Hampi : Glorious Ruins of the Vijayanagara Kingdom

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.

The '''Andaz Apna Apna' mode of travel on day 1

The ‘Andaz Apna Apna’ mode of travel on day 1

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.

Pampa Sarovara Temple on the way to Anegundi

Pampa Sarovara Temple on the way to Anegundi

Basavanaa, the great bull at the other end of the road that leads up to the Virupaksha Temple.

Basavanna : The Great Big Bull

Basavanna : The Great Big Bull

The long long walk to Stone Chariot Temple : Vitthala Temple

The long, long walk to Stone Chariot Temple : Vitthala 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.

Random Carvings anywhere you look

Random Doodles : Carvings anywhere you look

The Stunning Achyutraya Temple

The Stunning Achyutraya Temple

Pravesh dwaram at AchyutrayaTemple

Pravesh dwaram at Achyutraya Temple

Broken beams at Achyutraya temple

Pillars at Achyutraya temple

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]

The famous Virupaksha Temple at Hampi Bazaar

The famous Virupaksha Temple

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

Serenity Now! :)

Serenity Now! :) : Shanthi Guest House

Evening walk - post lovely afternoon nap - to the river side

Evening walk – post lovely afternoon nap – to the river side

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.

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7 thoughts on “Hampi : Glorious Ruins of the Vijayanagara Kingdom

  1. It was really nice to know so much in detail about the place I was born. I’ve visited all the places you’ve mentioned umpteen times, but still the details, I must say, were not very clear in my head. Thanks for that. Its a pleasure reading anything you write, but this one’s special for me also, for the same reasons that you’ve quoted. :)

    • Glad you liked it Ma. Maybe you and Dad should take a trip to Hampi soon. I also had to come back and find out about the history of some of these places. It’s very interesting.

      I always found Hampi intriguing from your stories especially the one where you told me that people used to sell rubies and other precious stones in huge sacks in the market for throw away prices. It’s hard to believe. It’s sad to see that the locals are now so far removed from any wealth of that and are in fact living in those very ruins.

  2. Hi Chaitra,
    I’m so glad to find you are blogging again. What a wonderful trip. It seems like India has so much to offer in the form of history, culture, beauty, places – could go on and on – and of course, historical sites or ruins. It’s first on my list of places to visit. Thanks for sharing.

    • Hampi offers you a great understanding of mythology and history. Many people find it a little tedious and often boring because it’s dusty and full of ruins of old temples and monuments. The architecture seems to look more or less similar after a couple of monuments.

      But if you invest yourself into understanding the historical and religious significance of each monument, you will come back fascinated.

      As I’d said before, whenever you plan a trip to India, do drop me a mail. I’d be happy to help you out with the stay and travel arrangements. :)

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