Hypnotism at Hampi
“Good morning, my name is Anand, but everyone calls me Coffee!” exclaimed Anand- the excited autowalah who came to pick us up at Hospet station on the gloomy morning of September. “I drink a lot of coffee and so my friends started calling me so, and now, no one calls me Anand anymore mam.” Coffee’s accentuated English was unexpected, but not surprising, as Hampi is a major attraction and an important Unesco World Heritage site. Tourists across the globe come here all year round to marvel its architecture. Coffee happily agreed to be our guide for the next few days. Within half an hour, we got dropped off at Hampi Bazar- the central market place that holds the entire gamut of hotels and guest houses.
Every other home in Hampi has been converted into a guest house to cater to the inflow of tourists. Our homestay was tucked away from the crowded market and our verandah faced the mighty Tungabhadra river. The lanes spanning the bazaar were extremely narrow and often occupied by accommodating cows. One of them even joined us on our breakfast of simple yet delicious- poori sagu, appams, chilli bhajjis and steaming tea at a small roadside stall. The stall which was actually an extension of a home and had a ‘Trip Advisor’ recommendation hung on the wall! We had a tete-a-tete with Miron, a tourist from Israel whose paths crisscrossed ours a few times later through the entire trip. Miron had travelled to most parts of India, but Hampi was where he kept coming back to. While sipping through my cuppa, my eyes followed the unending “Shikhar” of the Virpupaksha temple which stood in pride just a few meters away. I was fascinated to see how the contemporary Hampi was trying to thrive in and protect its treasures at the same time.
Day 1 :
Virupaksha temple, the tallest in Hampi, with its Gopuram shaped like the horns of a bull is bound to fascinate any temple lover. This is the main and the oldest temple of Hampi. Here we met Laxmi, the 12 year old friendly elephant who has been trained to duly bless only those visitors who place a ten rupee note in her trunk! The striking features of the temple are the Ranga Mantapa and a large urn made of stone.
Zanana Enclosure used to be the royal women’s quarters built in Indo Islamic style. There are a few interesting sites in the vicinity, namely, the Lotus Mahal, the watchtower, elephant stables and Octagonal Queen’s Bath.
Three kms ahead of Hampi, lies Kamlapur, home to the Daroji Bear Sanctuary. We were accompanied by Pampaiya Swamy, a photographer and a wild life enthusiast and conservationist who has done a commendable amount of work in expanding the sanctuary and preventing encroachment. With over 20 years of experience, Pampaiya knew the exact place and time the Sloth bears would show up. At about a distance of 200 meters, a rocky patch was smeared with a mixture of jaggery and oil. In over an hour of patiently waiting for the bears to appear, we spotted a hare, few peacocks, grey francolins, a pair of painted spurfowl and a huge clan of monkeys loitering aimlessly. But the bears were nowhere in sight. It drizzled on and off and our hopes drenched. After a good three-hour wait and half way through our return, the forest ranger approached us hurriedly from a distance, yelling that mommy bear and her 2 cubs were out to feed at the same spot where we had waited! We rushed back under the heavy shower, with a sudden adrenaline rush! Finally, we spotted the whole family of bears relishing their favorite food and playing around joyfully in the downpour for a pretty long time.
Anyone who has visited Hampi would unanimously vouch for Mango tree as the best restaurant. I usually do restaurant hopping, however to my amazement; I stuck to this joint through my entire trip! With dim lights, meditative music, cozy floor seating and sinful food, Mango tree is the unsurpassed place to retire after a tiresome day of endless walking. One cannot get enough of their Lassi, Nutela Pancake and french-fries!
Day 2 :
Matanga hill : With my alarm going off at 5 am, it was time to head to experience the breaking of a beautiful dawn. We walked across the bazaar towards the pathway from where, some 300 odd steps would lead us to the top of Matanga. A mammoth Monolithic Bull carved from a single rock stood at the base; the fore and hind legs of which had witnessed the harsh winds of time. We encountered hundreds of centipedes on our way up. The view got prettier as we ascended. Half way through, I halted. The melancholic grey clouds cleared and the golden sun god spread out his unending arms, touching the farthest expanses of Hampi, which was still wet from the last showers. This was the freshest and by far the most surreal sunrise I had ever witnessed. The soft glowing rays created magic by painting the entire ruins of Hampi, Anegundi and the winding Tungabhadra with dewy gold. Atop Matanga, is the dilapidated temple of Veerabhadra. The calmness here was unadulterated. Within the temple, devotees had created hundreds of small stone pyramids, made with a secret wish for a house to come true.
We descended from Matanga towards Achyutaraya Temple and its Pushkarni. A Pushkarni is a replica of a step well, usually attached to a temple. Wandering in the premises, could easily visualise the grandeur of the Vijayanagara dynasty under the rule of the great Krishnadevaraya and other kings, not just with regards to wealth but with regards to the creative brilliance of the artisans in that era. It was getting uncomfortably hot bt the time we passed the Sula Bazar, Varaha Temple and the Kings Balance. It is believed that the king used to weigh himself with gold, gems, silver and precious stones on the balance and distribute it to the priests during special ceremony seasons like solar or lunar eclipses!
Vittala Temple, without a speck of doubt, is the jewel in the crown of Hampi. It is here that the architectural extravaganza reaches its peak with the commendable Stone Chariot made from a single rock, resting on 4 gigantic stone wheels. Upon scrutiny, one can notice that the horse sculptures that weathered with time or during war have been replaced with elephants; the rear of the horses though, are still intact. Vittala temple also encapsulates the impressive Maha Mantapa or the pillared musical hall.
Mahanavami Dibba or the Royal Enclosure is yet another remarkable architectural wonder of Hampi. This humongous raised platform with extensive and intricate carvings is believed to have been the place for royal Dushera celebrations. Pushkarni, secret chamber and Minting area are also located here. The Ganagitti Jain Temple, Chandrashekhara Temple, Saraswati Temple are in close proximity.
The astounding Hazara Rama Temple has carvings covering important facets of Ramayana. The temple has thousand figures of lord Rama engraved on its walls and hence the name. We were being bombarded with architectural prodigies in succession, constantly pulling me deeper and deeper into imagination. The sculptures were so striking that I could visualize each idol exuding life. In a flash, the entire Vijayanagara empire was in front of me, gleaming in joy and dancing to glory with rich costumes and vibrant colors!
The afternoon heat had taken its toll and till the time we reached the underground Shiva Temple, we were baked. The largest Monolith statue of Hampi is that of the Ugra-Narsimha-one of the many forms of Lord Shiva. This incarnation of Shiva has protruding eyes and angered facial expression, hence the name “Ugra”, which means terrifying. However, the sculpture also seems to have a small idol of Laxmi sitting on its lap and hence it is also known as Laxmi Narasimha. Most parts of the statue were destroyed during the Mughal raid, however the idol is worth a visit!
Krishna temple with its unending stretch of stone pillar and canopy and the ruins of a spacious market will make a head turn. The vicinity also has a beautiful Pushkarni. Further on, there are two monolithic Ganesha statues – Sasivekalu and Kadalekalu Ganesha which translates into “Mustard sized stone and Peanut sized stone” respectively, when translated in the local Kannadiga dialect.
It was time now to climb up a hillock called Hemkuta hill to melt away in its mystical sunset. Hemkuta has a small Anjaneya temple and other structures amidst huge rocky boulders. Despite the dozen tourists and another dozen monkeys, Hemkuta was surprisingly calm; as if every soul was up there for a mission to connect with the quietest and deepest part of their self.
I was convinced earlier that day that I had witnessed the most amazing sunrise at Matanga. However, I was forced to change my opinion as I kept getting pulled into the alchemy of Hemkuta with every passing minute. The golden sky was quietly shredding its shimmer, transforming into purple and then deep blue. The Anjaneya temple with a stunt Plumeria tree next to it created a breath taking silhoutte, with the vast purple sky in the backdrop. As the sun finally hid behind the mountains at the far end of the horizon, I was awakened by voices around me of souls recuperating from the hypnotism. Hemkuta had casted an everlasting imprint on my mind and heart…
How to reach : Hampi is at 300 kms from Bangalore. Overnight buses ply from Bangalore. Driving can be a great option. Nearest airport : Hubli.
Where to stay : Ample homestay and guest houses available. We stayed at Kiran Guest house. 9448143906. Charges: 600 to 800 per room per day. One can also choose Hyatt at Hospet, 20 kms away.
Where to binge : Mango tree restaurant, Hampi Bazaar. Try their lassis and Nutella chapatis.
Best time to visit : Nov through Jan. Hampi gets extremely humid and hot in summer. Monsoons can be a good option too.
How to roam around : Hampi is best explored by walk. Take an auto if pressed for time. However, autos cannot very close to all sites, hence walking can’t be ruled out! Call Coffee for auto services : 9481664743. Charges at 800 to 1000 per day.
Must do’s : Trekking up Matanga for sunrise, climbing Hemkuta for sunset, coracle ride at Sanapur lake. Guide service is recommended for Vittala temple, Hazara Rama temple and Mahanavmi Dibba. Wildlife enthusiasts can explore Daroji. Contact Pampaiya Swamy : 9449136252
Carry a map for better navigation. Carry loads of sunscreen..
What to shop : Brass artefacts, aroma oils and soaps, incense sticks.
Safety: Highly safe. Great for solo women travelers!
continued here….. https://gauricosmos.com/2015/10/11/aihole-pattadakkal-and-badami/