Tuesday , November 29 2022

Travel Stories by Nidhi Patnaik: Hampi

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A fantasy land of ancient ruins!

There is something magical about an ancient town in Karnataka – Hampi which I visited last month.I can still recall the feeling of being entrapped by Hampi’s unearthy landscape. It was the charm of its magnificent ruins with heaps of giant rock boulders over the hills surrounded by green palm groves, banana and paddy plantations which makes Hampi – a UNESCO world heritage site special.The magical stories about legends and mythical gods and goddesses were enchanting enough to transport me in some other fantasy world of rocks , amazing temple ruins enriched with interesting tales behind them.

Importance of Hampi in Indian history

Apart from its surreal and heart stirring rustic landscapes, Hampi has a mythological connection to the epic Ramayana. Hampi is known as Kishkinda, where Lord Rama and Lakshmana met Hanuman in their search of abducted Sita. There are many places from stories in Ramayana which can be found here like Anjeyandari hill which is the birth place of Lord Hanuman and is also known for its amazing views of sunset.
Hampi is also renowned for being the capital of Vijayanagar empire, one of the greatest empires of south India. The empire flourished majorly under the rule of King Krishna Deva Raya during which most of the monuments and temples were built. But in the end , it suffered a major defeat by the Deccan sultanates who destroyed everything by beheading statues and wrecking monuments, leaving us with the captivating ruins which we see now.

Arriving in Hampi

We took an overnight train Hampi express from Bangalore to Hospet which is the nearest railway station to Hampi. There are numerous buses as well running from Bangalore to Hampi but trains are better in terms of providing safety and comfort. We left in the evening from our hotel well before time to the railway station to catch our train. The maddening Bangalore traffic drove us crazy but the driver was smart enough to pave out his way through the chaotic maze to drop us at the station on time. The train journey turned out to be quite interesting with Karnataka’s ex CM Yedyurappa travelling in our adjacent cabin of first AC. He even came in our cabin to meet the MLA who was in our cabin, but we didn’t realize then who he was. We found out later about who these people were with whom we were travelling. So, my first experience in first AC turned out to be a bit of an adventure. 😛 

Exploring Hampi- the mesmerizing ancient temples and the surreal Tunghabadhra river

We reached Hampi in the morning around 8:30 AM. From Hospet station, we took an auto to the KSRTC Mayuri guest house as it was recommended by a friend.Also, the government guest houses are usually very reliable. As soon as we looked around, the lush green plantations and the clear blue sky were beautiful enough to make us feel happy about coming here.From the guest house itself, we took a registered tourist guide and after freshening up ,we left in the same auto to explore the magical place we were in.

The Vijaya Vittala temple

It was a hot sunny afternoon.The main temple entrance was around 1 km from the parking .There was an electric vehicle which dropped us at the main entrance of the temple.
We entered the ancient temple complex which looked marvelous with a stone chariot(’Garuda’- vehicle of Vishnu) in the courtyard of the temple. This stunning masterpiece is also printed on the back of the new 50 rupees note which turned out be a very exciting fact for us:-). The beautifully engraved sculptures on the pillars and the mandapas caught our attention as the intricate and delicate art work was worth all the praise and admiration . The pillars were sculpted with carvings of a mythical creature known Yali which is a combination of three animals(lion, horse and elephant). The interesting stories being told by our guide made the entire experience even more fantastic as it added more meaning to the rocks and stones which otherwise wouldn’t have been paid much attention to.
Next, we were intrigued by the well known musical pillars in one of the mandapas(Ranga Mandapa). Our guide showcased its magic by striking his thumb against the pillars to produce rythmic notes close to SaReGaMa. It is quite astonishing to see such an old empire with such advanced use of science and technology. There used to be orchestra here in this mandapa with the divine mysterious pillars , what a sight it must have been with people rejoicing in such a flourishing and stunning empire built!

Exploring the various other ruins and temples

Next , as per the itinerary suggested by the guide we were going to visit an archaeological museum . Once we entered the courtyard of the museum, there was a large model of Hampi with all the monuments which gave a fair idea of the layout of the town along with the hills and river. This miniature model of Hampi was quite informative for visitors like us. There was a smaller model inside the gallery with a more comprehensive view. Since there was not much apart from these models, we took a quick round in the galleries to admire some of the sculptures and then took the exit to return back.There were some other historical places like Zanana enclosure , queen’s bath, royal enclosure , the Hazara Rama temple, Hemakuta hill temples which we visited next .The numerous ancient ruins of temples and monuments were intriguing enough to spellbound us with their charm and rich history behind each of these places .

Royal Enclosure

Royal enclosure is a vast historic site with a lot of ruins . This is the place where the King of Vijayanagar empire lived. The area is vast and a has a lot of structures to explore and imagine the stupendous magnificent kingdom. In the open space, there was a stepped tank which looked very fascinating. The well, also known as Pushkarni in ancient times is an architectural masterpiece because of the symmetry of its ornamental steps which forms a shape similar to a pyramid. It was not allowed to go inside the well but we were happy enough with taking pics from outside. The execution of designing this remarkable gem must have required very skilled workers well versed with techniques of engineering and architecture which is no doubt very impressive and outstanding. We explored the surrounding ruins in the vast open space and followed our guide to an underground tunnel which led a secret underground chamber . Discovering the secret chamber itself was quite exciting. These small things can be explored best only with the help of a guide. We went ahead to the ruins where the king resided. There were various sections for the different sections of people residing there.It was very interesting to visualize the whole
palace and the kingdom with kings and queens residing and imagining their lifestyle by visiting places where they lived , held meetings , went for recreation and held public proceedings. There was always so much thought which was put into designing such things in those ancient times which indeed is a remarkable and a marvelous achievement.

The Vripuksha temple

Another well known and famed attraction of Hampi is the Vripuksha temple. This is the only temple with an idol being worshiped inside. The temple has stunning architecture with its Gopuram being the highlight. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva.I wasn’t very excited about it as I expected to see the usual temple which we o􀁛en see and was scared . But there was a surprise here waiting to greet us As soon as we entered , we spotted an elephant named Laxmi blessing visitors with its long trunk . I was back in my spirits and excited to meet the aged elephant and be blessed by her . So, we went inside the complex where the elephant was housed. The view was spectacular with the elephant taking a 10 Rs. note and blessing the visitors.We did it twice and the second time the elephant as well got excited
while swaying his trunk over me(a funny act about which my friend knows better and I hope it stays a secret between us shh…) .We went ahead into the temple and after worshiping , followed our guide to a small room from where we could see the inverted shadow of the Gopuram. This is another mysterious marvel of Hampi which used marvels of science and deserved a lot of praise for the skilled artisans and workers.

On the banks of Tunghabadra - the awe inspiring beauty of Hampi

My favorite place was the Tungabhadra river which we visited next . I am anyways a water person , in love with rivers , beaches , mostly all kinds of water bodies ( except of course the ‘Yamuna ‘ here in Delhi ) :P.Lets get back to Tungabhadra now .The river is just stunning with very clear water surrounded by massive rocks and boulders. I wanted to stay there for as long as I could but we had a time constraint . I wish to go the other side of the river if I get a chance again to visit Hampi. Tungabhadra is truly a treat to the eyes ! It’s beauty is outstanding and the serenity of the river is difficult to capture in pictures . There were coracles, small bowl shaped shallow boats made of bamboo which were being used to go to the other side of the river. The coracle ride looked quite alluring and one could explore the other side of Hampi using it .

Watching the breathtaking sunset before leaving- the showstopper of our trip

We were very keen to watch the sunset next from Matunga hill . I feel this turned out to be showstopper of the entire trip ! The climb to Matunga hill was bit of a challenge as it gets a little steep and mostly because of climbing over the rocks . On our way , we did inquire about the way to reach the top from a few foreigners who were coming down . They were also a few locals climbing the hill with us . The climb did get exhausting and we were wondering how far is the top of the hill . Also the way back through the same way looked a bit tough due to its steepness . Nevertheless,we managed reaching the view point. And that made us forget everything. The breezy pleasant weather and the sunset hues over the entire town could be watched with utmost peace and happiness .We could spot almost all the places we visited .Our happiness knew no bounds because of the task accomplished of reaching till here.Watching the sunset is difficult to describe in words as its warmth and beauty can only be felt . It was just too good to be true
and too dreamy to be real ! The reality hit us soon as it was time to go back now which looked like a Herculean task! I had motivated my friend about finding another path to go down which we couldn’t as everyone was taking the same path to go back . So we decided to follow others and take the same path a􀁛er asking a few people around. In the end ,we were finally at the bottom of the hill and the descent wasn’t as difficult as we thought while climbing .
While going up ,there is a temple much ahead which is further up . That was a bit too much for us then but I would like to go there as well someday ! It would surely offer some breathtaking views of Hampi .
The end of our trip was nearing now as we had to catch our train back to Bangalore at night . We took the auto back to Hospet station where we had dinner and relaxed before boarding the train and this time it was 3rd ac , so no more bizarre travel experiences for now ! I am not done with this place yet as it still looks as inviting as the first time we stepped in, will surely try to come back again to explore a lot more .

Original Author: Nidhi Patnaik

Article sourced from nidhipatnaik.com

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