Ok. So the title of the blog reminds you of the Kevin Costner movie ‘3000 miles to Graceland’. I am sure you don’t mind that!
Kushalnagar is the second largest Buddhist settlement outside Dharamshala. While A few blogs mention 5000 plus monks in the region, my friends decided to settle at a number of 3000. Throughout our four-hour drive, we kept wondering how did the monks land up in a place like Kushalnagar, in the middle of nowhere, far away from the Himalayas.
The drive to Kushalnagar is very nice and weather was also on our side that day. It’s a four-lane highway all the way to Mysore and then a good state highway road. In fact, our drive took us on the NICE Corridor, a recent six lane highway on the outskirts of Bangalore. This drive, even though it was only fifteen kilometers, was the best I’ve ever had in India. Yes, it was very NICE!
The Bangalore- Mysore highway is a busy one and thus we only doing 50km/h for the first hour. It’s not only crowded by the vehicles but also with many drive through restaurants including Barista and Cafe Coffee Day. It looked like Cafe Coffee Day had used up its entire years budget on advertising on the highway. There were large hoardings of omelettes, parathas, and biryani and though we stopped at a zillion CCD’s on the way, none of them had what they advertised. So, we stopped at Shivali, famous for its glass idli’s and dosas. The tea was quite bad though!
As soon as we crossed Mysore, we met up with Javagal Srinath, one of the greatest bowlers of Indian cricket. Though it was short and sweet, I was happy to see a man who I had adored as a young cricket enthusiast. He must have been on the way to Coorg, his hometown, not so far away from Kushalnagar.
A few hints of the Buddhist settlements come before Kushalnagar itself. A left turn from here will lead you to the various camps, numbered 1-4. The drive through the camps is beautiful as the road is empty and low hills provide a beautiful landscape. In fact the drive for me was much better than the settlement itself! We drove straight to Camp 4, where the Golden Temple is. To my shock, I saw hundreds of tourists flocking around the main gate and market. Most of these guys were having breakfast at Shivali with me!
The complex is huge and leads you first into an empty courtyard, painted with Buddhist symbols. Then it takes you the Golden Temple and the Namdroling Monastery. The monastery attracts most of the visitors and is a complete transformation from how it looks from the outside. As soon as I entered, I was greeted by three large idols, in gold, much larger than life. Out of the three, the one in the center was Buddha. Check out the paintings on the outside and the inside of this building, which show the story of the Buddha. My friends and I sat in the monastery for a while and enjoyed the calmness of the place. But unfortunately, that is the only thing you can do in here. After we stepped out of the monastery, we lolled around the campus for a while before we decided to head out for lunch. On the way out, we turned a few of the prayer wheels which go around the circumference of the Buddhist compound. But then, we were disappointed as we didn’t even see a fraction of the Buddhist population. We also couldn’t find chicken or vegetarian momo’s, something we were looking forward to eat since morning!
It was getting hot and we started looking for a place to get a drink. On our way back, we saw large heads outside a small shack. Curious to know what it was, we decided to peek in, only to find a local bar. Dark and dingy, the owner invited me to sit in one of the hot dark chambers. I still don’t know why the bars in South India are so dark and dingy. You can hardly see the person sitting next to you! Anyways, I decided to walk back and get a chilled beer from another roadside bar.
We reached Mysore around four and were greeted by heavy rain. Being a weekend, the town was deserted and we went straight to our hotel Windflower. It is a beautiful resort at the bottom of the Chamundi Hills in Mysore, but finding the place is a problem. We drove around for half and hour before reaching the destination. Unfortunately, the signage to the hotel is bad and the man who answered our call at the hotel had no clue how to get us there. He also ended up messing our reservation request!
We found a parrot sitting at the reception and a few geese moving around. It had just rained and the resort had come alive with post rain aroma. It was beautiful. The rooms are great value for money and I suggest either the basic or the deluxe category. The food is OK, the Spa worth it but avoid the gym and the games. If you want a relaxed holiday, which means sitting in the porch enjoying a cup of tea or sipping on a gin, a few leisurely walks and a nice massage, this is the place.