Saturday, April 7, 2012

Hampi - Day 2

Virupaksha View

To be honest, Day 1 at Hampi left me a little underwhelmed. The Zenana Enclosure and the Elephant Stables are maintained rather like parks with open grassy lawns and trees, so in the evenings they are full of perambulating couples and hordes of chattering school children.

The dusty parking lots are packed full of giant Volvo buses, each of which regurgitate dozens of people carrying various plastic items which they plan to leave behind at the sites. If you carry a DSLR, people will ask you to take their pictures. We even had one school girl who wanted to pose with our car as a prop. She even borrowed my sun glasses and straw hat.

Hampi at Dawn

The next day though, Hampi compensated us and how! We left our hotel before dawn, much to the astonishment of the staff, to make it to the famous Vittala Temple at sunrise. Indeed, this is how Hampi is intended to be seen. Having parked our car in the dusty parking lot, carrying our backpacks with a few snacks and liquids, we started the long walk to the temple. The sun was just rising and the dawn colored the rocks along the way a gentle orange. The air was just slightly crisp, and a pleasant breeze accompanied us all the way.

Walkway to Vithalla Temple

We took the long route, walking along the river bank, and this is the route you should take. It is like stepping back in time, looking around you, the place looks preserved exactly like it would have been in its hey day. Except for the occasional moped, you can walk along pretending that you are a citizen of Vijayanagar. There are plenty of monkeys, keep an eye on your belongings.

River Side

There are coracles which will take you across the river to the other side, just like in the old days. From the pillared hall above the coracle boarding area, you can see the ancient collapsed bridge which connected the 2 banks. Further ahead, as the pathway slopes upward, you can see the Virupaksha Temple in the distance, easily noticeable as its ivory colored form standout among the rocks and boulders.


All along, there are little temples, buildings and pavillions, all mostly unmarked, free to be explored. They are good places to stop and take a drink of water and have a nibble. But please carry your garbage with you. Plenty of lizards and small birds like wagtails, bush chats and robins will keep you company as you walk along. Keep your self hydrated and fed at all times, I got a tad dizzy on our way back to the car and gave K quite a scare. :)

Vitthala Temple Entrance

When we finally reached the temple, we were delighted to find that we were the only people there. Our delight was short lived when we found that it had a steel gate which had been locked. Soon we spotted a guard who looked like he might have keys. A quick chat in kannada and it should be open we thought. But the poor man was from Bihar and looked askance at me; some fluent Hindi from K later, we were inside. Just us, the rising sun and the temple.

Temple with Lady

There was an old lady who collected flowers from the old Frangipani tree and did a pooja of a small temple which had a idol installed inside. Possibly some one like her back in the day, would have done the exact same ritual.

Vitthala Temple_Chariot

Sadly within ten minutes, my reverie was broken by a guide who had appeared like a genie and would not take no for an answer. He spoke only kannada and gave me ( K happily pleaded ignorance and left me to my fate ) a full tour. In a way, it was a good thing to take a guide there, being a large temple complex, theres lots to see.

Chariot Profile

The buildings though are in a poor state of preservation, the carvings are not very sharp and many are broken. The Musical pillars were wonderful to hear. He also helped interpret some of the carvings, identifying people, gods and explaining context. Finally a couple of Caucasians entered the temple and the guide took off like a rabbit after greener pastures.

NarsimhaKing's Balance

On our way back we saw the Kings balance, almost by chance, standing by itself near some neem trees, surrounded like everything else in Hampi by lots of boulders. You'll notice at the left pillar's base there is a small carving of a Man, a Woman and a child.

In the evening, we saw the Lakshmi Narasimha Temple. You'll notice that lakshmi is no where to be seen in the photo above. Thats because she left, and took some of his hands with her. You'll also notice that the lord looks like he is untangling wool going by the band between his knees. The original statue installed by Krishnadevaraya had Lakshmi sitting on his lap with her arm affectionately behind him. The statue was broken during the attack on the capital during the invasion by the Bahamani sultans in 1565 A.D.

The Giant ShivLing

Near the Temple, is the Badavi Linga which is enclosed in a tiny chamber and protected by the powers that be, by a grilled entrance to make it hard to photograph. Its base is covered by murky water and it is built over a canal. Which explains why its base is always flooded. Its size is massive and the One rupee coin near the pink flowers gives an idea of scale.

Stepped Tank

Another place that should not be missed is the Stepped Tank, which is a must see for the photo opportunity it provides. It is located near the Mahanavami Dibba which is like an open ground with a large stage and lots of steps.


Shadows are important when taking these photos so better to do it when the sun is in a position to be casting them. Below is a photo of the very nice Sadhu we met on the walkway in the morning. A man who had truly renounced worldly goods, he did not ask to be paid in turn for allowing us to take his photo. He looked mildly amused when we showed him the pictures and we paid him anyway. A far cry from the not-so-genuine holy man we were to meet on Day-3. Stay tuned!


Reading Material
Must see Monuments in Hampi

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Hampi - Part 1

LotusMahal doorways
Door Way at the Lotus Mahal

At barely 350 Km from Bangalore, Hampi is a world heritage site that is just waiting to be explored. However, the majestic ruins of the erstwhile capital of the Vijayanagar empire are for those who appreciate the vision and the skill of the city planners and architects. It is a site to be lingered upon and savored slowly like a fine wine. It would not do to be herded through it like cattle.

Elephant looking on at the stables

A year ago, on the 1st of April we were there. It had taken me 2 months of planning an itinerary - a task that K wisely left to me. Within 2 weeks, after going over a hundred odd blogs, trip reports, wikipedia, archaeological survey of India sites, I had given up. To do Hampi the way it deserves to be done, one would need 3-4 weeks. We had 3 days.

LotusMahal Emblem
The famous emblem

Who should go to Hampi ?

You should really like historical sites or photography or both. Period. There is little else to do there. Much of it is best done in your own car. Or hired bikes or on foot. Be prepared to walk for long distances without shade. It helps to know your history, do your research before you get there.

The Lotus Mahal

When to go?

We went in April - why you ask? It can get incredibly hot, and is considered off season. So you have fewer tourists (good for photography) and the hotels give you discounts that you will not believe. These are the advantages. The only disadvantage is the heat. The best time to go ofcourse is in Winter.

Elephant Stables
Another angle of the stables

Where to stay?

The "proper" hotels are in Hospet. Which is 30min drive on bad roads from Hampi. All the Hotels are pretty much next to each other, there are a lot of nice looking places, so options are many. The most famous and oldest is the Hotel Malligi. Dont go by the name, its apparently the place of choice for firangs but not very swank or clean and it looks slightly seedy to me. The pan walla there is very good though.

Hoopoe @ lotus mahal
Hoopoe among the ruins
The Watch Tower - Zenana Enclosure

We stayed at the brand new Royal Orchid Central Keerti at Hospet. Which is situated 1 km from the railway station at Hospet. I give it full marks. Good food, great service, super comfy beds, swank rooms and the techno-philes will love their touch screen controlled lights :) Nice pool too. And you'll need all these creature comforts because you can only do Hampi 6am to 10am and 3pm to 6:30pm. Its too hot at other times.

How to Reach?

We drove from Bangalore to Anantpur (NH7/NH44) which is a road you can fly on. From Anantpur head toward Bellary taking the state highway which is not too bad and join NH67 to Hospet. Do not think of trying NH13. It is in horrible condition. We left before dawn and reached before lunch. We could find no suitable places for breakfast, so just had emergency rations which we had packed from home.
The other way of getting to Hospet is by train or by KSTDC bus.

The Lotus Mahal's Doorways

Day 1

After a lovely lunch and some much needed snoozing and relaxation, we set out after a refreshing cup of tea. We headed out to the Lotus Mahal in the Zenana enclosure and the Elephant Stables. Buy a 50Rs guide book which people will anyway shove at you where ever you go. It has the map showing the important places so that you can plan your trip along a route and avoid driving to and fro.

Found this on a wall - Ram and Sita - I think

Hampi is deeply steeped in history and mythology. Its supposed to be Kishkinda from the Ramayan, which explains the Ram,Sita carving with the monkeys.
I'm not going to explain the history of these places here, I wouldn't be able to do it much justice. Where ever possible we avoided the guides like the plague so that we can explore on our own and try and figure things out for ourselves.


Birders should watch out for Spotted owlets, Parakeets and Hoopoes in large numbers during dusk.
Carry hat, sunglasses and sunscreen
Wear very comfortable shoes and light cotton clothing
Wear soaks. Some temples require you to leave your shoes outside. You dont want to hop around on the hot stones.
Keep plenty of refreshments in the car.
Keep sun shade open in the car when parked or the steering may melt. :)
Carry plenty of change to buy tickets, pay parking charges.
Hampi is a dry town and also has no meat available ( we never tried any eating places here, but the guide books say so )
Hospet - where you will be staying has no such restrictions.

TinyPavilion lotus mahal
Behind the Lotus Mahal

Research and Further Reading

For the Tourist and a brief history -
Research -
Research -
Archelogical Survey of India -
World Heritage Site -

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