This is an account of a walk I made in March 2018 up to the top of a little known hill holy to Lord Siva called Betadapoor in the South Indian state of Karnataka. In recent years UFO sightings have been reported in its vicinity, these gain some limited local press coverage but that is about it.
Day Before the Climb
Old spelling for the place I am going to tomorrow is Betadapoor, saw it the other day whilst having a McMaharaj in Mysore Mall, on an old map of Karnataka from the nineteenth century. Very tasty McMaharaj it was too, all for 499 rupees along with a generous portion of fries and large cup of Coca Cola, a drink I do not usually have but which occasionally, under the right circumstances, can slide down rather nicely.
Holy hill on the plains. Hill of Siva, Padampa Sangye connection also coming into view, Padampa Sangye is of relevance to Tibetans who follow the teachings of the Tibetan yogini Machik Labdron, as he was her teacher. Yogi residue, off the beaten track, but still worth goin’ to, more than worth it as a matter of fact. It is getting close to full moon, a special time when lunar configurations come into view.
To make the walk up those steps leading to the top of the holy hill of Betadapoor is something I have done before, but not for at least 10 years. Old temples lie on the top and an overwhelming sense of heat and dust, a place almost completely forgotten, almost, but not quite. It is an old time pilgrimage site, but no one seems to go knockin’ on its door very much now, or at least not many.
An early start is going to be needed in order to make the climb, to make the walk. To make it onto the lower slopes by 7.30, now that would be good, then get to the top before 9, if I possibly can. To make that dance, throw a handful of sand up into the air, then step back and see which way it falls as to what fate brings along. Where it will take me? Just don’t know, probably not anywhere very far, but that is OK, that is fine as a matter of fact.
Just think it will be good to make the climb again up to the top of the holy hill. I know I have done it before, maybe three times, maybe four, just can’t remember, just can’t frame it, nail it. Maybe four then, possibly not, probably three, but anyway does it matter? What do I expect to get out of it then, another walk to the top? Unseen holy blessings? Incomparable spiritual memories? Unlikely really, highly unlikely if truth be told, but that in no way means the walk doesn’t have to be done.
Betadapoor has become more a place which lies on the landscape of my meditation scenery, a view of the peak on the plains from out of the mind’s eye, so to speak. So, it is gonna be more like a re-acquaintance, framing something in my memory once again, so as to provide some kinda inspiration for times to come. I am looking forward to it, but I am also wary of comin’ up short, for in places the path is steep and the sun gets very hot when the dial on the clock passes some particular point in the morning. Oh yes, one other thing, my stomach has been dodgy for the last couple days, as after all I’m in India and these things happen. All these factors might possibly manifest and throw me to the dogs in unseen ways.
On the Day of the Climb
Tripped to the hills where time stands still. Made the Betadapoor climb today and I am so glad that I did so. On the hill by 7.30, ascending in shadow, before the bright light of the day came on through. Ancient Betadapoor, temples built in the time of who knows when? On the lower slopes littering the ground, huge splashes of human debris, empty packets and wrappers of every description on those steps. What to do? India is unstoppable, when it comes to the environment people simply don’t understand the basics of keeping things tidy and chuck their stuff anywhere they like.
It was good to make the walk to the top before the heat broke on through, it was good to take it slow, to stop, to sit, take in the silence, listen to the breeze move on through trees and brush past bushes. Good to be in a place which somehow could take you far from the busyness of man’s insanity, even if that madness was in fact still quite close, a stone’s throw away down on the plains. Only didn’t feel that way, on higher ground beyond the sound, it was another world, a walk I had wanted to do for a long time, even though over the years I had done it a few times already. Good to be reminded once again of the Betadapoor landscape, good to put my shoes on, pair of New Balances, walk to the top of that hill on the plains of Karnataka. Every thought, every memory, seemed to be precious, toasted by the wind in the sun baked heat, so good for me to feel it, that magic.
This time once on the top of the hill the doors to the temple were open, more open than they had ever been for me before. Yes, this time around in the deserted temple on the top of the hill, I was able to enter the inner sanctum, to bend low, open the doors, let them spring open, leading me through the gates to the holy Siva lingam, active at the very centre, in the dark, with an incontestable light from beyond light shinin’ on through.
Betadapoor is the hill in my meditations down here in South India, in the early mornin’ hours on the days when I am able to get it together, to shake myself awake and step on through the door of the meditation room and do my sitting. So, in some strange mystical landscape kinda way, Betadapoor is important to me. It is good to know that when I sit to breath, to meditate, I am in its presence. Just the way things have turned out I guess as to why that should be.
Speaking true, I didn’t even know it was a holy Siva hill until quite recently, I always thought it was a Ram hill, but no, it is Siva. Since I did get to know, it just so happened this time around I got to see the Siva centre within those inner walls of the dark deserted temple. Swept clean floors amidst the rubble, all those rubbish streamers further on down the hill seemed to fade away into insignificance once the top had been found. Inside the centre at the top, a light in the dark. Took it in my stride then, made those steps up the holy hill, onto higher ground, simply could not have been happier to have made that trip if truth be told.
Think when it comes down to it I am a person of simple tastes who doesn’t do much dressin’ up, who can get happy in an unknowable way over the sight of a carved stone shape on an ancient temple floor, hands folded in obeisance. Head bent low, with an eye upon the knowledge that whatever force made it, came before the age of trains and the rage of phones.
Took the simple path, more or less, and on days like this, the Betadapoor climb, it all seems to have paid off in terms of findin’ happiness from somewhere which, for want of a better way to explain things, has come from out of the deepest dark whilst punched through with the sun.
I see Betadapoor every day from the room in our house in which I write this, in the settlement of Bylakuppe close to the Coorg town of Kushal Nagar. See it every day, holy hill on the horizon, its contours and shape in sacred revelation when the skies are clear. See it right now, as I write these words. So, yes, Betadapoor does mean something to me. Standin’ sentinel in the early mornin’ hours when meditation journeys are embarked upon. Siren on the plains, broadcasting the news there is so much more within, if we only did but know it.
Somehow this time around, in some way, I got a reminder from Betadapoor of those inner lands and, although in the hours after I made the trek back down, I most certainly did feel tired, it was in every way a price worth paying, not even a price as a matter of fact. The after affects saw me pretty smashed physically when I got back to the house in Bylakuppe, but I guess that is how the body ages, now at the age of 55 it is over 20 years further down the road from when I first made that walk up the steps of the hill.
So yes, back in the settlement late afternoon it felt like my body had been put through the mincer. I had also only got a little sleep the night before, stomach rumblings and all that, then the early climb before the sun got too high in the sky, along with the walk back down again. All had served to punch the puff right outta me.
The eatin’ of an apple for breakfast on the top of Betadapoor hill, an apple for breakfast pulled from the fridge for me just before I left, it tasted so good, so crispy, so sweet, so damn crunchy, that big red, juicy apple eaten on to the top of the holy hill. Ate it with the same relish as that monkey did a year or so ago when I was in Tiruvannamalai walking in the grounds of the temple in the centre of town. There I saw a monkey snatch an apple from out of a pilgrim’s hand, eat it down to the very core, in tiny little bites, hundreds of tiny monkey bites, without leaving a single piece for its monkey companion sitting patiently nearby, watching intently, hoping for something which never came. Guess in the monkey world it was just a winner takes all situation. Nothing more, nothing less.
So, yes, I ate my apple on Betadapoor hill around 9.15 in the morning, my first food of the day in fact, and it tasted so incredible. Red apple, still with the chill in it from being in the fridge the night before, taken out early in the morning and wrapped in tin foil for me. I took some swigs of water when crunching that apple, plus I ate some dates and a sweet from Taiwan. All on the top of the hill where the sun was now bathing me in the bright light of another Karnataka morning in the hours before the day got nice and hot.
Took to some temple wandering within the dark shadows after my food was done. In the corners of my wandering, little by little, bit by bit, the temple doors opened, took me into the innermost sanctum, head bent low in a most wonderful, incredibly dark tomb of reality, where sparks of knowledge are always surrounded by the deepest darkness. My head touched the ground, natural thing for me to do in front of the Siva lingam, stumbled a few verses from out of my mouth, fumble mantras, usual deal when it comes to the real, when shaking in the presence of the indescribable Om. Managed in the end to chant Hari Om Namah Siva Ya with head still touched upon the floor, grateful for getting the opportunity to do so, being as I was in the realms of the unforeseen, where all I knew beforehand was I had to make that climb.
So glad that I did so. Take the grace of the place back down to those raze days of early summer Indian heat on the plains, where getting up early to trace the breath on those pathways of the in and the out is the only option, as long as the energy is there, as long as there is still the puff for the climb, as long as there is still the shakin’ of the tree on the ridge of prana. All firmly placed within those lands of the upside down traced upon confluence, where elevating awareness so the visions seen are those visions found within that space, is for the yogi the only place to be.
The header image for this article is a photograph of Betadapoor on the horizon taken by the writer.