Hampi: The land of ruined temples


As I reached out my right hand to pluck out a banana from the bunch of six, I received a spank on the back of my hand, on the drive to Hampi, the town dotted with numerous ruined temples

 “These are for the cows,” said my wife.

I withdrew my hand, feeling like a child, and looked out of the Car window. We were going to the pride of my home state Karnataka and a world heritage site, Hampi, after visiting Mamatha’s father at Bangalore.

We Hindus believe that by feeding a cow, one can overcome the malefic effects of planets on one’s life. So, in keeping with her faith in Hindu Astrology, Mamatha had been feeding bananas to cows for several days.

Traveling in the Company of your wife is much like taking your home with you. You have so many things taken care of, but the rules and corrective ways also accompany you. But wives transform into endearing angels liberated from routine incarceration, letting us husbands get away with some liberties. Eventually I caved, and agreed to go to Hampi

It is a nine-hour drive to Hampi since it is 600 kilometers away from Mysore, and so I thought that I was justified in eating a banana from the holy reserve due to the delayed lunch.

Hampi was so prosperous under the Vijaynagar empire that Italian and Persian traders placed it a couple of notches above medieval Rome. Hampi-Vijayanagara was one of the world’s largest medieval-era cities and probably India’s richest at that time, attracting traders from Persia and Portugal.

Hampi is a unique and spectacular town and has been compared to Rome for its size, riches, flourishing art, architecture, literature, and abrupt destruction. In 1443, a ship brought an ambassador, a tired and disillusioned chronicler from Timurid (modern-day Kazakhstan) at the port of Calicut on the Malabar Coast of Southern India, Abdul Razak, he quoted  “The city of Vijayanagar is such that the pupil of the eye has never seen a place like it, and the ear of intelligence has never been informed that there existed anything to equal it in the world.”

Abdur Razzak was not alone,in his awe. Apart from anything else, Hampi, the City of Victory was the location of the world’s largest diamonds. It was here that the world’s biggest diamonds were on display— and the wealthiest diamond deposits were located nearby, within its territories: A Portuguese trader wrote..” The largest I have seen in this land was 140 carats, another 120, and I have heard that a native of this land had one of 250 carats….” This may be the earliest reference to the legendary Koh-i-Noor.

Hampi was much more popular a millennium ago for its connection with Ramayana (It was called ‘Kiskinda Kshetra and it is believed that Anjaneya Hills was the birthplace of Hanuman, the faithful devotee of Lord Rama.

The central Government came out with a travel package called Ramayan Circuit in 2019 to promote religious tourism in India. Hampi was one of the fifteen places that lord Ram travelled during his exile. This was where Lord Rama and Lakshmana met Lord Hanuman while in search of abducted Sita.

Top view of a part of Hampi
Some of the sculptures

Most of the major temples in Hampi have a pushkarani built near them. The pushkaranis were a prominent feature, a ritual water tank that had steps to walk down and fetch water. The most intricate five level highly symmetric Gray stone step well was fed by a stone aqua duct near the Maha Ramanavami (Mahanavami) procession and events performance platform, housed within the royal and court residence campus.

Pushkarani, water tank for rituals

This monolithic structure, which is 6.7 m in height, has the lord Narasimha sitting in cross-legged position on the coil of a giant seven-headed snake Adishesha. It is a structure depicting the Lord in a terrifying and angry form. Narasimha means half-man and half-lion. It is one of the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu.

Sugreeva Cave

Lotus Mahal is a water-cooled residence built for one of the two wives of Vijayanagar ruler, Krishnadevaraya. It has a water tank on the top with water pipes running through the beams and columns, facilitating flow of water through the structure and keeping it pretty cool even in hot summer.

Lotus mahal, Hampi India

Vijaya Vittala Temple, musical pillars

The Vittala Temple is also famous for the reverberating musical pillars, however to avoid damage, tourists are no longer allowed to play the musical pillars but if you have a guide, they should be able to show you and also bring the meaning of all the intricate sculptures of this temple to life too.

  Vijayanagar empire with Hampi (indicated by a dot)

The temple contains the most incredible. elaborate sculptural work and the famous stone chariot,

Stone Chariot, printed on Indian 50 Rupee Note…

Hampi fell finally and succumbed to ruthless destruction and looting, that lasted or more than 6 months.

List of Places to visit within Hampi:

-Urban ruins cluster (King’s palace, queen’s palaces, Queen bath, bazar street etc),

-Temple clusters (Multiple temples)

-Riverside ruins (more temples now steeped deep inside the river bed of Tungabhadra)

-Hills (Matanga hill, Anjanadri hill, Hemakuta hill)

Though it was late September, it was very hot outside with the sun was scorching in the cloudless sky. Hampi can be very hot during summer reaching as hgh as 45 deg. celsius. The best time to visit Hampi is when it’s cool and dry, from November to February.

If you are visiting Hampi for the first time, it is advisable to hire the services of a good tour guide. I was lucky to get Parusharam, a fine tour guide through my niece.

“You are an exception. You have not only climbed 570 steps of Anjandri hill but also treaded around in hot sun for five hours. Most tourists cant do more tha four hours” said Parashuram.

Visiting ancient ruins requires your imagination to fill up the blanks and physical effort to climb hills and walk around. This is exercise to our brains and bodies.  But while doing that we are filled with a painful sensation about the lost and ancient glory and forms moments of stillness in our hectic minds where time stands still, and we lose ourselves in our imaginations.

Do check my blog about my trek to Gomukh, deep in Garhwal Himalayas


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After being threatened by a Bangalore mob boss, retired Indian businessman Mohan Ranga Rao takes a vow to trek around Mount Kailash, a holy Tibetan Mountain revered by over a billion people. What starts out as merely a challenging high-altitude trek soon becomes a life-changing adventure. With a blend of humour, honesty and keen insight, Mohan journeys toward a deeper understanding of the world around him. A memoir of a road less travelled and a true story of self-discovery at 19,000 feet.

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