Wednesday, June 16, 2010

If I could turn back time - Hampi Travelogue

Prologue: I wanted to write this travelogue entry in Jan this year to commemorate 500 years of king Krishnadevaraya’s empire. This landmark event was celebrated in grandeur in Karnataka in Jan 2010. I penned down the article below for my office newsletter late March, now found the time to post it on my blog. A general advise - I request all to undertake a trip to Hampi, the seat of Vijayanagar empire, only in winter months (Oct – Dec) to avoid scorching heat of the sun.

When Harihara and Bukka founded the Vijayanagar empire in Deccan plateau, back in 1336, they barely would have imagined this empire flourish as a strong conglomerate of four different dynasties – Sangama, Saluva, Tuluva and Aravidu dynasties, an era that marked the pinnacle in South Indian art, architecture and literature. It was under king Krishnadevaraya of the Tuluvu dynasty (1509-1529) that the empire reached its peak of prominence, many thanks to his administrative acuity, religious tolerance and his endless aegis to arts, architecture and literature.
Hampi, about 350 km from Bangalore, 13 km from Hosepet, now a world heritage site, is the capital of this renowned empire. The place teems with history and if one wishes to turn back time, revisit some magnificent examples of Vijayanagar architecture, nothing can parallel a 3-day visit to Hampi. There are KSRTC bus services to Hospet and Hampi and Hampi express, a daily train from Bangalore to Hosepet. While day 1 can be dedicated to visiting the Sacred centre, day 2 can be dedicated to visiting sites of the Royal centre at Hampi and day 3, for visiting TungaBhadra dam (at Hosepet) and Chitradurga fort en route Bangalore.

Virupaksha temple, the oldest temple in Hampi is the most prominent site and its giant gopuram (tower) overlooks the Hampi Bazaar. With Lord Virupaksha in the form of a linga in the inner sanctum, this temple with two courtyards has some important features - a tri headed Nandi statue, a 100 column mantapa in the first courtyard on left, a central mantapa with a view of the sanctum with intact mural art on its ceiling, a dark chamber behind the sanctum where an inverted shadow of the temple tower can be seen (pinhole camera effect). The Hampi Bazaar stretches from the Virupaksha temple to the monolithic bull statue and is flanked by shops, guesthouses and restaurants.
Adjacent to the Virupaksha temple is the Hemakuta hill with a cluster of temples. As one climbs the hill, one gets a better view of the Virupaksha temple tower. Descending the Hemakuta hill on the other side leads to Sasivekalu Ganesha, a monolithic in situ figure of Ganesha, round like a mustard seed. Nearby, is even bigger Kadalekalu Ganesha.
Figure below: From L to R – 1) Virupaksha temple tower 2) Hemakuta hill with shrines 3) Sasivekalu Ganesha 4) Tungabhadra river, view of Virupaksha temple Walking along the Hampi Bazaar Street, turning left before the monolithic bull takes one along the banks of Tungabhadra River to Kodandarama temple and Yantrodhara Anjaneya temple. Going ahead one hits the Achutharaya temple/Tiruvengalanatha temple, a grand example of Vijayanagar architecture with the wide Courtesan street in front of it and a stepped tank by its side. The courtesan street was then known for profuse trade in gems, pearls and ivory.
Figures below: Vittala temple & From L to R – 1) River side path leading to Achutharaya temple 2) Courtesan Street 3) Stepped tank 4) Inside Achutaraya temple

Getting back along the riverside path, one heads towards the Vittala temple observing the remains of Hampi bridge, Purandaradasa mantapa and Kings’ balance. Marking the apogee in temple architecture is the Vittala temple, our history textbook regular, bearing the Stone Chariot and the musical pillars mantapa. Walking back along the same riverside path brings us back to the Nandi, a point from where one can take a trek up the Matanga hill, the highest peak in Hampi to get a bird’s eye view.

Day 2 might witness some spill over from sites of the sacred centre. Up hill and down hill from Hampi Bazaar, turning left after crossing the Ganeshas, one reaches the Krishna temple. From here, one has to follow the road to Kamalapur via Chandikeshwara temple and Uddana Veerabhadra temples, en route the gigantic Lakshmi Narasimha statue, Badavalinga temple (monolithic Shiva Linga) and sister rocks to reach the Royal centre.

You get ready for the day's dose of architectural extravaganza of Vijayanagar empire when you see the board citing “Underground Siva Temple”. Taking the small dusty lane on left, you are at the threshold to the Royal centre that comprises the Mohammedan watchtower and mosque, Band tower, Danaik enclosure (mint enclosure), Vira Harihara palace ruins, Noble men quarters and Basement of palaces. As the dusty lane forks off, it leads one to the Zenena enclosure on the left, the Hazara Rama temple and Royal enclosure on the right.

Figure below: From L to R - 1) Lakshmi Narasimha statue 2) Band tower 3) Mohamaddan watch tower 4) Lotus Mahal 5) Elephant stables

The Zenena enclosure – royal women’s quarters comprises of some of the beautiful sites of Hampi – the Lotus Mahal, the royal treasury, the guard’s quarters and Elephant stables, all enclosed within broad, tall, stone wall compound marked with watch towers at the corners. Proceeding towards the Royal enclosure, one hits the Hazara Rama temple on the way, with scenes from Ramayana adorning the temple walls.
The Royal enclosure is as significant as Zenena enclosure for it confines structures like the King’s audience hall, underground chambers, several aqueducts, public bath, the stepped tank/Pushkarini and Mahanavami Dibba.

Figure below: From L to R – 1) Pushkarini in Royal enclosure 2) Mahanavami Dibba 3) Queen’s bath 4) View of Achutaraya temple from Matanga hill top

Leaving the Mahanavami Dibba and riding along the mud pathway away from these two enclosures, one arrives at the Queens’ bath, with projecting balconies built in Indo Sarcenic style. The dusty track merges with the main Hampi- Kamalapur road and one heads back to Hampi bazaar, carrying pictures of the many monuments, their architectural styles. There are patches of paddy fields watered by small canals on the way and there are huge rocks, heaps of boulders by the side of the Tungabhadra river, the landscape of Hampi offers myriad questions, as many in number as the architectural wonders, it offers for the human eye.

On day 3, one can pack the bags early after breakfast, cross the river to take a tour of Anegondi or leave Hampi, head to TungaBhadra dam in Hosepet. Before heading back to Bangalore, a trip to the Chitradurga fort (200 km from Bangalore), with seven concentric tiers of fortification built by the Nayaks, known for its many temples, watch towers, bastions and secret entrances, will definitely add an element of excitement and rack few muscles.
Quick Tips
How to reach: KSRTC buses to Hospet and Hampi/Hampi express from Bangalore city junction to Hosepet
Where to eat: Hampi has many restaurants on the main bazaar street and its offshoots. Lot of hype surrounds a certain Mango Tree restaurant. In catering to foreign tourists, Hampi parallels Goa as the menu in most eateries covers everything from Tortillas, Momos, Pita bread, Falafel, Hash brown potato and Pancakes.
Where to stay: Innumerable guesthouses in Hampi near Virupaksha temple provide a comfortable option, rest houses in Virupappara Gadde (on the other side of TB River) are not preferable as ferry services stop at 6pm. Kamalapur and Hosepet hotels may be luxurious but not good options as commute to Hampi will eat away valuable time.
How to go around: Cycle, though it might get a little tiresome. Motor bikes are available and the best option. Please carry a valid ID proof to procure a cycle/bike. While walking to cover sites on day 1 is possible, walking to cover the Royal centre sites is an impossible option even in winter months. It is highly important to carry maps of Hampi sites to ensure you visit all of them without wastage of time.
For maps and more details, please refer to

1 comment:

dibba tours said...

I suggest u stay in mango tree restaurant because this is a beautiful place