15 March 2016
..By Aditya Nimkar
Hampi– a place where dreams are carved on the stones, History has an encounter with the contemporary world, a place where the tale of prosperity is inscribed in ruins that still stand tall revealing glories of the bygone age. Hampi not only boasts about a strong mythological background but it also takes pride in the cultural and historical significance that it holds. Erstwhile, this place was known as Kishkindha. As per the holy Indian epic Ramayana, Kishkinda was a kingdom of Vaanaras (Monkeys or forest- dwellers), birthplace of Hanuman, Baali and Sugreeva had fight and Shri Rama helped Sugreeva to become king.This is the same place where Shri Rama met another exemplary devotee Shabri, who used to dwell near Pampa Lake. The word ‘Hampi’ is derived from the word ‘Pampa’.
This Magnificent medieval metropolis once had been a capital of mighty Vijayanagar empire and is located around 353 kms away from the capital of today’s Karnataka- Bangalore. Hampi is full of gigantic ruins of lost empire of Vijayanagar and now the UNESCO heritage site. It is situated on the banks of glistening Tungabhadra River.
My interaction with Hampi was extremely intriguing. Here in this write up through which I have made an effort to briefly describe Hampi.
Though the best way to reach at Hampi from Bangalore is ‘Hampi Express’, we had to board a Greenline bus since the waiting list for a train journey was too long. Our overnight bus journey was till Hospet. It is small town situated near Hampi. We reached to Hospet far before the dawn. As soon as we disembarked, we found ourselves surrounded by local auto rickshaw drivers inviting us for a ride to Hampi. Hampi is around 12 kms away from Hospet. It was pitch dark and the mercury was way below the normal temperature. The roads were not anything like Mumbai, they were completely empty and small hamlets around were still in deep sleep. We reached Hampi quite early. Our auto driver took us to some houses in Hampi, who had lodging facilities.We finalized one room which cost us 600/- for single day.
After finalizing our room, we immediately left with our auto driver to witness the mesmerizing sunrise from a small hilltop which was 5 KMs away from our accommodation. We had to hike a little. Thankfully we reached on time to experience and capture the breathtaking Sunrise. That moment was quite memorable. I will personally suggest readers not to miss such amazing moment during your stay in Hampi & if you are going to spend more than one day in Hampi, then I would suggest you to view sunrise from Matang Hill. It is the highest point in that vicinity. First rays of the Sun brought life to heaps of ancient boulders. Day break unveiled magnificent canvas of stunning ruins of Vijayanagar. I was completely smitten by first encounter with Hampi at Daybreak. After clicking numerous photographs from hilltop we got down, went to the Malyawanth Raghunath Temple and returned to our accommodation. We freshened up, had some coffee in a small (but expensive) restaurant nearby. Till then our auto driver brought another autorickshaw driver for us. New autowallah’s name was Vikram Dikshit and the best part was that he was better acquainted with English.
We started from Kadalekalu Ganesa- a 15 feet tall monolithic giant statue of Ganesha was really a must watch, from there we headed towards one of the significant spot viz. Hemakuta hills where we came across Sasivekalu Ganesa (Musterd Seed Ganseha) at foothills. This idol is also 8 feet tall; unlike Kadalekalu Ganesha it is built in open pavilion. From backside, this statue looks like Lord Ganesha sitting in a lap of his mother- goddess Parvathi. Carving inconspicuous presence of Parvathi highlights difference of this structure.
There are many temples and mandapas, Gopuras can be seen on Hemkuta hills. Sunset from this hill is memorable as well. One of the sacred places of this lost city is Virupaksha Temple. We visited this majestic temple in evening.
Hampi boulders are considered to be one of the oldest stones of this planet. There are several myths that have been born around these structures. ‘Sister Stones’ is one of such structures, it is said that these boulders who had been cursed and ended up like this.
I must say if I decide to describe each and every structure of Hampi, I will definitely end up in writing a big book. But, to note a few Ugra Narsimha Shrine (which is one of the most popular structure of Hampi), Badavi Linga (Near 3 Meter High Shiv Linga, lower part is covered by water), royal enclosure, queen’s bath, elephant stable, Pansupari Bazaar, Mahanavami Dibba (an elevated platform for king to watch Vijayadashmi festivities), public bath, a stepped tank (Pushkarni) near Mahanavmi Dibba is wonderful construction. Among this crowd of temples, mandapas and markets one ruined market forced me to look at my rich heritage with different perspective and that was Courtesans street. Just near the Achyutraya temple an half a kilometer long row of pillars leading to vast stepped tank is nothing but market of various commodities like diamonds, gems, pearls, ivory and… Prostitutes.
Stepped tank at the end of this market is called Pushkarani. A small rectangular pavilion is built on a platform in the middle of the tank.
Near the bank of Tungbhadra, we arrived to Vijaya Vitthal temple Complex which had one of the constructions which now have become a symbol of the state- stone chariot. Stone tires and elephants engraved in boulder facing the temple as well as steps carved climbing to the top enclosure of this chariot.
In the same vicinity we came across centuries old architectural marvel. Kalyan Mandapa (Wedding platform) situated near Vitthal temple is having 56 musical stone pillars. Just gently patted on these pillars and they resonate soothing musical tunes. The sound from these pillars was equivalent to the music played by the DJs of 21st century.
As we were walking parallel to Tungabhadra we reached to Veerbhadra temple. One of the tourist attractions here is coracle ride in the river. Due to time constraint, I had to give a miss to this ride.
Hampi is so vast that one visit cannot satisfy the hungry traveller’s soul. But if you have less time in hand, you must ensure that your itinerary has the places that I have mentioned. Before returning to Hospet we again had a strong coffee in market, watching foreigners shopping around purchasing spiritual artefacts, purses, clothes etc.
Even after reaching Hospet, I could not get over the mesmerizing effect that the metropolis of Hampi had had on me. A visit to this largest open air museum will give you a feeling that you have just come out of a time travel machine. Therefore, my advice to all travellers to include Hampi in their must visit list of places.