“A people’s relationship to their heritage is the same as the relationship of a child to its mother.” – John Henrik Clarke
When I first shifted to Bangalore more than a year ago, Hampi was never close to being on my list of must visit places. But then of course all that went out of the window courtesy my travel freak of a boyfriend!
So on the last weekend of November 2013 we decided it was time for some lessons into Indian history and heritage!
Hampi is an overnight bus journey away from Bangalore. The closest “town” is Hospet which is around 11km from Hampi, but with more potholes than roads the distance takes close to 45 minutes to cover! We didn’t book any accommodation before hand, so we just went relying on luck and the goodness of mankind! And as luck would have it, we did find a room in Pushpa Guest House, bang in the middle of Hampi. (Travel Tip # 1: Try not booking accommodation in advance to avoid paying more than necessary through online bookings and more so to not miss out on wonderful opportunities to meet new people during your stay!)
With a dozen or more sites to visit and just about as much time in our hands, we set off with our auto-wallah to take us on a tour across the now-ruined-once-glorious-empire. (Travel Tip # 2: Keep in mind the weather, the number of sites to visit and the roads (or lack of it!), so even if cycling or walking around seems tempting, an auto would be more viable)
And so began our journey through our past and back to present. From the Sister Stones to the Ugranarsimha, from the intricately carved walls of the Krishna temple to the forlornly desolate and intriguing Hampi Bazaar, every site still clearly had signs of the magnificence they once bore.
Some of the more interesting sites are:
- Underground Shiva Temple: this underground temple was excavated quite recently and being completely underground the entire sanctum and most parts of the temple are under water.
- Virupaksha Temple: the oldest and the principal temple of Hampi, is located on the banks of river Tungabhadra. With the resident elephant blessing devotees or being given a shower in public for show or the natural pin hole camera inside the shrine showing inverted images of the main gopuram, this one is a must visit and even better at non-aarti times.
- Vittala Temple: this is by far the most extravagant sites of them all! The temple is in the centre of a sprawling campus with several halls and temples in the compound.
- Matunga Hill: a trip to Hampi is incomplete if one hasn’t huffed and puffed one’s way up the Matunga Hill in pitch darkness at 4am only to catch the most magnificent sight of the sun rising and illuminating the old and new, the ruins and the flourishing at the same time. It is the highest point in Hampi and gives brilliant aerial views of the town. On the way down one can check out the Achutaraya Temple complex. (Travel Tip # 3: Carry a pocket torch as the path is not well it, and the steps though almost intact, however are as old as the Vijayanagar kingdom so high chances of slipping and hurting oneself)
Apart from these, one can take a coracle ride across the Tungabhadra, cycle for 2km and then climb another 100 stairs of so to reach the Hamuman Temple on the other side of the river. Or just watch the sun set from the Hemkuta Hill, have some good food at Mango Tree or just relax in the gardens of the Lotus Mahal and watch an era long forgotten interplay with your present.