By Srinivas Kulkarni.
Srinivas takes us on a historial journey through Hampi, one of his favorite places in India.
I first visited this land of the lost a couple of years ago. After two years and many miles on the road, I decided to revisit these ruins to enchant myself, only this time I decided to stay longer. While the entire place can be covered in a couple of days, you need to let the atmosphere and beauty of these ruins sink in to you, take a dip or two in the Tungabhadra river, perch atop the Matanga hill, the very same hill where Sugreev lived.
Hampi is situated within the ruins of Vijayanagara, the former capital of the Vijayanagara Empire, and these ruins are deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Rustic as it is, this city is known for its ruins and a grand heritage of ancient archeological archives. From the various historic sculptures and the monolithic bull, to the Narsimha statue carved out of one stone and the queen’s public bath, the pushkarni, every monument and every rock has its own story, a story that can’t be depicted without its own style and eternally discoursing philosophy.
Legends from the Ramayana are believed to be written here, and it is believed to be the legendary city of the vanar sena (Kingdom of apes), where the great lords Wali and Sugreev fought their battles and lived among fellow subjects. The heritage it brings to our culture and India is something to be proud of.
Stone Chariot at the Vijaya Vittala Temple
The Stone Chariot at the Vijaya Vittala temple has to be one of everyone’s favorites, certainly is mine. The beautiful construct is a wonder of architecture in itself. In the Vittala Temple Complex is a shrine built in the form of temple chariot. An image of Garuda was originally enshrined within its sanctum. Garuda, according to the Hindu mythology, is the vehicle of lord Vishnu. It is also a symbol of Karnataka Tourism. This time when I went I saw floodlights have been installed in the temple complex that provide illumination at dusk, thereby adding to the scenic beauty of the architecture.
Ugra Narsimha Statue careved out of One Rock
Narasimha in his deadly form, this one is a huge Ugra Narasimha, a statue of 6.7 meter height in the south region of the temple complex of Hemkuta group which contains the Virupaksha Temple. Narasimha, being half-man and half-lion, is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. This gigantic statue is worth seeing. One of the most enchanting things about this statue is that it’s carved out of one rock, hence it’s part of my top favorites in Hampi.
Musical pillars inside the Vijaya Vittala temple
Now this is certainly fascinating, if not in today’s day and age, certainly in the times of the Vijayanagra Empire. This unique architecture is a fascinating modern art haven and scientifically very interesting to explore. The musical pillars produce a different sound when tapped at the top side, middle (like a bell) and the bottom side of the pillar. If you tap all pillars at same time, they produce beautiful musical melodies.
Monolithic Bull near Matanga Hill
As you walk across the Hampi Bazaar and the police station in the town, you’ll notice that the closer you get to this structure, the more magnificent it gets, and when you reach the place where this bull is situated, it’ll make you realize how much grace this statue has with its enchanting eyes. Locally known as Yeduru Basavanna or Nandi, this monolithic bull marks the east end of the Virupaksha Bazaar. The statue is housed in a twin storied pavilion built on an elevated platform. A heap of gigantic boulders behind the pavilion offers an interesting backdrop. Though partially mutilated and carved in a coarse style, this Nandi attracts visitor owing to its giant size.
Hampi Sunset at Matanga HIll
This had to be one of the most beautiful sights for me in those 4 days. I always wondered how the town would look at dusk, more than dawn, the fascination of the ruins around dusk brought an aura, a golden enchantment to the fact that these ruins now, mean a lot more than just the beauty and the complex stories and architecture that they brought along with it. It stood for a significant lot of history, a history which cannot be told in this blog alone, a history that one has to go through after reading the UNESCO guidebook of Hampi. But all that apart, just the mere sight of the town across the Matanga hill and the beauty of the sunset engulfing this settlement took my breath away. It was as if, it gave me the reason for its mystic nature and truth to the unexplored was brought out, out from the best of all of us. One must explore Hampi to finally realize what it’s true beauty is all about.
Elephant Stable inside Lotus Mahal Complex
This is another really interesting piece of architecture, and as usual, feels really insignificant, when you look at the housing for a really huge elephant back in the day. Although, built by the Islamic architects in the later part of Hampi’s era, this building is very significant from the way it combined it’s architecture and the whole ensemble fits into the current scheme of things when you look at the ruins. More importantly, it is one among the few least destroyed structures in Hampi and is a major tourist attraction. This long building with a row of domed chambers was used to ‘park’ the royal elephants.
Lotus Mahal or Kamal Mahal
Now, this caught my eye, very much, especially because of the interesting architecture. I took a look around and decided to investigate why in the scorching heat is this structure cooler from the inside. To my amazement, and of course to a fascination of one kind, I was told by the guide who was around that this was one of the places in the ancient times where queens used to rest and relax, in fact, it had a built in air conditioning system. The structure had in-built terracota pipes and there was a well beside this temple. Water was filled into those pipes and fans were used to circulate the cool air within the palace with drapes around on its gates.
Hazara Rama Temple
One of the most enchanting thing about this temple is its beautiful wall carvings and enchanting structure, even though it’s ruined. The reason it’s called the ‘Hazara Rama’ temple is cause of the fact that the carvings depict comic strips of Hindu mythology, Ramayana in long arrays, on the walls of this temple. Probably this is the only temple in the capital with its external walls decorated and the temple got its name Hazara Rama (a thousand Rama) Temple because of these Ramayana panels on its walls.
Off the banks of Tungabhadra River
Now, one of the things I didn’t hesitate to do this time around, in fact I could thank my hotel owner for this, is to cool off by taking a bath in the Tungabhadra river. And believe me, it was quite a fascinating experience. Be free of yourself, enchanting place that it is, give yourself to the beauty of the river that is part of a lot of places in Karnataka, this was just the experience I wanted to make this trip the most indulging in its own sense. Now the small boats you see are of local fishermen and boatmen, they give you a ride across the river for some 200 bucks to take you to the Anjaneya mountain, one where Lord Hanuman was believed to have lived during the times of Ramayana.
Ancient Public Bath
This structure, as the name indicates, is a gigantic bathing area made in the shape of an Octagon. The bath shelter is designed with an octagonal shaped platform in the middle and an encircling pillared veranda around it. The circular section between the veranda and the platform is the water (now empty) area. To the west, you can spot the ruined bases of numerous palaces.
This particular monument and structure would be seen by you as soon as you enter Hampi, that is if you are coming via Hospet by bus. This statue has Lord Ganesha with a snake tied around its tummy, there’s an interesting story behind it too. In Hindu mythology Lord Ganesha is known for his eating habits. Once he ate so much food that his tummy almost burst. He immediately caught a snake and tied it around his tummy as a belt to save his tummy from bursting.
This one is also right around the corner as soon as you enter Hampi. This giant statue of Ganesha was carved out of a huge boulder at the northeastern slope of the Hemakuta hill. The belly of this statue resembles a Bengal gram (Kadalekalu, in local language) and hence the name.
Last but not least, this one certainly deserves a mention in my photo essay as it was quite a place to be. On the last day when i was about to leave back to Mumbai, I decided to just sit in the shady complex of this temple, and read a book, The Book of Ram, by Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik. While the experience in itself was great, thanks to the great book, the whole ambiance meant a lot more. The nice cool shade within the complex with the fresh smell of stone and breathing the air of this mystic town was also an added experience. Virupaksha Temple is also known as the Pampapathi temple, it is a Shiva temple in the Hampi Bazaar. It predates the founding of the Vijayanagar empire. The temple has a 160-foot (49 m) high tower at its entrance. Apart from Shiva, the temple complex also contains shrines of the Hindu goddesses Bhuvaneshwari and Pampa. It also is very significant during the Hampi festival, where a chariot is taken into procession and stands right outside the temple on other days.
Hampi is a ideal place for those interested in archaeology, mythology, photography and of course travel, but more importantly, for the beauty of the ancient art and culture it stands for.
What do you think about this beautiful place? Have you ever been here?
Author Bio: The author is a wandering thinker & a pondering writer who enjoys backpacking to the fullest. A travel blogger and an aspiring author who shares his travel stories on www.srinistuff.
com and tweets @srinistuff.
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