We all want things to stay the same. Settle for living in misery because we’re afraid of change, of things crumbling to ruins. Then I looked at around to this place, at the chaos it has endured – the way it has been adapted, burned, pillaged and found a way to build itself back up again. And I was reassured, maybe my life hasn’t been so chaotic, it’s just the world that is, and the real trap is getting attached to any of it. Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation. – Elizabeth Gilbert
From January on wards, the only thing that kept me going through those exhausting days of school and preparation leading upto the musical was – this long holiday plan. The plan was made after a regular school day ending at 3 PM after extra class and daily musical practices – over the usual lunch of medu-vada sambar and watermelon juice. I was terribly excited about the idea of exploring the South Indian circuit. Although I am from Karnataka, I’ve barely seen anything down south. Also I guess, at that point in time, when we were neck-deep into the musical preparations and school work – the very idea of being at any place other than St Francis, Vishrantwadi seemed like the most wonderful possibility in the world.
So after wrapping up the musical and school officially, bidding goodbye to kids, rounding up all the administrative duties, unearthing a very repulsive corruption scam in our school – we set out towards the first leg of our Southern Sojourn.
First stop was a village in northern Karnataka, my home state – Hampi . It is located within the ruins of Vijayanagara, the former capital of the Vijayanagara Empire. The ruins of Hampi are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Hampi happens to be special to me for two reasons. Firstly because my mother was born there and also my grandfather served as the chief engineer for the Tunghabadra Dam project during its construction.
Hampi – Day 1
We took a bus from Pune to Hospet (the district town) and from Hospet we got into a very sophisticated auto rickshaw to get to Hampi. (Shouldn’t cost you more than Rs 150) After reaching Hampi, we crossed the Tunghabadra River by a boat to get to the other side of Hampi, Virupapur Gaddi – where our guest house was located. [This is again similar to the whole new Manali -Old Manali divide, just like Old Manali attracts foreigners, the part of Hampi across the river caters to foriegn population and the backpacking crowd.]
And this vehicle or motorized cycle that you see in the picture below was what we hired to explore Anegundi on day 1. Anegundi, believed to be the monkey kingdom of Kishkindha in the epic of Ramayana, is located at a distance of 5 km from the historical site of Hampi. Anjanadri hill, the birthplace of monkey-god Hanuman, and the Pampa Sarovara are the popular places to visit en route. This bike-like thing can be hired for about Rs 100 a day and fuel will have to be bought from the same vendor (Rs 90/Litre). The popular modes of getting by in Hampi are Auto (hired for a day at 500 bucks), bikes (100 bucks a day + petrol charges) and of course bicycles (Rs 60 a day). It felt really funny riding this Luna-like bike. On a certain rising slope, I was driving and the motor was running but because of the load, it refused to budge. :) It was a real Andaz-Apna-Apna moment! So we had to use our feet while sitting on the bike to climb up the slope.
A little girl rowing around on a rubber tube in the lotus filled pond across the Pampa Sarovara Temple. In Hindu mythology Pampa Sarovar is regarded as the place where Pampa, a form of Shiva’s wife Parvati, performed penance to show her devotion to Shiva. It is also one of the Sarovar’s that finds a mention in the Hindu epic, Ramayana as the place where Shabhari, a devotee of Shree Ram waited for his arrival.
Basavanaa, the great bull at the other end of the road that leads up to the Virupaksha Temple.
Hampi’s beauty is in these wonderful little stone carvings everywhere on the rocks. Everywhere you look there are rocks and boulders but the way these rocks are positioned, their enormity – everything about the landscape seemed so artistic. The general environment was hot, dusty and very dry – but somehow these rocks and boulders against this dusty backdrop seemed to set the premise for an amazing story waiting to be told – to be discovered.
Virupaksha Temple is the main center of pilgrimage at Hampi and has been considered the most sacred sanctuary over the centuries. It is fully intact among the surrounding ruins and is still functional as a place of worship. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, known here as Virupaksha, as the consort of the local goddess Pampa who is associated with the Tungabhadra River. I ended up embarrassing myself by asking a priest in temple who Pampa Devi was. They both made a rude joke about it to each other in Kannada about how people come into the temple without even know which God they are coming to. After which, I turned on the shocker-effect by lecturing them in Kannada about how faith isn’t a function of a person’s religious vocabulary. This I think, didn’t go down well with them so I fled the scene. This maybe the most popular temple in Hampi but personally my favorite place in Hampi was the Actyutraya Temple. [three pictures above]
This hammock was right outside the room at Shanthi Guest House. I loved reading here whenever we weren’t on the road. You know you’re leading a good life when you can order endless number of chai’s while reading, swinging on a hammock. :P
We got back to the room, late in the noon after seeing all these places – we were shocked at what we saw in the mirror. We had been burnt by the sun! Not that I look stunning otherwise, by the time the musical and the fellowship got over, I had anyway lost interest and control both, in how I looked. But this was bad, the April heat in Hampi is just unbearable. Anyway, yes this is a build up is to justify the amazingly long power nap I took after being completely charred in the sun. After getting up and having an amazing glass of chai [this is my new thing, I insist and request for chai in a tall glass where ever I stay. Chai in a cup doesn’t quite cut it now a days.], so yeah after tea, we walked upto the river and sat on the banks for quite sometime.
It was so peaceful and serene. By the way, if anyone in Hampi tells you that they are charging you more because they are offering you a river view room, don’t believe them. The only possibility of a view is a paddy field view, which is stunning as well- but don’t unnecessarily pay more for the ”promise” of a river view. Ain’t gonna happen!
It felt so good speaking in Kannada everywhere and getting things done. Being able to use my mother tongue outside the context of home was somehow very empowering. It was really amusing that all vendors started off in English or Hindi when I approached them. After listening to their exaggerated prices for everything, when I switched to Kannada, it was so funny to see the expressions on their face.
So that was day one in Hampi. Fantastic!
Next post : Hampi Day 2.