Distance from Bangalore – 350 kms
I do like catchy titles don’t I? Well, considering how infrequent my writings have become, you guys shouldn’t be surprised by the random inputs of wisdom that keeps spouting off so occasionally. But enough about me! Let’s be Hampi!! (No pun intended here!!)
I have dreamt of Hampi for as long as I can remember. Scouring through numerous travelogues, lusting after exquisitely captured photographs, listening to word-of-mouth raptures. But none of them can ever do justice, until you actually set your foot on this bouldering UNESCO heritage town of Karnataka. It’s so ironic that while I was living in Karnataka, I seldom ventured outside the youthful activities, and now that I am living in a metropolitan city, I crave to visit every nook and cranny just to fulfill the whims and fancies of my itchy feet.
The seed of an empire for two chieftains who accidentally stumbled upon it because of a rabbit during a hunting excursion, Hampi can only be described as a tribute to cultural evolution of 200 plus years as a result of rise and fall of four separate Vijaynagara dynasties. When the glory days ended in a battlefield, Hampi ended up becoming a ghost centre, slowly taken under the patronage of nature. Slowly but surely, they stake claim to what was once their own. Trees takes root in the royal courts, weeds grow in abundance amidst the once meticulous palace gardens. Langurs leap across boulders where once stood soldiers and sentries.
What was once a sprawling city of dreams, is now a countryside interrupted by ruins. Scornful of history or protocol, only the true course of nature can bring down the lofty ambitions of man. The city, which starts and ends in a span of 26 sq.km, came into historical limelight with the publication of the first travel guide ‘Hampi Ruins: described and illustrated’ by A.H. Longhunt.
What is it about Hampi that makes it so special that a girl convinces her stubborn father to not stay within the premises of Mumbai and venture out, even though the number of days on hand is less than ideal? Well the promise of an impromptu History education always does motivate me. But the DSLR in my hand was equally happy. I can vouch for that!! Or better yet, show you the way we traveled Hampi in 1.5 days!!!
Day 1 literally revolved around our exhaustingly long journey followed by a casual stroll near the areas that were easily accessible from our guesthouse.
Temples of Hemakuta Hill
The granite slope of Hemakuta Hill is dotted with more than 30 shrines, varying from elaborate structures with multiple sanctums to rudimentary and solitary construction, thereby forming one of the earliest group of structures, dating from 9th to early 14th century A.D.
According to the popular forklore, Sage Vidayranya was praying to god in a cave located on this hilltop when it started raining in gold. This money helped the chieftain Hakka-Bukka in establishing the Vijaynagara empire. Mythology also makes this place a sacred spot; According to ancient stories, Shiva was doing his penance before marrying Pampa. Kama, the God of Love, felt sympathy for Pampa for her love towards Shiva. He disturbed Shiva from his deep meditation, which in return, attracted Shiva’s wrath. Known for his anger, Shiva burned Kama with his third (fiery) eye. Rathi, Goddess of Passion and also Kama’s consort pleaded for mercy with Shiva. Shiva grants Kama’s life back, but only as a character and not as a physical being. On Shiva’s marriage with Pampa Gods from the heaven showered gold on the place. And hence this hill in Hampi is called as Heamakuta, literally meaning heap of gold.
The Hemakuta group of temples can be accessed in two ways – one is via the majestic Virupaksha temple, and the other is from the Sasivekalu and Kadalekalu Ganesha Temples. Also, the temple complex is an excellent point of reference for viewing the perfect sunset.
Not to mention the place where you father is going to make you pose numerous times in order to get the perfect picture!! <sigh>
Being a popular and prominent landmark where the majority of the lifestyle and livelihood of the local Hampians is located, Virupaksha temple attracts a lot of tourists and pilgrims. At the time of our visit, preparations for the Hampi festival was just getting started and the Hampi Marathon was being conducted from this epicentre.
Also known as the Pampavathi Temple, named after Lord Shiva aka Virupaksha and his consort goddess Pampa, this majestic structure towering over 120 feet is a typical Dravidian structure built in dedication to Lord Shiva, with inscriptions dating back to 9th and 10th century. Currently the temple comprises of an open pillared hall, three chambers and a sanctum.
There is an entry for Virupaksha temple which also goes for the Vitthala Temple and the Lotus Palace.
Day 2 Started with an attempted trek to Malvantha Hill for the awe-inspiring sunrise. I think by now, everyone knows how much I detest strenuous activity. It is the biggest irony of life that all the places that I want to see want me to work for it, literally. After the failure and displeasure, we ended up having a sumptuous breakfast on toast and pancakes and immediately set out for the rest of Hampi. Since we had to return back to Bangalore on that day, time was literally on leash for us.
Kadalekalu Ganesha Temple
Boasting of a monolithic statue of Ganesha standing 5 meters tall, the temple is an advertisement for minimalism as opposed to the grandeur of Virupaksha temple.
The belly of this statue resembles a Bengal gram (Kadalekalu, in local language) and hence the name. The entire sanctum is built around the statue. The open hall is constructed by unusually slender and tall pillars, each of them is highly carved ornately with mythical themes.
This four-armed monolithic statue of Lord Ganesha is located along the southern slopes of the Hemakuta hill.
In Hindu mythology Lord Ganesha (also known as Ganapathi or Vinayaka) is notorious for his food habit. One day he ate so much that his tummy almost busted (something that I am currently able to relate to very well!!) He just caught a snake and tied it around his tummy as a belt to save his tummy from bursting. This same story has been beautifully represented by the snake carved around his tummy. Also he holds the goad, pasha (noose), and his broken tusk. This monolithic statue has been carved out of a huge boulder measures about 2.4 meters (8 feet) with an open pavilion built around it. According to inscriptions found nearby this pavilion was built by a trader from Chandragiri (in present day Andhra Pradesh)in 1506 AD, in memory of one of the Vijayanagara king – Narasimha II (1491-1505 AD)
Vijaya Vittala Temple
One of the biggest tourist attraction, Vittala Temple is a grand temple complex boasting of some of the most iconic features that uniquely refer to Hampi alone.The entire temple has been built in the form of a grand campus with compound walls and gateway towers and housing numerous halls, pavilions and temples.
There are two main highlights of this grand temple complex.
One is the infamous Stone Chariot. The replica of this architectural marvel has been features numerous times in various travel expos and is one of the prime possession of the state. This is not a chariot as the name suggest, but is a shrine built in the shape of a chariot, housing Garuda, the eagle god, who is also the vehicle of Lord Vishnu.
It is rightly said the the value of an idea has more merit, though in this case the sheer excellence of the master piece can not be discounted. Apparently, the structure was made after King Krishnadevaraya returned back from war on the eastern side and narrated the beauty of the stone chariot of Konark Sun Temple in Orissa.
Often referred as a monolithic structure, in reality, this stone shrine was built with many giant granite blocks. The joints are smartly hidden in the carvings and other decorative features that adorn the Stone Chariot. The chariot is built on a rectangular platform of a feet or so high. All around this base platform is carved with mythical battle scenes. Though the chariot is not resting on it, the four giant wheels attached mimic the real life ones complete with the axis shafts & the brakes. A series of concentric floral motifs decorate the wheels. It appears from the marks on the platform, where the wheels rest, the wheels were free to move around the axis. Due to increase in tourism, this has been blocked to preserve the integrity of the chariot.
The second highlight of the temple complex is the 56 musical pillars, originally called as the Saptaswara, which on a gentle tap could produce musical sounds that can be heard throughout the entire complex. To protect the integrity after desecration started by the Britishers who couldn’t believe in the sanctity of the structure, and the current tourists who love following the Western trends, all such tappings has been stricted prohibited. Though our guide did have a recording of this phenomena. If I can somehow procure this recording, I will play it over here.
The ornate display of Vittala Temple can not be done justice simply by words. In this case, the pictures will suffice.
This temple was built by the king Krishnadevaraya in 1513 AD to commemorate his victory over the eastern kingdom of Udayagiri or Utkala (in the present day Orissa state). The main idol installed in the temple was the figure of Balakrishna (Lord Krishna as infant). This idol is now displayed in the state museum at Chennai. A huge slab installed inside the courtyard of the temple states the story of this temple and the conquest of Utkala.
The left area is mostly a rocky landscape. This was actually the high street (the chariot street) which used to lead from the temple to the market area called as the Krishna Bazaar.
From the multitudes of temples, now you start walking towards the Royal Centre.
This is a temple which truly captures the feeling: walls have ears, and sometimes they talk too. This is not a huge temple by Hampi’s yardstick. But this temple at the heart of the royal area has some peculiarities. Firstly it had been functioning as a private temple for the king, or at the most, the royal family, hence the prime location in the royal area. Also, this is the only temple in the capital where the external walls are decorated with bas-reliefs from the Hindu mythology, Ramayana.
Owning to the multitude of the panels depicting the story, the temple got itself names as Hazara Rama (a thousand Rama) Temple
Opposite to the temple is the Pan Supari Bazaar, which currently in complete ruins and archaeological restoration is being carried out. Technically, Pan Supari means a type of betel leaf morsel, a concoction made of areca nut with sweeteners and spices, which is then wrapped in betel leaf. One might question the legitimacy of the name, but the inscriptions of Devaraya II confirms its authenticity.
Being the tallest structure in the Royal Centre, it is one of the easiest and unassuming three -tiered square structure that one can see. But don’t be fooled by the appearance. As you go closer, you will find details depicting the purpose of it. King Krishnadevaraya constructed this in commemoration of his victory over Udaygiri (now in Orissa). Archeologists believe that this platform had undergone systematic enhancements by successive kings came into power. The greenish schist stone additions in the front portions stands out from the rest and vouch this theory. The king used this platform to watch the army demonstrations, war games, aquatic sports, shows of the royal animals, musical performances and also the most important Navarathri celebrations – basically a place to demonstrate the imperial pomp and power at his disposal.
There are mainly two stairways to reach the top. The front one is highly decorated on either sides with carvings of elephants, horses and a host of other things. On the top there is nothing special to see except the great views on the campus around it.
At the back of the platform a twin staircase is located. Probably this was used as a service staircase during the ceremonies. Generally one climb up through the front stair & get down through the rear, though there are no restrictions.
The sides of this three layered platform is basically designed with carvings and ornamentations depicting royal ceremonies, city life, foreign envoys to the kingdom, hunting scenes. As pointed out by our guide, from Portuguese to Arabic to Chinese connections are visible in this pictorial panels.
Reference of this royal platform has been made by Abdur Razak and Domingo Paes who were visitors to this Vijaynagara city in 1520 AD and 1442-43 AD respectively.
Pushkarni/ Step well
Located ahead of the Mahanavami Dibba, this step well is still intact representing the former glory of the capital. Since each step has its own scripture carved into it, tourists are forbidden to venture further.
From outside, this is looks like an unassuming plain rectangular building, but the story is quite different once you enter the building. The whole building is made with a veranda around facing a big open pond at the middle. This brick-lined pool is now empty, but looking at the size, one can actually imagine what a beauty it must have been back in the day with open skylight and airy rooms. Projecting into the pond are many balconies with aqueduct terminating in the pond. The domical roof of each veranda has been given its own unique style. The architecture is Indo- Islamic style in nature with arches and other decorations.
It is said that this is not the original statue; the original statue contains the image of Goddess Lakshmi, consort of Vishnu, sitting on his lap. Despite the ferocious appearance, this is actually supposed to be happy representation of the married divine couple.
Located adjacent to the Lakshmi Narasimha temple, this is the large Shiva Linga in Hampi. Legend has it that this was commissioned by a peasant woman and hence the name (Badva means poor in local tongue).
The sanctum in which the Linga has been installed is always filled with water.
Those who end up in the bouldering capital, often wonder how the desolate landscape compliments the art and history of the place. Well, you have two choices: either you find solace in the adrenaline rush of exploring the geology or get lost in the glory days of history. No matter what you choose, at the end of the day, Hampi will emerge victorious. My journey in Hampi was the shortest, but I know this much that Hampi and Me are far from over.
Except the Feature Image and the two picture your highness (ME) has been posed to feature, the rest all are painfully taken by breaking my back. So please do ask before you want to use any.