After a well-rested, dreamless night, I got up early – at 6:00 am to be precise. Proud of this fact, I looked around, expecting my husband to be asleep, but to my surprise he was wide awake, waiting for me to wake up.
So our day started with a little chit-chat, giggles and the morning view from the window, in contrast to our usual days back home which start with hustle to reach office on time.
Such vacations make you realize that the they are about not just sight seeing or new cuisines (although these are important too), but about such sweet moments you spend with your spouse. The moments which otherwise get lost in the freaky busy-ness of mundane life.
We spent a relaxed morning, enjoying our tea over general life conversation. Then got up, ready-set-go for the day and reached the hotel restaurant for the breakfast. Just to recap – We stayed at Hyatt place in Bellary district, inside Vidyanagar Township. I have shared my views on the lunch in my previous post. The breakfast was surprisingly very sumptuous with a good spread of flavorful dishes. We enjoyed it to our heart full, before checking out of the hotel and venturing ahead on our journey.
When entering Hampi from Hospet, the Royal area lies first and it starts with a magnificent structure, known as Queen’s bath.
The structure is situated just across the main road with clear signage. In fact, for almost every main structure in Hampi, there are clear signage.
A grand pool for the royal ladies, reclusive as well as open. This Indo-Islamic style structure was constructed during the reign of the Vijayanagara Empire.
From outside it looks like a plain simple rectangular structure, rather ugly but from inside, it showcases exquisitely carved windows protruding over the pool, dome-shaped verandahs with intricate carvings, aqueducts, etc. Area-wise, this sunken bath is said to be 50ft wide and 6ft deep.
There are two striking things about this structure. First is the moat around outside of the building which needs to be crossed to enter the building. It is believed that this was probably to keep the intruders away while the bath was in use. Second is its substantial distance from rest of the royal structures. It is believed that this bath was quiet away from the royal enclosure where queens use to stay, this structure was meant not just for the royal ladies but also for the kings, and for their mutual pleasure (over to your imagination).
These days there is a small garden outside where people sit below the trees and have their food.
A dusty road takes further north, where there is another structure, high walled and embraced by huge boulders lying close. We stopped to see it when a guide approached us. As we were already looking for a guide, we happily accepted his services after few minutes of price negotiation.
This structure is called Mahanavami Dibba. It is an elevated platform with stairs on sides. On reaching the top, you could see the vast area around which basically comprises of the ruins of several buildings, where the royal family resided. This is one of those areas in Hampi which faced severe destruction.
Mahanavami dibba was constructed by King Krishnadevaraya to mark the victory over Udaygiri (now in Orissa). On the sides, there are carvings, largely of elephants. The king used to watch various events, musical performances, aquatic sports and mainly 9 days of Navratri functions from this platform.
Moving ahead, you will see a large aquatic structure or pool right in front of mahanavami dibba and one more on the side. Both are in ruined condition. All of these flattened out structures will trickle your imagination towards a once functional, full-fledged royal palace with rooms, baths, recreational area, etc.
Lost in our thoughts and little disheartened to see how badly the once beautiful structures are now, we moved further. There we saw a long aqueduct, made of equal sized and aligned blocks of stone. It happened recently (in 1985) that while restoring the aqueduct, archaeologists wondered why one end of the aqueduct is pointing downward. So, they dug the area and excavated an un-destroyed stepped tank. Among the totally ruined structures, this stepped tank seems totally intact, not even a scratch.
The step-well is very different from the other architectures in Hampi. It was constructed using the finished block of black schist stones. The mason marks on them indicate that these blocks were fabricated somewhere else and then brought and assembled here. The tank has 5 landings, each connected by mini steps.
The next constituent of the Royal center is Zenana enclosure which is few kms ahead of Royal enclosure. It is a walled area, sprawling across several acres with few erected structures, few in ruins, surrounded by manicured lanes with a mud road in middle. This enclosure is believed to be for the stay and recreation of the royal ladies (although there is an alternate theory as well).
The only tall building which is visible upfront is Lotus mahal. On the left, there is a wide structure which is believed to be women’s guard quarters and is now a small museum. Other remarkable things in the compound are three tall watch towers in different directions (not allowed to go inside them), ruins of the royal palace for queens and of a water pavilion.
The lotus Mahal is a two-storeyed, dome-shaped, Indo-Islamic architecture. It is one of the structure in Hampi that escaped the wrath of the destroyers. The remarkable features of this structure are lotus-shaped archways with delicate carvings on them, still in good condition.
Though the Zenana enclosure is said to be a place for royal ladies, the alternate beliefs consider it to be a stay for commander-in-chief, due to its proximity with the elephant stables and the treasury.
As we moved further south in the Zenana enclosure, we found a narrow entrance leading to another awe-inspiring structure, known as elephant stables. It is so grand that it is tough to believe such remarkable structure was created just to keep the elephants, though the royal ones. The entire building is a symmetric architecture comprising of eleven connected dome-shaped chambers which were used to park the elephants.
Behind elephant stables, there are few temples, mostly in ruins, one among them is a small Jain temple.
There is no fees to visit these structures. The timings are 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM.
Don’t forget your sunglasses, caps, and water, otherwise heat will drain your energy.
Do carry a map. We missed visiting hazara rama temple, which is inside the royal enclosure itself, all due to blindly following the guide.
There are any places to have food in Hampi bazaar, near Virupaksha temple. We had our lunch at a restaurant called Mango tree.
Plan to spend at least two days in Hampi to enjoy the breathtaking architecture at a comfortable pace.