So, I’m not feeling amazing today tummy-wise and my aim is pretty much to get to our next destination alive.
I was asking advice from Josie at 2 in the morning, and we’ve settled on an Immodium/Dioralyte combo. I’ve looked things up on line and the general advice is that we’ll survive, that it ‘only’ lasts 3-5 days and ‘only 3% are hospitalised’. All good then.
We stop at the Om Banna on the way, as it’s on the roadside. It’s a curious temple to a Royal Enfield Bullet motorbike, which apparently crashed into a tree when its owner was intoxicated. The story goes that after the police took the bike away it then returned to the same spot every night before dawn. They locked it up with a chain and it did the same. News of the ‘miracle’ bike got out, and it is now caged behind glass and there’s a proper little industry around it with the obligatory blessing ‘for good luck’, much thread tying, and incense. I have little idea how this gets to be ‘lucky’, but it’s a nice story. I’ve just had a quick look on Wikipedia and it seems it’s lucky for travellers, and ‘it is said that a person who does not stop to pray at the shrine is in for a dangerous journey’. Well, we’ll be able to test that out, as we’re about another 3 hours before our next destination I think.
We travel to Ranakpur, where we quickly check in to our hotel (Chandra Hill Resort – nice big rooms, swimming pool, total of £70 for the night, for two rooms, including dinner and breakfast). It’s not Shakti’s original choice, which is just up the road and has been fully booked out by a wedding, but very nice nevertheless…
We have a choice whether to eat at the hotel or head off and eat at the Jain temple which is probably only around five minutes away. Shakti informs us that the Jain’s don’t use any onion or garlic in their food, and we agree it would be interesting to try… (I looked it up and it seems the Jain’s have a central belief of non-violence towards all other living beings, and extend this towards all bacteria and micro-organisms. Hence strict Jain’s won’t eat food that’s been stored overnight as there is more risk of bacteria. Ella told me something complicated about micro-organisms and onions/garlic that seemed to fit together).
At the cafeteria, we take off our shoes and head inside. We notice signs saying ‘OBTAIN MEALS AS PER REQUIREMENT ONLY’ and ‘PLEASE DO NOT LEAVE ANYTHING IN THE PLATE’.
We sat down at some long metal tables, each with a metal plate/cup/bowl combination in front. Shakti had given us bottled water on the way in, obviously knowing in advance that water will be brought around in a non bottled form, as it was.
A succession of young men with metal buckets then pass by, putting portions of food on the plate. Some announce ‘dahl’ as they hurl it into the bowl, and often it seems more like a statement than a question, and it’s quite hard to dodge a second or third or fourth portion. Jack says ‘yes’ to a second helping of something, which I can already see is cabbage-based, with mustard seeds, both of which he’s not a fan of, and I wonder if he’s seen the ‘eat everything’ signs. Cleary this is a ‘don’t waste’ principle, rather than just being a bit school-teacher-y, but it does have that feel about it. The Dahl is really quite hot, and Ella works up quite a sweat finishing hers… (Steve and I can’t finish, and do feel guilty)…
As we head out of the hall I spot one more sign, which says ‘PLEASE KEEP SILENCE. Wish I’d spotted that on the way in.
I read up more later, and discover that the person making the food is expected to be ‘in a positive frame of mind’ and also not to wear shoes. It also mentions a further part of the principle of not eating root vegetables is that small insects may be disturbed by pulling up the plant. Also the plant will die, whereas with some other vegetables, harvesting doesn’t kill the plant, and the plant can live on.
On to the Jain temple, and there are all sorts of other rules and regulations – women mustn’t enter when they at the time of ‘menses’, no food products inside etc. We head quickly to the loos on the way to the temple, and hear some Americans complaining that they don’t want to pay to use the toilet as they had just paid 200 INR each to enter the temple. Given that I had just paid approx. 11p each for me and Ella I did think that he was taking his principle a bit too seriously, and I saw them walk away with wife looking distressed at the thought of looking round the temple cross-legged.
As we go in, our bags are searched and they clearly take their ‘no food items’ very seriously. She roots around for ages checking out the various dull items such as lipsyl and hand sanitizer I’m carrying.
The temple itself is an absolutely amazing place. Again I haven’t got my ‘original ID’ so have no audio guide, and today I’ve forgotten the Kindle as well, so I have no idea what anything is. It’s clearly very impressive, with lots and lots of carvings. I’ve just read, trying to get some retrospective ‘why is it like that?’ facts, that it took 65 years to complete, and that apparently at some stage there had been talk of extending the number of wonders of the world, and Ranakpur Temple was ranked among the top 77.
What does seem lovely is that it only opens to the public 12-5, so it seems that it is ‘used’ properly by the Jain people at other times. It would be an amazing place to contemplate and have some quiet time.
On the way out Steve notices another detail that the sign says no leather. Feeling bad again – they have lovely principles, the Jains, but the security lady didn’t pull him up on his leather belt.
On the way out we see some monkeys, which cheers the kids up no end – too much temple had started tipping them over the edge… Although too much temple happened within the first five minutes of getting inside. If not slightly before.
From the temple, we head to the hotel where the kids have a swim. A few young men emerge with their phones for long distance pics of poor Ella, who jumps in as quickly as she can. Apparently this is just how it is…
After a swim and a short rest, we head up the road with Shakti, driving through a ‘tribal village’ along the way and arriving at a view point for a natural lake, with a dam. He tells us a crocodile has been spotted in the water, and also that there are leopards and ‘Sloth Bears’ and jackals and all manner of wildlife… (Having not heard of sloth bears before, I’m not feeling too concerned, but I read up later that they have 8cm long claws and tend to aim for the head ‘leaving the face a pulpy mess’. They’re also the type that were kept as ‘dancing bears’ in the past, and may be are still seeking revenge for that too. There are many things about them that sound really cool (eg they eat primarily insects, are intelligent, and can slap a tiger in the face and see it off), however, in retrospect it’s probably better we didn’t meet one)…
This place is the quietest place we’ve been since we reached India. Far in the distance there’s a huge herd of goats heading for a drink at the water’s edge, and some brightly dressed tribal folk who we deduced were heading home before dark. Other than that, not a soul in sight. Steve and Shakti spot a different type of Kingfisher (black and white, “pied”) fishing, and set off to hunt it down for a better photo opportunity. While they’re there they see Ibis, and there are also Darter here too, as well as Coot and little Grebe. (We also see the kingfisher fly off into the distance, but they’re too far away to alert them).
So, while they’re off exploring, the first batch of youth arrive, out of breath, having evidently walked up the hill we drove up… They dive straight into selfie-taking, with some interesting poses along the way which make the kids laugh when they’ve gone. We notice that they’re not taking in anything about where they are, but are collecting the view on a photo. I think they also get a ‘foreigner’ selfie or two while they’re there but it’s not always easy to tell – we’re getting quite used to that, though. A couple more batches of iphone-carrying youth come up and snap a picture and disappear equally quickly. The peace in between times is lovely though!
We get our own pictures and head off before dark, as we’re told that it’s not just the animals, but perhaps local youth up to no good we need to worry about after 7pm.