One could call the city of Hampi as a ‘forgotten empire’. A land that centuries ago brimmed with prosperity, industrious population and wealth, soon seized and reduced to ruins that today stands as an attraction for multitude of tourists. Now listed as one of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Hampi draws you back in time only to welcome you to the lost kingdom of Vijayanagara.
Surrender yourself to the history, to the silence, to the stones, to the magic, to the air and to the culture- that is when you attain serenity. This is the enticing spirit of Hampi.
As the bus maneuvers through the narrow roads, enclosed within the realm of hunched coconut trees, you are gradually transported to an enchanted land. With the bright sun shining to the east and a canopy of deep blue sky, you are surrounded by a fence of giant boulders that seem to relentlessly guard this ancient kingdom.
The bus ride marks an end at the bustling Hampi Bazaar. Lined with tiny cart-like shops on either sides, the bazaar is decked throughout with glistening jewelry, handmade bags and other enticing items. Stepping out, you are welcomed into the heart of Hampi- central to which lies the magnificent Virupaksha Temple. With intricately designed architecture, this colossal structure stands erect, as though beaming with pride and honor. It is at this very moment that our journey back in time, to the lost kingdom, truly begins!
Hampi is a massive expanse of architectural and historical marvels. While the guide will most certainly tour you through them, what you would miss out on would be exploring the corners less-visited. So to experience the true essence of Hampi, one must put on their explorer’s hat and set out on an adventure to create a unique and magical experience.
As you make your way to the Virupaksha temple, take a small detour to the right. Walk up the rising hill and halt at a point when you witness a breathtaking sight- a sight that encapsulates the entire Hampi in one frame. The sheer beauty has a magnetic effect that nails your feet to the ground, making you want to freeze time for eternity.
If there is one place where you must grab a bite, it’s at the Mango Tree restaurant. You can comfortably seat yourself (or even lie down) on the mattresses laid out on the floor, resting your exhausted body on the fluffy cushions that readily await you. The unique interior design, and the heart-filling meal, rejuvenates you and motivates you to resume the unfinished journey.
Sitting atop the sunset point (that once carried the throne of King Krishna Deva Raya), set your eyes on the round orange sphere that seems to be magically floating high on an ombre of orange sky. Settling to the serenity, let time do it’s magic. As the sun rays slowly descend, the surrounding silence will freeze you in the moment. With your mind now blank, the world around you seemingly comes to a halt and you feel as though peace has finally been attained.
The soul of Hampi lies within the perennial waves of the Tungabhadra River. These strong currents are merely battled with the circular coracles- a lightweight boat, woven together with grasses and reeds, in some ways reminding you of the tiny basket, in which mothers lovingly place their little infants. One may wonder the strength of the coracle to withstand the lashing waves, but nature in some way always seems to have an answer. This bowl-shaped boat is swiftly rowed through the narrow passage, bound within mountains of giant boulders, caringly taking you to the other side.
Step down to the other side of Hampi, and you are off to discover new corners- mainly the land of Hippies. The journey to this solitary zone is most certainly a back breaking one. Hop into an auto rickshaw, and get set to experience a ride unlike never before. The curvy roads, rocky pathways- all make you wish that you were a lot more fit. But on halting, the sight ahead of you helps fade the pain away. A village decorated with graffiti walls, restaurants, billboards, houses- in short a world contrasting to the boulders. It was quite unbelievable to have known that a place such as this existed amidst the rubble. The village mainly houses Israelis who are seeking to find a new way of life. One may call it escapism, and others as living on the edge. Something about this place sets you off on a trance, intoxicating your mind to drift away from reality. Walking through the streets you are welcomed with sign boards that question the functioning of our society and the right to live life in one’s own way. An experience truly unforgettable- that’s what this little village in the southern part of India truly offers you.
Using a ticket worth Rs. 10, seat yourself on a ferry that rides you back to the lost kingdom. Guide yourself to the various historical sites which include- the Virupaksha temple, Vittala Temple, Stone Chariot, Sister Rocks, Hajara Rama temple, Lotus Mahal, Elephant Stable, Pushkarni, Underground Shiva Temple and many more marveling spots.
Every dilapidated rock, pillar and wall narrates a tale- a tale that was written centuries ago. Hampi today, though merely a tourist spot, has chapters of history seeded within itself. Unravel these stories, make new discoveries and go on a time travel to the lost kingdom of Vijayanagara!