Two days later I arrived in Palitana, a major holy site for Jains, and another set of steps. I warmed up with just over 1000 steps, since it was too late in the day to climb to the top, and was accompanied on the way down by a very talkative young girl. The next morning, Thursday, I arrived at dawn to begin the climb. They say that Mahavira, the founder of the Jain religion, took three steps to reach the top, but it took me about 3600, not counting climbing to the tops of temples and walls to take photos. Champaner was a great training session for Palitana! Here you could hire porters to carry you up and down the stairs, bud I sadly missed taking a photo. The best were the women porters who rested the pole on their heads.
At the top are five temple complexes, with more than 850 temples built over a period of 900 years. Jains practice ahimsa, so no one may bring leather items, or food or water inside the complexes, and pilgrims and tourists must remove their shoes. I spent between 2 and 3 hours walking the temples barefoot, and those of you who know me well will understand how pleased I was. On negative side, I'm a little too tall for India; I kept banging my head while climbing into temples...
I took 240 photos, and it was extremely difficult for me to choose only a few to represent Palitana on the blog... and just as difficult to narrow them down to another 34 for a Facebook album. A photo permit is required from the office before you climb the steps, and some of the security guards were so zealous in checking my permit that I suspected that they hoped I wouldn't have one. The site is incredibly beautiful, and it seems as if I couldn't take a bad photo! I'll let the photos speak for themselves, and only mention a few notable things about the site:
*The parrots seemed to avoid my camera lens. They refused to stay put whenever I saw a great shot. They also feature in some of the sculpture.
*The pilgrims wearing mouth-covers, to avoid inhaling insects accidentally and thereby killing them. One family arrived by elephant!
*A sculpture depicting a Digambara Jain. Along with ahimsa, Jains also practice non-possession; at the most extreme, this includes renouncing even clothing, a practice of the Digambara sect, and at the end of their life, food and drink.
*I climbed to stand on the wall of one of the temple complexes (look for the steps up the wall in front of the round tower), and to the roof of a temple using the ladder to the flagpole. Those two made me a little nervous.
In the afternoon I took a GSRTC bus to Junaghad. I had hoped to visit Somnath, but would need to wait longer for a bus, and I wanted to keep moving. Because of Divali festival and holidays, I had trouble this week finding hotels and booking busses, but I always found something, even if it wasn't ideal. Total steps: over 5100!