Category Archives: Hampi

Hampi: Day 3, on a moped

The moped dragged us across the bumpy terrain of Hampi. Today was our last day in this surreal landscape. There was only one agenda in mind. Hire a moped and explore the ruins of Hampi. Follow the nose (of the moped) to the not much trodden paths and get lost somewhere among the boulders, broken palace basements, fallen temples and watch towers.

We had earlier rented a moped from Hampi bazaar and had paid Rs. 300, inclusive of the fuel. There are numerous shops in Hampi bazaar that rents out cycles, scooters and mopeds. They even let you to keep the vehicle overnight at your hotel. You just have to give them a xerox copy of any valid photo identity proof.

From Hampi bazaar we took the road to Kamalapura village. Right before the underground Shiva temple we saw a mud track and decided to follow it. After a few turns we reached a watch tower called the Mohammadan watch tower. The watch tower had steps leading up to a balcony which overlooked the mud track.

Mohammadan watch tower

A few meters from the watch tower is the Danaik enclosure.

Danaik’s enclosure

This was used as the military training area. Only the systematically partitioned basement of the enclosure remains.

Mosque

Right next to the Danaik enclosure is a mosque and and another watch tower called the band tower.

The band tower

On the other side of the Mohammadan watch tower is the noblemen’s quarters.  This was where the aristocrats lived. Just like the Danaik enclosure, only the basement remains.

Noblemen’s quarter

Right next to the quarters is a modern watch tower with steps, railings et al. We climbed the watch tower to get a better view of the whole area. The bird’s eye view was worth the climb.

Our next stop was Malyavanta Raghunatha temple. This temple is situated on top of Malyavanta hill which is on the way to Kampili village. The road was steep, winding and long.

Road to Malyavanta hill

I was obliged to dismount at a point and followed on foot.

The legend is that, after killing Bali, Rama and Lakshmana rested at this place before going in search of Sita.

The eastern gopura

The 3-storeyed eastern gopura of the temple leads into a large courtyard. There were a few neatly pruned trees and a few dogs enjoying their pre-noon siesta.

Malyavanta Raghunatha temple

Other than a single devotee reading shlokas from Ramayana, we were the only people inside the complex.  The temple has large pillared ornate mandapas on both sides.

From  the western side of the temple you can step onto the Malyavanta  hill and climb a bit further up. From the top of the hill you can get a view of the tough and rustic Hampi terrain.

View from the top

There is a small shrine on top of the hill with a lot of shivalingas sculpted out from the rocks.

Shrine on the top of Malyavanta hill

Our next stop, Pattabhirama temple, though as large as Vittala temple, is less frequented by tourists. It is is probably due to its location being a little away from the rest of Hampi and just beyond the Kamalapura village en route to Daroji Bear Sanctuary.

The security guard at the gate seemed a bit surprised to see us. He said only the most committed of visitors make it to Pattabhirama temple. Modestly patting ourselves, we entered into the temple complex through a side entrance.

Pattabhirama temple

The temple must have been a grand structure during its prime. The huge courtyard has various mandapas on all sides with the main sanctum at the center.

Another view

Other than the abundant simian population, both alive and sculpted, no other soul was in the premises.

Further down the road we came across a rectangular shaped structure with a dome called the Domed gate.

Domed gate

Within the Domed gate there is an image of  Hanuman carved on the wall.

The Hanuman temple inside the domed gate

This gate had no similarities with the Bhima’s gate we had seen earlier. However, we did find some similarities with the Talarigatta gate we saw later.

Talarigatta gate

In ancient Hampi, very few people would have had houses with private bath areas. People must have enjoyed going to public bath houses. We came across at least three public bath houses, not to mention the innumerable pushkarinis (water tanks) we saw.

The most magnificent of them all is the Queen’s bath pavilion, the bathing area for the queen and the mistresses.

Queen’s bath

The pavilion has a veranda that runs on all sides. In the middle is an open pond that can be accessed by steps. Projecting into the pond from the verandah are many balconies decorated with tiny windows. There are various aqueducts terminating inside the pond. The pavilion does not have a roof.

The moat around the pavilion

Around the building is a water channel that was probably designed to prevent intruders from walking into the pavilion when the women took bath! The Queen’s bath can be found right next to the road to Hampi bazaar.

Another public bath, the Octagonal bath, as the name suggests, is an octogonal bathing area.

Octogonal bath

The bath has an octagonal shaped platform with aqueducts at the middle and has a pillared veranda around it.

Inside the Octogonal bath

The area between the veranda and the platform must have been the bathing area. This is found on a mud path about a kilometer from the Queen’s bath.

The Octogonal water pavilion, found on the road to Hampi bazaar, could have been a magnificent water fountain in its prime.

Octogonal water pavilion

Now practically in an abandoned stage with bushes and wild grass growing around, it looks more like a makeshift cooking place.

We had spent three days in Hampi and had not seen the sun rise or set. The sky was overcast on all days during dawn and dusk, not allowing us to capture the beautiful event. We climbed up the Hemakuta hill with whatever energy that remained to capture whatever remained of the sun through the overcast skies.

Jain temples

The Hemakuta hill is dotted with a lot of temples, the main being the Jain temples. The Jain temples look a bit different from the other temples. The main difference is in the stepped tower over the main shrine.

Hemakuta hill is an excellent vantage point. Other than the Virupaksha temple and the bazaar, a lot of other temples and ruins can be spotted from the top. Sun or no sun, a lot of tourists had come to enjoy the light cool breeze of the evening.

It was time for us to leave. Return journeys are the most toughest. What we did figure out, though, was that this journey was so worth it.


Hampi: Day 2, the Walkabout

The sky was a little overcast the next morning. We decided to go for a walk before breakfast. Taking a mud path, we walked, enjoying the bird songs and the cool breeze.

This way to

The mud path led to a board that said ‘Bhima’s gateway’ beyond which was an arched gateway.

Bhima's gateway

The gate led into a courtyard which had a lot of stone carvings depicting the stories of Bhima. One carving shows Bhima carrying the ‘Sowgandhika’ flower.

Bhima carrying the Sowgandhika flower

Another one shows Bhima killing Keechaka.

Bhima killing Keechaka, while Draupadi is watching

Draupadi is standing nearby watching the scene.

Reflections

After breakfast, we hired an auto rickshaw to take us to Hampi bazaar. It had started to rain. The  drizzle did not dampen our spirits.

Cleanliness and Godliness

We were trying to see the positive side of it. Rain can give a totally different texture to any landscape.

Walking towards the monolithic bull

We walked through the Hampi bazaar, in the opposite direction of the Virupaksha temple. The bazaar was slowly waking up to a wet morning.

At the end of the bazaar is a huge idol of a bull called the monolithic bull.

Monolithic bull

A lot of monkeys were swinging  around.

The climb up to Achutaraya temple

The steps from the bull led to a small mandapa from where the Virupaksha temple could be seen.

View of the bazaar and Virupaksha temple

Further up, was a small Hanuman temple. A lady, who was sitting in front of the temple,  gave us ‘prasad’.

The lady and her Idol

From the Hanuman temple, we climbed down a few steps to reach the Achutharaya temple complex.

Achutaraya temple complex

Located at the foot of Matanga hill, this large temple complex has a Devi shrine at the center. This temple, as the other temples in Hampi,  has many gopuras.

Northern gopura of the inner courtyard

The outer courtyard has a large gopura on the northern side which is also the main entrance and the inner courtyard has three gopuras, on the north, east and west.

There are various pillared mandapas around the courtyards. Most of the carvings depict stories from Ramayana.

Soolai bazaar

Right outside the temple are the ruins of a long street or bazaar once famous as the Soolai bazaar or dancing girls’ street. At the end of the bazaar is a beautiful water tank with steps on all sides and a small mandapa in the center.

Water tank

From the tank we walked further to our right and reached a small cave called the Sugriva’s cave. The legend is that Sugriva kept Sita’s jewels inside the cave. Right outside the cave is a pool called Sita sarovar.

Sugriva's cave

Opposite to Sugriva’s cave is another temple which has a stepped tower over the shrine, thus making it look like a Jain temple.

The Jain temple?

But there are a lot of Vaishnavite sculptures in the temple like the two dwarapalakas at the entrance.

The dwarapalaka's

The temple has a two-storeyed mantapa which is reached by a flight of stone steps.

The deepasthambham

In front of the temple is a stone deepasthambham.

The King's balance

The path further leads to a gateway popularly known as the King’s balance. This balance was used  for weighing the king against gems and gold during auspicious occasions. The balance has two huge granite ornate pillars supporting a stone beam. There are a number of ruined shrines near the balance.

On the opposite side of the balance is the ruins of a structure called the Raya-gopura which has tall pillars.

Raya-gopura

Behind the Raya-gopura is a Vishnu temple which was closed for renovation.

Vishnu temple

We started walking back. We were to reach the Soolai bazaar from where we had taken a right. We walked past the Soolai bazaar and reached the Kodandarama temple. The temple stands on the banks of Tungabhadra river, opposite the chakratirtha, a bathing ghat. The temple contains the standing figures of Rama, Sita and Lakshmana.

Kondarama temple

We rested for a while on the banks watching people crossing the river on coracles.

Tungabhadra

It was way past lunch time. There was a small restaurant on the banks of the river, where we had lunch.

Danger

After lunch, we then took a stone paved pathway, passed by some huge boulders that took us right back to the monolithic bull.

We then walked to Hampi bazaar, did some shopping and then took an auto rickshaw and returned back to our hotel. But not before finalizing our next days plan.

We were to rent a moped for the next day.

For Day 3: Click here


Hampi: Day 1, the Touristy Approach

By 8 am we had reached Hospet, a sleepy nondescript town, 20 km from Hampi.

We took an auto from the bus stand to the Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation (KSTDC) owned Mayura Bhuvaneshwari.

Mayura Bhuvaneshwari

Mayura Bhuvaneshwari is an ideal choice to stay in as it is very close to Hampi. Hospet is a bit too far off for anyone keen on staying in the thick of the Hampi action. This resort is in Kamalapura and it is a further 4 kms to Hampi Bazaar but a much better bet than the accommodation options in the Bazaar area.

Dining area

The complex is sprawling and peaceful and has a laidback charm to it. The reception area takes you into a large courtyard which doubles up as the dining area.

Inside Mayura

Besides the lovely photos of Hampi that hung on the walls, the rooms had some endearing artwork both outside and inside.

Before checking in, the manager told us that KSTDC was conducting a one day guided tour to all the major points. We thought, to get a better idea of the place, it would be better to go for it.

By 10.30, we boarded the KSTDC bus and were on our way to Hampi bazaar to see one of the most important temples in Hampi, the Virupaksha temple.

Today, we decided to be tourists.

From whatever research we did on Hampi, we came to understand that there were more than 1000 ruins in and around Hampi. Hampi’s ruins are broadly divided into the sacred center (mainly the temples and mandapas) and the royal center (palaces, forts, gates etc). And to see them all in 3 days was no child’s play.

Virupaksha Temple Eastern Gopura

Virupaksha temple, one of the oldest and main temples in Hampi, is an important pilgrimage centre for the worshippers of Lord Shiva. Located on the southern bank of Tungabhadra river, Virupaksha temple is said to be one of the oldest functioning temples in India.

What stands out is the entry point into the temple, a 9-storeyed eastern gopura which leads to the outer courtyard. There is another gopura on the northern side too. These gopuras are visible from almost anywhere in Hampi.  Right from the open restaurants in the Hampi bazaar from where one can endlessly gaze at those magnificent towers to the Hemkuta hills from where one can watch the sun set right behind the temple.

Three-headed Nandi

Upon entering the outer courtyard, on the left, a rare 3-headed Nandi is found. Other than the many small shrines present in the courtyard, the major structures found in the outer courtyard are the Phalapuja mandapas.

Outer courtyard

The outer courtyard is connected to the inner one by a small 3-storeyed gopura.  The inner courtyard has pillars running on all the four sides with a rangamandapa in the center.  Behind the rangamandapa is the main shrine of Virupaksha.

Rangamandapa

There are various sub-shrines around the inner court.  On northern side near the gopura is a water tank called the Manmatha tank. Towards the back side of the  temple is a small dark room where you get to see an inverted image of the main gopura, as light falls through a small slit on the wall.

Lakshmi against the gopuras

The temple has its own animal brigade. Right from Lakshmi, the temple elephant, which would eat bananas from your hand and bless you for a few rupees, to the monkeys hanging around the northern gopura eating rice from the plantain leaves offered by the devotees.

Eating out...

The street leading from the temple is called the Hampi bazaar.

Hampi Bazaar

About a kilometre long, the bazaar is lined with a series of granite pavilions, some of them two storeyed. These structures were once part of a thriving market.

Living on heritage?

Most of  these pavilions are encroached upon and made into shops, restaurants, homes, schools and even a police station. A lot of guest houses can be found around the Hampi bazaar area, mainly catering to backpackers. The signboards in Hebrew, the Italian and German bakeries and the tie and dye clothes hanging from the shops give the Hampi bazaar a ‘Janpath look’.

The shops sell everything and anything from ethnic clothes, bags, religious artefacts etc.

In the name of God

But in July, 2011, the district administration of Bellary, armed with a Karnataka High Court order, brought in three bull dozers to demolish the 20-year old bazaar. The entire stretch in front of the temple has now been razed to the ground, leaving hundreds of people with no means of livelihood .

Debris of History!

We took the road from the Hampi bazaar that climbs steeply up towards Hemakuta hill.

View of the Hampi bazaar from the top of the Hemakuta hills

The next stop was the Kadlekalu Ganesha temple on the Hemakuta hill.

Kadlekalu Ganesha

Here Ganesha is seen with his paunch shaped like a green gram seed, though it looked far more bigger than a green gram seed.

Right next to the Ganesha temple is a Krishna temple devoted to Balakrishna. The idol of Balakrishna now lies in a museum in Chennai.

On the other side of the road is a bazaar and a pushkarini (water tank).

Further down is the statue of Lakshmi Narasimha.  This giant monolithic statue of the man-lion god is the largest icon in Hampi. Narasimha is depicted in a cross-legged seated position. The original structure had his consort Lakshmi sitting on his lap.

This image was destroyed during the enemy invasion. Currently, only a hand of the goddess resting on his waist can be seen.

Right next to the Lakshmi Narasimha is a Badavalinga shrine which was built by a poor woman. The pedestal always remains immersed in water.

Akki-Tangi sisters

A few meters ahead is the Akki Tangi Gundu better known as sister stones. Two huge stones stand precariously leaning into each other. The story is that two sisters came to visit Hampi and were cursed into stones as they ridiculed the place. The sister stones were recently in the news because a portion collapsed.

Our next stop was the underground Shiva temple. As the name suggests, the temple is below ground level. The structure is in a dilapidated state and the main sanctum is under water.

We moved on to the Zenana enclosure next. This used to be the ladies’ quarters. The enclosure has a huge wall running along the four sides.

Main entrance to Zenana enclosure

There are three watch towers and remnants of the Queen’s palace inside the enclosure.

Northern watch tower

Eastern watch tower

But what stood out was the Lotus Mahal.

Lotus Mahal

The Lotus Mahal stands on a raised platform and has two storeys. The first level has huge arches and pillars to support them and the level above has a lot of windows on all the sides.

Basement of Queen's palace

Just outside the Zenana enclosure is a long oblong building with huge domes on top. This is the elephant stable. There are hooks attached to the inside of the dome probably used to tie the elephants.

Elephant stable

Close to the elephants stable is the Guard Room, which has arched entrances.

Guard quarter

We next visited the Hazara Rama temple.

Hazararama Temple

On the inner and outer walls are depicted the main incidents from Ramayana and a few scenes from Mahabharata.

Stories on a wall

We walked ahead to the King’s palace which encloses the King’s audience hall, a large water tank and a huge pedestal structure called the Mahanavami Dibba. The King’s audience hall must have been a huge pillared structure in its prime. But now what remains is a platform with a lot of vestiges of pillar-sockets.

Kings audience hall

The Mahanavami Dibba was erected after Krishnadevaraya’s victorious campaigns in Orissa.

Mahanavami dibba

Ever since, it has played a prominent place in the Navarathri celebrations.

At the base of the Mahanavami Dibba is a water tank with steps on all sides. There are inlets and outlets around the tank.

Water tank

It was almost 2 pm and we were famished. Our lunch was arranged at Mayura Bhuvaneshwari.

Vittala Temple

After lunch, the bus took us to Vittala temple.

Entrance into the main shrine

The Vittala temple complex is another architectural showpiece. The temple is built within a walled enclosure and, just like the Virupaksha temple, has huge pillared Mandapas on all sides and towering Gopuras overlooking the complex.

Northern gopura

The Mandapas have numerous beautiful carvings and stand on ornate platforms. One such carving took our breath away. It looks like an elephant from the right and a bull from the left.

Elephant and Bull

The highlight of Vittala temple is the stone chariot. This iconic structure is the symbol of Karnataka tourism.

The stone chariot

By the time we had walked around the complex, it was 6 pm and we decided to call it a day.

A walk through Hampi can be both mysterious and rustic. The boulders, the fallen temple stones, the broken palace basements – all have a story to tell.  But we wanted to find some of those stories on our own. We had 2 more days in Hampi and we had already made up our mind.

We were going to be travellers for the next two days.

To read more: Go to Hampi: Day 2, the Walkabout.


Hampi: An Epilogue and a little bit of History

It was the last day of our 3-day trip to Hampi. We were waiting with our luggage at a small tea stall near the Hampi bus stand for a bus to take us to Hospet from where we were to proceed to Bangalore. The sun had just gone down and the whole of Hampi bazaar was bustling with shop keepers, locals and tourists, both Indian and foreign.

The previous day was Diwali. A lot of leftover crackers and rockets were  whizzing around. We, a little bit tired from the three days of walking around, were just taking in the scene and enjoying hot pakoras and tea. The tea stall was empty, we being the only customers.

Suddenly, we were joined by a group of around 10 people, kids, men and women.  They were Gujaratis, from what I could understand from their language. From the other things that we understood, this was their first day in Hampi and they had hired a van for the day that had cost them Rs. 1000. They had been promised to be shown about 25 ‘points’ and only 20 were shown and they wanted part of their  money back. The driver was trying to pacify them telling them he would show the rest of the ‘points’, the next day.

The 'Points' of interests

A small crowd had now assembled at the tea stall, some taking sides of the Gujarati family and others supporting the driver in his cause. By the time our bus came. We  could not know whether they got their money back or they compromised on seeing the ‘points’ the next day.

While travelling back to Bangalore, I was reminded of a quote by G.K. Chesterton. “The traveller sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see. ”

Following the crowd?

So were we travellers or tourists? A little bit of both, maybe.

Before our trip to Hampi, we did a lot of research. As loyal tourists we had scoured the old issues of all the travel magazines we had stacked up, took printouts of the maps and any information regarding the structures in Hampi from the net to make sure that we had taken note of all the ‘points’ of interest and more importantly, read a lot of blogs on Hampi.

As travellers, we have also tried to go a bit offbeat sometimes, walking on those side tracks that would take you nowhere discovering new ‘points’ of interests.

Or taking the off beaten path!

Hampi had always been on our travel list for a very long time.

But before that, a little bit of history.

Little did Hakka and Bukka, two brothers and soldiers in the employment of Muhammad-bin-Tuglaq, know that  seeing a fox being driven away by rabbits would lead them to the establishment of an empire on the banks of the Tungabhadra river. Once, while walking  by the banks of Tungabhadra river, they saw the strange sight of a fox being chased away by rabbits. They then met a sage and told him about the strange event they had witnessed.

The sage’s name was Vidyaranya. He told them that the land they stood on was very powerful and any city built at this spot as the capital of  a kingdom would repulse attacks from even the most powerful of kings. Thus, the city of Vijayanagara (city of victory)  or Vidyanagara (named after sage Vidyaranya) was born.

Hakka and Bukka wanted to  build a huge kingdom with palaces, temples and forts. But Sage Vidyaranya wanted to fix an auspicious moment to dig the foundation for the city. The brothers waited for that moment and suddenly they heard the sound of a conch shell. Thinking it was the announcement of the auspicious moment they started digging the foundation.

Hakka and Bukka consulting Sage Vidyaranya

But then they heard a second conch sound. Confused they went to see their Guru who said that the first sound was made to announce the sunrise and the second sound was made by Vidyaranya to announce the right moment which, if they had followed correctly, would have led to the kingdom to last 3600 years.

The rabbits chasing the fox could be just a story. But the empire of Vijayanagara  founded in 1336 lasted for only 360 years. Vijayanagara was ruled by many dynasties including the Sangama, Saluva and the Tuluva.  The descendents of Hakka and Bukka belonged to the Sangama dynasty. The fortifications and irrigation work owe much to their efforts. They also managed to overthrow the muslim rulers.

The greatest of the Vijayanagara rulers, Krishnadevaraya, belonged to the Tuluva dynasty. He ruled till 1529 and his time was considered to be the golden age.

Several Portuguese travellers and traders who visited Vijayanagara wrote detailed reports about its glory. Domingos Paes (1520–22) who visited Vijayanagara during Krishnadeva’s reign, was fascinated by the greatness of Vijayanagara’s fortified urban landscape, its markets, temples and the royal centre. Paes’ detailed description of the city of Vijayanagara  is of immense help for identifying and interpreting the still impressive ruins of Vijayanagara which once was, according to Paes, as large as Rome and “the best provided city of the world”.

Krishnadevarayya and his consorts

But after Krishnadevaraya’s  death, his descendents struggled to keep the invaders out. Vijayanagara was destroyed by the united armies of the central Indian Sultanates in the battle of Talikota in early  1565.  The muslim invaders took just 5 months to demolish and loot all those magnificent palaces, forts and temples which were built over the years.

These magnificent ruins which are now declared as a world heritage site are situated in Hampi.

So armed with all the paraphrenalia, walking shoes, sun tan lotion, maps, guide books and a lots of enthusiasm, we boarded a bus from Bangalore to Hospet, the nearest town to Hampi.

To read more: Go to Day 1.


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