Memories of Hampi continue to captivate me even after a year and a half of visiting the place. The pictures etched in my mind are as sharp as the stone carvings in Hampi. It was my first planned trip to a place of historical importance. As a child, my parents took me along to Hampi and many other historical places. I never enjoyed those trips. I tagged behind fussing and complaining about the bat odour in ancient buildings.
My way of dealing with these places was to imagine that I lived during the times of these Palaces/Monuments. I used to picture myself in royal stories.The stories happened to be a mixture of my imagination and the real history of the place which I would half-heartedly hear from the guide my parents hired. As I grew up, my parents' passion for traveling and exploring historical places rubbed on me. I started dreaming and making travel plans as and when I was free. One day, while I was browsing for places,I came across Hampi.
Two weeks after that;Bang!I was off to Hampi for a weekend with a couple of my friends. I was in awe of Hampi's beauty. The skill, handwork and intelligence of the people involved in building the monuments perplexed me. Unlike my childhood trips, I was genuinely interested to know the history and details of the stone-carved buildings and temples. History says "Such was the glory of the Vijayanagara Empire that houses had no doors ; precious gems and pearls were sold on the roads. Trust was the word which existed in the ideal Vijayanagara Empire".
The little girl in me never ceased to exist. I could imagine myself being in the Vijayanagara times strolling in the diamond market; living in the kingdom where houses had no doors. My intention here is to write what I exactly went through in Hampi. So, I decided to put myself in the shoes of one of the citizens of Vijayanagara who died during the Sultanate invasion[Imaginary Story Alert!]. But, was reborn in the Kaliyuga(that is now).This is about how she decides to visit her hometown from her previous birth ; her sentiments when she sees her home, her town, her people.
Vijayanagara was destroyed and broken, but not dead. The artistic and architectural wonder stood there still, beautiful and heart warming. So here begins the story! "Nagalakshmi was my name" exclaims, Siri. "Are you crazy?" says her friend Adya. At least Vandana listens to her silently. But Adya cannot believe Siri's words. Moreover, she gets worried. Siri claims that she had lived during the reign of the Vijayanagara kings.
Siri always had the habit of talking in her sleep. Vandana and Adya having seen her since hostel days had just brushed it off. But Siri's dreams were different. She had gradually realized that her dreams were memories of her previous birth. She got similar dreams almost every night. She had been dreaming about them ever since she was a kid. As she grew up, she realized that her dreams weren't usual dreams. And with every passing year, she could identify with her previous life. She had never confided about this to anyone as she knew that no one would believe her.
Siri knew Adya and Vandana since her Engineering Hostel days and even now they lived with her in Bangalore. Hence, she breaks this news about her dual life to them. After a lot of discussion and introspection, Adya and Vandana come to terms with the fact that Siri was in truth a girl who sold and supplied flowers to the royal family of the Vijayanagara Empire. She was named Nagalakshmi, after the great emperor Krishnadevaraya's Queen mother Nagala Devi. Nagalakshmi had lived during the reign of Aliya Rama Raya(son in law of King Krishnadevaraya).
She died at a tender age of 18 years when the Deccan Sultanate army invaded the Vijayanagara Empire.This invasion also marked the decline of the great Empire. Siri always feared visiting Hampi as she was unsure of how it would affect her. But from the past two years, her longing to visit her hometown had become too much. After a week or two of opening up to her friends, a weekend trip to Hampi is planned. Siri wishes to stay longer but Adya and Vandana cannot afford to take leaves.
The three girls board the Hampi Express from Majestic Railway Station on a Friday night and reach early next day morning. They travel to Hampi by an auto from Hospet Station. Siri's heart skips a beat when she catches a glimpse of the Virupaksha Temple as they near the Tungabhadra river flowing beside Hampi. She continues to gaze at the temple and the ruins around. Finally, her friends drag her to their accommodation at Shanthi Guest House in Virupapur Gadde.It is also called as Hippie Island as a large number of foreign tourists stay there for months to explore Hampi.
This was the place where Nagalakshmi's neighbor Ramanna worked. He owned a small factory which made crossbows. It was beside the Matanga Hill. This place is on the other side of Hampi i.e across the Tungabhadra river. The girls happily cross the river on the ferry and check in to the Guest House. As they ride back to Hampi, towards the Virupaksha temple,Siri is unable to keep her excitement to herself . As the ferry floats towards their destination, her eyes well up with tears.