" I can't believe, at such years earlier , they had the capacity to do this. Build such a thing of art , carved out of rocks and stones " I told my co travelers observing the fine finish of the iconic stone chariot in Vittala temple. This chariot is the prime jewel of the crown among all the exquisite rock and stone cut art and architecture one finds in the vicinity of Hampi. Years ago , this region was the capital of a Hindu stronghold , The vijaynagara empire, and Hampi today was a part of that big city.
In its prime days of power , vijayanagar had a population of 5 million people and was one of the biggest cities in the known world then. The golden days had spread over from 11th - 16th century A.D , after which , with time , as inevitable to every story or city , it went into ruins. Today those ruins talk of their past and pride through the multiple walls , bathing places , palaces , gardens , markets , military bases and temples that are spread through out the regions of Hampi.
There are more than hundreds of those architectures, proving how big and mighty the city was once , but among them all, we chose a certain few which had captivated our interest. Here are the ones we visited.
Virupaksha temple , situated in main bazaar, is still in use and is popular among local people comming from all around the state and country to worship lord Shiva. We also had a friendly encounter with the temple holy elephant which was fun.
Prasanna Temple , also known as underground Shiva temple, is quiet an interesting place to be considering it half hidden underground.
Vittala Temple , the most famous of them all , with its stone chariots , musical pillars and mandapas all being carved out of stone is undoubtedly, strucks the chord of amazement in you.
The sense of pride for one's own history is sure to come when you see such grandeur and feat achieved in such age when technology did not have so much advancement. The heritage ruins of Rome or Athens, can easily be given a competition if one beholds this marvels at Hampi surely. I still find it so hard to understand how those amazing things were built.
We spent the whole second day of Hampi going around , learning and observing our own history. A good dinner and an exciting discussion session made us sleep late , which in turned had an impact on late start of our day. Though the scorching sun and heat troubled us , but we were marvelled by the wonders we saw and carried on exploring as much of history as possible. Hence, it would be advisable to start early morning to go around the temples and ruins for a better weather.
To go around this historical sites one can rent out bicycles or auto rickshaws, also hire a guide if you have too much interest to know the ins and outs of this amazing places. I would recommend to take one in Vittala temple at least , which is a treasure house of , history , culture , architecture and technology of that age.
After a whole day of such exploration of the past , our tired bodies craving for good food ended up in the must-to-eat Mango tree restaurant. We had been heavily recommended of it. But the truth is , the older mango tree which boasted good food by the side of tungabhadra river is no more due to ASI interference. And though the ambiance is good , the food was not too great to celebrate about. Hampi hosts a lot of good cafes to eat out , we found our personal favorite in The Laughing Buddha. It has a cool and chilled ambiance by the river , and has delicious foods.
My favorite experience from the day would definitely be the coracle ride. Coracle is a round boat made by the natives of south india to use as domestic transportation purpose across water bodies. The fun part is navigating it , as it is round and to circulate it inside the water. Gave us the feeling of merry - go - round as a kid, and I would ask everybody to do this wherever they find the opportunity.
After the dinner , one can walk across the dirt road under the starry skies , gazing or trying to figure out constellations, all of which are clearly visible due to such less pollution thankfully. Or you can just sit with friends and chat or talk about things in a mood full of joy and happiness. Or you can go off to sleep , if you plan to see the rising sun !!
Waking up at 6 in the morning I started for the sun rise, and two of my pals tagged along. Climbing the nearest boulder hill we settled for a respective favorite place to anticipate the sun rise and thus we saw. Even though the sunset viewing more beautiful , but somehow , sunrises gives hopes and brings love more to the soul. We just sat in silence , enjoying the peace and calmness and the sun rise of course. Reflections inside and outside the minds were inevitable , feelings , observing , noticing and actions everything was due. While comming down , we found some more peace and we sat sometimes more , adoring the calm paddy fields of green being touched and dancing in the breeze. The tall temple standing across the river and paddy fields towered the view , and the holy chants from the temple brought some spirituality. It whispered I guess in my ears that Life is nothing but this moments that we live , all and everything else is just a illusion to survive. Love and Happiness is all around and everything is our choice.
After such a good self time, the day could not had been anything less than great.
" hampi , hampi , hampi " shouted the autorickshaws as I dropped down from my overnight bus at this small town of Hospete. Though small it is world famous as the entry point for Hampi. I didnot take the autorickshaw , as they asked for something around 200 INR. I being as always , a megre budgetary backpacker , went on foot to search the local bus stop and find a goverment bus plying for Hampi. As my bus geared off , finally I could feel all the excitement cropping up from one last month planning Hampi.
Once a close backpacking friend had remarked " Hampi , how can you have not gone there being a backpacker !! Its pure happiness !! " Well that is true , wandering around for five years around my country, yet , there are places , so known yet unknown to me. Last three years had passed mostly on the mountains doing what I love to do and doing it for money. But now with a little stability in my mountaineering career , I am ticking my rest of MUST DO checklist in India and hampi was a prioirity which got the tick in month of October 2016. I did not take much time when a plan for Hampi was floated by my dear friends and I finalised it , taking no much time.
After seven months in Kasol , settled for the longest bit of time in the near past , the trip to hampi felt like a refreshing cold wind blowing in the days of hot and humid summers. Change of scenes , diversity and most of all a new place to explore and learn. That was enough to excite the exploring soul to move towards the ancient capital of vijaynagara empire.
Hampi came into existence around 7th century and bloomed under the best of times during the 10 - 14 century , being the extravagent capital of an all powerful kingdom in those days. Those pride and past is what still remains there and amuses the millions of visitors that come here each year. The ancient stone cut temples are still in use and of worship by the locals , where as the myths shouts out the tale from epic Ramayana and its most famous heroes. If you are just into nature also , the scintillating landscapes of huge boulders and rock hills around the vast paddy fields and serpented by Tungabhadra river through , is an amazing place to explore and go around. And to mention most specially , the sunsets from Hampi is the most beautiful ones I have seen undoubtedly.
The first day of Hampi went in just to feel the vibes around the place. The paddy fields , the tall coconut trees, the brown boulder hills bordering it and the surprising calmness around this place got happiness into me. The dirt road through the paddy fields by the hills at one side were my favourite to walk on. Now that I look back or write here it feels more special.
I had some of my friends tagged along with me ,whom I met through travel only, so there was no shortage of special people. There are lots of budgetary cool accomodation , homestays and hotels , but we chose one of the best that was recommended to us. The Goan Corner as it was called , was indeed made at the farthest corner of the modern settlement of the Hampi. It is no doubt , a great place to stay and hangout , spacious , in budget , a cool cafe and loads of backpackers from round the world hopping around. It did not take much time to settle down , and we lazed off our afternoon in the cafe , sipping drinks such as watermelon juices or nibbling at salads and other delicacies. I felt queit a same vibe as my own hostel in Kasol , hence it was like a home.
As Hampi is situated in the central part of India , the afternoon can touch heights of 40 degrees , which is too hot, specially for people like me staying in Himalayas , so first day was a test for me after seven months been in Kasol. But as the sun started dropping, the wind and breeze had started to play and we were out to chase the most beautiful sunset in the town.
Talking to locals we found the " Monkey temple" , made atop the highest hill in vicinity was the place to be to get the best view of sunset. Now what is the " Monkey temple "?
If you trace back mythology , Hampi is the place where , it is said to be the empire of kish-kindha, from the epic of Ramayana, and the monkey temple is actually Anjani Mata temple or the birth place of the famous Hanuman ( The monkey god ).
We took sometime to reach it , and started hiking towards the top. It is like 900 odd steps you need to cross in order to reach there.
By the half way the sun looked like a golden plate and it was about time for the sunset. So without much being concerned about the destination atop , we found our own hill top enroute the temple , and settled to see the sunset.
It has been some days since I had enjoyed the sunset. Even though I stayed mostly in kasol , but sunsets are not so apparent there, and I did not remember, when was the last time I had taken out time specifically for such a thing. The view I saw , mocked me in every sense , telling me , what I had missed for so long or did not give my time too.
Undoubtedly , it was the best sunset I saw, the golden orb slowly going behind the horizon. The horizon turned into organe and shades of it scattering in all directions of heaven and earth. The brown hills made of boulders , reflecting it and in turn turned reddish , as if blushing to the wonder they have fallen for. The other side of the hill showed the region of hampi all turned brighter with the golden lights falling for the day one last time. The tungabhadra river , like a giant dragon in the valley laying there all red , reflecting the last rays and as if going to sleep. The green paddy fields bidding its goodbye to the sun for the day , reduced its vibrancy and the city with brown ruins of a long lost strong empire was falling into sleep as the golden ob finally descended down into invisibility, no more to be seen. What I saw , I stayed speechless, capturing photos sometimes and looking with all awe. I was in LOVE and it was just the beggining.
To be continued .. Next blog.
Note from the Author,
" Travel made me rich and free. Magic and miracles are true , once you wander on the roads to places different and divine. I have collected so many thoughts and stories while being a Tour & Trek guide for last seven years. Sharing with you all, those memories and stories , and wishing you all , that someday you guys travel far and wide too. I am not a great writer , so ignore my grammar and spellings, read it with feelings, and you might just be affected with the wanderlust to hit the road"