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Published: August 12th 2010
Sunrise has always been a particularly magical time of the day for me; for as long as I can remember I've been fascinated by how time can become trapped in moments, how, with the correct framing, what is fluid can be stilled. If a day were a movie then I am happiest when I can seemingly stop the projector and step inside one of times frames, to view eternity in a moment, truth in the instant of its creation. Mornings seem to be the most propitious time to achieve this trick and, in Hampi, it takes hardly any conjuring at all.
Sitting upon a rock by a gently creased brown river in repose, with the rising sun stilled just above the horizon and Eagles dotting the pale lilac sky like dust motes in frozen suspension, I enter the scene around me. Here the land is softly folded like the ruffled silk sheets of a recently vacated bed. The valleys are meekly convex and the few larger promontories smoothly conical. Upon this subtle undulation lie scattered boulders in a tumble of uniformity, their rust and amber hues glowing golden under the interrupted caress of the sun's oblique rays. Almost perfectly spherical,
these rocks, pitted and worn like ancient cannonballs -some of them behemoths, others simply large - are grouped and piled, positioned and balanced in Dali-esque precision about a landscape where time is truly bent and broken.
Caught in the act of slipping slowly by, the chai coloured river pauses in its meandering path through the wide, boulder strewn valley, to reflect upon its reflecting of the sky. Concentric circles surround bubbles in mid pop near where a kingfisher spears the water with its pointed beak, iridescent wings spread in suspended anticipation of the impact to come. The river has always flowed this way - easing its way past boulders smoothed and sculpted by its constant embrace, flowing with a confidence born of one sure of their path, unencumbered by doubt and with absolute certainty of their destiny - and after this morning it will do again.
The earthy colours of the river and rocks sit in solemn counterpoint to the vibrancy of the greens that surround them. Brightly pale mustard-green grass abuts the river, constelated by a billion drops of dew in which whole worlds are trapped and held in the brightest part of a shimmers truncated oscillation.
Buffalo, with jaws popped sideways in mid rumination, float like black clouds above this emerald sea, their shadows, deep and crisp and static, are draped over the ridges that surround the paddy fields. These fields, which patch great swathes of this land in lusterous emerald blocks, are frozen in mid stir and whorl, the wind's invisible fingers becalmed, tousled teasingly in their crowns. Whilst above, glossy-green silent explosions of palm fronds, paused in their climactic burst star the stagnant air, tethered to the ground by vapour trails made manifest and brown.
For the ancient buildings that form the last stoically degrading remnants of a once rich, powerful and vibrant Kingdom, no magic is required at all. These bleached , sandstone ribs of once bustling bazaars; those abandoned skeletal remains that still form the carapace of temples where the last puja was performed many centuries ago; and the widely scattered bones that previously formed baths, elephant stables and delicate Mahals, have for many, many years now, existed entirely outside of time; the only being they have is that which we place upon them. Some parts of the Vijayanagar kingdom survived the Muslim onslaught and to this day serve the same
purpose, in much the same way, as they did in the 15th Century. The Virupaksha Temple being the perfect example of this; its intricately carved sides rising pyramidically towards the heavens at the head of the main bazaar, dwarfing all below it. People come from far and wide to worship here at this most beautiful and auspicious temple, but this morning the people are stilled, silhouetted by the suns oblique graze, the scene reminiscent of an Indian canvass by L S Lowry.
Above these stick figures all, way back behind my head where the sky meets the land, the heavens are painted a dark inky blue barely indistinguishable from black and so full and pregnant with colour that it appears the sky is being dragged down by the weight, pulling the new dawn into reluctant being. While in front of me, as if in homage to the stillness it sees, the single orange eye of Sun pauses in his ascent to gaze, unblinking, upon this land stripped of time, a pause that so embarrasses his consort, Dawn, that she blushes rose pink, saffron and salmon.
It is this brilliant blush that seems to be the antidote that breaks
the spell I cast; the projector resumes its whirring, sending time's infinite frames whizzing back past my eyes, recreating the all pervasive illusion of being, an illusion so comprehensively tangible and beautifully played, that in its continual deception we loose no honour. Samsara reclaims dominion. The kingfisher disappears under the gently flowing river, the buffalo resume their mastication, eagles return to turning their watchful circles high above, the wind continues to ruffle the rice paddies green hair and Sun, hand in hand with Dawn, begins again his journey across the heavens. Leaving me, becalmed upon my rock, a happy stranger at the funeral of an infinite moment in time.
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