Besides the impressive Gomateshvara statue, there was plenty of fascinating carvings on Vindhyagiri Hill. Here are some of my favorites:
While on top the hill admiring the Gomateshvara statue, I was lucky enough to be there during a puja ceremony for the deity. Puja is a Sanskrit word that means reverence, honor, homage, adoration, and worship. In this case, the ceremony involved a ritualistic purifying the feet of the saint.
Dr. Hari was kind enough to insist on hosting a couple of day trips from Mysore to beautiful mystic places that were not on my radar. The first of these destinations was Sravananbelagola – a pilgrimage town featuring the 17.5m high statue of the Jain deity Gomateshvara (Monk of the White Pond). The primary reason to visit this town is to view the statue up close – meaning a steep barefoot climb of 614 steps up Vindhyagiri Hill. Said to be the world’s tallest monolithic statue, it was carved out a single piece of granite in AD 981. Bahubali was the son of the emperor Vrishabhadeva. Embroiled in fierce competition with his brother Bharatha to succeed his father, Bahubali realized the futility of material gains and renounced his kingdom. As a recluse, he meditated in complete stillness in the forest until he attained enlightenment and adopted the spiritual name Gomateshvara. His lengthy meditative spell is denoted by vines curling around his body and an ant-hill at his feet.
My next destination after Goa on the 2017 South India tour was Mysore in Karnataka state. I flew to Bangalore and spent a quick night in the Saint Marks Circle area; lucky enough for a late-night rendezvous with the famous fish and chips at Koshy’s. The next morning I caught the southbound Shatabi Express for a pleasant 2-hour train ride to Mysore. Staying again at the charming Green Lotus House in the Gokulam neighborhood, I was hosted by my friends Drs. Hari and Ananya Prasad – the very best hosts ever. Mysore has such a nice vibe – it is home to a fantastic 600-year history and also over 100 yoga salas specializing in the Ashtanga discipline. There are some of the best vegetarian restaurants you will ever hope to experience.
The Mysore Palace lights up on Sunday nights for an hour or so and draws thousands of locals for the sight. Last time I missed it, but this time was able to catch a couple of nice photos.
Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church dominates the central square.
Although in complete ruins, this former grand church is one of the most popular and visited of all the historical sites in Old Goa. It sits on top of a high hill (Monte Santo, or Holy Hill) overlooking the Mondavi River. The remaining tower is 46m high, one of four former towers anchoring the enormous Our Lady of Grace church and the adjoining Augustinian monastery. The church was abandoned in 1835 due to religious persecution at the time from the Portuguese government and collapsed within a few years afterward. Here are some photos of all that remains of what was once one of the largest and most spectacular buildings in all Goa.
This Jesuit church is India’s first basilica and is considered to be one of the great baroque architectural examples in the East. The mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier are on display here (photography forbidden).
Old Goa is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This was the capital of Portuguese India beginning in 1510 and was the center of Christianisation in the East. At its height, Old Goa was referred to as the Rome of the East for its grand mansions, massive churches and convents. The population was 200,000 inhabitants by 1550. However, malaria and cholera epidemics ravaged the city in the 17th century and the city was largely abandoned. The capital was moved to Panjim, 20 minutes bus ride to the west. Here are few photos of the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi, one of many of the beautiful remains of Old Goa.
Some photos of the surrounding blocks and the Portuguese influence from my hotel. All of this area is at the confluence of the Arabian Sea and the huge Mandovi River; yet, the name Panaji translates to “the land that never floods”.
After a few days of beach time in North Goa, I headed on down to the capital city of Goa state. Panaji (also known as Panjim) is a great example of how diverse India is. Goa was a Portuguese territory until 1961; in fact, Indian military forces had to invade Goa long after the 1948 reunification as one of the last holdouts to a united India. The influence of Western European culture is palpable and prodigious. My home for a few days was a sweet little place in the Latin Quarter called Alfonso’s Guesthouse. Here a few pictures of Alfonso’s and the great little Catholic chapel at the dead-end of the quiet residential street.
Really, there was nothing but beach things to do and we’ve all seen plenty of photos of that. The sunsets were great and I had plenty of company from the local dogs. So, with nothing but time on my hands, I wondered what a sunset might look like to a dog who lives their entire life on a beach.
What I see…
What they see???
After such an immersive history lesson in Hampi, I chose to spend some lazy beach time in Goa for the next stop. Leaving Hampi, I caught a three-wheeler taxi to Hospet (the nearest train stop) and jumped on the Amaravathi Express (18047) which leaves at 06:30 AM. You pull into Vasco Da Gama station in Goa around 15:30. From there, hire a car to your lodging destination. I had a little house rented through AirBnB in Anjuna Beach. 10 minute stroll to the beach. High season was long over, the summer heat was on and population sparse. Perfect!