Hampi – magical ruins amongst boulders
Earlier this month I received an unexpected call. Wonderful World was having a trip to Hampi and they had a vacant spot. Would I be interested to go?
Well having been in Bangalore for almost 11 years, Hampi was on my bucket list. This was a trip I could not refuse. And I am glad I took it.
As usual Wonderful World takes women who are on their own trip. So we had an amazing and very diverse group of 12 women, from different parts of India of all shapes, sizes and temperaments! And no one I knew.
Hampi – the site of the imperial city of Vijayanagara is located on the Tungabhadra river in central Karnataka. Vijayanagara’s fame derives from its role as capital of South India’s largest, wealthiest and most powerful kingdom The Vijayanagara Empire : hence it’s name ‘City of Victory’.
Hampi’s remarkable landscape surrounded by miles and miles of giant sized boulders, its religious associations and ongoing archaeological investigations make it a destination of international significance.
The city of Vijayanagara lasted only 229 years between 1336 and 1565 yet it has left an indelible mark in its influence, history, architecture and art to make it one of the most remarkable sites in India.
We made our way thru the dry heat to a tiny village of Anegundi where we stayed at a quaint little resort. The next day began our historical journey.
Hampi is divided mainly into 2 parts ie the Sacred Centre and the Royal Enclosure. Today we visited the Sacred Centre. My first view of the huge stone chariot in the Vitthala Temple was truly overwhelming. This temple is supposed to be the first Vitthala temple which was subsequently moved to Punderpur which is an important temple for Maharastrians.
Our next stop was the Virupaksha temple which has a 50 meter high Gopuram Tower, a coronation mandapa of King Krishnadeva Raya and dedicated shrines of Goddesses Pampa Devi ( from where the name Hampi is derived) and Bhuvaneshwari Devi. This is the only active temple in Hampi.
The other sites we visited were the Hemakuta Hill which houses 2 epic and large Ganesha statues. Sadly these bear the scars of the city’s destruction as large chunks were broken off in the invasion with the Moguls. Then there was the Krishna Temple and the Narasimha statue which stands nearly 7 meters high and is one of the most recognizable landmarks of Hampi. We stopped at a beautiful restaurant called the Mango Tree located in the market place for lunch.
The second day was a surprise in itself. It was a reluctant 4.30 am wake up and we walked thru the darkness with mobile lights and couple of torches towards a waiting Coracle. These are large baskets made from bamboo and are used to ferry people across the Tungabhadra river. Darkness surrounded us and the sound of waking birds and gushing water was an amazing day starter. As light fell on the boulders we reached the other side of the river, from where it was a steep uphill climb on the Matanga hill. It is hard to explain what awaited us. This is something that has to be experienced…… explanation cannot do justice to this. It was the most breathtaking view of Hampi. The silence of dawn was broken by chirping of birds and chants from the distant Virupaksha temple as we climbed about 500 steps meandering our way to the top of the hill. The rays of the morning light on the boulders and the serenity of the environment is something I will carry with me for a long time to come.
That afternoon was reserved for the Royal Enclosure visit.
The first stop was the Mahanavami Dibba – a massive pavilion of 40 square meters which was the viewing area on which the royal family and attendants would gather and watch various religious celebrations like Mahanavami (Navratri) which till date remains an important event for Hampi.
Then there was the stepped tank made of green chlorite with a fine geometric symmetry to it. This site was excavated relatively recently in the 1980’s
We visited the Queen’s bath and the Hazara Rama temple which has 1000 sculptures of Lord Rama from where it derives its name. Another amazing site was the Elephant stables which had 11 large domes.
Our guide Vijay Rao was carrying comic books from Amar Chitra Katha and it was a pleasure to go back in time and actually make funny connections to comics I had read many many moons ago. The last evening culminated in a bonfire and a community jamming session by a local group who were a mix of firangs, locals and hippies! The music from the Didgeridoo created magic in the atmosphere. It was a perfect finale to an eventful break.
The trip has been overwhelming and beautiful. The group was small. The memories are big and the experience mind blowing.
A tick mark on my bucket list ….. indeed!
Photographs – Shibani Vig