It was around 4:30 PM when we reached Dharmastala. The drive was through some heavily forested area and was a splash of vibrant green to the eyes. The hilly regions of western Karnataka is known for heavy rains but we managed to get through without any delay. The temple was closed for darshan and would re-open at 7 PM only. Tired from sitting in the van for over six hours now, we wanted to find a hotel room to freshen up. All the lodges are owned by the temple trust and the one we went to was full sold out. We were told that the closure was artificial as it takes more to maintain a room than to rent it out. Since the temple was closed, there were a lot lesser people in the area at that time. We managed to find another lodge to rent us out a room and it cost 100/- rupees. That is the equivalent of 1.2 dollars!! The room was barest minimum in furnishing with a raised stone platform for a bed with foam topping much like you see in hospitals. We weren’t looking to catch sleep so it was alright.
It took us about ½ hour to finish the darshan of Lord Manjunateshwara having purchased a fast lane ticket. My mother-in-law had a hard time standing in line and walking the many steps up and down. Later on we came to know that elderly people were let straight to see the Lord. Then it was about two hours to reach Subrahmanya. The small temple city has life revolving around the ancient temple. Like many non-urban towns in India, the temple is the center of attraction and the ‘main street’ is the one leading to the temple. The streets are flocked by stores selling mainly items that border on religious activities – flowers, garlands, offering materials – coconuts, beetle leaves, kumkum, spices, etc. There are colorful playthings for children and some into selling music as well. It was a five-minute walk from our hotel where we were greeted by three lazy ducks sitting near the entrance. They looked pretty though. It was the same hotel where many celebrities had stayed or visited as evidenced by the photos gallery on display – from the likes of Raj Kapoor in the past to Sachin Tendulkar in the present.
The next morning we were up early and headed to the temple at 6:30 AM. There was already a line to see the God. We checked and found that mother-in-law could get darshan avoiding the lines. So I ended up standing alone in the line. It didn’t take more than 20 minutes to catch a glimpse of the Lord Subrahmanya. Somehow both at Dharmastala and here I couldn’t connect to Him. All the crowd and the few seconds of time granted for the sight didn’t strike a chord in me. I need to still find what it is that makes some people devoted and even zealous about see God in a temple. The more peace there is to the surrounding, and that includes the main idol in a temple, the more I can connect. Maybe it is the grandeur that isn’t evident in daily life for the common man that makes the idol stand distinct and powerful and far mightier than a vision of simplicity.