Travelling: It leaves you speechless and then turns you into a storyteller. - Ibn Batuta.
But it had been more than a year that we had not travelled to a place we had never seen before. Due to time constraints from office duties we could plan only for a long weekend. When looking for options to travel nearby Pune and a stay for 3 days, we screened a few beaches, some hill stations and some resorts but nothing clicked to both of us. And then suddenly Hampi was on mind and me and Akshay agreed. So, the place and dates were finalized and now the plan was to be placed on papers. Later Pratik and Shalvi agreed to join us on the trip.
"How to reach Hampi from Pune?" was the first question on mind. We thought of Railways but we found no convenient train on the route. Then we thought if we could hire a taxi and drive to Hampi but a 600 kms night drive would have left us drained out. On further research we found that some private sleeper coach buses operate from Mumbai to Hospet via Pune, daily. Hospet is just 13-15 kms away from Hampi. All exited we booked for the travel to and fro.
So the next question was how to travel within Hampi? Many websites and blogs suggested hiring an auto/moped/bike/cycle etc. But we had also planned a day's travel to Badami caves, which were 120 kms away from Hospet. We hired a cab for 3 days which we booked online. Hampi and Hospet, together have many options for stay. We checked for few and then decided to book rooms in Hotel Royal Orchid Central, Hospet.
All planned, four of us left Pune on Friday night. The bus operator had arranged a shuttle to pick us up from the city. Although the shuttle was late, we boarded the bus from Katraj and it left on exact 11:00 pm as informed. The bus was clean and had good interiors but as promised it was not a multi-axle vehicle. Anyway, after some hours of chat we dozed off to sleep to wake up at intervals when the bus jerked or halted.
Next day early morning I woke to hear the bus helper screaming, "Dharodo, Dharodo". After a while I registered that he was screaming Dharwad in a South Indian accent. Few people got down and we continued our travel to reach Hubli after an hour or so. the bus stopped at a decent restaurant where we freshened up, had some tea and breakfast. It was 6:15 am and Hospet was still 150 kms ahead. I was surprised as the bus was scheduled to reach Hospet at 7:00 am but we would now take few more hours to reach.
Whatever, but we were in a mood to enjoy and the driver had projected a Telugu movie named Marchi on the screens. We were engaged in watching the movie and enjoying the landscapes which were similar to the northern Maharashtra region. Cotton and pulses growing in the fields and some water streams flowing around made the view scenic.
We later crossed a town named Gadag which housed many windmills and a huge statue of some political leader.
Everything was new hence exciting. Further we reached a town named Koppal which housed a huge and well built bus stand for the state transport buses. This was the place from where the landscapes started changing. We saw Hills in red colored stone. The stones were huge. This was a hint that we are nearing Hospet. And it was confirmed when we crossed the Tungabhadra Dam.
We reached Hospet at around 10:15am. As we got down from the bus, we were surrounded by group of atorickshaw drivers requesting us to hire their vehicle. We obediently hired 2 autos and paid the amount asked to reach the hotel as we were tired and we were not in a mood to negotiate.
The hotel was beautiful and had a beautiful lobby at the entrance, with a South Indian touch of decoration. We checked in and got ready in half an hour as we were eager to start our day today.
We got ready as early as possible to find the hired cab already waiting for us. The driver was dressed in white uniform and identified himself as Malli aka Mallikarjuna. He was upset as we were late by two hours but we had no alternative than being late as the bus was late. It was around 11:00 am in the clock and we were hungry by now. We decided to club our breakfast and lunch into brunch so that we need not take a break once we start with sight seeing.
We had lunch at Hotel Ice Land (one of the famous few) in Hospet and commenced our drive to Hampi which is around 15 kms from Hospet. Hampi being a historical town I expected a few temples and old buildings which appeared so, as we were nearing Hampi. As we reached closer,every direction housed at least one temple in some angle of the landscape. The hills and mountains were such that I thought someone had placed some stones one above the other. On first looks it seems that the the hills are the result of earthquake or volcano but the stones in Hampi are boulders caused due to erosion and weathering, making the stones rounded and detached from each other. Many stones surprisingly give a view as if they are just hanging or balancing on tiny base.
All amazed with the stones and number of temples, we reached the entrance of Hampi village.The name Hampi is actually derived from Pampa (Pampe/Hampe in Kannadda) which was anglicized during the British era. No wonder it sounds like an English name. So as we enter the area of Hampi which houses 2000 temples and 3000 mantapas spread over 25 sq. kms we feel a sense of ancient times. It's magnificent and monocolor structures instigate your mind to question the reasons for it's existence.
There is loooads of history associate with the Hampi and its monuments. Every structure has a different story and interpretations. Every time you hear or read about the related stories you have a different perspective for the structure. Overall, to summarize, these structures were built during the 13th to 15th century, which were later destructed partially by the various invaders in the kingdom and idols were demolished leaving the temples not worthy of worship as per the Hindu rules, as Hindus do not pray to broken idol. Now, Hampi is managed by Karnataka State tourism, and Archaeological survey of India.
So, Vittalla temple was our first stop. Electric cars are used to transport passengers for a 1.5 kms distance from gate to the monument. These electric cars suffice various needs; one, reduction of pollution in the vicinity of temple; two, employment to locals and three, managing the in and out flow of visitors. Interestingly, all these cars were managed and driven by young female staff. As we reached the entrance, we purchased the tickets to visit the monument where we were informed that the same ticket could be used for lotus temple, elephant stable etc. which are included in the list of Hampi group of monuments under the UNESCO world heritage sites.
The first step at the entrance had this carving. Later, we saw similar carvings in entrance of many villages. These carving depicts sashtang namaskaar, which is an expression of respect towards the God residing in the temple. As we entered we saw a huge area with many buildings built in stones all of which had a different story. We had hired a guide who took us through a marathon visit to complete vicinity and completed telling us the history of the temple in 10 min.
The first highlight of this temple was the stone chariot which is surrounded by many buildings, the back of the chariot is facing the entrance. The chariot looks monolithic but actually the joints are camouflaged under the carvings. The stone horses of the chariots were damaged/destroyed (remnants of which are still visible) and hence stone elephants from different structure were later placed in front of the chariot. This is one of the three ancient stone chariots in India.
The Pandurang and Rukmini statue which is now heart-fully worshipped in Pandharpur in Maharashtra was original resident of this temple which was migrated by devotees to Maharashtra during invasions to save it from destruction.
This temple also houses a musical building which has number pillars which emits sounds of various musical instruments when stroked by wooden sticks. This was used as a place of entertainment and a dancer named Chinnadevi along with her troupe used to perform her art during the 14th/15th century. These are monolithic pillars with different sizes and the distance between two pillars is carefully used such that these produce sounds with different frequencies which sounds like various musical instruments. Our guide produced sounds of Tabla and Ghatam from two different pillar in adjacent building using his finger.
We then went through all the structures and mantapams of the campus, paid the guide and stopped by to click some pictures. As we climbed some fallen structures to capture some hills behind the wall we were enjoying mild breeze after which we saw rains approaching towards us. Till the time we ran to find some shelter under one of the mantapams, few rain drops caught us, it was a soothing surprise after a humid encounter with Hampi.
Now, this was something I was waiting for. Something unexpected, out of the plan. I enjoy rains from the windows and this was a perfect window and such a beautiful place. The campus got deserted within few seconds and it was we, rain and its drizzling sound. Some children from another group who took shelter under same mantapam were playing and chterring which didn't disturb my conversation with the view.
The chariot looked even more beautiful behind the hazy view of rains. As if it was there so that I could see it. It felt like being in some bollywood movie. I was loving this time.
As the time passed the rains slowed down, and we were waiting in queue to catch the car back to the parking lot. This experience had to continue, sensing which, Malli took us to a not-very-popular temple of Malyavantha Raghunatha. More than the temple it was the hill behind the temple which gave a on-the-top view of Hampi and its ruins.
This temple had more stories and more information. But experiencing the breeze, the silence the history, the company and THE satisfaction was no where comparable.. This was the place where we realized the presence of a diverse wildlife midst the stones and structures
What would have been the aura of this place when it was actually functional for the reason it was built!! It was so huge, so large and so magnificient!! The city/town whatever it was would have been so rich and lively.
In this awe, we reached the Mahanavmi dibba site by our car to find a huge area which housed the residences, stepped-well, court platforms and many other structures. All carved in stones with various designs.
The most interesting places were the Pushkarni well, which is a stepped well surrounded by huge stone pipes which collect the water from the surroundings and drop it in the well.
It was huge and a beautiful well. We then went to a underground house which was deserted, dark and frightening, we entered through one door and came out from the other with the help of mobile torches. It was occupied with bats and some large earthworms.. but 'Majja aali'. When I was back on the ground I really felt victorious. Sometimes, even small and tiny victories make you feel happy.
All enriched we left for the regular sight seeing places like queens bath which was not so worth spending the time and now words.
We quickly ran through it to head towards the area which houses the lotus temple, elephant stable and many other structures. The entry ticket we bought at the Vittalla temple was valid at this place too. We were now tired of walking, but this was the last place we would be visiting today hence we kept our spirits high and went through all beautiful monuments
We were really tired, but Malli wasn't. He wanted us to see the Hazara Raama temple and the Paataleshwara (Underground temple of Shiva). They were closed by the time we reached this temple.. Ahh! But we roped in from a small cut to the fencing of the temple. This was fun than just visiting the place. Hazara Raama temple is a royal temple which has the black granite pillars. This is the only temple where we saw such kind of stonepillars.
Beautiful and serene. The walls of this temple we carved completely describing many animals, reptiles and fishes.
What were these people in that century?? What technology did they use to built something so huge, durable and yet beautiful?? All was so wonderful today.. to add to it, a horse came grazing towards our direction as if it was waving us good bye.. It was 6 in the clock and it was not end of the day.
On reaching our hotel, it was time to relax. Except me, other felt to take a dip in the swimming pool and I joined reluctantly. We ha dour dinner in the room and laid back for a really good night sleep... :)