We walked up staircase after staircase in our bare feet, out of respect for the Jain people. No shoes are allowed on the sacred stairs of the Muktagiri Temple. When described to me, I thought there was no way I could manage this adventure: not only barefooted, but my almost-50-year-old body has done fine things, but nothing like this lately. And my 17-year-old hip replacement would get quite a workout. But I told myself I would do all that I could, and stop when I could not continue.
So we began and the paths were all covered with smooth tiles, allaying my fear of stepping on jagged rocks. We walked slowly and I took photographs and the only time it was too difficult was climbing the staircases - fairly steep and one after another. But I pushed through and stopped to catch my breath a few times. My hip was straining, but there was no pain. And when I reached the top, I was so happy I’d done it.
Each level we walked had a temple, there are 52 in all, each labeled for the visitor to pray inside to each specific god. Usually in the rainy season, there are waterfalls and rivers and streams, but the rains have not come, which has everyone here on edge. Everyone must change their patterns to accommodate for the lack of rains.
We saw a man with two buckets of water. He had fashioned a piece of wood across his shoulders and tied the buckets to hang off each shoulder. Up the stairs he climbed, and periodically he would stop, set the buckets down, draw a cup full of water and water the plants lining the staircase. The rains have not come, he explained, and the plants are thirsty.