One of the most memorable days of my trip to India was exploring the Hoysala Temple trail with Go Mowgli. Funny thing was, I had no idea where we were going or what we were doing until we were in the car on the way there. Life can throw surprises at you in strange packages sometimes!
This trip was the first of the tours that I took with Go Mowgli and they certainly made a good impression. Here’s how the day panned out.
The first stop of the Hoysala Temple Trail was Shravanabelagola, a Jain pilgrimage town 80kms away from Mysore.
After stopping for a quick coconut breakfast, we headed off to see one of the 7 Ancient Wonders of India (yes, there is such a thing), a humungous statue of Bahubali. Bahubali is one of the most important figures in Jainism so many people Jain people make the pilgrimage to Shravanbelagola to marvel at this wonder.
The statue is the largest monolithic statue in Asia, at 58 feet tall. It was so tall that I struggled to fit it all in the frame of a photo! Although the statue was built in 981AD it looks completely new. This is because devotees gather every 12 years to clean the statue with a combination of saffron, turmeric, water and sandalwood. Definitely reason enough to keep drinking turmeric milk every morning!
To get to the statute, devotees must climb 620 steps. Such an ascension offers a stunning view of the surrounding village. The rocky looking area reminded me a lot of Hampi– minus all the other tourists. I loved the contrast of the colours between the white pond and the houses around it.
Speaking of tourists, we never saw any other Western tourists all day. Although Shravanbelagola is widely known among Indians, it doesn’t seem to be on the radar of international travellers. That’s the beauty of travelling with Go Mowgli; they take you to all the places worth seeing that you’d probably never have found on your own.
The next stop of the day was Melukote, a predominantly Brahmin town famous for its temples.
After our hike up 620 stairs and a wander through the town, I was more than ready for lunch. (I’m pretty much always ready for my next meal…) Kaa knows all the best local spots and took us for a traditional banana leaf lunch with tamarind rice and a variety of curries. Not one to do things by half, he taught us how to eat the traditional Indian way- with our hands. Sounds weird to say but being able to eat gracefully with your hands is a proper skill- it’s actually even more challenging than using the metal Korean chopsticks!
The town of Melukote was oozing with spirituality. Just walking down the street we could see families together on a pilgrimage; the women wearing their best sarees with fresh jasmine in their hair and Sri Ramanujacharya followers performing rituals in the street. Just being there felt like such a unique cultural experience and I’m so grateful to Go Mowgli for the opportunity to have been there.
Following on with the trend of the day; hiking up sh**loads of stairs to get to temples, our last pitstop in the town of Melukote was Yoga Narasimha Temple.
Once again, the hike to the top was totally worth. Not just for the view but also for the cute monkey gathering we got to witness at the top.
After our day of temple hopping and a complete history overload, my ears started itching when I heard the mention of a visit to an organic cotton factory. As much as I enjoy a good cultural experience these days, shopping is still my favourite guilty pleasure.
The factory operates as a social enterprise with people in the village being taught how to make the products and use the machinery. It made me think about my tendency to buy things without thinking about where they have come from. It’s so important to support organisations like this when you can so, of course, I made a few purchases. (Justifications!)
We ended the day in the most fitting way possible- by being shown to one of the best sunset vantage points around. Kaa even assisted us to take a few candid, contemplative sunset pics!
If you’re in Mysore, I would definitely consider exploring the Hoysala Temple Trail with Go Mowgli. It was one of the most memorable days of my time in India and I would never have known where to look if I hadn’t been shown around. Even if you never take tours, I’d skip the guidebook for once and put yourself in Kaa’s reliable hands. Sometimes a local’s perspective can add volumes to your experience.
Planning a trip to India, don’t miss these posts:
- 4 Weeks South India Itinerary
- Backpacker’s Guide to Palolem Beach, Goa
- Backpacker’s Guide to Hampi
- Mysore: The Land of Silk Sarees and Sandalwood
- Rajasthan: 2 Weeks in the Land of Kings
- How to Do India on the Cheap!
Don’t forget to book your tour using Go Mowgli’s website, here!
Disclaimer: Thanks again to Go Mowgli for kindly allowing me to be part of this tour. Although this post was sponsored by Go Mowgli, all opinions are my own.