This is my first travelogue about a trip, my trip to Hampi. If you want to know accurate details of the sights and the history of this place, please go check out all those informational articles. This blog is just about my experience in Hampi.
First, let me get all the details written out:
Trip conducted by: Tent N Trek
Dates: 16 March 2018 1.00 pm to 18 March 2018 8.30 am (yes, we got back in time for office on Monday, but had to take the Friday off) Do keep this in mind while planning
Trip organizers: Venkatesh (popularly known as P.K) and Nawaz
Travel Mode: Road trip in an air-conditioned tempo traveler
Now that I’ve given the basic info for my friends who look deep into the details, let me go on about the trip. We started from Chennai Friday afternoon on our 18-hour long trip to Hampi. The best part here was that the group connected with each other almost immediately. Just a few games and the whole group of strangers were like long time friends. Kudos to the organizers for helping break the ice, or the road trip would have been very difficult.
Reached the destination at around 7.30 in the morning. After refreshing ourselves and gorging on a wholesome breakfast, we picked up our rented bicycles on our cycle tour of North Hampi. Here I definitely need to tell about the bicycle I got. It was a gent’s bicycle, long and high, making it difficult for a short girl like me to ride. It’s been years since I rode the cycle, and imagine having to ride with a cross bar. Note to organizers here: Next time, please give us ladies bicycles, for a more comfortable ride!!
Ok, let’s get back to the story. After a few initial hiccups and wide veering off to opposite sides of the road, and narrow misses of the puddles and the loitering cows, I did manage to get my cycling under control. But my happiness was really short lived, for they pointed me straight to an uphill road. Imagine it’s so steep that the TVS 50 with rider and pillion couldn’t go up. So, get down and push the bicycle up the hillock straight to a parking spot beneath a rock.
A local guide joined us here, assured us that our rides would be safe without any lock, and took us to the first stop for the day. It was a monument that housed the Kadalaikalu Ganesha. It’s called a monument and not a temple as the Sultans who attacked Hampi centuries ago broke all the idols and temples to loot the jewels and ornaments. (The guide told us this). This huge Ganesha was four and half feet high and truly majestic carved out of a single stone. Imagine the kind of work involved in such a mammoth project! Anyway, the invaders had broken a part of Ganesha’s trunk and belly leaving him looking fit, but sad.
From here, we looked down into the town where we could see the bazaar area where the citizens of the yesterwhile Vijayanagara Empire sold diamonds and pearls in exchange for Arabian horses. Wow! They would have been real rich merchants. Everywhere you turn and see in Hampi, you will see stone mandapams, huge temples in ruins, broken statues, and stone carvings. Statues of Nandhi (Lord Shiva’s mount) are seen in many parts of the historic town, even in places where you can’t spot the Shiv Linga. I noticed that in most places, Nandhi’s nose was broken. Really, don’t know what the invaders were trying to prove by breaking the nose of the holy bull. Were they poking fun at the rulers who weren’t able to protect their dynasty and heritage? Lots of guesses and no concrete answers.
Anyways, getting back to our trip. The next stop in the cycle tour was the Saasve Ganesha. Luckily, it was downhill and we cruised down happily. This statue too is carved out of a single stone, but is just two and half feet high. Apparently, the former was the royal templeand this one was for the commoners. Here, Ganesha is seen sitting on his mother Gowri’s lap. So, when you go to the back of the statue, you see the back of Gowri. Interesting piece of architecture.
Our third stop of the first day tour was at the Krishna temple monument, built by Krishnadevaraya. It was constructed in just two years, especially for the king’s third wife who hailed from Orissa. From here, we rode the bicycle for around ten minutes to the next spot on our guide’s list. This place had one monument of Lord Narashmia and one temple of Lord Shiva. Both places have a lot of religious significance. What struck me here was that the angry Narashima statue was broken by the invaders and the Shiv Linga was left untouched. Apparently, the reason was that the first temple was adorned with jewels and precious stones that the invaders looted and the next had nothing. What lot of destructionand loss all for the sake of wealth! It rings a bell with so many current scenarios, doesn’t it? History does repeat itself and life is indeed a circle!
After all that philosophical thinking, picked up the bicycle to ride to the next stop. This place was the underground Shiv temple worshiped by the Royal family. The top of the temple is at ground level, and it is believed that the invaders destroyed the temple gopuram. We walked down the steps to the cool interiors of the temple. It was pretty dark inside the main sanctum, and we could see the small Shiv Ling in the sanctum only using the flashlights in our cell phones.
Our guide promised us lunch after the next stop. Finally, food! We got pedaling, up and down sloped and steep mud tracks to the Queen’s antapura. Centuries ago, men couldn’t have stepped foot into this place, but now times have changed and they get to see the queen’s private quarters, or what’s left of the palace. We did get to see the basement of two palaces as the entire structure had been razed down. The Lotus palace was still intact. It’s the south Indian version of the Hawa mahal built with a mix of different types of architecture. Here, we also got to see the Elephant’s stable (not sure if that’s what you callit).
Next stop, lunch, or should I call it a picnic? The organizers had arranged for lunch to be brought to one of the temples nearby and we all sat around and ate. Lunch was really good, local food, local flavor. Best thing was the masala buttermilk – nectar after the ride in the hot sun. After lunch, no siesta, we rushed off to see the king’s secret chamber where he would discuss military secrets with his army chief and minister. Got down steps to go to the secret room, to find that it was broken and open to the sky!! Here, we also got to see the famous pushkarni and the huge stone stage where royal celebrations were held. Too tired to climb up the stage, sat down and watched the others climb up.
We were done with most of the places in the to-go list for the day. The next was ride back to the town to park the bicycles and walk down to the banks of the River Tungabadra. We took the coracle down the river. Flanked on both side by piles of rocks, isolated statues and mandapams, the river gently flows, calm and beautiful. From here, again walk to another monument temple. This Vitalla temple monument is well known for its music pillars and intricate architecture. As with other temples here, this too didn’t have any idol. We retraced our steps and got back to our home stay. Refresh and dinner at the popular Mango restaurant. Lights out!
The next day started cool and wet at 4 am. It was dark, drizzling, and we all were getting ready for the hike up the Mathanga hill to view the sunrise. This totally unexpected adventure made more thrilling as it was dark and wet. We climbed up the rough steps, grabbed footholds as we crawled up steep rocks, and navigated the rocky terrain. Imagine all this with the light of a cell phone. Many may call us crazy, but it was truly fun. The fact is that all the time everyone was looking out for another person, helping, encouraging, and ensuring all were safe. The group had truly become a team!! The drizzle stopped and after many false starts and rock climbing experiments, we found our way up the hill to the Verabadra temple. The view was just fantastic. You could see the whole town from here, with the rising sun forming the perfect background. We spent some time soaking in the beauty of the place before we walked down to the base and back to our home stay.
The second day was road trip (thank God! Don’t know if I could have lasted another day of cycling). The tempo traveler took us to Anjana hill, Kishkinda, the birthplace of Lord Hanuman. Our guide took us to the base of the hill and said, go ahead climb, just 575 steps, you can climb in 30 to 40 minutes. Wait a minute! Another climb! It’s ok, we did come in for an adventure trip, not a luxury tour. So, took a deep breath and stared the climb. It was strenuous, but definitely worth the effort. One thing that struck me here was that I couldn’t see any monkeys. I saw many monkeys even in other temples in the town, but this place, I just couldn’t spot even one. Must be the clever Kishkinda monkeys decided to stay out of the hot noon sun instead of sweating out like us travelers from far-off places.
After we got down the hill, we then took off to a lake where we frolicked in water and had a great time. Lunch again, brought near the water spot. Again tasty local food and masala buttermilk (shouldn’t forget that). Our trip was done, and we started back to Chennai.
This trip to Hampi is definitely one of my best travels. I’ve traveled with strangers before, but this is the first time that a group clicked and gelled in so well. If I could say in one line, on Friday afternoon, a group of strangers stepped into the van and on Monday morning, a pack of friends stepped out!
As for my personal experience in the trip, it was really wonderful. Hampi, though a city of ruins, is still so beautiful and appealing. She has such a great history, architecture, culture, and religious significance that still makes her one of the greatest places in our country. This was just a peep into history, into the lives of our ancestors who lived a glorious life and created such beautiful things that are still marveled today. My travel made me think, what are we creating for the generations to come??