I had no plans for the New Year eve; this was an intentional decision as I neither wanted random people dancing around me and later watch them puke nor wanted to sacrifice my sleep by staying awake until late night. But I didn’t want to waste Christmas weekend. I sent messages to my friends about a trip to the heritage sites in North Karnataka. As usual, a few of them said no. The remaining ones latched on to the idea of getting out of Bengaluru. Anisha had quit her first ever job and wanted to go out somewhere before joining her next employment. Karthik, like me, always be ready for a trip if he has no plans. Praneetha was back from Netherland and was still in a holiday mood. Since Gaurav was in India, he too came down from Vadodara and joined us on this trip. We planned to visit Hampi, then Badami, Aihole and Pattadkal in three days. For now here, I will tell you about what we saw on one bank of river Tungabhadra on Day 1.
KSRTC has good direct bus services to Hampi from Bangalore. Hampi is an UNESCO world heritage site. If you cannot get a direct bus, then go to Hospet. It is about 14km from Hampi. Fortunately, we got a direct bus and since it was a sleeper one, we had room to stretch our legs and get good sleep. We left by 11:30 pm on the night of 24th December and reached Hampi by 6:30 am next day. We had booked rooms in Ranjana Guesthouse that is very near to Hampi bus stand. From our guesthouse, Virupaksha temple was only 3 minutes walk. You can make it five. After check-in delay, we were ready by 10:30 am. Gaurav joined us half an hour later. As our plan was to roam in Hampi for only one day, we hired an auto rickshaw. Its driver assured us that apart from taking us from one place to another, he would also be our tour guide and explain the prominence of each spot. We made the mistake of hiring a rick. I will tell you why at the end of this travelogue.
Our first stop was at the gigantic monolithic Eduru Basavanna, a statue of a bull, placed in such a way it is facing Lord Virupaksha inside the main temple, though about a kilometre away at the end of Virupaksha Bazaar.
We were first introduced to the ruins on the hillock, next to the bull’s statue. We took the stairs going up the hillock and kept going along with a tribe of goats on their way to graze. On top of this hillock are so many ruins of tiny temples wherever you look. There are many incomplete carvings of gods and goddesses too.
Gaurav climbed the rocks around and got an aerial view of the surroundings. That’s how we got to know a temple arena behind the hillock. It was of Achyutharaya temple, but we didn’t know. We didn’t want to get down there and run late, so we went back to our rick. Little did we know that we would go to the same temple later.
Our tour guide/driver took us to Kodandarama temple and Yantrodharaka Anjaneya temple.
We went there a few days after Hanuma Jayanthi, so we could see a rath, a chariot for the procession of god, still outside.
This was just the beginning of temples on that bank of river Tungabhadra. To reach here, you have to leave your vehicles behind and take a walk through a small cave. On the way to these temples, we saw an array of strange arrangements of pebbles and stones. They reminded me of Mani stones or prayer stones in Ladakh, but these were nowhere near them.
As we proceeded, our guide told us that when Ravan kidnapped Sita, he had taken his first pit-stop on a boulder on the riverbank. After their short break, while taking off to Lanka again, the open end of Sita’s saree carved a trail on that boulder and it is said that the trail is still there. I wondered if Sita had tied a raker to the end of her saree. It is also said here Lord Rama treacherously assassinated the mighty Vali, the big brother of Sugreeva. There is also a theory that Hampi might have been the Kishkinda in Treta Yuga. In front of these two temples is a triangular area of the river. We were told that during monsoon when the water level rises due to heavy rains, counter currents occur and a huge whirlpool forms right in the middle of the triangular area. Locals call this whirlpool Chakrateertha. Chakra means wheel and Teertha means holy water.
Our guide/driver told us that Sri Vidyaranya Swami had prayed to Goddess Bhuvaneshwari Devi to bless the dry lands of Hampi with heavy rains so that people can grow and prosper. The Goddess, pleased with the saint’s prayers, showered not only rain but also precious stones and gems, and the Hakka-Bukka duo took a share of this to find Vijayanagar Empire. From there we walked towards Vijaya Vittala temple.
On the way to Vijaya Vittala temple, we came across Achyutharaya temple.
The abandoned look of it beckoned us. It was then we realised it is the same temple complex we had seen from the top of the hillock in the beginning.
The actual name of this temple is Tiruvengalanatha temple, but is known to the world as Achyutharaya temple as the area in which this is located was known as Achyutharayapete during the bygone era that was named after a Vijayanagar king, Achyutharaya. This temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu.
Just outside, on the both sides of the avenue leading to this temple, is a market infamous as Sule Bazaar, translated into English as Prostitutes Market. Apparently, this avenue was famous for courtesans of the empire. As time passed, the society termed courtesans as prostitutes and thus the beautifully carved and pillared market, where precious stones were also sold, came to be known as Prostitutes Market. Behind the sequence of pillars is a big man-made pool, with a mantap in the middle which has dried up now. I think courtesans used this pool.
Considering the structures were intact back then and nothing was visible of the pool, the men of that era must have missed out on a lot… Anyway, there is a small mantapa or hall at the end of this bazaar, which is dedicated to the great poet Purandaradasa.
On our way from Achyutharaya temple to Vijaya Vittala temple, we found a huge banyan tree to whose aerial prop roots small packets or pouches made of clothes in various colours were tied and left hanging.
It is freaky to look at this display of whatever beliefs they stood for. The path was through a thin jungle and we could find sugarcane juice vendor there too next to the one selling mirchi-mandakki. We ate and drank sumptuously only to move towards the temple with musical pillars. This temple complex is bigger than that of Achyutharaya and more prominent architecturally too, but like the former, this too is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The Sabha Mantapa or Gejjala Mantapa or the congregation hall of this temple has numerous pillars, some of which render music of particular notes when tapped with slightly more energy.
But this hall is now in ruins, might fall down any moment, and a board is put up instructing people to stay away from this structure. But, people refuse to abide by the requests, let alone rules. Tourists want pictures of them in the Sabha Mantapa or Gejjala Mantapa even if they are damaging it. The same situation is that of the famous stone chariot.
People climb all over it to get their profile picture for Facebook without thinking how much they are contributing to the damage of these architectural treats. After exiting this temple complex, another boulevard with markets on either side leads you to a pool called Lokapavani. We skipped it and moved to the next spot after buying kulfis.
Our driver took us to Queen’s Bath. On the way, he showed us a pair of huge boulders, one of them half cut and fallen on the ground. He told us that the pair of boulders was two sisters who were cursed by a saint to become rocks because they bad mouthed about Hampi saying it was a good-for-nothing land and it would never develop. Next, he showed us a line of stone slabs that were carved in the design of plantain leaves and bowls.
Soldiers and guards used these to have food by sitting in a line. We reached Queen’s Bath almost by evening. As the name suggests, this ancient structure was the place where queen bathed. I wonder how the queen came so far from her palace to bathe here and went back. Queen’s Bath is surrounded by a channel which supplied water to the bath.
It is also said that this channel provided security to the queen while bathing but I couldn’t see the logic because if you stand outside one of the windows beyond the channel, you can see anybody doing anything inside, let alone her highness scrubbing herself. I hope there were no perverts back then.
The next arena after Queen’s Bath is the Royal Enclosure. It is no more enclosed, but yes, was certainly back then. There are many things to see here. Our first stop was at Hazara Rama temple. By now, you must have understood that people of Hampi were devotees of Lord Vishnu and his avatars. So, you must be wondering what is special about this temple. I will tell you. I am writing this blog to tell you. Chill. Hazara Rama temple is not as big as Achyutharaya temple or Vijaya Vittala temple but is not jealous of others. Because this temple has scenes from the Ramayan depicted in carvings on its walls, all over the temple. Back then, the public didn’t have access to this temple, and this was exclusive to the royal family.
Next within the Royal Enclosure is a huge structure with stairs on all four sides of it. This is called Mahanavami Dibba. Most of the people who are aware of Mysore Dasara celebrations, don’t know that the tradition was adopted and adapted from Dasara celebrations of Vijayanagar Empire, and carried forward. So, the grandeur of Dasara celebrations of Vijayanagar Empire had a segment of it arranged on Mahanavami when dancers performed on and around the Mahanavami Dibba. Dibba means a high platform.
There is one more stepped bath pool, ignored by tourists, within the Royal Enclosure. Unlike Queen’s Bath, this pool still has water.
Around the pool, you can find aqueducts. It is a speciality of this place according to me because I hardly get to see aqueducts at any historical place.
Near to this pool is a secret underground room, which is not a secret anymore. We found not only children but also adults running up and down through the dark entrance of this underground secret room and making a hell of a noise.
We exited the Royal Enclosure to enter Zenana Enclosure meant for recreational activities of royal ladies and their sakis. Lotus Mahal is the main attraction of this arena. As the name suggests, the structure is designed to resemble a Lotus flower when you get an aerial view.
Further Lotus Mahal is the Elephant Stable. This structure used to house eleven elephants. A field day reference is an understatement about the work of each person in the Elephant Stable. We drank tender coconut water gazing back and forth at the Elephant Stable and many people sitting and rolling all over the grass lawn in front of it. Praneetha bought a pack of biscuits and we finished it.
Our next stop was at a place where we had to climb up a small tower to get a better view of the Noblemen’s Quarters on one side and the Mint area and Watch Towers on the other side. Noblemen’s Quarters is where nearest and dearest of the royal family stayed along with the actual noblemen.
Mint area was the place where Islamic people minted currencies of that era and they also guarded the area using the Watch Towers also known as Mohammadan Towers.
Further away from the quarters and towers is an underground Shiva temple dedicated to Prasanna Virupaksha. The way this temple is located underground made me wonder if there was any dispute between Shaivas and Vaishnavas of that era.
In the interiors of this town is a Chandikeshwara temple. This creates a conflict of logics whether this is a temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu or Lord Shiva. Some people even say it is neither, but a Devi temple. Well, what I actually want to focus here about is a pair of pillars at the entrance of this temple. Just like the musical pillars of Gejjala Mantapa in Vijaya Vittala temple, these two pillars also produce musical notes upon tapping them hard.
To see the famed gigantic monolithic statue of Lakshmi Narasimha or Ugra Narasimha, you have to go a little far. The hands of Narasimha were chopped off at wrists by the Muslim invaders when the empire had backstabbers in the noble positions and weak emperors entitled to the throne only by birth. The actual catalysts for the ruins.
Next to the Ugra Narasimha is the Badavi Linga temple. This is a huge Shiv ling, about 3 metres high also carved out of a single rock, just like the Eduru Basavanna and Ugra Narasimha. The Shiv ling is placed inside a chamber and surrounded by water.
Our driver dropped us at the foothills of Hemakuta and asked us to hike up to witness the sunset.
There you can find Kadlekalu Ganapati and Sasivekalu Ganapati at the foot, and Jain temples at the peak. I was surprised looking at the way even the back features of the Ganapati were also carved! They didn’t even ignore the bums… By then we had decided that the people of Vijayanagar Empire were all stone carving prodigies and the emperors back then must have announced anybody can claim a boulder and start carving if they don’t have anything else to do. Everywhere you look there are ruins. If you descend from the Hemakuta hills to the other side, you will reach Virupaksha temple’s entrance, the main temple of Hampi dedicated to Lord Shiva.
Unlike other temples mentioned earlier, this is the only one not damaged by Muslim invasions and devotees throng here to perform rituals and pray as all that is done only in this temple here. By the time we reached inside, we had only an hour before the closing time, so we made haste. There are paintings on the temple’s ceiling depicting mythological stories.
This temple even has a house-elephant! Only Virupaksha knows how well the temple authorities are treating this elephant.
Coming out of the temple, we realised we were hungry and tired, but not exhausted. We searched and reached a restaurant called Mango Tree that has quite a good reputation in the town as well as outside. Serves only veg food, if you consider egg as veg too, and no alcoholic drinks. We kept on ordering, our orders kept on coming in and we neatly licked off the plates and our fingers. There were egg pakoras, masala papads, rice, noodles, rotis, naans, kulchas, paneer masala, veg kofta, spring rolls, Mango Tree special pizza and what not. We ordered and ate too much for five people. Oh, there were lime juice and masala soda orders too! I was busy grabbing and eating everything and couldn’t take pictures of our dinner. Anyway, that was us on Day One of our heritage sites trip in North Karnataka.
Now about travelling within Hampi, don’t bother hiring an auto rickshaw just because the driver claims to take you around for 30km or odd and show you all places only for Rs.1600. Don’t fall prey for that trick. The total number of kilometres won’t sum up to thirty and the driver, no matter who he is, won’t properly show and explain anything about any place. He will make money living you feeling meh in this historical town. Instead, you can hire bicycles or motorbikes and freely roam around at your will.
Breakfast is same almost everywhere in Hampi. It might cost you somewhere around Rs.80 per head if you prefer heavy breakfast. We skipped lunch as we were drinking and munching on snacks on the move. Dinner was glorious! For all the things we drank and ate mentioned earlier, we paid Rs.1500/-
You can consider that our total expenses on the first day for food, commute, entry tickets (nominal entry fees everywhere) and miscellaneous, was about Rs.3400/- Apart from this, we had booked budget rooms which came to about Rs.2200/- You can say Rs.1100 per head on day one.
This is only about our first day. I will write about our second day when we crossed the river and went to the other side in my next travelogue soon.