I always had Hampi on my list of places to visit, but it took me many, many years to actually make it happen. And as another friend is planning a trip here, I decided to take this opportunity to write about my experience of one of the most beautiful places in Karnataka. The weather is a tricky thing to consider while visiting Hampi, it is too hot here most of the time. But, last year, a bunch of us decided to just take off, forget the drudgery of work, and we did just that. We got train tickets for the onward journey, it’s best to book way in advance. We were traveling in November, and even accommodation gets sold out pretty quick around that time. A couple of friends who had strongly recommended this place to me, and were instrumental in my planning, thanks Ashwin and Varun!
Hampi is located on the banks of Tunga Bhadra river, and was the religious center of the Vijayanagara Empire. The simplest way to get here is to take a bus or train to Hospet, and then a public transport (auto rickshaw or bus) to Hampi itself. In Hampi, there are the ruins of an old city, which are now the World Unesco Heritage Site. They are nearby, and can be explored in a day or 2. The Krishna Temple and the Vittala temple are the most popular, and also attract a lot of tourists and locals. But it is the monolithic statues of Nandi, Lord Ganesha and Lakshmi Narasimha that are really mesmerizing. The sheer mass, yet the clarity of workmanship, considering the era – is simply astounding.
The underground Shiva temple was really interesting, and slightly precarious to go into. The temple is located in a beautifully landscaped garden. It is a few meters below ground level, was filled with water, but a couple of us waded in, and in the inner most chamber – completely dark, there is small Shiv Ling, mostly submerged. There were a few bats on the way, given the dark and damp interiors. This temple’s name is Prasanna Virupaksha, and was built around the 14th century. The grandeur of this, and other temples and buildings in Hampi, shows how illustrious and eminent the empire was, in its time. While the government and UNESCO in recent years have restored quite a bit of these ruins, they are at risk of the stones and structures getting disintegrated.
My personal favorite is this rendition of Narasimha, it’s more than just the sculpture or the deity. Also called as the Ugra Narasimha, this monolithic statue conveys an innate anger and rage – with its stony exteriors.
The side of the Tungabhadra River that we were staying in – has a completely different persona though. Quaint little cafes and bars and bakeries, paddy fields and shops selling hippie clothes! One of the days, we decided to hire bikes and explore the side of Sanapur that we were staying in. About 3 km from the guest house we were staying at is the Kishkinda Heritage Resort, that has its own waterpark. It’s a little expensive to visit if you’re not staying there. There’s also a few temples this side. We also found a place in a village where we could see the Sanapur Lake. It’s difficult to get to these places in a car, and we mainly relied on locals for directions. We would have preferred to get into the water, but soon the skies opened up, and then there was November Rain. It continued for about 4 hours, almost into the evening. In between, we stopped at a temple, the shot below is from there.
Among the cafes to visit there is the Moonlight Cafe, Buddha Bar, and even the food served at the guest houses like Shanthi and Mowgli, is pretty good. They usually have people strumming the guitar and others humming along in the evenings. Quite a pleasant way to relax and unwind. Power cuts are common here, and in summer that would be difficult to withstand. We hadn’t visited any vineyard there, but now with KRSMA wines setting up their vineyards here, that would a good visit as well.
For details on our guest house: http://shanthihampi.com/