Magic in Monuments - Hampi and around

3rd Jan 2014
Photo of Magic in Monuments - Hampi and around 1/17 by Mahuya Paul
Sasivekalu Ganesha @ Hemakuta Hill, Hampi
Photo of Magic in Monuments - Hampi and around 2/17 by Mahuya Paul
Entrance to the Vitthala Temple, Hampi
Photo of Magic in Monuments - Hampi and around 3/17 by Mahuya Paul
Durga Temple @ Aihole
Photo of Magic in Monuments - Hampi and around 4/17 by Mahuya Paul
Stone Chariot @ the Vitthala Temple, Hampi
Photo of Magic in Monuments - Hampi and around 5/17 by Mahuya Paul
Virupaksha Temple @ Pataddakal
Photo of Magic in Monuments - Hampi and around 6/17 by Mahuya Paul
Stepped Tank @ Hampi
Photo of Magic in Monuments - Hampi and around 7/17 by Mahuya Paul
Lotus Mahal @ the Zenana Enclosure, Hampi
Photo of Magic in Monuments - Hampi and around 8/17 by Mahuya Paul
Tungabhadra River
Photo of Magic in Monuments - Hampi and around 9/17 by Mahuya Paul
Blessings by Lakshmi, behind Virupaksha Templ
Photo of Magic in Monuments - Hampi and around 10/17 by Mahuya Paul
Sunset @ Hemakuta Hill, Hampi
Photo of Magic in Monuments - Hampi and around 11/17 by Mahuya Paul
Badami Cave Temples
Photo of Magic in Monuments - Hampi and around 12/17 by Mahuya Paul
Monkey Business - 1
Photo of Magic in Monuments - Hampi and around 13/17 by Mahuya Paul
Monkey Business - 2
Photo of Magic in Monuments - Hampi and around 14/17 by Mahuya Paul
Queen's Bath, Hampi
Photo of Magic in Monuments - Hampi and around 15/17 by Mahuya Paul
Vigraha Narasimha, Hampi
Photo of Magic in Monuments - Hampi and around 16/17 by Mahuya Paul
Worshipping the Badavilinga
Photo of Magic in Monuments - Hampi and around 17/17 by Mahuya Paul
The Elephant Stable @ Zennana Enclosure

My trip was a leisure trip  - meaning, a trip that is not too strenuous for my 63 year old mother. Accordingly, I took the Hampi Express from Bangalore @  10:20 pm and reached Hospet @ 8 am the next day. We checked in the hotel and after breakfast went for the tour. 

Hampi is a photographer's paradise. You can tell it by the number of pictures I have shared here. It is like a natural photographic set up. You step into the complex, and you are transposed to a different era all together. Everywhere you see, there are ruins around you. And it's breathtakingly beautiful! As I always say, hire a guide (1200 INR for a day) and he will make sure that you cover all the major places within a day. It's doable. Since there were five of us, we booked a Tavera. You can also take an auto for 600 INR a day. And you can book bicycles (30 INR) or mopeds (150 INR) too. Just be careful of the extreme heat, anytime of the year. So a hat is highly, highly recommended, along with sunglasses, water bottles, and good walking shoes.

We started at the Hemakuta Hills only to discover that it has the most famous sunset point. So we decided to come back in the evening for the sunset. We went to the following places in the same order:

  • Hampi Bazaar
  • Virupaksha temple
  • Sri Krishna Temple  with the sacred Pushkarani
  • Ugra Narasimha Vigraha and the Badavalinga
  • Hazara Rama Jain Temple

All these are in the same area. We also walked down to the Tungabhadra river banks behind the Virupaksha temple and spent some time there. By then we were hungry, so went off to the much talked about Mango Grove Restaurant. I think its a safe bet. Clean, homely, and the right kind of crowd. :)

Post lunch we went to the next batch of attractions:

  • Zenana Enclosure that includes the Lotus Mahal and the Elephant Stables
  • Underground Chamber (Stepped Tank)
  • Queen’s Bath

The last bit is what is specifically known as the Hampi group of monuments and consists of the Vitthala Temple with the Stone Chariot, and the musical Mandapas. Once we were done, we came back to the Hemakuta Hill Temple complex to watch the sunset with loads of tourists and wait-for-it ... monkeys! Be careful of monkeys at Hampi. They are everywhere. And always looking to snatch your food. 

The next day we had an early breakfast and drove for around 2.5 hours to reach Aihole. After checking the Aihole temple complex and surroundings for approximately 1.5 hrs, we drove to the Patadakkal monuments. The drive takes approx. 30 mins. We hired a guide (INR 350) who explained the history and architecture of the group of monuments here. We spent around 2 hrs and drove to Badami which is approximately 22 kms. We had lunch @ the Badami Heritage Resort that offers South Indian Thali for INR 90. After resting a while, we drove to the Badami caves and instantly fell in love with the unbelievably humongous structure. The guide here was costlier (INR 500) but much older, and extremely knowledgeable. We spent almost 3 hours at the caves, climbing from one cave to the next and listening to the wonderful history. At each level, you can see the Panorama of the Badami village with all its historical glory, the Agastya Tank and the almond colored mountains. 

At sunset, we had tea at a highly over hyped restaurant, the name of which I have conveniently forgotten, and took the Golgumbaz Express @ 7:15 pm back to Bangalore. 

It is believed that this temple has been functioning uninterruptedly ever since its inception in the 7th century AD. Virupaksha Temple is one of the two functional temples in Hampi, the other being Malyavanta Raghunatha Temple. The rest of the temples have been damaged some way or other and not fit for Puja. Tip: Get blessings from Lakshmi, the temple elephant. The more money you pay, the more time she holds her trunk over your head. And by more money, I don't mean 100s. A 10 rupee note will give you enough thrill to last a lifetime. :) Also check for the inverted shadow of the Gopuram from a particular point.
Photo of Virupaksha Temple, River Road, Hampi, Karnataka, India by Mahuya Paul
Zenana enclosure was a secluded area reserved for the royal women. The major attraction is the Lotus Mahal located at the southeast corner. The path to the other locations like the Elephant Stable, Guard’s Quarters and a few other temples’ runs through the center of this area. The whole area is now made into a sort of open garden with sprawling lawns. You can see people take nap under the trees in the noontime. A good site map too is located in this area, if you need to (you will need to!) reassure your location and the next direction. Reserve about 1 hour plus to roam and explore this area.
Photo of Zenana Enclosure, Karnataka, India by Mahuya Paul
As the epicenter of Hampi’s attractions, Vittala Temple is the most extravagant architectural showpiece of Hampi. Two things stood out for me: 1. The Stone Chariot, famously known as Kallina Ratha, is symbolic of the artistic perfection of the Vijaynagar Empire at the Vijaya Vittala Temple. Krishnadevaraya had come across the chariot at the Konark Sun Temple in Orissa while waging war on other states. He was so impressed that he decided to construct a similar structure. 2. The Musical Pillars at the Mahamandapam, so called because you can actually produce musical sound by tapping on the rock-solid pillars. Unfortunately we could not test out the musical quality of the pillars, since too many people have tried it resulting in breaking one of the pillars a few years back.
Photo of Vitthala Temple, Village Road, Nimbapura, Karnataka, India by Mahuya Paul
The Mango Tree Restaurant is situated right behind the Virupaksha Temple near the Hampi Bazaar. It was bustling with people and activity when we reached there for lunch. I noticed more foreigners than Indians and I noticed that the menu also offers middle eastern cuisine along with south Indian thalis and other stuff. You can either take any of the tables, or sit cross-legged Indian style for a more laid back experience. You have to take off your shoes here. Note that, this is NOT the original place where the Restaurant used to be - overlooking the Tungabhadra. This is a temporary arrangement. I am not sure if it would move to the original place.
Photo of Mango Tree Restaurant, Hampi Bazaar Street, Karnataka, India by Mahuya Paul
I spent the entire day happy and upbeat in the hope of relaxing at the Sunset point in the evening. It's a vast area and you can choose your spot. Its beautiful anywhere. Everyone gathers here around 5.45 -ish, when the sky starts becoming red, and some continue to stay on long after it's dark. Tip: Beware of the monkeys. Do not carry packets, plastic or otherwise, the monkeys snatch them away. Do carry a camera. You would want to capture every moment. but then again, chuck the camera. Enjoy the lovely moment. It's an extraordinary feeling.
Photo of Sunset Point, Hampi by Mahuya Paul
Aihole is the temple town of the Chalukyas. The town has around 100 small temples - the most famous ones are the Durga Temple, Lad Khan Temple, and Ravana Phadi cave temple. You may choose to spend 4-5 hours to see all the temples, specially if you have gone there for photography, or you can check out the main ones that I mentioned, and move on to your next destination.
Photo of Aihole, Karnataka, India by Mahuya Paul
At Pattadakal, when the Chalukya kings were crowned, in the middle of the 7th century, temple building activity shifted from Badami to Pattadakal. There are ten temples here, four are in Nagara (Northern, Indo-Aryan) style and six are in Dravidian style. The largest of all the temples in Pattadakal is Virupaksha temple. There are numerous Kannada language inscriptions at Pattadakal. Tip: Hire a guide. It's worth knowing the history of the temples and the architecture.
Photo of Pattadakal World Heritage site, Pattadakal, Karnataka, India by Mahuya Paul
The Badami Cave temples are a magic world withing themselves. The first thing you will notice is that they are almost red in color! The name Badami comes from the almond(badam)-colored rocks. There are five caves - one natural, and the rest man-made, each with a tremendous history of its own. All monolithic and each time, you have to climb up a few steps to reach to the next one. Its a little strenuous, but the moment you reach a level, the beauty takes your breath away and you wanna explore more.
Photo of Badami Cave temples, Badami, Karnataka, India by Mahuya Paul
We reached here tired, hungry, and totally drained of energy after 5 hours of driving, exploring in the hot sun, and full of dust. The Resort was like an Oasis in the desert. It is situated at the backdrop of the Badami caves, away from the hustle- bustle, green and very welcoming. We freshened up and settled for the South Indian thali which cost INR 90. The food was good.
Photo of The Heritage Resort, Badami by Mahuya Paul
The hotel is literally two minutes walk from the railway station. So great choice in terms of location. I also got a very good deal on, so the money I spent was really worth it. Nice, neat, spacious rooms. Great food. Service was fine. There were no toiletries. But since my halt was for one night only, I did not much care. I think if you ask housekeeping, they will provide you with all that. There is a good restaurant, a bakery and a nice bar.
Photo of Hotel Hampi International by Mahuya Paul
The Tungabhadra River I am talking about is the one that you can walk to behind the Virupaksha temple. It is refreshing after your long exploration inside the temple. This is a perfect place where you can watch life unfolding on the banks of a river - just as a civilization is meant to be - while sipping away on the cooling tender coconuts.
Photo of Tungabhadra River, Andhra Pradesh, India by Mahuya Paul