It was time to say goodbye to Hampi. We’d had a wonderful time there -a ghost city in many ways, remote and well off the beaten tourist track, but brimming with life in other ways and located amidst spectacular scenery.
We would be making our way to the city of Mysore via the temples of Belur and Halebid, dating from the 1100’s.
Why were we in Karnataka anyway? Karnataka is most certainly a state full of incredible places to visit, but it is probably not the first choice destination for many visitors to India. The answer goes back to 1994 when we were planning our first trip, our honeymoon, to India.
Our honeymoon was planned as a long and in-depth look at the country, and we had wanted to be in Mysore during the famous Dussehra festival. Not long before our planned departure though, the plague broke out in Gujarat which wasn’t even on our itinerary, but the media being what it is, the event was huge news in the world press and on tv and we decided to postpone our trip for a few weeks. That also meant missing the festival, and so when we finally left for India a month later than originally planned, we scratched Mysore (and Karnataka) off the itinerary. It was obvious to us this time round, that our first point of call would be the places we missed all those years ago. So, we would be in Mysore on this trip for at least part of the very same Dussehra celebrations!
The journey from Hospet to Hassan, our stop for the night, was long and slow, and our travels took us well off the main highways onto incredibly potholed dirt roads in some parts. But our kids are used to long journeys by car and the day was a great experience. Firstly, it was an opportunity for Raja to tell the kids something about the Hindu religion. He told us stories about Ganesh, the elephant headed god who the kids were constantly intrigued by. We learned the story about Ganesh and his race around the world with his brother for the prize of a mango – Ganesh decides that his parents are the world to him, encircles them and so wins the prize. In Western religious tradition honouring ones father and mother is one of the ten commandments, and here the message was exactly the same – it really brought home to both the kids and ourselves that people are pretty much the same anywhere, whatever their backgrounds and religion. Now, of course Raja simplified the story greatly taking into account the age of the audience, and the message that we understood might have only been part of the greater message that the story is intended to illustrate, but the kids nevertheless learned an important lesson from it. We heard other stories about Ganesh too, each one interesting and with a lesson to be learned.
The journey was fascinating for many other reasons too. We saw rural life from close up – people sorting and drying produce, workers in the fields, washerwomen at work. What amazed us was the way that workers purposefully spread grain on the road for the vehicles to drive over. Raja would stop the car wherever we wanted, to take photos or just to look more closely. He showed us the Touch me Not plant, which closes up when touched and he explained what fruits and vegetables were being cultivated, since agriculture in Karnataka is very different from agriculture in Canada!
From time to time we would stop in small villages for snacks and drinks, and everywhere the village people were friendly and interested in this foreign family that included a brown-haired girl and two small redhead boys.
Raja also stopped at a jaggery “factory” – nothing was mechanised but the workers showed us how the sugar cane juice was extracted, boiled and then hardened into jaggery. Now, we had never even heard of jaggery before, but we are a family with a great sweet tooth and so jaggery was a big hit!
Finally, with the day drawing to a close we reached the Hoysala Village hotel outside Hassan. The hotel was upmarket, and had a beautiful pool, masseur and buffet restaurant on the premises. We settled own and went to dinner. After five days or so, we were very used to the food of Karnataka and enjoyed it immensely.
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