Friday, 9 January 2015

The Magic of Hampi

I heard about Hampi only few weeks ago during my Yoga course from people they wanted badly pass from here before leaving India. Curious about it I googled a bit and came to know that its ruins are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, listed as the Group of Monuments at Hampi.
Virupaksha Temple

The dynasties that ruled the Vijayanagara empire from 1336 to 1565, the last great Hindu Kingdom, with Hampi as their capital, constructed many forts, ramparts, temples and statues. Hampi was chosen because of its strategic location, bounded by the torrential Tungabhadra river on one side and surrounded by defensible hills on the other three sides. 
The site is significant historically and architecturally, but not least its beauty is simply stunning! The topography abounds with large stones which have been used to make statues of Hindu deities. The Archaeological Survey of India continues to conduct excavations in the area, to discover additional artifacts and temples.
Kadalekalu Ganesha

Hampi and its surrounding is the centre of hundreds of sights and ruins and you can't visit everything in one go. Some are pretty close to the village centre but others are more far and spread, for those is better if you hire a driver that will take and show you around.
On the train journey from Margao to Hospet (closest public transport reachable town from Hampi) I met an amazing couple from California, Kelly and Domonic, and we spend most of our time in Hampi together. We had two fully days for visiting and I will make a short summary of our tours :)

Due some of the best sights are reachable by walking we just started to hang around the main Bazar and we explored the Virupaksha Temple, where we had the luck to meet Lakhsmi, the resident Elephant, we walked trough the Elephant Bathing Temple (there are some work in progress) and reached the river for an incredible view of the natural stone hills around and a quick hair cut. After we walked up the Hemakuta hill on the east side coming across with Kadalekalu Ganesha . The giant statue of Ganesha, was carved out of a huge boulder at the northeastern slope of the hill. The statue is 4,5 metres tall and among the largest sculptures in Hampi. The belly of this statue resembles a Bengal gram (Kadalekalu, in local language) and hence the name. A sanctum is built around the statue and the pillared hall in front of this sanctum is as charming as this giant statue itself. This is probably my favourite site of all :)
Hazara Rama Temple

Walking down we encountered several ruins and explored the Krishna Temple were the art is beautiful. On the pillars you can find figures related to Krishna's life. In front of the Temple there is a Pushkarani (a pushkarani is the pond from where the temple's water needs used to be met) and in the centre of it there is a small mantapa. Climbing on the close by rocks we found a little cave and we wondered what would be going on in there at that time. Getting back we were on the way of a Monkey Troop moving and they all just passed by very close... Amazing!
Laxmi Narasimha

Walking more down we found the Badavi Linga and the Laxmi Narasimha, they were great! The Badavi Linga is inside a mantapa (in indian architectur is a pillared outdoor hall or pavilion for public rituals) and it's a Linga made of black stone, it's the most massive of all the lingas in Hampi, more than 3 meters tall. There is no roof and due a canal passing trough it, the linga is always submerged under water. Laxmi Narasimha is the largest of all idols in Hampi, almst 7 meters tall, and carved on a single stone. The idol is called Ugra Narasimha but it cannot be termed Ugra due the Laxmi idol on top of it. Unfortunately the Laxmi idol has been damaged so the idol remains popular as Ugra Narasimha.
A few steps more toward south we visit the Chandikeshwara and the Uddana Virabhadra Temple. Heading back to the main Bazar we walked up the Hemakuta hill on the west side encountering Sasivekalu Ganesha. In Hindu mythology Lord Ganesha (also known as Ganapathi or Vinayaka) is notorious for his food habit. One day he ate so much of food that his tummy almost busted. He just caught a snake and tied it around his tummy as a belt to save his tummy from bursting ;D.
Vittala Temple

On the west side of Hemakuta Hill you can enjoy the best sunset view of Hampi, and there are several ruins and temples including the Jain Temple. This was our last stop and after we headed back to the Bazar, checking out small local shops and enjoying a nice dinner at Funky Monkey, I got the Veg Indian Meal for 160 rupees (2Euro/ 1,70Pounds) and it was great! :)
On day two we decided to take a Rickshaw to the far east Vittala Temple and from there walking back along the river visiting several sights on the way. :)
Elephant Stables

The main attraction of the Vittala complex are the musical pillars, approximately there are 50 pillars and when tapped they produce a sound, each different from an other. Probably these do not belong to any of the standard musical notes, but the musical tone of the vibes earned it’s the name. Opposite to the Vittala temple there is the world famous Stone Car, carved on a single hard granite rock. 
Walking our way back we encountered the Purandaradasa Mantap, King's Balance, Varaha Temple, Rama Temple and the Achutharaya Temple. Here you could get trapped in a improvised guided tour with some local guy that tries to make some tip, if you don't want his service just make it sure from the beginning so later you wont feel obligated to tip him (normally they will just point out the obvious of the buildings). The Achyutharaya Temple was called 'Sule Bazaar' and apparently precious stones and diamond trade was carried on there. We had a short pit stop in the shade of the side mantapa with 'peanutbutter-banana sandwiches' made on the spot, delicious and definitely an energy booster for the rest of the tour.
Underground Temple

Outside the temple there is a big Pushkarani (water pond) that look quite creepy due the stagnant water ecosystem.
Walking along the river trough the Kodanda Rama Temple we reached the main Bazaar area and found the Nandi Bull called Eduru Basavanna (Basava facing Shiva) because it is opposite to Shiva Idol of Virupaksha Temple. 
From here we hired an other rickshaw trough Talarigatta Gate towards Elephant Stables. This was the shelter for the royal elephants, the walls of each shed are plastered with lime, sand paste and at the top of each shed is a sphere-shaped Gumbaj. Close to the stables there is the Lotus Mahal built in Indian and Muslim style.
Walking back we enjoyed the awesomeness of the Hazara Rama Temple, there are a series of sculptures on the walls. There are figures carved in series, yoga postures, Hindu gods and goddesses, scenes from the Ramayana... Inside there are four carved black stone pillars, these heavy cubical pillars contain gorgeous bas-reliefs of Ganesha, Mahisha-mardini, Hanuman and many forms of Vishnu. The large central ceiling has a diagonally square courses with a finely carved lotus motif in the centre.
Life Flower

 We passed from the Danaik's Enclosure, ending the tour at the Underground Temple. For some curious reasons, this temple dedicated for Lord Siva was built many metres below the ground level and due this, almost all the time the sanctum and the core parts of the temple are under water, restricting entry to the inner areas. I wouldn't give any points to this sight if there wasn't a local lady that insist taking off my shoes and go inside for a refreshing 'feet-in-the-water-temple-visit'. She showed me every step and brought me safely till the final hall with a Shiva Linga, dwelled by bats. At the end we were really amazed by this visit and happy to tip our guide :)
The River 

Our driver was already waiting for us and brought us back to Hampi. My new friends were going to leave the same day so they had their last shopping tour and we enjoyed a meal together at Ravi's Guest House. I'm really thankful that I met them and hope to see them soon again, maybe in Thailand ;) Thanks again Kelly and Domonic for the great time spent together and  wish you all the best on your journey and in your life!

Coming back to me, I have another half day to spend here and beside writing this long post I decided to chill out at the river due a 32h journey that is waiting for me, having my last Chai at Manibaba's shop, enjoying the sunset from the Hemakuta Hill and thinking about the many new informations about this place... sleeping a night on a mattrass on a roof terrace or finding a whole snake skeleton hanging from a tree... coz all this can happen in Hampi ;)

Thailand I'm cooooooming.... 


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