[Featured Image Credit: Aditya Lakshman]
Readers this month recommend the serene hill station of Kodaikanal and the Jain pilgrimage centre of Shravanabelagola
By road: Roughly 8 hours
The ‘princess of hill stations’, Kodaikanal, is approximately 460 kms away, nestled 2,133 mt above sea level. After a seven hour drive, you reach the foothills of Kodaikanal where the winds change character. The soothing breeze sets the tempo for your drive up to the hill station. It offers a breathtaking view of the sprawling green misty hills covered with eucalyptus trees; and as evening sets in the slow mist just adds to the poetic landscape. Let the sounds of nature everywhere silence the chaos of your city-jarred mind and help you get in touch with your inner self.
Must try: The Kodaikanal Spice Village in Laws Ghat Road offers scrumptious home-made chocolates with rum, raisins and cashew; the dark chocolate too is divine. Good buys to carry back. And don’t forget to try the cherry tarts at The Pastry Corner by the Kodaikanal Lake.
Must visit: For those of you who want to soak in the tranquillity of the misty hills, skip driving into the alleys of the town and head further up the hill to Vettaikanal. The drive can be tricky with narrow, slushy roads; however the view that unfolds before you is worth the effort. If you like, you can explore the popular tourist spots such as Byrant Park, Pillar Rocks and Lake View Point.
Fun fact: The Kurinji shrub is found abundantly in Kodai but blooms only once in 12 years! The next blooming will probably be in 2018, but here’s hoping it comes in a bit early this time round!
Place to stay: Le Poshe by Sparsa Resort – offers villa-style
Contact: 04542 240 514
The Carlton – a five-star luxury hotel overlooks the serene Kodaikanal Lake
Contact: 04542 248 555
By road: Roughly 3 hours
Shravanabelagola, an important Jain pilgrimage site, is laden with several temples, matapas, ponds and pillars, and inscriptions dating back to the 10th century AD. At a distance of 158 kms, in the district of Hassan, the town is known for the world famous statue of Lord Gomateshwara (Bahubali) atop Indragiri Hill, and is a must visit for spiritually inclined travellers.
(Even if you’re not, go to see the statue; stunning.)
Must try (food): Complete the ‘spirituality package’ by sampling pure Jain food thali served at the Jain Mutt near the entrance. The spread consists of vegetable curries, rice and rotis.
Must visit: The 57-feet tall monolithic statue (which is considered to be the world’s tallest monolith statue) stands testimony to the legendary King Bahubali’s act of renunciation of worldly desires. Jain treatise has it that he meditated standing in the ‘kayotsarga’ pose for a year to obtain salvation. Walk up close to 650 steps to reach the top of the hill. Even if you’re agnostic, it’s hard not to feel the aura of mysticism that envelopes you, at the foot of the monolith. The statue is built atop a hill. Once in 12 years, Mahamastakabhisheka, the head-anointing ceremony (with milk, curd, saffron and gold coins) is performed on the statue and is attended by followers of Jainism from across the globe. More than one million pilgrims attend this ceremony, they chant mantras while the offerings are poured on the monolith.
The statue was built out of a granite bedrock of the mountain by Chamundaraya (a poet and minister of Ganga Dynasty) in the year 983 AD. After the head-anointing ceremony, the
sacred libation is distributed among the pilgrims and is believed to help them in their search for enlightenment.
Tip: Traditionally, you are expected to climb the 650 steps barefoot, but wear socks if you’re more comfortable.
Place to stay: Hoysala Village Resort – an upscale eco-friendly resort offers a mix of luxury and heritage.
Contact: 080 2234 0166