Monsoons are a good time to go anywhere, other than to work. So this monsoon we packed our bags and headed to explore a very different kind of place. Little did we know that this place will transfer us to an era of splendidness and grandeur, in this five day heritage voyage starting on 2nd July’2016.
Hampi is a place which not just has a great history but also a great deal of mythology associated with it. So, the reasoning behind something will be linked to a historical moment in some early century, and for that same thing there will a mythological reasoning pertaining to an even earlier time period.
What I intend to describe here is – while we dig for history of Hampi, its rulers, their kingdom and architecture, etc., we can’t miss the fact that each of these elements also have their roots in mythological events related to hindu gods, to ramayana and mahabharta. For example, the question how did Hampi got its name has its answer in a mythological story of wedding of Lord Shiva with Pampa (the ancient name of the river Tungabhadra, on which Hampi is located). Even before there were kings and rulers, Hampi was a place where many events from Ramayana happened, for instance, Lord Rama met Hanuman and Sugreeva in this place while searching for Sita. Read more here.
Hampi is actually like an ocean of history; gallons and gallons of stories. I have put here few pieces of information about the place which Hampi was (Vijayanagar kingdom) and what it is now, from sightseeing and navigation perspective.
As the capital of the golden era of Vijaynagar kingdom, Hampi broadly showcases two sections of lifestyles: the Royal Part – where the kings and their belongings lived and bloomed, and the Sacred part – where the kings and their kingdoms worshiped and performed faith-based rituals.
Royal part is where we find infrastructure related to life of the Kings and his associates. Some of the important structures in this area include the Lotus Mahal, Elephant Stables, Royal Enclosure, Hazara Rama Temple and the Queen’s Bath. The main road to Hampi from Hospet, passes through the Royal Center before terminating at the Sacred Center.
Sacred part is the religious area of Hampi. Here we find spectacles of temples, some of which are oldest in our country. The notable ones are Vitthala and Virupaksha temple.
As always, we made hustled bookings for hotels and left every other thing to unveil and surprise us.
On a lovely Saturday morning, we woke up all excited to embark on our much-awaited trip. The plan was to start early i.e. 6 am (yes, this is early for nocturnal like us) and we were glad to get seated in our car and start by 6:45.
The route we took was Bangalore-electronic city-NH7-chitradurga-bellary.
As we started early in the morning, the first stop we took was for breakfast. Around 8:am, just before entering NH7, we saw a veg restaurant on the sideways. Had a heart full of idli-vada-dosa before venturing ahead.
The weather was cool and breezy, perfect for a road trip like this. The boulder-laden, green landscapes along the way were captivating enough to keep us hooked, all thanks to monsoons.
We took a slight deviation to visit Sandur, a small town in Bellary district known for manganese and iron ore mines.We touched Sandur around 1 ‘o’clock. The place was engulfed in high level of reddish brown dust in the air and hustling lorries, carrying iron ores (and who know what) on bumpy roads. Every single piece of object was covered with redddish hued sand.
Not happy with all-windows up, bumpy ride amid outrageously rushing lorries, we were quickly making our way out, when suddenly the landscape on our right started to transform from bustle of a town to a panoramic and serene lake with beautiful hills.
Our facial expressions changed dramatically and we made several stops on the shoulder of the highway to absorb the scenery and click few pictures. The beauty was such that few stops were not feeling enough. I was so much wishing to stand there for some more time and feel lost, but the level of pollution was just intolerable.
In another hour we reached our destination for the day, the Hyatt Place, in Vidyanagar township in Bellary. A beautiful, luxurious hotel inside a green, quiet township.
We checked-in at 2:30 and the receptionist guy asked us to join the buffet lunch since they close it at 3.00. Since we had developed appetite by this time, we decided to first fill our stomachs before thinking about anything else. We made a quick trip to our room to freshen up and were on lunch table in no time.
The food was average and cold, nothing extraordinary in quality or variety. Basic dal with lots of garlic and high amount of salt, two sabjis, chapati in Indian cuisine. Regular pastas in red sauce, baked paneer in some white gravy in italian cuisine, noodles with vegetables and sauteed vegetables in curry for chinese cuisine. Two desserts (sooji halwa and one more i fail to remember). Being a foodie and coming from a cosmopolitan city like bangalore, we found the food to be average and nothing close to what one can expect from a luxury hotel.
Now that our stomachs were full and a lot of day-time left, we started thinking of what all could be visited nearby. I was happy to find few books about Hampi in the hotel’s sitting area, so started browsing them to make myself aware a bit. Meanwhile, my husband used the computers to browse what all could be seen. Finally, we decided to go visit an art museum adjacent to the hotel and later explore the township area.
Kaladham or Place Hampi is nothing sort of a traditional museum you will find elsewhere. It doesn’t showcases artifacts or sculptures. What they show is a 3D kind of movie and images to let experience the nitty gritty of a place that Hampi is. The 3D movie which they show is a combination of images with few animations and the museum person vocally explaining what is being shown.
After spending an hour or so in the museum, we moved around the township which is beautifully built for the comfort of the residents. We spent some time looking around and went back to the hotel to call it a day.
Next day was supposed to be a big day, to explore the richness of the architecture built by some of the great rulers of Vijayanagar kingdom. I have written two posts to detail about the places I visited – Royal Hampi and Sacred Hampi. The day after exploring Hampi, we moved ahead to get humbled by stunning cave temples of Badami, carved out of giant sandstone hills, and further to magnificent chalukyan temple architecture in Pattadakal. Read about them here and here.
The important thing to do, if you really wish to enjoy Hampi and get awed by its architecture, culture and history, is to research well about it before going there. Make yourself aware about the points of interest, read the history, carry a map (even a guidebook) and plan the navigation. If you fail to do so, the guides have most of the reasons to fool you by showing only a few places and finishing off their work in no time.
Depending on the level of research you have done on the place, you can opt or skip taking the services of a guide. I would suggest to opt for a guide for two reasons.
One, for how much we can read/browse about the place on internet and in books, the real architecture is so grand to make us feel lost. A guide in such situation can navigate us in a proper manner, and backed by our theoretical knowledge, we can ensure a quality visit. Two, the economy of this place is heavily dependent on tourism and with a small peak season ( Nov-feb), the guides get a small window to earn in a full year, as their sole work is only to work as a guide. In my belief, we should take their service, in a way to contribute little to the economy of such a great place.
Hampi is a real hot place, even in monsoons, as it receives little rain. Make sure to wear sunglasses and cap, even if there is no sunshine, as the heat will drain your energy fast and make you lose interest in the visiting areas. Also, carry enough water and energy bars. Paid toilet facilities are available near many structures.
Hampi is not just for visiting monuments and getting immersed in history. It is also a favorite location for rock-climbing enthusiasts. One such business is Tom & Jerry Rock Climbing Joint, who conduct climbing sessions.
There is so much to explore in Hampi. I would suggest taking two days to visit the places in a no rush manner. I spent just one day and still think i missed a lot.
Most of the links are embedded in the text. Few more are here: