the climb to the top of the hill in palitana has over 3,300 steps leading you to the temples. it wouldn’t be all that difficult of a hike, except that you are forced to leave your shoes at the bottom of the hill, and thus trudge up thousands of hard rocky steps in your socks. two days later, the balls of my feet are still aching. not everyone choses to endure the hike on foot. if you are extremely lazy, or just rich and want to show off, you can do the hike while sitting in a chair hauled by two guys. i dont know, but that just seemed way over the top. i just couldnt imagine having someone carry me up a hill.
the hike winds up the mountain and seems like it would be beautiful and scenic, except that we both ended up spending most of it staring down at our feet. this was because the steps had animal shit all over them, and you had to be careful where you stepped. as we walked upwards panting and being very thirsty (you aren’t allowed to bring water on the hike), i noticed that some of the crap was huge… the kind of crap that could only come from a large animal like a cow. i thought that i must be mistaken, cows can’t walk up stairs, right? and even if a cow could walk up stairs, who would bring cows up on a 2 hour hike? well, it turns out that cows not only *can* climb stairs, but they *do*. i saw a group of 5 or 6 of them briskly walking down the steps…. moving much faster than the slow and tired humans.
we had started the hike quite late in the day, against our better judgement since the hill temples close at 6pm. we had only gotten to the hill at 3pm, so we were a bit worried about whether we would even make it to the top on time. at the bottom of the hill, after passing a large procession of excited pilgrims, we got to see a few small temples as a taste of what was yet to come. the temples were brightly colored, with large courtyards, lots of altars and offerings to the gods in the form of rice and flowers.
as we started going higher and higher, pilgrims coming down the steps kept trying to warn us that we were going very late and that we wouldnt make it to the top in time, but by then it was too late to turn back. every several hundred steps, there would be a small sign telling us how far we’ve gone… 1000 steps, 1500 steps, 2200 steps etc. to make the hike even longer, there were huge sections of straight parts w/ no steps… these sections were not counted in the number of steps.
finally, at about 5:30, we got to the top. the guard let us in after a bit of grumbling and told us that we better hurry as we must be done by 6pm. once we got inside, we realized that the 3,300 step climb had been totally worth it. honestly, i probably would have climbed any number of steps to see what we saw. the top of the hill is covered by *hundreds* of intricate jain temples… 863 in fact. each temple is incredibly beautiful and complete covered in extremely intricate carvings of tiny statues, and other designs. each temple had hundreds of little dips, ridges, spires, and angles. it was just amazing how much work must have gone into building just one of these, and to see 800 or so of them all next to each other was quite a sight. the temples up there werer probably one of the coolest things i’ve ever seen!
unfortunately, a very short time later, we had to leave. i really wanted to come back and see the temples again the following day, but honestly, my feet were hurting so bad on the way down, that there was no way i’d be able to do the climb again in the near future. such a shame!!