Open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day for your scalping pleasure. Shiv Mandir, located on old airport road in Bangalore, is the epitome of crass tourist traps. My travel bud and I had a few extra hours to burn before leaving for the airport, we’d already done the city tour and partaken of the sights we were interested in. In a local guide book we found a very well written review for what looked like a historic temple devoted to Lord Shiva. Upon mentioning our interest in this destination, our driver, Raghu, tried to dissuade us. This is a classic case of why you should listen to your driver.
After fighting the cross town traffic for 30 minutes we arrived in front of a rather nondescript entrance. A doorway, steps off the city road, in a newly built neighborhood should have been my first clue this was not in the temple circuit realm of Tamil Nadu. Signs marking the way to the big statue led us past stalls filled with garish religious trinkets. Sellers yelled out “please have a look”, “we won’t be here as you exit”.
Finally a ticket booth with a large courtyard beyond. Wait, a ticket booth for a temple? No, a ticket booth for entrance into the attraction. For just Rs 100 per person we could take in all of the events described to us. But, we had to buy the ticket here or else it was Rs 160 inside. Now I was sure this was a trap. We waved off the attraction tickets explaining we only wanted pictures. Fine, but we did get hit for Rs 29, Rs 4 for our shoes and Rs 25 for my still camera.
Past the booth was a row of brass urns each filled with tokens and labeled with individual names. In my haste to get past this and to the big Shiva statue I didn’t catch the significance. Up a flight of stairs and now the statue was within sight. Another ticket booth. The kids below were right, now the tickets were Rs 160. I snapped a few pics and then tried to explain we weren’t interested nor going to pay money to see the statue. The attendant waved us on.
We walked to the flight of stairs back down into the courtyard where water was being shuffled around (much like the Golden Temple) in an attempt to keep the floors clean. A fair amount of locals were mulling about but not paying the requested fee so we jumped into line with them. Damn, another checkpoint! This time I asked the attendant directions to the exit but it didn’t matter at this point. We were staring right at the 65 foot high Lord Shiva. Snap! snap! Done…I had what I came for.
We found our way to the shoe rack (no tip since I prepaid). On the walk back to reconnect with Raghu, I was amazed at what appeared to be an even longer parade of stalls selling everything from Buddhist prayer beads to ice cream. In the car I learned the complex was nearly new having been built in 1995. Ugh, another trap fallen for.
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