Hampi is a small town in Karnataka, India. We travelled by train from Goa to Hospet which is about 12 km from Hampi. Transport is readily available at Hospet to take you to Hampi. The train ride itself is a story about cockroaches in my hair, a fabulous thali bought from a vendor on the train and a number of aggressive men dressed as women with extremely bad makeup. OH, and how could I forget the toilet that was little more than a hole in the train? All of these things however are merely part of the experience and you have to take it in your stride or else you may just as well stay at home. Hampi is definitely worth the journey. It is like no other place I have been.
The bewitching ruined city looks a bit like a movie set, a forgotten world that captivates you the moment you set eyes on it. The area covers about 25 square km (15.5 square miles).It is also a UNESCO world heritage site. As you walk through boulders precariously balanced you can imagine a giant as carelessly tossing them as pebbles on a riverbank. Amongst these rocks are ancient temples and relics that create interesting silhouettes on the landscape. The history of Hampi dates back to the 2nd and 3rd century.
The ruined city can be divided into 3 distinct areas
- The Hampi Bazaar-an enclave of ghats and temples
- The Royal Enclosure – Stables for elephants, the remains of the royal palace and pavilions
- The Anegundi village – it is older than Hampi and is situated on the northern bank of Tungabhadra River.
THE VIRUPAKSHA TEMPLE
This temple is located on the south bank of the Tungabhadra River and is the focal point of the Hampi Bazaar area. It is one of the oldest structures in the complex. Virupaksha is a form of Lord Shiva the Hindu God of Destruction. The temple’s history is uninterrupted from the 7th century; however the Virupaksha-Pampa sanctuary existed even before that. Inscriptions have also been found from the 9th and 10th centuries. The temple is still in use and you can witness the daily temple rituals in the mornings and evenings. The temple opens before sunrise and closes at sunset.
In Hindu mythology, Lord Ganesha is a deity known for his love of food. The story is told that one day he ate so much food he was unable to contain his stomach from bursting so he grabbed a snake and tied it around him to stop this happening. You can clearly see this on the statue. This amazing statue is carved out of a single boulder and measures 2.4 metres (approx. 8 feet). It is housed in an open pavilion built around the statue which was built by a trader in 1506.
The new bazaar area is an interesting area to wander through. It is full of vibrancy with woven bags, colourful fabric and bright t-shirts everywhere. There are heaps of coloured powders – or gulal- typically thrown during the festival of Holi wherever you look. If you keep your eyes open you may even see the odd elephant wandering through town. You will also probably meet the “magic man” strolling around town. I was told that there are a couple of them, but I only saw the one.
THE VITTALA TEMPLE
The temple was built in the 15th century. Over the years the temple complex has been added to. The temple is known for its musical pillars. These days, to avoid damage, only the guides are allowed to demonstrate this. Although this was interesting the highlight for me the stone chariot .The Chariot is in fact a shrine to Garuda and is magnificently decorated.
THE LOTUS MAHAL
The Zanana Enclosure was a private area reserved for royal women. The Lotus Mahal is to be found within the area of the Royal Enclosure. It is a stunning building and as the name indicates it is designed in the shape of a lotus bud. The entire building resembles a half open lotus flower. It is a two storied building, with tall elegant arched windows. The decoration on the building is a mixture of Hindu ornamentation and Islamic influences.
No prizes for guessing that it was here that the royal elephants were housed. Each chamber can hold 2 elephants. There is also a small door for the mahout to enter. The building has 11 domed chambers. It was built in the 15th century in the same style as the Lotus Mahal. It is a perfect spot to sit on the lawn and contemplate the magnificence of the architecture.
A coracle, or Dongi, is a plate shaped basket made of reeds and bamboo. The bottom is strengthened with additional layers of hide, plastic and sometimes tar to ensure it is sturdy and waterproof. They normally take about 6-8 people and are used for crossing the river much like a ferry. Many intrepid travellers cross the river for fun.
Don’t miss the sunset. Climb to a high point and watch the sun go down. The skies are stunning.
Visiting Hampi should be done over a few days to make the most of all it has to offer. It transports you back to another magical time of wealth, splendour and beauty. Once you’re there you can’t help but be enthralled by a forgotten world.
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