Hampi - Day 1
Our Engineering exams were just over, and we decided to get out of the rut by going backpacking, and chose South India as an ideal destination. Since we had only one week to spare due to family commitments, we chose a route that would take us down south and give us a dose of both heritage and leisure.
We refered to some posts on the internet, and concluded that Hampi would be an ideal starting point. The erstwhile capital of the mighty Vijaynagar empire, Hampi saw a period of power and growth under the tutelage of King Krishnadevaraya, who was a fantastic strategist, administrator and a patron of the arts.
Althogh destroyed due to invasions of the Deccan Sultanate, the remains of Hampi still bear testament to the craftsmanship of Indian artists during the middle ages and the foresight and economic might of their patrons.
We took one of the regular buses that ply between Pune and Hospet, and reached Hospet at 8 am, after which a ride in a rickshaw took us to Hampi. The first thing one notices while riding into Hampi is the massive, ornately decorated gopuram of the Virupaksha Temple. This is also one of the few temples in Hampi that is still actively used in worship.
We checked into a hotel which was a 5 minute walk from the Virupaksha temple, which charged us Rs. 800 per night. Since Hampi is a favorite for foreign tourists, one can find many cafes and restaurants here which cater to their needs. We had a pot of tea at the German Bakery in the market area in morning, and planned for the day’s sightseeing.
We started out toward the Vitthal temple, taking the huge road that was once the Hampi Bazaar. Along the way, we saw the monolithic Nandi statue on the left, and Matanga hill on the right.
A flight of steps lead to a grand entrance which opens at the Achyutraya Temple. This temple was build by the successor of King Krishnadevaraya, Achyuta Deva Raya, and is a temple to Lord Venkateshwara, but its ruins are popularly reffered to by the name of its patron.
After walking over some huge rocks by the river, we reached the King’s Balance, a stone weighing scale where the King would be weighed against gold, which would then be given away to the priests. We then (finally) reached the Vitthal Temple.
The Vithhal Temple is probably one of the grandest in Hampi and possibly in all of India. It is housed inside a massive complex with ornately carved walls, entrances and pillars. The complex houses five mantapas, 4 in corners and 1 in the centre. The Sun Chariot from the Konark temple has been replicated here. The vehicle of Vitthal, Garuda (eagle) can be seen inside the chariot. The central mantap houses the famous singing pillars. These stone pillars have been designed in such a way as to create sounds of different musical instruments when hit by a stick or any other object. The Queen would dance for the King in this mantap to the sound of music from the pillars. The roof of the central mantap was blown up by invaders in 1565 A.D., so the sound is fairly diminished now.
The central mantap houses an inner temple, where the actual idols were kept and worshipped. The original idols of Vitthal and Rukumai were taken to Pandharpur in Maharashtra during the invasion of Vijaynagar. One unique feature of the Vitthal temple is that the place where one performs ‘pradakshina’ is underground.
There are tiny inlets for light in the roof, which reflects off a stream of water on the floor, which in turn provides illumination for the entire chamber.
We then proceeded towards the river, where the local people offer to take you downstream in a Coracle (locallly reffered to as ‘joutty’) boat. We were sitting in this kind of a boat for the first time and this turned out to be one hell of a boat ride, with our guide taking the boat under overhanging rocks and letting it spin wildly every now and then. The river is also lined with ruins of temples and everything is quite a pleasure to watch. We disembarked at the Varana temple, which is a big white temple and is still functional. Terribly hungry, we walked to the main temple and ate delicious cheese tomato omelletes at Cafe Chillout.
We rested for a while and then decided to pay a visit to the Virupaksha temple. This is a massive temple. It is mostly functional and the inner complex is mostly intact. One interesting facet of this temple is that one can see the inverse image of the main gopuram in a pond behind the Shivling.
We then proceeded to our hotel for a good night’s sleep.