A Mouthful of Shravanabelagola, or, Chicken Brothel

 Header Dip treesIn Kochin we were amazed by the ease with which we could slip out of the city’s center to find ourselves immersed in village life. Just a few minutes’ walk from the art exhibits and the best hamburgers we’d had in ages was small-town life in India. We turned off a main street and strolled along Kochin’s brackish canals where children ran through the neighborhood, women did their washing and chickens pecked their way through the dusty lanes.Kochi Biennale DipKochiAfter twelve hours and many breakdowns an overnight bus delivered us back to Mysore. We arranged a taxi ride from Mysore to the town of Shravanabelagola, a popular Jain pilgrimage site and a name which required much practice for us to say correctly. Located about 83 km from Mysore, this town came with our friends’ greatest recommendations and the three of us were curious to visit the giant naked man who resides there.Kochi Canal New DipOverlooking the small city of Shravanabelagola from the top of a hill is a giant stone sculpture. Made in the image of Bahubali, a king who renounced his kingdom to become a Jain monk, it is one of the largest monolithic statues in the world at about 17 meters (58 feet) high. It was constructed from one solid piece of granite over one thousand years ago and portrays Bahubali in the nude with vines creeping up his legs to portray the length of time he dedicated himself to meditation. To reach him one must walk up hundreds of steps carved into the side of the hill before arriving at his feet. Gonzaga and Austin left a sick David to sleep while they visited the naked man for an early morning ceremony. Pilgrims sang songs, made offerings and poured milk and water over his giant stone feet.Downtown Shravan DipWhen we first saw Raghu’s Hotel and attached restaurant, the dark interior did not beckon us to sit down and enjoy a hygienic meal made with love. Austin had heard that this place served the best food in town but none of us were convinced. When it proved difficult to rustle up a proper meal anywhere else, we resigned ourselves to Raghu’s. We were pleasantly surprised by the quality of food they whipped up and we skeptics ended up eating every single meal at Raghu’s Hotel, located on the main street at the base of the hill.Shravana DipEvery single meal but one, actually. Our waiter at Raghu’s, a large, barrel-chested man with meaty hands and a plaid shirt, discretely asked us if we liked to eat chicken. Again we felt like we were in the naughty carnivore club. He knew a place where we could get some really good chicken, he cautiously whispered to us while we sat in the vegetarian-only restaurant. He told us to meet him outside Raghu’s when his shift finished at 4 PM and he’d bring us to the meat. In case you’re wondering, eating meat in India does not always have to feel like a criminal act. But particularly in holy cities (such as pilgrimage sites), alcohol and meat are not permitted and one must know a guy who knows a guy if one wants to indulge. Much to Gonzaga’s dismay, it seemed many places were holy places and the unexpected difficulty in finding an afternoon beer troubled him. For a spell during our month of traveling together, Gonzaga and Austin seemed content to eat dosas, giant fermented crepes made from rice and lentil batter, for almost every meal. We three were ready for a little chicken and beer.Chicken DipWe met our waiter at 4:00 as agreed. Then we all hopped into a rickshaw and zoomed off. Fifteen minutes outside of town we arrived to a little restaurant on the side of the road. Across the small courtyard from where we entered was a kitchen. The other two sides of the courtyard were flanked by long outbuildings, each with four or five numbered doorways with curtains drawn across them. Our waiter opened one curtain to expose a little room with a table and two benches. He quickly closed it when he saw chicken eaters inside. He tried another doorway. This time the little room was vacant and the four of us filed in and sat at the table, the curtain closing behind us. These discrete chicken eating rooms only enhanced the feeling that our desire for animal protein required great secrecy.Small Man DipWe ordered various chicken dishes, all of which were delicious, and our guy ordered several dishes himself and several tall beers. Gonzaga ordered the chili chicken, which contained a frightening amount of spicy peppers. David ordered the skewered barbecued chicken. Austin got the chicken fried rice. The beer flowed like wine and the dishes arrived one at a time with long stretches of time between each one. When we weren’t having slightly strained conversation speckled with moments of comprehending one another, our guy was absent, perhaps helping his friend cook the chicken. Austin quickly caught on that she would not be expected to participate in the conversation. This didn’t surprise her as she had long since become accustomed to such conventions in male-centric cultures, but she did feel excluded after a while. When our guy seemed to hermetically seal us into the box he’d labeled “Americans,” our identity to him seemed clinched. The bill arrived and our guy, obviously expecting us to pay, checked in with Gonzaga to make sure he was happy to do so. He then looked over at David, elbowed him in the side and said, “You’re American. You all have so much money.” Needless to say he did not even glance over at Austin, who happily embraced her womanly role by not contributing to the bill. Despite some discomfort, we were still pleased to have had the opportunity to visit a secret chicken brothel and eat some illegal meat in the company of a fascinating character.The ManAfter one more walk up the hill to visit the big naked man, we bid farewell to Shravanabelagola, barely catching our bus to Bengaluru. Our next visit to Bengaluru would be longer than the first, and would become one of the highlights of our time in India. Even though there would not be doughnuts.The Man Single
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4 thoughts on “A Mouthful of Shravanabelagola, or, Chicken Brothel

  1. Interesting pictures, colorful as India. And great descriptive writing. Put it all together later with some extras and it will be a nice book! Keep on exploring. It’s fun hearing of your weekly/daily adventures. Now when you get to Thailand, maybe we have some insights?!

    • Hi Denny!
      It’s good to hear from you again on the blog. We appreciate you following along and letting us know! We would be interested in sharing more insights from our travels. Do you have any questions or is there something specific you’d be interested to know that we could reflect on?

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