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.

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