April 20th, 2014
Mangalore is the principal port in the state of Karnataka with the Arabian Sea to the west and the Western Ghats to the east. We had a fairly intense day as we immersed ourselves in Jainism, an ancient Indian religion (along with Hinduism and Buddhism). Our first stop was in the town of Karkala - about an hour and a half from the port. Karkala is a pilgrimage center for the Jains and is famous for its monolithic stone statue of Lord Gomateshwara which dates back to 1432 AD and is over 42 feet tall, weighing in at an estimated 80 tons. Jains believe in the philosophy of 'live and let live' and 'non violence' which strongly influenced Gandhi. Jains sacrifice all material possessions (including clothing) so that they can connect with God on a more spiritual level.
After walking up about 240 steps in 98 degree heat to reach the top, we were fairly wiped out. Thankfully, there was a breeze. We were greeted by a monk who, after a modest donation, blessed us with a third eye.
Now, at this point, we were 2+ hours on a very old bus with questionable air-conditioning. To say we were swimming in sweat is a vast understatement. The air was stale, the AC was blowing dust and god knows what pollutants. (I thought a wee bit about carbon monoxide poisoning and Legionnaire's dIsease.). The seats were velour, soaked with, I'm sure, generations of tourist sweat. My third eye had run down my nose.
Our next stop was Soans Farm for a look at tropical fruits and spices. It was really a planned restroom break, but a pleasant respite from the clunker bus. Our final stop was in the town of Moodbidri and its Jain temple - Tribhuvana Tilaka Chudamani Basadi. This is a granite temple built in 1430 A.D. and it is famous for its open front hall that consists of a thousand elaborately carved pillars - no two alike.
In the center of the sanctum, is the very sacred eight foot tall bronze image of Lord Chandranatha Swami.
There were many families with children visiting these sites. As usual, we posed with the families - as much of a tourist attraction as the ancient artifacts!
The bus ride back was another hour and a half careening down hills, laboring uphill, belching fumes, passing traffic in the most alarming fashion. The gods must have been smiling on us as we reached the ship safely after the obligatory souvenir shop visit dressed up as a bathroom break. At least the shop was air-conditioned. As you can imagine, my sticky index was off the charts!