Shiva, our charming Auto-Rick driver, arranged a car for us, casually undercutting the hotel by around a third. And, at 08.30 the following morning, there was indeed a waiting driver and car with both suspension and AC, albeit by way of the window.
Intrepidly we nose out of the gate and into the fray of the Mysore rush hour. We are on our way to Saravanabelgola, a casual seven syllables that could quite easily be the title of an album by Snuff.
Rather than British punk, once we have driven through the beautiful countryside, via the obligatory children’s roadside bursts of violent reverse peristalsis, we are very much on the other side of the pond with Jane’s Addiction and ‘Jain Says’.
The powerful jolt of seeing a swastika in real life is a far more shocking gut reaction than one would believe. In this far earlier usage, it stands for the four states of existence in Jainism. The first three all begin with, ‘h’; Heavenly Being, Human Being, Hellish Being and something that annoyingly breaks the alliteration of the sequence, which may, or may not be something like, ‘Tiryancha’. Ignorance allowing, this is subhuman, not Donald Trump, but more to do with Flora and Fauna.
Writing this without access to the internet for cross referencing, checking and generally making one sound far more clever than one actually is, leaves one feeling quite vulnerable and almost naked (I am typing this in my boxers (hot country, you know) so, I suppose this is physically true as well).
The topic of nakedness brings us back to the subject in hand, Bahubali or Gommateshwara. He stands naked at the top of 614 steps, a mere bagatelle after Peta and my 1,000 step triumph only the day before. He is 57 foot tall and has been standing there as, I believe, the world’s largest sculpted monolith since AD/CE (the name of my half Christian, half humanist rock band) 983.
Bare footed and baked, dragging Lyulf and dodging a plethora of caterpillars, whose spikes will poisonously penetrate our pampered western feet, we ascend to this marvel. Standing in awe at this artistic feat the children add the required level of bathos by being gigglingly fixated with the granite hardness of his penis.
So, other than having a knob of rock, who is this man who has spent quite some time staring impassively across the valley?
I’d love to know the details, but from what little I can gather, he is basically a geezer who had a few run-ins with his brother, got bored of the whole male ego malarkey and then decided to mend his ways.
If the ant hills and vines are to be believed, he did nothing for a year (not even claiming the dole and housing benefit) and, by standing there meditating, he, metaphorically, jumped through at lot of Jainist hoops without any effort and rapidly propelled himself to sainthood like so:
(God, not Jain’s as I think they only had saints, knows I am about to get this very wrong)
- Months 1-4 of doing nowt gets you Kevala Jnana or enlightenment.
- Months 5-8 bump you up to Moksha, which casually liberates you from the cycle of birth and death.
- Months 9-12 is the Mutts Nuts, Bees Knees or Cape Buffalo’s personal stereo as one obtains Siddha, the liberation of the soul.
Manage all of that and you qualify for a giant rock in your likeness.
Back down we go we go in order for the Ros to indulge her competitive soul in a spot of haggling over some postcards and, basking in the glow of her victory in the local canteen, we scrape some rice round a banana leaf, thereby introducing it to Mr Dahl and his curried friends.
The joys of eating off leaves is the way it camouflages the greens, tricking the children into eating things I could not crowbar down their throats at home.
Having exercised the mouth over lunch, we drop down to six syllables for our next stop, Srirangapatanam, where the British eventually defeated Tipu Sultan, the Tiger of Mysore, and his French allies, having previously failed in a couple of Anglo-Mysore wars with his father. They did this by sneaking through the Water Gate to breach the defences, which feels a little like cheating.
It feels slightly uncomfortable exploring the Mosque, walls and ruined palace of a chap beaten by the Brits, well the military of the British East India Company, despite sounding pretty decent (so long as you were not Hindu). Trade will be trade, however, regardless of my sensitivities and he did use the old enemy as allies – an alliance originally brokered by Hyder Ali (No relation to Chemical Ali) and continued with agreement between Tipu and Napoleon. On top of that, in every painting of him I saw on the walls of his surviving summer palace, he seems to be eternally sniffing a rose which is all very royal, but, in the circumstances, a sword may have been a better idea.
Up the road in the Gumbaz is Hyder Sultan’s extremely beautiful mausoleum. Like his son, he too is often depicted eternally sniffing roses, but rather than being killed for a lack of cold steel against the urge for empire, it was old age and a cancerous growth on his back that finally defeated this respected and often admired leader (to précis Bowring*).
*How pretentious is that!