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I Travel to Hampi

June 15, 2010

An overnight bus ride from Bangalore and I was in Hospet. A twenty minute drive in a tuk tuk saw me in the sleepy temple town of Hampi. A quick check in into one of the innumerable guest houses, a shower and I was off to explore what I had heard of so much. My initial reaction was muted. Yet, the ruins on the hill by the side of the main Virupaksha temple found me clicking furiously with my inexpensive KB10 Kodak camera (less that $15) that I had bought on my way.

Virupaksha Temple

The place is full of ruins of the famous Vijaynagaram Empire which saw its zenith under Raja Krishnadevaraya. The ones on the hill by the side of the main temple are hardly inscribed and it is difficult to understand as to what is what. My guide Uday told me that there are some caves that need cleaning up and where the armies lived during those times. These 500 years old ruins are one of the most beautiful archaeological treasures that I have seen.

The next day I ventured across the main Virupaksha temple and over the hill and saw a beautiful temple complex quite like the famous Vithala temple. This is called the Athreya temple. I walked into the ruins unhindered and almost alone in that vast space full of history and explored the beautiful temple complex. I found a well by the side of the temple with water in it, clearly from the times the temple was first built. Across the temple flows the Tungabhadra in all her majesty. The sight is breathtaking.



Laxminarasimha

Hill Top View of Athreya Temple

Pushkarni (Vithala Temple)



Well in the ruins of Athreya Temple

The third day I tried to find the Lotus Mahal that someone had told me was behind the Athreya temple. I walked a few miles into a narrow pathway but failed to locate Lotus Mahal, and perhaps thankfully so. For had I ventured inside the Lotus Mahal from the backside, which I would have if I had walked on I would have violated rules. There is a token sum of ten rupees ($5 for foreigners) as entrance fee to the Hampi sites. One ticket gets one through all the archaeological ruins. Having failed to find the Lotus Mahal I started climbing up the mountain to a temple ruin that I could see. Panting, huffing and puffing like a steam engine I reached the top. Could not help but wonder as to how anyone could build a temple on that mountain and how many times did they have to climb up. The view from the top was majestic. The timeless hills in the background and the ruins up front made a scenic symphony – it was well worth the climb.

Entrance to Vithala Temple

Queens Bath

Corridor in Islamic style architecture - Queens bath

Fourth day saw me hire a tuk tuk that took me around. I saw all the famous Hampi sites including the Hazar Rama Temple (thousand Ramas), Vithala temple with musical pillars and the famous stone cahriot, Lotus Mahal, Kings Balance, Queen’s Bath, and a lot more. These pictures try and encapsulate what I saw. My KB10 gave me better results than I had expected. The sheer beauty of Hampi made my task easy. For those interested in archaeological tourism, Hampi should be right on top of the list. While there are no star hotels in Hampi, lodges and guest houses are many. Another option is to stay in Hospet but I would not recommend that. Some of the restaurant shacks serve descent food (including Continental, Italian and Israeli falafel, pita) – the overpowering, incessant stench of cow dung in these by-lanes of Hampi, notwithstanding.  The friendliness of the people is a constant solace.

Public Bath - quite like the Romans

Ornate stone pillars – Vithala Temple

Pushkarni – Black Stone steps

Mahanavami Dibba – height 8 meters

Stone Chariot – Vithala Temple left side

Stone Chariot - right side

Pillar – Jain Temple

Vithala Temple – musical columns

King’s Balance

Side view of one of the temples

Best way to get to Hampi is to take a flight to Bangalore and then take an overnight train to Hospet, the nearest railway station.

All in all a very rewarding experience that will stay with me for a long, long time.

Note: If one wonders as to why there are only temples that abound, well, people lived in wooden houses including the King who had a palace made of sandalwood. These wooden houses were a casualty of war. One can only imagine as to what a beautiful city Vijayanagaram would have been during the times of Krishnadevraya. And with the majestic Tungabhadra flowing, this 36 square kilometer city must have been a sight to watch. I am not sure Hampi has been excavated fully. A lot of work remains and the task is huge.

Lest it be thought that this blog has changed tack, I can assure that the focus remains on South Asia,  international and security issues. This was just an aside, a change of taste.

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