums are beaten loudly, gongs and bells are rung. I was handed a gongs and a wooden stick to ring while the priest did his duties. There was also an automated electric machine that rang bells and beat a drum.
It really made me wonder why Jainism had fallen or reinvented itself into such rituals, unnecessary as I see it. It is simply something that common people need to do before they can truly feel. It is that initial process towards final self-realization.
– where I mull over public transport in these parts; where I talk about areca nut; where I admire new buildings in this Jain center of pilgrimage.
The main mode of travel has been by bus, both government and private. Travelling by bus is quite a pleasure if you allow yourself to travel slowly. It’s not that buses are slow. You have to accept the long waits at bus stops and sometimes long routes that cover every village along the way before reaching your destination. You have to accept the discomfort of standing in a crowded bus. Often private buses are loaded with not just passengers but the produce of the land – gunny sacks of dry coconuts, fresh vegetables and others. This acceptance comes only if you take pleasure in it. There is pleasure in travelling with the local crowd. The experience is genuine and almost intimate. It is as if you are like one of the locals.
On the long ride from Humcha to Narasimharajapura, the journey was at times meditative. The bus rode through hilly ground and forested country. The greenery whizzed past in an almost poetic fashion. At times there was no sound except for the rattling of the shutters. Even the village folks who are normally given to loud conversations were quiet. All this reminded me of another ride in the flat gound of Bijapur and Bagalkot. So different landscape and yet the experience has been the same. For a while, you lose sight of your destination. You do not think that you have to get here by this time. The journey takes you over and all that matters is the moving landscape.
It was easy to observe, or I have been fortunate in my travels, to observe the many tasks associated with areca nut. Here I am talking about my cumulative experience during this weeklong tour and not just this journey from Humcha. You can see workers in plantations sitting down under the palm shaded trees for lunch. You can see workers hauling the harvested fruit into trunks. You can see areca nut set out in wide fields for drying under the sun. You can see old men testing these drying nuts one by one, if they are ready to be split open. You can see women sitting in their verandahs and couryards breaking the kernel into pieces. You can see the local paanwala cutting the nuts into fine grains, rubbing it into a powder before he uses them in his paan.
Here is installed Jwalamalini Devi. Like in Humcha, I observed similar rituals. New buildings have been constructed and workers were busy with the finishing touches. Unlike the older temples of Moodbidri, here the temples are simply one large hall for lay worshippers and an inner sanctum enshrining the deity. With plenty of windows, while walls and ceilings, these temples of well-lit and altogether present a completely different atmosphere from the ancient temples. Here I found an image of a cow suckling a tiger cub and a tigress suckling a calf.
Indeed, Jainism is heavy on idolatry. It is common for doorways to inner sanctums to contain glass showcases with many compartments. These are installed with numerous images, so many that you cannot decide what’s important and what to look at.
– where I admire some wood carvings.
While I have written separately about Sringeri’s prominence in Advaita Hinduism, I did visit the Sri Parshwanatha Temple which was just opposite my lovely homestay at Sringeri. I stayed at a place named “Doctor’s Heritage”. The place is owned by a couple and both are doctors.
The temple is modest and I do not recall anything specific about it. It will be sufficient to mention one common element in many Jain temples, something I have seen at Dharmsthala, Karkala and Moodbidri. To the left of the temple, within the inner courtyard, at the far end is usually a group of stone tablets sculpted with images of nagas and naginis. Snake worship is common. I cannot say if this something within Jainism or simply yet another influence of Hinduism.
This temple at Sringer is notable for the wooden pillars and ceiling that form the inner porch immediately as you enter through the main outside doors. The sculptural details on these are worth a visit if you happen to be in town.
I got to Dharmasthala from Bangalore by a private bus. From Dharmasthala I moved on to Venoor via Beltangadi, then to Moodbidri. After my detour to Kateel, I arrived by bus to Karkala. Karkala to Nallur and back is a half a day’s visit. Varanga is on the way from Karkala to Agumbe which then connects up to Tirthahalli and Humcha. Getting to Narasimharajapura proved a longer journey than expected. I had to do it via Koppa. From Narasimharajapura I could get a direct bus to Sringeri. Travelling is cheap. Government buses connect to far off towns and cities while private buses, known for reckless driving, plying between villages and small towns.
I stayed at Dharmasthala at accommodation provided by the temple at Rs. 25. At Moodbidri, at stayed at Sahar Vihar Lodge, right next to the bus station. Clean single rooms without TV cost Rs. 125. However, the Jain matt can give you rooms as well. At Karkala, I stayed at Hotel Prakash for Rs. 350 per room. At Humcha, my room was Rs. 70. At Srigeri, I was given the room for single occupancy at Rs. 250.
It was temple food at Dharmasthala and Humcha. Moodbidri has a couple of good options. One such is Shri Ganesh Restaurant next to the bus station. I didn’t try anything at Karkala except Hotel Prakash where I stayed. At Humcha, you better bring some food because there are no good options for dinner. Lunch is the only meal they provide at the matt. Sringeri is like Dharmasthala: you are better off eating at the temple. Meals everywhere are priced low.