Karnataka state was full of amazing sites and charming people, and we all liked the warmth and pace of South India. Hampi, declared a UNESCO site a scant two years ago, seems a spot destined to become very popular. We also traveled to the tiny town of Sravanabelagola, one of the most important pilgrimage sites of the Jain religion, hoping to witness the festival held once every 12-14 years during periods of astrological significance. Called Maha Masthaka Abhisheka, or the "Head Anointing Ceremony," they chant holy mantras and pour thousands of gallons of milk, honey, saffron, ghee, sandalwood paste, and other items over the the tallest free-standing monolith in the world. Jainism dates back to 550 B.C., and there are about 4 million Jains worldwide, but mostly in India. They believe the substances poured over the statue acquire spiritual energy while coursing over the deity, which they then collect and distribute to the million waiting pilgrims to assist them in their quest for enlightenment. We missed the ceremony, but the statue was impressive nonetheless. Daniela’s friend Genevieve also flew in from Europe and joined us for about a week, starting in Mysore. (Initials after the photos indicate photo credit: Daniela Rible, Michael McCrystal, Erica Gies.)
Daniela gets cozy in her bunk in the 2AC car of the train to Hospet. (EG)
Handy instructions to avoid train faux paus. (MM)
A board at the train station in Hospit listing schedules. The bubbly language is Kanada, the main language in the state of Karnataka. The one to the right is Hindi. (EG)
Our rickshaw driver and his son. (MM)
The wee-est baby goats we saw the whole trip, on the main street in Hampi. (EG)
Little girls sell ceremonial tika and bindhi powders on Hampi's main street. (MM).
A wandering cow finds nutritional value in a scrap of paper. (MM)
Daniela, Michael, and Erica dine at Vikky's rooftop cafe above our modest yet charming guest house. (MM)
Daniela and Erica head out from Vikky's for a day exploring Hampi. But not just any day -- this was Christmas morning. (MM)
A cow cruises by Vikky's. There were a lot of cows in Hampi. (MM)
Main street of Hampi with Virupaksha Temple in the distance. (EG)
Erica at the entrance to Virupaksha Temple with a cow friend, wearing an unasked-for bindhi applied by the child bindhiwalla. (MM)
Temple carving. (EG)
Carving at Hampi. (EG)
Carving at Hampi. (EG)
Lotus Mahal, the air-cooled summer palace of the queen. My favorite building I saw in India. (EG)
Lotus Mahal, the air-cooled summer palace of the queen. My favorite building I saw in India. (EG)
The Queen's bath, Hampi. (EG)
Elephant Stables, Hampi: This example of Hindu-Muslim architecture housed about 11 elephants in separate compartments. (EG)
Erica & Michael, Hampi. (DR)
Hazara Rama Temple, Hampi. (EG)
Erica in front of reliefs at the Hazara Rama Temple, Hampi. (EG)
This stepped tank fed the aquaduct that you can see coming out the far side. It is made of black schist and measures about 66 feet square and 21 feet deep. (EG)
Villagers walking around Hampi. (MM)
Kids. (EG)
Typical rocks of the Deccan Plateau. (EG)
Gopuram at Hazara Rama temple. (EG)
Part of the Vittala Temple with the characteristic boulders of the Deccan Plateau in the background. (EG)
Stone Chariot, dedicated to Lord Garuda, the vehicle of Lord Vishnu at the Vittala Temple. (EG)
Vittala Temple. (EG)
These holes show how people cleaved huge stones several centuries ago. (EG)
Vittala Temple. (EG)
The Ganesha Temple on the Tungabhadra River. (MM)
The Tungabhadra river. (MM)
Tiny fishing vessel. (EG)
Tailor creates Daniela's jacket. (DR)
Mmmm ... thali picnic in our room with great Indian TV. We became very fond of room service, which was not subject to the price gouging displayed at American hotels. (MM)
Monk anoints the head of a pilgrim with a marigold dipped in coconut milk at the foot of Bahubali (another name for Sri Gomatheswar). (EG)
Men in the Mysore flower market, selling temple ornaments. (EG)
Kids in the Mysore flower market. (DR)
Banana vendor in Mysore. (EG)
A quiet nap spot in the thick of the flower market hullaballo. (EG)
This man was eager to pose and had a business card and requested that this photo be emailed to him. (EG)
Fruit vendors, Mysore. (EG)
Strange tourist-photo-generating machine. When Michael showed interest, he was hit up for Rs5. He paid. The thing played music too. (MM)
Michael at the entrance to the Mysore Palace. (EG)
A building on the palace grounds. (EG)
Daniela is very excited by the rose garden at Mysore Palace. (MM)
Michael is swarmed by admirers in front of the palace. (EG)
A boy and his ox, Mysore. (EG)
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One of our compartment neighbors, who was traveling on holiday with her sister and sister-in-law for the latter's birthday. She invited us to stay with her at her house in Delhi. (EG)
A rangoli (known by various names in different parts of India) is a design drawn on the threshold of a house. It is made of rice flour and is usually poured freehand by a resident woman. Sometimes a bit of tika powder is used for color. (EG)
Other end of the main street of Hampi. Some of the ruins on this street are of historic significance and hundreds of years old, but people are living in them or running stores out of them. It's called the Hampi Bazaar. (EG)
The ruins at Hampi cover about nine square miles, and this picture gives a small sense of that. In the 14th century, the famed Vijaynagara empire had its capital here, ruling over at least three states: Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Andhra Pradesh. (EG)
Everywhere we went, particularly at tourist sites, Indians wanted to meet us and take photos with us. "From which country? and "What is your good name?" were pressing questions. Our mugs are no doubt "gracing" houses throughout India and, thanks to Hampi, where we encountered many field trips such as this one, several classrooms besides. (MM)
Erica in  Vittala Temple, Hampi: This temple is noteworthy for its pillars, which make various musical sounds when struck. They can be heard for 1.5 km, and although the clarity was damaged by a Bahamani invasion in the 15th century, it sounded pretty beautiful to these ears. (MM)
Michael ascends the throne platform, or House of Victory, where kings watched processions. Called Mahanavami-dibba, the remains are a massive, granite-faced base in three diminishing tiers, coated with carved horses, elephants, warriors, dancers, and musicians. (EG)
"Flavourite Parlour," watched over by Shiva and his consort -- and a couple of guards -- was in the center of the Hotel Dasaprakash compound and the site of several happy pista (pistachio) cones. (EG)
One must walk 614 steps to reach Sri Gomatheswar, a journey that is supposed to purify your soul. Because it is a holy site, you must walk barefoot, as Erica and her friend are here, coming down. This little girl, Rhea, and her family were from Calcutta. (MM)
Sri Gomatheswar, a 58-foot statue carved out of the granite mountain between 978-993 AD. We were hoping to see the Head-Anointing ceremony. Unfortunately, it wasn't until February. But you can see the scaffolding up and ready to go. (EG)
Flowers in India are primarily for religious purposes. There are a few mini flower stalls in modern shopping areas that sell arrangements for gifts. But they don't seem popular like they are in the States. (EG)
Genevieve and Daniela get jasmine ponytail accessories, a popular 'do for area women. It smelled divine, but zero pressure was applied to Erica to get one. Apparently they were flummoxed by her short hair; the ponytail (and pigtails for young girls) seemed to be the only 'dos going. (EG)
The Mysore Palace was the seat of the famed Wodeyar Maharajas of Mysore. It is an incredibly ornate, eclectic synthesis of architectural styles. The crowds inside were so dense in places, we could have lifted our feet and been carried along. (EG)
Michael in front of Hotel Dasaprakash, Mysore. We chose to stay there because of our many happy experiences at the Dasaprakash restaurant, run by the same family, in Santa Clara. (EG)
Cows are considered sacred in India, partly because they provide milk, curd, and other products. Accordingly, they are allowed to wander the streets freely, foraging for food. Because everyone must respect them, traffic dodges around them, vegetable vendors carefully shoo them away from their wares, and fun scenes like this result, when a cow wandered into a restaurant in downtown Mysore and the waitstaff gently encouraged her to move along. Apparently they didn't consider her to be making a delivery. (EG)
After being ushered out of the restaurant next door, the cow paused a moment to peruse the cigarettes and CDs at this vendor. The man on the left actually had some food for her behind his counter. (EG)