A narrow road through the golden rice field, and confused masses of boulders brings us to the outskirts of Hampi. We have been driving for 7 hours since we left Hyderabad early morning. We pass few of the architectural sites on our way, but the first impression of Hampi under the scorching heat of April Sun and a tiring journey isn’t enticing enough to explore, so we proceed in search of a hotel.
We check few places and finally freeze on a guest house near Hampi Bazar(market). A quick bath followed by a little rest and we are ready to face the heat outside. We walk through the village lane by the Virupaksha temple and come across Mango tree, a creatively crafted restaurant whose bright colors, makeshift appearance and terrace seats blends perfectly with the sunny surroundings. Apart from the tasteful ambience, the food, served on a banana leaf, is equally yummy. We laze on the mattresses for the remaining afternoon before we set out towards Vittala Temple.
Vitthala temple is situated on the north eastern end of Hampi. The temple complex, with its musical-pillared halls and the majestic stone chariot, is the undisputable cynosure of Hampi. The stone chariot against the backdrop of the setting sun presents an awe inspiring sight, which we continue to witness till the dying light of the day. We drive back to the Hampi Bazar at dusk and go to the Virupaksha Temple. The temple was built by the first king Harihara (1336 -1343) while the grand tower at the eastern entrance was built by the great Krishnadeva Raya in 1513 on the occasion of his coronation. We take a stroll on the compound of the temple visiting the innermost halls and the outer porticos. We discover that this temple is among the oldest in India, and the only temple of the empire where worshiping takes place till today.
The next morning, we start early and walk eastward through the Hampi Bazaar towards the Monolithic Bull. The broad street with colonnades on both sides, the sneaking light through the rocky boulders and stone edifices presents an amazing view. We take photographs and discover stray temples and edifices over he hillocks. I decide to photograph more temples while the others decide to cross the Tungabhadra River and visit Anegudi, which according to Hindu mythology was the kingdom of the monkeys, known as ‘Kishkinda’, and was also the birthplace of ‘Hanuman’ – the Monkey God.
My next stop is at the Krishnaswami temple, which was built by Krishnadeva Raya after his successful campaign against Udayagiri (Odisha) in 1513, from where the Krishna Icon was brought. The temple walls and the pillars in the front hall have depictions of ‘Puranic’ stories of Lord Krishna and is an outstanding example of the Vijayanagar architecture. In front of the Krishna temple, is Krishna bazaar – a lofty arcade with magnificent gallery on both sides. I walk down the arcade and discover a stepped pond with a small pavilion at its centre. With galleries on three sides and an endless array of amber pillars it presents a scene of wonder. I stand here for a long time until a sudden influx of a noisy crowd compels me to leave. I return to meet my friends at a cafe for breakfast of ‘Idli’(soft rice cake) and fresh fruit juice.
After our breakfast, we go to witness an intriguing and the only one-of-its-kind monument in Hampi, the statue of Narsimha (Man-Lion), hewn out of a single boulder of graphite, commanding respect by virtue of its size and graveness of its expression. Further south, are three enclosures of significant architectural marvels. The Zanana Enclosure encompassing the grand Lotus Mahal (Palace), Treasury house and the famous Elephant stable, the Royal enclosure housing the Mahanavami Dibba and a magnificent step-well and the Dannayaka Enclosure. The Mahanavami Dibba is an imposing platform from where the kings used to witness the festivals. In the middle of the three enclosures, lies the richly carved, Hazarrama temple (literally translates to Thousand Rams), depicting the entire ‘Ramayana’ on its walls.
We gather at a secluded corner of the temple savoring the captivating carvings, and trying to comprehend the grandeur of the kingdom at its pick. It may well be possible that, what we witness today is less than even one-tenth of the actual marvel because in 1565 after the empire was utterly defeated by a confederation of five Muslim Emperor, the city was continued to be ravaged by the Muslim soldiers for the next six months.
We leave Hampi late in the afternoon. We are tired of the blazing heat, but filled with the richness and grandeur that Hampi once used to be. It is amazing that an empire which was established in 1336, to protect the Hindu subjects from the invading Muslims, could manage to endure the assault of the various Muslim rulers, abide by the compelling diplomacy of the Portuguese traders and withstand the envy of other Hindu Kings for more than two centuries, finally had to succumb to a league of Muslim onslaught in 1565. And yet, the empire has left a legacy of its own towards Hindu culture and architecture, which cannot be just confined within the pages of the history books. I’m hopeful that Hampi will continue to charm visitors for a long time to come.
Other places in Hampi worth visiting:
1. Sashivekhu Ganesh ( Carved out of a single boulder of Graphite)
2. Octagonal Bath
3. Saraswati Temple
4. Chandrashekhar Temple
5. Underground Shiva Temple
6. Bima’s Gate
When to Visit:
Certainly during the cooler months from October to March
How to go:
1. Approach through road is best as Hampi is well connected with
a. Goa (320 Kms through Hubli),
b.Puna (600 Kms through Satara, Kolhapur, Hubli),
c. Bangalore ( 352 Kms ) and
d. Hyderabad ( 380 Kms)
Other Architectural sites Around Hampi:
1. Badami ( 147 Kms) Also well known for rock Climbing
3. Pattadakal Group of Monuments ( UNESCO World Heritage Site)
– Arindam Paul