In my previous blogs I said God does not play Dice, He pokes. This was about a bike trip to the Jain ish hot spot, Gometeshwara- Shravana belagola and I had talked about a few back to back events that were unexpected, unpredictable. I wanted to complete the travelogue soon but fate wanted something else. So I wrote couple of other blogs on the year 2016 and a promotional blog. For the later I got an Amazon gift card but then felt little pimp~ish for peddling wares for coupons, though it was a fun thing. Is this now an attempt at redemption ?
Anyways, as I said we all had an eventful start and a normal ride till the shrine . Once we reached the destination , usual group antics started. Club supremo went live on Facebook, censor-able comments were made, water drunk. Selfies flowed. Then we remembered the purpose for coming here. We slowly made towards the shops from the parking lot and promptly started to eat junk. We deposited our “gear” out there in the shop and made our mood to start 600+ steps climb.
Sun was out in its glory but air was pleasant. One has to climb bare foot here (that is the norm of Gometeshwara ) It felt nice at that time but guess by noon the steps would be too hot to handle. There are enterprising souls who will sell socks to “sensitive feet” people. For now we were comfortable. The motley group of me ( senior citizen ) with a dentist, a media man, several amateur photographers. Then there were the heavy weights who had enough wisdom already and so decided to skip the climb up and down.
As our climb progressed the group split into twos, threes and fives etc. but these were dynamic. They would form, split, reform based on the cadence, interests and desire to pose. Fitter ones would surge ahead and there by miss the fun laggards were having, regret and join back. While one of the last ones would get an idea for a shot and move forward to a perch. That is the law of a large group climbing up.
As we were climbing I thought that spiritual folks install their showcases on spectacular locations and make it tough to access. Usually on a top of a hill. This is deliberate so that pilgrim feels a sense of self accomplishment after the struggle to reach there. And then sees magnificence of the symbol and feels humble. Reflects. Of course tourists completely miss the point of. They are there to take a picture with a back drop that has a recognition quotient. We were a mixed bunch of both.
As you climb and take in the scenery you will see ancient inscriptions on stone after ~450 steps. The script is yet to be deciphered. If you want permanence then etch your words on stone. And another small climb of 50 more steps you come across the A three-celled temple that has images of the Tirthankaras Adinatha, Neminatha and Santinatha. It was here that the younger members started to tease us oldies and we made them run for their youth. As the climb nears its end you see more of the sculptures. The ancient stone craftsmen were like kids. Any surface is a fair game to write on or carve. And they did a beautiful job of it. So many images depicting, humanity, nobility and nature. Finally we came to a doorway that has the sculptures of brothers Bharat and Bahubali (aka Gometeswara).
Who was Bahubali and why do we have this single stone statue of him on the hill top ? He was second of the hundred sons of King Rishabhanatha of Ikshvaku dynasty in Ayodhya. When this king wanted to retire and renounce the world he made his sons kings. Bharata got Ayodhya and Bahubali got south India. Bharata went on a conquering spree and won in all directions. Ninety eight brothers submitted to him. Yet when he went back to his capital his chariot stopped on its own. Signaling that Bahubali was yet to be conquered. Bahubali was wise , strong and well educated so he challenged Bharata to a fight instead of submitting. Apparatnly both the brothers were fairly advanced in their incarnations and could not be defeated by any weapon. So they had three contests and Bahubali won all. Yet, in victory he felt a remorse. He discarded all he had, including his clothes and went to seek liberation. He became a Digamber Monk. For a year he meditated standing as creepers and ant hills grew on him. Yet he was not at peace. He was troubled by thoughts that he was the cause of his brothers humiliation. Only when Bharata came to worship him that he got liberated and became a Siddha. The statue itself was erected by Chavundaraya, the Prime Minister and Commander-in-Chief in the Talakad Ganga for his mother. It was funded by his king.
Towards the end of the climb there are small temples, inscription on stone from long forgotten people in a script that is yet to be cracked. The statue looks serene. Imposing but not scary. It was built in 9th century and still radiating the message of calm and permanence. It is as amazing as the story of Bahubali.
We started with so many unexpected events. We ended it a place that teaches that our life is transient, turbulent but we can find calm and stability. The imposing statue staring at the horizon says, take a deep breath, this life and its challenges are for you to experience the thrill of short lived existence.
The gods do not poke you nor play dice. In-fact Jain-ism says there is no god who created the universe. It is timeless. What you have are Siddhas who figured out the meaning of universe. You just carve out the destiny by reacting to situations. The situations are created by nature, cosmos and fellow transient beings. What you do with it and what you learn will define what you will become.
In all of the travels, teachings, philosophy you must find a center in a belief to hold dear. The one point you will converge to once the disturbance is done and you are sorted. Even in chaos there is order if you look microscopically or telescopically. World may be an illusion or Maya but it is sure is an entertainer and a harsh teacher. Few souls can grasp its intricacies and can simplify living for lesser being. And they can do it for centuries, perched on top of a hill.