Yep, finally we made to the city of empirical ruins, i.e Hampi. This was in our bucket list for a long time, and each time, when we planned to go, it got 'ruined' due to 'political', 'personal' reasons. But, this time, there were no reasons to stop us except the scorching summer heat and we did not allow it to 'ruin' our plans. Summer is an off-season to visit this place, as the temperatures hover around 40 to 43 degrees during the daytime. Still, it is better to book rooms well in advance, so that you get a decent and comfortable accommodation for good deals.
So, off we headed to the northern part of Karnataka for the first time, and it was different and exciting as we usually travel South from Bangalore to visit places like Mysore, Belur, Halibeed, Bandipur, Wayanad. As it was about 360 km from our place, we started off early in the morning by 6:30, so that we could reach the destination for lunch. We started from Nice road to head to Tumkur. Most part of the highway is quite good, except for some distance after Chitradurga. As northern Karnataka is more dry, plateau region, many areas were rocky. We enjoyed seeing rocks and boulders of various shapes arranged artistically by nature on both sides. Any long distance drive is incomplete without listening to one's favourite songs. Once we hit Hospet, we had lunch at Shanthi Sagar. After that, we checked into the hotel Mayura Bhuvaneshwari strategically located near the famous tourist spots. The hotel is managed by KSTDC and is good enough for a decent stay, though the food was not that great.
After freshening up, we drove to explore the ruins around. Ruins of emperor Krishna Deva Raya's Darbar hall, inner enclosure, step bath, octagonal bath, Saraswathi temple, Hazar Rama temple, Mahanavami Dibba were all enclosed in few acres of land and would have been the heart of the Vijayanagara empire. Vijayanagara empire spanned over 3 centuries under various dyanasties. The empire was reduced to ruins by Muslim invaders like Firuz Bahmani of Bahmani Sultanate. As we went around, the most well-known king of the empire, Krishna Deva Raya who belonged to Tuluva dynasty came alive before us. The king, who was known more for efficient administration, patron of arts and literature and of course, those like me who have read the stories of wit and wisdom of his court jester, Tenali Rama were very much in front of us. Perhaps, the magnitude of the ruins excavated recently, i.e about 50 to 60 years back and many still waiting to be excavated made UNESCO declare it as a World Heritage Site. Temples like Hazar Rama were not damaged much and looked good enough for daily puja. What I found common in many of the ruins is that, while the base of a monument remained intact in many places, the towers were partly or heavily damaged, exposing the concrete structure out of red bricks, suggesting that bricks were used centuries back. The Octagonal bath, the step bath, Mahanavami Dibba were marvels in architecture. We spent quite a lot of time there before heading to Virupaksha temple or temple of Lord Shiva. The huge, imposing chariot made out of wood, with intricately carved figurines, stationed in front of the temple made us awe struck. The chariot is well and alive and is used for festivals. We went inside the temple, but could not see fully the beauty of the temple architecture, as it had grown dark.
The early morning trek on Mathanga hills, which was about 6 kms from our place was worth every step to witness the glorious sun rise, enjoy the strong breeze and the view of the place from the top. Those who accompanied us were some foreign tourists and malayalees. To add the spice to our trek, a boy brought steaming hot tea. This was, undoubtedly, the best part of our trip. The rest of the day went off in exploring more attractions like Queen's bath, the monolithic structures like Badavalinga, Narasimha statue, Ganesha statue, a hall on the foot of Mathanga hill where cultural performances would have taken place. We could not brave the scorching heat and so we forced ourselves into the archaeological museum which was full of unearthed statues, coins, metal objects belonging to that era. We had to wait for the sun to head west before climbing the 520 steps of Anjaneya (Hanuman) temple. Apart from visiting the temple, we waited to watch the sun set which was described as 'world's most famous sun set!!'. We could not explore the daily life in Hampi in a short span of time, but the folks around were simple and I believe the place, as of today needs to develop much more. If ruins, rocks, boulders, hills were attractions, there were lot of paddy fields adding to the greenery, thanks to the presence of Thungabhadra river nearby.
Before hitting the highway the next day, we visited the most famous Vithala temple which had the imposing chariot structure, musical pillars, the carvings on pillars which stood out from the rest, This is a must visit for any tourist visiting Hampi. Of course, we consider lucky enough that our paths crossed with our PM's brother Prahlad Modi. We first saw him with his retinue at the hotel where we stayed, and also at Vithala temple. We felt too shy to introduce ourselves to him though!
My long-pending visit to Hampi was fulfilled this time with beautiful, 'ruin-ed' memories, and tales to be told to our folks. The Thungabhadra dam in Hospete is not the one to be missed. The gardens, river, huge dam through which water is shared with the state of Telengana is much more than just a passing mention. A travelogue is incomplete without the pictures of the place. So, here I sign off with some beautiful pictures.
Hazar Rama temple
The sunrise at Mathanga Hills. Picture courtesy : Vaibhav Krishna