I’m here in India as a tourist, so I have no compunction about acting as one. I hired a car and driver through the hotel, and asked to be taken around to some of the tourist spots in Bangalore. My driver, Ramakrishna, started the tour with a stop at the Iskcon center. It’s a new and lavish structure, designed from the start to accommodate crowds of the faithful and the curious. I left my shoes and camera in the car, passed through security where they checked my bag (they are very strict about the no-photos rule), and entered the compound. Admission is free, but I paid for a pass that let me cut past the lines, and also provided me with a plastic baggie of prasadam. There was a continual audio loop of the “Hare Krishna, Hare Rama” mantra playing everywhere. I travelled up a series of ramps, stopping at two small shrines, then reached the main temple area. My pass earned me the right to sit on mats at the front and meditate upon the three elaborate shrines, until a monk came to shoo me along.
Exiting was a bit of an ordeal. I travelled through cattle chutes along a line of monks, inquiring on my native language, and reached an English speaking monk who started in on a hard sell of books and DVDs. My pass entitled me to 20Rs. credit on a purchase, but the least expensive booklet was 25Rs. I finally chose the path of least resistance and spent the 5Rs., just so I could move along. Next were food and souvenir stands, a ramp, a stretch of lower priced items, another ramp, more gewgaws, and so on, until I finally emerged into the sunlight. It was an interesting experience, but I was left a bit cynical about its spiritual value.
Next on the agenda was the Bangalore Palace. Again, an admission fee, but I opted not to pay the camera fee (which seems to be standard at a lot of attractions) so I don’t have pictures of the interior. I did take the audio tour, which was worthwhile, and I enjoyed the tour and the glimpse of life an a bygone colonial time.
On to the Shiv Mandar temple. It’s another modern complex, in the city next to the Total Mall. After checking my shoes, and paying an entry and camera fee, I entered through a sort of man-made grotto that featured a series of display windows with animatronic educational displays (above) and statues of
Here I am posed by the lingam:
Finally emerging from the grotto into the sunlight:
To find the main attraction, a 65 ft. tall statue of Shiva, in front of a man-made mountain scape. While I was there, workers with ladders and hoses were cleaning the statue:
Upon exiting, there was a very long passage of souvenir and trinket shops, but thankfully no hard sell:
Onward and upward to the Big Bull Temple:
This is an older and more traditional temple, and provided a more relaxed and dignified experience. It has an attractive gopuram:
A pleasant entryway:
And one of the world’s largest Nandi statues, carved from granite and darkened from years of being anointed with oil. Here the priest took a few minutes to talk with me, give me a blessing and a bindi, and then asked for a donation. I considered this a much more civilized way of handling things, so I gladly made a contribution.
Last stop of the day was the Lalbagh Botanical Garden, a 240 acre green oasis in the heart of the city. It features shady walks among impressive specimens like this ficus:
A Glass House designed along the lines of the Crystal Palace in England and currently used for flower shows:
It also features a rare rock formation and Geological Monument of a large swath of Peninsular Gneiss rock:
A good day, and a good introduction to the city.