Hampi – A Land Of Ruins

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2015-10-16

Unless you are living under a rock chances of you not hearing about Hampi is absolutely minimal. Branded as a UNESCO heritage site Hampi is one of the sought after travel destination in India. We a group of 5 decided to have a weekend gateway at Hampi.

Hampi lies around 350 km from Bangalore and is an easy overnight journey via train or bus. The nearest city to Hampi is Hospet and it is where you have to get down from your bus or train to reach Hampi. When considering cost factor train is the easier option but since we were brilliant tour planners we ended up travelling in Airavat buses run by KSRTC. We started around 11 pm from Bangalore and reached Hospet bus stand around 5 am. You have to wait till 6 for the first bus to Hampi and we caught the first bus which barely had anyone else other than us that early in the morning. Within minutes we reached our guest house which was situated within 250 meters of Virupaksha temple. The rooms rent was around 1000 per night and luckily I had booked the rooms online where I could get the same room way cheaper than what the host was offering directly. Even though the room rent was on a higher side when  you can get the same kind of room way cheaper in Hospet, but there is a beauty  and peace when  going to sleep and waking up with Hampi which you will never get in Hospet as it is much more a city.  So I strongly recommend any one making visits to Hampi to stay in Hampi itself as you can enjoy the beauty of Hampi village at night and also significantly cut down your travelling.

We checked in got ourselves a hot bath and took food from the same guest house. They were providing breakfast while for lunch and dinner you have to go outside and it is the common theme around all guest house in these areas. Around 9 30 we were ready to roam Hampi.  The best way to see the south of the river (The main area containing Virupaksha temple and other ruins) is to get a rickshaw if you are on a tight schedule as we were. We had barely 2 days / 1 night and, to see everything in Hampi in that time frame is asking too much.  It is always better to plan your Hampi visit for 3 days or more if you have to see all the ruins and indulge in their beauty. If you plan for more days you can easily rent a bicycle and roam and get lost in the villages of Hampi which will indeed be a gorgeous experience. But never try to do that for a 2 day trip as you will barely make to two ruins before being dehydrated and exhausted in the extreme hot and humid conditions of Hampi. We found a rickshaw whose driver was willing to accommodate 5 people and show almost all the ruins till 7 pm that day for 200 bucks a person.  If you know local dialect you can bring down the cost as low as 120 – 100 per person.

The first location we visited was Hemakutta hill and nearby Sasivekalu Ganesha and other ruins. The common theme about all the ruins are that they were built around 1500 AD during the golden era of Vijayanagara Empire. Here we can see a big monolithic statue Ganesha around 2.4 meters long and is enclosed in open pillar pavilion. An inscription engraved in the rock stated that it was built around 1506 AD in the memory of Narashimha 2nd. Going further into Hemakutta hills we could see many more ruins which I believe were temples from the architectural perspective. Getting to the top we reached the Sunset point and I strongly recommend not to miss any sunsets in Hampi because they are glorious. Going further we could see many more ruins and the opposite side of the Hemakutta hill we will be able to see the Virupaksha temple. (See the panorama photo uploaded) Nearby by this place we saw some temples which our rickshaw driver told us were the Jain temples. But as per some of the Google search results they we not really Jain temples but was called so later on because of their architectural similarity to Jain temples. One can easily spend 2-3 hours going through Hemakutta hills. Since our time was limited we cut short on the area and proceeded to the next location.

Next location was also nearby. Here we could see Lakshmi Narashihma temple and Badaviling temple that is situated side by side. Lakshmi Narashihma temple also is commonly mistaken as Ugra Narashihma temple and even Google and guides will say so, but if you are careful enough to read the information boards kept nearby these temples you will very much understand the truth that it is not Ugra Narashihma but Lakshmi Narashimha. People have mistaken this structure because the face of the sculpture was damaged. This is also a monolithic structure standing around 6.7 meters long. But currently state of the sculpture is agonizingly bad as the roof where the structure stood is missing. Also the four hands are missing and as explained earlier even damages have occurred to the face causing misunderstanding in people. Located side by side to it is Badaviling temple that houses a large monolithic Shiva linga of 3 meters long. The Shiva linga is housed inside a building and is surrounded by water.

By this time we were starting to feel the grip of heat and humidity of Hampi as we ran out of all the water we carried with us. Whenever you are travelling in Hampi make sure you have more water than what you think because it gets really hot in Hampi.

Next the Rickshaw driver took us to the Underground Shiva temple. The temple is so called as the roof of the temple is with the present ground level, and as you would have guessed the Shiva Linga in the temple is surrounded by water. But if you are adventurous you go inside the temple and see the Shiva Linga by meandering through the water. There is a lady commissioned by the government of Karnataka who will go with you. But be advised not to go into the water if you have any cuts or wounds as the water is very dirty. Also while going in mind your step else you might fall into the water which will never be a pleasant experience. I wasn’t adventurous enough to go into the water but one of my friends was. He was able to make it to the end and see the Shiva Linga and a lot of lots of bats. We spend around 1 hour here before making our way back to the rickshaw. From here we went Mohamadden watch tower. One can get a panoramic view of Hampi from the observation deck built here.

By this time we were completely exhausted and we asked the rickshaw driver to take us back to the guest house which he did without any complaints. We rested for a while and then made our way to a Hotel named Mango tree which is by far the best hotel in Hampi. So during the peak hours you might need to wait outside to get yourselves a table or even a place on the ground. Yes they have ground seating in nice comfortable cushions. We wanted to try he ground seating but was never able to as it was always occupied and most requested space. The Mango tree is affordable and won’t cut a hole in your pocket. We very much liked the food here and so we decided to have our dinner from here itself.

After lunch we started our exploration at 3pm. Next destination was elephant stable. It was a large building where the kings of yester years housed their elephants. Near by the Elephant stable was the Lotus Mahal which is another architectural marvel. We stayed around 1 hour here. By this time our driver was telling us that we were missing so many places and to hurry up, but we had decided not to see all of Hampi for name sake but to enjoy the experience of seeing whatever we can.

After an hour we left for Vijaya Vittala temple. In case you had seen any images of Hampi one would definitely be of a stone chariot inside the Vijaya Vittala temple. Vittala temple is located the farthest away from the Hampi village and is one of the places to visit in Hampi. Miss whatever else never miss this place. The government is trying everything to protect this temples and its nearby ruins. For this purpose only private vehicles are not allowed near the temple complex. One has to either get a bus run by Karnataka government or a non-polluting vehicle which is also available on request. Only a single bus will be available to and fro and it will be jam packed all the time. As the bus gets moving you will kind of feel a transformation of the surroundings with sightings of many ruins and long stretch of pillars on the side of the mud road leading up to the temple complex. On the way you can also see a small pond which would have been used for temple usage. In 5 minutes we reached the temple. We had initially bought passes from the elephant stable enclosure so we flashed it and entered inside. The inside view is breath taking. You can see monuments left right and centre. As we entered into the complex we could see a crowd gathering and it was the crowd of people wanting to see and take photos with stone chariot. Majestic in its architecture stone chariot is a monolithic rock transformed into a shape on chariot with two small elephants in the front which seems to be pulling the chariot… Vittala temple complex is a photographers paradise a must visit during sunset. In fact no one should visit the temple any other time than sun set because the orange colour of sunsets gives so much vibrancy to the ancient structure and it is a beauty that you shouldn’t miss. I would also encourage you to take a guide from this place since there is a lot of knowledge to gather from here. We spent around 2 hours in the complex and I was shooting pictures at all angles possible. This place was in fact the Aha moment of the trip and the number one reason I want to go back to Hampi.

Since we didn’t know the timings of the bus and how late it will run we decided to leave here by 6 30. Luckily buses were available at that time. We went back and the rickshaw driver next took us to the Royal enclosure. This place was kind of barren and had nothing much except a foundation of a pavilion and a small stepped pond. We hardly spent 1 hour there, by that time it was around 7 and Hampi was slowly going to sleep. Since it is a village people are less on road and often not seen at night. So it is highly advisable to return to your guest house unless you are escorted by a guide.

We reached our guest house within minutes. The rickshaw driver was more than happy with the 1000 bucks we gave to him. We had a bath and took dinner from mango tree and slowly worn off to sleep with Hampi Village.

Next morning first thing in our itinerary was to see Virupaksha temple which was nearby our guesthouse. We reached here by 9 30. This is supposed to be one of the few temples of the Vijayanagara Empire’s era which is still in use. As soon you enter the temple on the left you can see an elephant giving blessings to the pilgrims and tourists. Give 10 rupees she will give you her blessings. Most of the time this is the most crowded place of the temple. Inside the temple you’re greeted by a wholesome of monkeys which dwell on the most amazing carvings. We must salute the sculptors from the golden era of Vijayanagara Empire for this amazing carvings. Walk to the backside of the temple one can see an arrow mark pointing to a corner. On reaching here we saw a small hole has been put on the wall and through this wall an inverted shadow of the temple’s Gopura is casted on the walls. This throws light into the fact that people from those glorious days of the past was not only brilliant in sculpting but also in science. We exited through the back exit and found our way to another pond at the back of the temple. We halted there for a while before exiting the temple complex.

Next thing to do on our list was to cross the Tungabhadra River. One can easily get a boat run by locals here hop on one and you can cross it inside a minute. If autos was the way on south of the river, Scooters are the way to go in the north of the river. We got ourselves 3 gearless scooters for 250 quid each for a day. One has to submit a valid id proof for renting the scooters which will be returned upon the end of the day when you return the scooter. On taking the scooter we rode across a muddy road for almost one kilometre to reach the highway. The highway is one that connects Hospet to Gangavathi which is another town north of the river. The highway is mostly deserted making it easier for ride without worrying too much about traffic. As we breezed past the highway we saw a board for a temple whose name I had forgotten by now. The temple was above a small hill and by the time we reached there it was completely crowded. The temple was still in use and a marriage was going on there. We quickly exited from there and went to Chintamani which is another temple in the banks of the river Tungabhadra and is currently not in use. Since none of us didn’t speak kanada also we found it extremely difficult to find our way to this place as it was situated in a remote place. By the time we reached here it was already past noon. The place was completely deserted and had a handful of tourists and locals who came to the banks of the river for washing clothes. On entering to the top of the building one can get a panoramic view of the Tungabhadra River. After dwelling here for some time we decided to have lunch and the problem was there was no good hotels nearby. We didn’t find any place worthwhile on the road. So we decided to make use of our vehicle and go on a road trip to Gangavathi and it was the best decision we took. I highly recommend you to kind this ride if you have time because the beauty of the Hampi village is astonishing. It was full of green everywhere and was a feast for our eyes.

Since the road was deserted we reached Gangavathi in no time. This place also sadly had no good restaurants. We somehow found an average restaurant nearby the KSRCT stand and had our lunch from here. On the return journey we stopped at numerous places to enjoy the village sceneries and to click pictures and it cost us time. Plenty of time infect us directly went back and returned the vehicles as it was 5 already. Even though you can return the vehicles late also the boat service stops after 6pm and then crossing the river becomes time consuming and expensive and you have to make a one hour journey to cross it via road. Fortunately we were in time and we reached the south of the river without any problems.

We returned to our guest house. Since we still had four hours left for our bus from Hospet I decided to make use of this time to see sunset from the Hemakutta hill. It was only a 5 minute climb from our guest house. The beauty of the Hampi sunset was marvellous even though it was somewhat obscured by the clouds. By the time sun had set we were running short of time as the last bus to Hospet from Hampi leaves at 8. If you miss this bus then you have to rely on autos who can charge you up to 500 for late night drops. So we decided not to take chances and packed our things and bid adieu to Hampi.

Hampi may not be for everyone to visit. But if you are slightly inclined to the history of our country or you have a deep love for photography Hampi is definitely the place to be in. The history of these ruins dates back to 1300 AD and even before that in some cases. In case of photography you always have a memory card full of images to capture starting from nature’s incredible sunset and sunrise to the architectural marvels to even the people and wildlife of these locations and it definitely doesn’t disappoint.

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