Though its been some time since we made this trip , the fact, that this was the last trip we made before we left for India kind of makes it special !
A sunny Friday saw two Santros exit Hyderabad towards the state of K arnataka via National Highway &. Our destination was a small town , quite nondescript actually , of the name Hampi.
Though quite a smallish place today, Hampi , was the capital of the famous south Indian kingdom, Viajaynagara
Today a UNESCO world heritage site, Hampi boasts some of the most numerous, spread out and expansive ruins of the Vittala Kingdom,
Hampi is about 400Kms from Hyderabad which makes it around 6-8 hrs of drive. That can be quite exhausting on Indian roads.Thought the road is good , some patches really slow one up and there are also stops that need to be taken for tea and snacks. We planned to make it around midnight and check in at our place of stay, Hotel Mallagi. Ofcourse, we did not factor in getting lost and we finally hit our beds at some 2.30 am in the night. Since its a small place the maps are not accurate and as we were trying to use the GPS ( which is definitely a bad idea in India) , at 11.30 pm in the night we found ourselves totally lost. We were for sure in Hampi, but dead in the middle of the ruins. We could not a see a single soul and the ruins just made it more spooky !! Since there were eight of us in two cars we really weren’t scared but definitely did not want to spend the night on road. Finally , we found a helping soul ( god bless him) who put us on track and we were back on the right route.
Next morning we got up leisurely , had a hearty breakfast , and headed towards the ruins. Since we had just one day with us we decided to hire a guide and hit the ‘must see’ spots. If you are a student of history or art or if you have time on your hand, plan to be in Hampi, for 3-4 days. You can walk or bicycle around from ruin to ruin. They are all spread out in a maximum of 3-4 kms radius.
Though I keep referring to the structures as ‘ruins’ they are actually quite stoic remains of one or more vast temple complexes. We started our trip with the Hemakuta temple complex. As I walked amongst the structures, my mind marveled at their architecture and thought of all that must have gone in those halls that are today just broken pillars. One could smell the burning incense and lamps and could hear the footsteps of hurrying townspeople going home towards their huts near the river.
I was rudely awakened from my reverie as our guide shoved us towards the Virupaksha temple down the hill- the most intact and the most busy of the temples.This temple is believed to be functional since the 7th century – much before the Vijaynagara kingdom came into existence. What is visible today , is the original temple plus the multiple shrines that were added over time. The temple is full of visiting devotees and you may seem a little out of place trying to admire the structure instead of trying to pray. I am not a big fan of hustling and bustling temples and we stepped out of this quite fast. The thing to be noted here is the practical implementation of the pin-hole camera in one of the chambers , the almost 7 story gopuram with intricate carvings and underground Shiva temple
Our next major stop was at the famous Vitthala temple complex. On the way we passed several interesting ruins. Though we wanted to explore more, we were on a tight schedule and only stopped at the more famous structures.
The Vitthala temple is situated near the area as to what seemed to be throne of the Vijayanagara kingdom. One could see the remains of the old cobbled streets that led to the gates of the temple city. As you approach the city, a long row of 4-5 feet high columns appear. Instantly images of long forgotten busy street bazaars came to my mind. These columns must have formed stalls for vendors and they must have peddled their wares to all the crowd passing by the main street! The most famous structure that finds it way to all the tourist brochures is the Stone Chariot- more magnificent than it looks in photos – this huge and heavy chariot is actually a shrine devoted to multiple Hindu deities.The Vithala complex is sprwaling and has several other major temples and halls and dining areas.
No trip to Hampi is complete without a meal at Mango Tree Restaurant. Located on the banks of the river , this restaurant is famous for its own version of Indian food and a large variety of pancakes :).Being one of the places that serves full meals this place is always jam-packed and its find your own place to sit arrangement adds a touch of bohemia to the atmosphere.
Once we were well fed , we headed towards the last stop of the day – The Lotus palace and the elephant stables. The Lotus palace was one of the several housing establishment for the queen of Vijayanagar. In the twilight, it looked like a place from another time. I could be a queen for a place like that :).
The Elephant Stables were very high on the WOW factor…these were essential the parking lot for the 11 Royal elephants !
Our very long and satisfying day was over in Hampi and we headed towards our hotel rooms. We did get up early morning to catch the cool breeze and pretty photos. But apart from that we were ready to go back. With the wish to return some day.