It was time for the second travel trip for the year and it was on my list too !! HAMPI it was !! This trip had been planned and cancelled a few times before so till the day I had to travel I had my fingers crossed and backpack half packed. Once I was on the bus, I knew there was no stopping.

temple ceiling in Hampi, dated back to the 16th century, painted with leaves and fruits

Hampi’s ruins are spread over 16 sq miles and has more than 1,600 surviving remains of the last great Hindu kingdom in South India – ‘King Krishnadevaraya ‘ – that includes forts, riverside features, royal and sacred complexes, temples, shrines, pillared halls, mandapas, memorial structures, water structures and others. over the years there has been considerable wear and tear of the monuments but yet the glory is unmistakable.

It was a weekend trip (yes, two days aren’t enough to cover Hampi – a minimum of four days are recommended) so I had packed some basic stuff and hopped on to a bus that was running from Mumbai to Hospet, a small town in Karnataka. The bus left Pune around 20:45 and pulled into Hospet the next day at 07:30. Surprisingly comfortable the sleeper bus was equipped with substantial amount of stretching space in the cabin and most importantly a phone charging socket and USB slot.

Hopping on to a tuk-tuk, also called as an auto rickshaw we quickly pulled into the small town of HAMPI. I had chosen to travel with Travers India, one of my regular travel options. Travers is known for their friendly tour guides and choicest itinerary selections that don’t fail to surprise the traveller at the end of the trip. The ride from Hospet to Hampi is less than 30 minutes and the entire route is lined by beautiful green fields and countryside homes. As we came close to Hampi the sites of old temples encircled by steel fences started to appear. I was told – due to the amount of discoveries made here in the recent past, UNESCO had declared the entire land as a World Heritage Site, which meant not a single brick could be laid without proper approvals.

After a quick shower and a lovely South Indian breakfast, the highlight of which was the authentic filter coffee poured in a tall glass, we set out to explore the magical ruins of Hampi. The empire is long gone, and what stands before today is just a small reflection of the might, grandeur and ultra luxurious lifestyle of the Vijayanagara empire whose commercial capital was Hampi. The landscape instantaneously reminds you of the famous bollywood blockbuster “Sholay” with breathtaking boulders strewn across in an almost selectively haphazard way. Once chosen for its impregnability because of its terrain, Hampi’s stories are intertwined with these ruins like magic. Vijayanagara empire’s greatest ruler – “Krishnadevaraya“, till date is hailed as one of the worlds greatest visionaries.

Pushkarni
Pushkarni (a water body) – Virupaksha Temple

We started at the Virupaksha Temple – one of the most famous landmarks in Hampi. Virupaksha Temple is the main center of pilgrimage at Hampi, and had been considered the most sacred sanctuary over the centuries. This is the only place in HAMPI where the deity is still worshipped. Photography is allowed in certain areas at a fee. Architectural marvels and failed attempts by the invaders of the land to destroy this landmark. Standing tall in the heart of the city, this place is thronged by millions of devotees each year. The main temple consists of a sanctum, three ante chambers, a pillared hall and an open pillared hall.It is decorated with delicately carved pillars. Some brilliant architecture around the temple kept us engaged. This also is home to Lakshmi – the local elephant. She kept attracting visitors and blessing them with her trunk in exchange for a tiny tip that promptly went to the mahout.

Narasimha

Next we hopped on to our Tuk Tuk and took a short ride to the nearby Narsimha temple. The Narsimha – half man, half lion is the tallest statue in Hampi. It was essentially decorated with Goddess Lakshmi by his side, but now all that remains is a restored version of this beautiful sculpture.

The city in its prime was a huge hub for trade, cultural activities from across the world. The engravings on the walls here clearly denote face features from China, Mongolia, Egypt and a few more.

Due to all its glory the city of Hampi kept facing the threats of invaders from west and north east. To fight these threats the kingdom had a huge army of soldiers, elephants, camels and horses. The Elephants were kept and trained in stables like the one below.

Elephant stables

The Hazara Rama temple, referred to as the Ramachandra temple in inscriptions. This temple was dedicated to Rama of the Ramayana fame, and an avatar of Vishnu. It was the ceremonial temple for the royal family. The temple is dated to the early 15th century. All along the walls of the tempe is visible the entire story of the Ramayana in small yet well defined sculptures. The story stretches from the time King Dashratha went hunting and killed Shravana till Rama kills Ravana in war in Lanka. The lands of Hampi are also known for the battle that happened between Bali and Sugreeva.

scenes where Hanuman is told to visit Sita in Lanka

After touring the Royal enclosure and the Hazara Rama temple we headed for a quick and well deserved lunch. A famous cafe at Hampi – Hampi Paradise. A typical south indian lunch meal with veggies, rice and sweets served on a banana leaf. Filling and delicious!

After the much needed lunch, we headed out to the Vithhala temple – one of the highlights of this tour.

Vegetarian Thali

The Vitthala temple was again built around the 16th century and was more of a cultural hub for the royal family. The temple has 56 stone pillars that interestingly, emit musical notes when played in the right way. Decorated with numerous small sculptures and carvings the temple shines in might even after five centuries. The stone chariot (which is not monolithic) is placed in the center of the open space.

To end the day one we headed to the Malyavantha Raghunatha temple hills. At the foot of these hills is a beautiful Ganesha temple which is uniquely poised. The idol appears to be single but when you take a walk around the idol you realize that Ganesha is sitting on the lap of his mother Parvati. Fine details and beautiful carvings indeed !

Ganesha Temple
Ganesha Temple
Sunset at Hampi

The day ended with dinner at a beautiful cafe. There are plenty of cafes in Hampi that serve delicious food from Indian to Continental. It is best advised to choose either a typical South Indian meal/preparation or a Continental one. Hampi is largely visited by tourists from abroad and thats the reason Continental food is available in a variety of options.

Stay tuned for Day 2 with more exciting details and tips for photography and travel.

“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” – Anthony Bourdain

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