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Published: December 19th 2019
Plates and tiny bowls carved into the stone
We have spent the past two days out and about Hampi and the surrounding area with our auto rickshaw driver. He has taken us to some great places that we would never have found on our own, and a couple of places we probably wouldn’t have bothered with. Overall though, we’re happy with our days, and happy to return to our hotel after six or so hours out and about, to get out of the heat and have some down time. We have a long way to go with this trip and need to pace ourselves.
Yesterday we visited some of the monuments which had no admission fee, starting with Bhojanasala, the community dining area for 15th century soldiers, with rows of food plates carved on the rock slabs, complete with the dimples of tiny bowls for serving dishes. There were two rows of these, stretching into the distance, an empty channel between them where water would once have ran.
Next stop was Lakshmi Narasmiha Temple where a 6.7 metre high monolithic statue of the 4th incarnation of Lord Vishnu stands. This statue has suffered a lot of damage over time, with all four arms broken and the seated
figure of his consort Lakshmi missing, and the face also damaged. It’s still an impressive piece and a fine example of Vijayanagara sculpture.
Lakshmi, the elephant from Virupaksha Temple was enjoying her daily bath in the river when we arrived. Lying on her side in the shallow water, her handler was scrubbing her with a brush and throwing buckets of water over her back. I’ve never seen such a blissed out elephant, the occasional flick of her tail and scrapping at the stones with her foot were the only signs of life.
The river was a lovely area, with steps leading down to the water, pavilions where locals sat and market stands along the road. Like Lakshmi, people completely disregarded the ‘no swimming’ signs. Women did their washing in the shallows and laid it out to dry and the local ferry took people back and forth to the opposite side of the river.
From here we visited Virupaksha Temple, one of Hampi’s oldest structures (14th century) and only remaining working temple, entrance via a nine tiered Eastern gateway fifty metres high. We had to remove our shoes, of course, to enter the temple so we explored one
River views in Hampi
The washing has been laid out on the roof of a pavilion to dry
at a time, the other sitting outside as shoe minder. Monkeys were everywhere and we didn’t trust them. Eventually Lakshmi the elephant returned from her bath, so we were able to get photos of her in the temple as well. Outside the temple is a well maintained ancient stepwell which is full of water.
Hemakuta Hill, was our next stop. This is a popular place for watching the sunset and can be walked to from Hampi Bazaar though we approached from the southern foothills on the opposite side. There were great views over Hampi to the rocky hills beyond. On the way we passed yet another magnificent monolithic sculpture, this one of Lord Ganesha. It’s around three metres tall and kept in an open pavilion.
We also visited the site of an ancient bazaar, lined on either side with the remains of long pavilions and an underground Shiva temple which wasn’t really underground at all. It was built in a low lying area and the temple roof is at ground level.
After all this sightseeing, we needed lunch so our driver took us to his friend’s establishment, Green Restaurant. It was an excellent choice, we had the
best vegetarian pizzas ever washed down with 500ml cans of strong Kingfisher beer. It was busy with a very laidback vibe, and played my kind of music. That beer went straight to our heads so we headed back to the hotel for some down time and an afternoon nap.
This morning we had an early start and were waiting outside our hotel at 5.00am for our auto rickshaw, we’re heading to Anjaneya Hill. At the top of the hill is a small whitewashed temple dedicated to Hanuman, the monkey warrior god, called Monkey Temple. We plan to watch the sunrise from here.
It was a 40 minute rickshaw ride in the cool pre-dawn air before we finally arrived at the base of the hill. We now have 575 stone steps to climb to reach the top. Thankfully they are all under awnings and reasonably well lit. We surprised ourselves and conquered them in 25 minutes, to find that we were the first people to reach the temple that morning. A few others arrived eventually, as well as dozens of monkeys which climbed over everything and fought between themselves. It was a very hazy morning and
the sun rose as a pink ball in the sky and we didn’t get the photos we were hoping for. We were still pleased we made the climb though, as the views were worth it.
After leaving here we passed through Sanapur village on the way to Sanapur Lake, which is fed by a dam further down Tungabhadra River. A very pleasant, but little visited area, surrounded by boulders with clean water.
We were getting hungry, so our next stop was Gouthani Guesthouse, where we could buy breakfast. We’re now on the opposite side of the river to Hampi village, in the laid back backpacker area and it had a very different vibe. Lots of guest houses, yoga retreats, shops selling hippie clothing and jewellery and groups of young travellers with braided hair and carefree attitudes.
Gouthani Guesthouse was spotlessly clean, we enjoyed omelettes and tea in their tiled outdoor eating area, looked at some rather expensive, locally made jewellery in the shop. We did a village walk and took photos across the river to where we were yesterday.
To reach the guesthouse we passed what we thought was the remains of an ancient bridge, but,
with further reading I discovered it’s called Bukka’s Aquaduct. Ambitious in its scale, all that remains of this massive aqueduct is a tall section of a bridge like structure. It’s built with rectangular dressed rock blocks placed on top of each other with no mortar. The unusual height for an aqueduct suggests the ambitious plan to lift huge quantities of water to an elevated region.
We visited several smaller Hindu temples during the morning but we found our interest, and energy levels, were waning. We returned to the hotel for a break. Later in the afternoon we went into Hampi Bazaar for a browse. I was disappointed in what we found, just more of the same - unkempt surroundings, dust, litter, monkeys and shop vendors desperate for a sale. Surprisingly, we haven’t seen many foreign tourists around, certainly not what I expected.
We returned to Green Restaurant for an early dinner - Potato and Eggplant Curry which we heaped onto naan bread, washed down with another of those Kingfisher beers. after dinner we walked back to our hotel and had another early night. All this walking and sightseeing is wearing us out!
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