Haven’t we heard people say, ‘there’s no such thing as a free lunch’ ? If there is a place where this cliche doesn’t apply, it is Dharmasthala; it’s not just the lunch that’s free here. Our taxi driver who has been here before spoke of free accommodation for pilgrims. But then he took Rs.50 from me as parking fee at the car park in front of the Manjunath Dharmasthala temple. I wonder who runs this parking lot.
They have several residental blocks such as this one. The Rs.10 you pay when you move into one of these rooms is paid back when you vacate and hand in the key.
Dharmasthala is a one-class temple, where everyone joins the same queue – for dharma darshan. The security man here is considerate in the case of senior citizens who are allowed to take a short cut that meets the queue at the inner courtyard of the Manujnatha temple.
This is as close as you can get to the main shrine for taking pictures. It is not just photography that is banned inside the temple. Also not allowed are children below aged 2 (didn’t get to ask them why); cell-phone that is switched on, and men in half-pants with their shirts and vests on. I guess they don’t allow females in jeans and nighties either.
Moving shirtless inside the temple came as a relief though, for we visited the place during those sweltering days before monsoon. The temple authorities have thoughtlfully fixed overhead tabletop fans every few yards in the queue on temple parikrama.