Author – Shweta Gurjar
I was in Bangalore when I decided to stop by Hampi. Halfway from Pune, it seemed like a perfect stop over. A long 10-hour bus ride brought us to Hospet. It was 8.30pm and the sun was long gone, and further rickshaw ride to Hampi seemed like riding into nothingness. Checked into my dorm room, but the place was surrounded with darkness. The only light that shone brightly in this small town was from the Virupaksha Temple, located 100 meters away from my room.
Day ends early in this part of town. I was lucky enough to find a ‘chaiwala’ at 10pm to refresh, and had luckily collected enough street food at various bus stops to make for dinner. It was too dark to see anything anyway and sleep was the best option.
Woke up at 6am to the sunrise and the shadow of the tall detailed temple. My first sight of Hampi was brown with overcast sky with shades of grey and green trees. Big boulders reaching the sky lay all about, as if a construction site of super giants. The Virupaksha Temple was filled with friendly pilgrims and I joined them in chanting mantras. The temple is huge, filled with muggy smell and dark corners. All pillars and floors are carved in single tall rocks, and through every door, there was something interesting to see or a new deity to greet. Across are the Bear Sanctuary and the Nandi Monolith.
Life in Hampi can be divided into 3 different lifestyles: the religious and conservative, the hippie, and the secluded. After a night of religious and conservative experience, I checked into the farthest guesthouse, on the outskirts to experience nature at Hampi. A quick ride across the river in round straw and bamboo boats, a rented bike at the other end, long winding roads led to the guesthouse nestled in the never ending paddy and sugarcane fields. Huge boulders spread across, cutting off the view at the horizon.
The ruins in Hampi are widely spread across the radius of 10kms, of which are mostly green open fields of paddy, palms, and coconuts. The guesthouses are beautifully placed such that rooms are either in the centre of a field or overlooking it. Private, loaded with nature, and relaxing! Every guesthouse has its own restaurant with typical food of pasta, parathas, and falafel, and everyone serves beer, so complete nourishment is guaranteed. However, my craving for a South Indian thali remained unattainable.
The architecture of the ruins and other monuments in Hampi is a bombardment of art. They are spread all across the town. Of them, my favourite remain the Hazara Rama Temple that has carved Ramayana on its stony walls, right from the top to bottom. It is said that if you make ‘three pradakshinas’ around this temple, then you have read the entire Ramayana. Adjacent to it is the Mint Garden surrounded by open never ending fields, ruins, an overcast sky, and nature at its best! And my most favourite is the famous Vitthala Temple, with Kali sitting in her chariot made of stone. It is said that King Krishnadevaraya was very fond of music, and so he build the Vitthala Temple with pillars that made music. They don’t allow us to touch these pillars now, but I was lucky enough to sneakily tap to the music of tabla, flute, veena and horse gallops… until I was escorted out!
Other than the ruins of Hampi are its beautiful treks. It’s okay if you’re not a trek person, but do not miss out on the Monkey Temple. A soaring height almost reaching the sky, the Anegundi Hill is the birthplace of Lord Hanuman. Painted in white, the never ending stairs offer a spectacular view every few feet up. The Tungabhadra (Pampa) River winds spectacularly through Hampi. Many monkeys inhabit this hill, and they love to steal junk food of cookies over coconuts. At the hill top, the energy of the place is amazing, with an added bonus of the view of entire Hampi.
My last days were spend in the hippie part of Hampi, relaxing on the hammock between tall coconut trees, and huts made of bamboo and hay. The local people of Hampi are simple, helpful, yet business minded making it a little too commercial. I can’t complain though, because this place is one of a kind, as if made from magic.