Edit Blog Post
Published: February 22nd 2017
All it took was overnight train ride on the Hampi Express from the big city of Bangalore to Hosapete and we were in a new world - the Indian countryside of the Deccan Plateau - ox carts, palm trees, rice fields, over laden vehicles and red dirt.
In the three days since we had left home, we had covered some familiar ground but had some new experiences - ordering a cappuccino and cheese plate high over the Pacific in Cathay Business class; eating genuine dim sum in a hole in the wall in Kennedy Town, Hong Kong; finding out we had a defective camera card; getting a bit worried after repeated rejections of our bank cards in Bangalore until we used an Bank of India ATM ( wait, that one was not a new experience), painlessly buying train tickets and getting senior citizen rate.
From Hosapet it was a 30 minute auto rickshaw ride to Hampi, our base to explore the fabulous ruined city of Vijayanagar which is spread over 26 square kilometres among piles of massive golden granite boulders and banana plantations.
The short version of the history is that between the 14th and 16th centuries it
was the most powerful Hindu capital in the Deccan. Stories have been told of the size and wealth ( markets full of silk and precious gems, ornate palaces) and compared favourably to Rome at the time. Then in the late 16th century, there was a 6 month Muslim siege that destroyed all but stone, brick and stucco structures - which is what we see today. The archaeological museum had some fabulous before and after photos of some of the restorations as well as scale models of the whole site.
As well as the man made structures, the country side is littered with massive granite boulders piled haphazardly around. These boulders were once part of gigantic granite monoliths that were weathered over tens of millions of years. The surface of the monoliths cracked, split and eventually became what is seen today. Then there is Hindu mythology which believes Hampi is the mythical monkey kingdom and the rocks were thrown down during a battle. (Kelly comment: Personally this whole area was more impressive than Angkor Wat or Macchu Pichu due to the fact that everything was built from huge granite slabs.)
Any photos taken of this area fail to do
it justice as it is impossible to capture the sheer immensity of the structures or the surreal atmosphere. From the 4.5m Ganesha that was carved out of a huge boulder near the village to the Krishna Temple that faced the 50m x600m chariot field we headed further south (by auto rickshaw) to the Royal enclosure which included such fabulous structures like the Lotus Mahal (an airy pavilion), the elephant stables (which had 10 domed chambers for the state elephants, a central pavilion and a guard tower) and the 22 sqm step well (pushkarani). By now the heat was getting to us so it was back to the village for lunch and a bit of a relax then off to see more sites at 3pm. The Queens Bath was very pretty and that completed the royal enclosure buildings. The final main stop of the day was the Vitthala temple - a long hot 1km walk to the temple compound (we paid 20c for a ride back to the parking lot) and I think by now I was templed out. Three sites (lotus mahal, museum and Vitthala temple) were covered under one entrance ticket IF you visited all three on the same
day, which in hind sight was a bit much in the heat. Oh well.
The last stop was at an active temple close to sundown. So many people coming to pray, chanting that went on 24/7, monkeys, cows, priests. Our western world is so drab compared to the Indian world.
Hampi village is very small with narrow dirt streets, many lined with guesthouses, restaurants and tourist shops. We were somewhat surprised to learn that all food sold is vegetarian and it is an alcohol free zone. Most of the restaurants appeared to really cater to the tourist with extensive international menus and comfy lounging areas. The Ganesh restaurant (which was associated with our guesthouse) on the other hand was pretty basic but served excellent SPICY local food. A breakfast favourite was Puri Baji and their lunchtime curries were excellent. On the second day we rock hopped to get across the Tungabhadra river and visited the alternative lodging area of Virupapuragadda. The guesthouses and restaurants were strung out on a road boarded by the river on one side and rice fields on the other. I think there is where I would recommend anyone who was staying longer than 2
nights to base themselves - there is so much more room so there was a lot more shady outdoor relaxing areas - and they serve beer! The village was perfect for us though for the two days that we were there.
The second morning, I got up early to wander around the quiet streets and ended up following noisy crowds of people to the ghats at the rivers edge...this is where they all bathe! Such a colourful scene with people gathering all over the rocks! I am still not sure if there were so many bathing as this is a holy river, or because there is no running water in many of the houses (I saw water being drawn from a well). Regardless, there were so many people, they must have some from afar. We sat on the steps of the ghats, sipping masala chai (tea) and just taking it all in. A bit later Lakshmi the temple elephant was also brought to the river for her morning scrub. Luckily we hung around long enough to see this - it was only a chance comment from the chai seller that informed us of the elephant activity.
heat of the morning we climbed Matanga hill via granite steps and rocks for a great view of the area and then descended on the opposite side via a huge granite staircase. Once again we were approached for a photo with a family group. There has been so much hand shaking, "where you from". And so many photos - Kelly is a giant among most of them. The Indian tourists far out number the westerners here. For sunset we wandered ( along with everyone else) among the temples and rocks on Hemakuta Hill behind the Virupaksha temple which enabled us to get up close to some of the huge rocks.
Tot: 0.096s; Tpl: 0.056s; cc: 7; qc: 24; dbt: 0.0133s; 1; m:saturn w:www (188.8.131.52); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.2mb