World Heritage Site.What exactly does that mean? Wikipedia states that it is a site 'having cultural, historical, scientific or some other form of significance, and they are legally protected by international treaties'. It 'symbolizes a remarkable footprint of extreme human endeavour often coupled with some act of indisputable accomplishment of humanity which then serves as a surviving evidence of its intellectual existence on the planet'
Hampi is a World Heritage Site. And I could see why. It is a city complex of ruins of spectacular structures. And it is spread around a huge area. Hampi was once the Capital of the Vijayanagar Empire. At the height of its prosperity they developed their capital city Hampi into one of the finest cities of India. But after the Battle of Talikota in the year 1565 the city of Hampi was reduced to ruins. It never recovered after that. Last weekend I spent two days there exploring the ruins with my friend Bhanu.
It was a wet morning as I arrived at Hampi. The skies were overcast with the look of imminent rainfall anytime. As I alighted from the bus,I was greeted with the sight of the imposing Virupaksha Temple.The path leading up to it was still damp from the previous nights rain. The builders of this temple are still unknown. It is said that it existed even before the time of Vijayanagar Empire. As I was looking around I spotted Bhanu waving at me from a street ahead. He had arrived a couple of hours earlier and had already booked a hotel in the small Hampi Village. I was much thankful for that. As I had to change 3 buses from Nellore to Hampi ,I was mighty tired. We walked into the main area of the Hampi village,through narrow lanes to our hotel. The village is quite strange. It is lined with homes converted to shops,restaurants and hotels. I suspect since they are in a World Heritage Site no new construction has been allowed. So everything in the village is congested and narrow.
After reaching the hotel, I had a refreshing bath while Bhanu went out to buy some stuff for the day ahead. Then we got down to planning our course of action for the next two days. We decided to hire bicycles for our stroll around the ruins. Also we decided to have some rest first and then start for the day.
So at around 1130 am we started off on our round. We first had breakfast in a typical Hampi Restaurant where the menu has options like English Breakfast, Continental Breakfast and Israeli breakfast. We had a mix of Indian and English with Uttapams and Pancakes.Then off we went to hire cycles. They are available at many places. The one we approached was at a street corner.It was nothing much, just a bunch of cycles parked at a spot and a man standing nearby.The price for one cycle for one day was Rs 100. So we had a deal for two cycles for two days which cost us Rs 400.
We started by the Hampi bazaar and cycled out crossing a gate. Right outside the gate the road goes uphill. It was a tough climb.Using the maps we had with us, we first made our way to the Krishna Temple.It was built by the King Krishnadevaraya in memory of his victory over the Gajapati Kings of present day Odisha. The main idol here was bought from Udaygiri Fort in Nellore Dist in Andhra Pradesh. (I already have Udaygiri on my wishlist). After a quick stroll here we moved on and started cycling over to the south side.The scenery was spellbinding all around. There were hills lined with rocks everywhere with occasional patches of greenery.
As we were cycling along, we saw to out right a lone watchtower located in a vast empty field. We stopped and checked our maps. This was the Mohammedan Watchtower.From far off the forlorn tower looked majestic. Again there was no one here. Only a herd of goats were grazing nearby. We took a nice casual stroll around the place. We looked for any entrance to the tower but the only entrance was locked, which was expected actually. We retraced our steps to our cycles and just as were starting we saw a car parked on the opposite side near by a small hill covered by tress. We were curious so we cycled there and climbed up the hill. It was a view point. There was a model shoot going on there. The model was wearing heavy ethnic wear in that humid climate.Just looking at her sweating it out in those clothes pained me. Anyway we made our way past them and looked around. We could spot the Virupaksha Temple far away . The defining feature of the dreary landscape was the number of rocks. They were everywhere.
From here we wandered in the general direction of the Lotus Mahal which was our next stop. But we soon found ourselves near a stage like structure which looked as the base part of a pyramid. Reminded me of the pyramids of the Incas and the Aztects. This was the Mahanavami dibba. We climbed atop,looked around,took pics and rested for a while.
From the the dibba we moved ahead to our next stop,the Lotus temple. The lotus temple sits inside a fort. It is in the middle of a large park. This fort complex has three interesting features. The lotus temple and two watchtowers. We first walked past the first watch tower. This was the tallest tower we had seen in Hampi. Reminded me of Age of Empires. From here we went towards the Lotus Mahal. It is a very beautiful structure. From any side you look you will observe it has three levels. It is built in the Indo Saracenic type of Architecture. We sat here in the park surrounding the mahal and rested for a while.
Near the corner of the boundary wall there is another watch tower. All the three watch towers that we had seen in Hampi were different from each other. I wonder why. As we were sitting here the sky was beginning to turn dark and the threat of rain loomed. We had come prepared for this. I was already wearing a rain pant and had my rain jacket with me. Bhanu had his' in his small day pack. From the Lotus Mahal we moved towards the Elephants stable. This is a grand structure built for the Royal Elephants. There were eleven sections which were interconnected. As were strolling around it started raining. Within minutes the whole ground was clear as people ran inside the stables. Bhanu and myself, now wearing our complete rain gear were the only ones standing in the rain. We moved slowly, deliberately, enjoying the rain and made our way past the stable behind it towards some structures. We walked in the rain now becoming stronger. It was wonderful. We couldn't see far ahead as the rain turned stronger. The structures were nothing much to look at. Around the last one we turned back and went towards the stable. From here we decided to head back to Hampi village and continue the exploration the next day. We resumed our cycling and started on our way back. The rain was getting stronger by the minute. Our cycles picked up speed as we sped downhill and the rain beat on our faces even more strongly.I let out a huge roar out of excitement! That was the best part of the whole trip.
As we neared the village Bhanu indicated me to stop near the Krishna Temple. Over the sound of the rain Bhanu suggested we check out the market area in front of the Krishna temple. I agreed.After parking our cycles we walked to the market. We entered the left side of the market where the shops used to be and walked under the stone roof.It was a lovely scene. The rain falling.Our walk. And the solitude. We enjoyed it thoroughly.
From there we cycled back to the Hampi village. It was getting dark by the time we arrived and we were mighty hungry by then. We stopped by another restaurant and had nice warm coffee. We had done a lot of walking and cycling and it was beginning to show.Our muscles were paining from the exertion.
From there we went back to our hotel. At around 8 pm we heard some awesome trance music blaring from the direction of the Virupaksha temple. Though we were intrigued as to what was going on, our tiredness finally won and we just went to sleep,thereby ending our first day at Hampi.