Tuesday, 9 February 2016

First bike rides - (temples and other sacred sites)

Day one's ride took us through the busy streets of Mysore and across open countryside out to Srirangapanan. Cycling through Indian city traffic is every bit as interesting (for which read terrifying) as driving through it! But our guides (Joseph and Rintu) and the back up van driven by Manesh kept an eye on us and blocked the traffic where necessary.

Srirangapanan is the site of a 18th century mosque, and Ranganthaswamy temple dating back to the tenth century AD, plus the ruins of Tipu Sultan's fort. The river Kaveri which runs nearby and effectively creates an island of the town, and is considered sacred and so the town is a centre for pilgrimage for devout Hindus (but no tourist hype).

Our guide at the mosque told us that the holes in the pillars were for homing pigeons that carried letters and other important documents - if you look carefully you might also see the odd homing parrot too! Unfortunately that was about all we could understand of what he was telling us and the mosque was not really very remarkable, the ornate carving on the pillars was obscured with yellow paint.

The view to the spreading jacaranda tree from the roof was good, and below we could see typical Muslim graves of Tipu Sultan's teacher and his family, with a barrel top for men and a flat top for women.

Next the sacred river Kaveri - a very peaceful site

And after a tea break 

on to the temple, which was dedicated to the Ranganatha, an incarnation of Vishnu.

They were getting ready for a festival so it was heaving with visitors waiting to see the statue of Vishnu sleeping. We queued for what seemed to be hours with the same guide who had walked from one place to the other while we stopped for tea. The chariot above is for carrying a statue of the god around the village. There are apparently 76 pillars, all different, and the inside of the temple itself had a very solid Aztec/ Inca quality about it, but the elephants were definitely Indian.

Outside were ornate carvings of Hindu gods (I haven't yet worked out whether they are the same or different on every temple).

Next day another early start (6am wake up call, 6.30 breakfast, 7am ride) to cycle up Chamundi Hill and see the Nandi Bull.

All Hindu gods have animal transport and the bull is Lord Shiva's, and seems also to be worshipped in its own right. This huge statue dates from the 17th century and was carved from a single piece of black granite.

Then on down the hill and through arable countryside (bananas, sugar cane, vegetables etc), where we spotted these unusual birds' nests made of paper, and an ornate little roadside temple

through villages where all the kids come running out to shout hello, and Kiran and his friends posed for a photo (Joseph was at great pains to tell us not to let them try out our bikes or they might disappear!).

Finally we reached the temple town of Nanjangud. If you thought the statues so far were big, then this one was enormous! It towered above the people and dwarfed the market traders.

The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva (that's him above) and although we couldn't go in, the carvings outside were just as intricate as before. 

Each arch depicts a different god, or possibly a different incarnation of Shiva, and I guess the whole series probably tells a story from the Mahabharata or the Ramayana - must look it up one day. 

I think the goddess with many arms is Durga (in various forms) - the goddess of power, and consort of Shiva, who defeated the evil Mahishasur (the buffalo demon).

So now into the bus and a transfer to Bandipur tiger reserve, so we're moving from Karnataka state to Tamil Nadu.

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