Thoughts & Ideas

Friday, November 23, 2012

Hampi - A Travelogue



Hampi is one of those places in India which seem to exist only in history books (another being Daulatabad). One reads about it, but very few actually get down to visit it. The place vaguely exists somewhere in Karnataka, but being off the beaten track is hard to pin-point exactly where. 

I had lived in Bangalore for more than five years, during which time I thought I had explored all the places worth visiting which were, say, within one day driving distance. Mysore, Srirangapatnam, Ramnagaram, Shravanbelagola, Halebid, Belur, Yercaud, Pondicherry, Tirupati, Jog Falls, Mekedaauti, Mahabalipuram, Bannerghatta National Park, Shiva Samundra, Nandi Hills, et al. You just have to name it. The drive to Mysore used to be the most frequent. Every time we had friends and relatives visiting us, a trip to Mysore was invariably thrown in. But over this period, not once did it cross my mind to visit Hampi. It was neither that I had not heard of the place, nor was it due to lack of interest in historical places or new places to visit. The importance and fame of the Vijayanagar empire was also very much etched in my memory. It just did not happen.

But let me assure you that Hampi is well worth the visit. The area is simply stunning and you will be in awe of not just the magnificient ruins but also the stunning landscape with millions of boulders surrounding the area.  Within this landscape lie lush palm, banana, and mango plantations, quiet winding roads, colourful local temples, sky blue lakes, and the Tungabhadra River and Dam. Moreover, the fields were verdant green with paddy during the season of our trip.  Hampi is a great place to spend a few days wandering around and discovering the rich, vibrant history while also having a bit of 'your' time. It is a visual delight, especially due to its stark contrast from most other places. Rocks are all you see whichever direction you look at. Vegetation is visible in the wet months; but again it never dominates the landscape. 

 A small part of the Padras clan in front of the Narasimha statue in Hampi
 One of those colourful local temples on the road from Hospet to Hampi.
The musical bars. These are carved out of a single rock and give out the
Sa, Re Ga ... musical notes on being struck
 Hospet Railway Station
 Outside Hotel Malligi - where we stayed in Hospet
 Rocks & Gardens!
 More Rocks & Gardens!
 A Chinese visitor to 14th century Vijayanagar.
 Some still to be excavated temples
 Restoration of an excavated temple in progress.
 Lounge of Hotel Mallige.
The electric golf cart for visiting some of the far flung temples from the car park.

Hampi was the capital of Vijayanagar (14th century empire). The ruins of the capital is spread over and area of 25-30 sq km and are a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is said that before the fall of Vijayanagar empire, diamonds were sold on the streets. The main street selling diamonds and other precious stones, was surprisingly called Pan Supaari Street ( Betel-leaf Betel-nut street ). A visitor can still see the exact location of Pan Supaari Street in Hampi, which has been marked with a board by Archaeological Survey of India. 

Hampi hosts 'Hampi Utsav' every year during first week of November. It is supposed to be a visual delight as all the monuments/ruins are lighted in the night and it is a cultural extravaganza of dance and music. 

The best part is that the place is very easily accessible from Bangalore (through an over-night train), has some nice places to stay, a friendly and helpful local populace, well maintained monuments, while being relatively light on the purse. Being spread over a very large area, one needs to be ready to do a lot of walking, though if the weather is nice the walking is not strenuous. 

The nearest railhead and urban centre is Hospet, which is connected to Bangalore by the Hampi Express. We left Bangalore late at night (around 10 pm) and reached Hospet early next morning by 7.30 am. Having called up a local hotel, we had a taxi waiting at the station who took us to the hotel where we freshened ourselves and had a lovely breakfast before leaving for Hampi by the same Taxi. The taxi driver was well versed in the geography and history of the place and we did not have to take a separate guide. We spent the day exploring Hampi and returned to the hotel in the evening by 5 pm, rested for a couple of hours before being dropped at the station by the same taxi to catch the train back to Bangalore by 9 pm, reaching Bangalore early the next day. 

Hampi is about 15 kms from Hospet, and an alternative way (with hind-sight I would say a better way) of exploring Hampi is to take a local bus from Hospet to Hampi. After reaching Hampi, one can take motorcycles or mopeds on rent for about Rs.150 per day (excluding fuel). The modalities for taking the bikes on rent is simple. Just hand over some photo-identity card such as your driving licence, or pan card if you are carrying one.

Once on a bike, you can explore all the places at your own pace. The real pleasure in exploring Hampi comes from riding a bicycle or by walking around. Virtually every rock in Hampi has a story to say. This story is best heard if you give it time and walk around from rock to rock. As I mentioned earlier, the ruins of Hampi are located over 25-30 sq km area. The nice thing is that most of the famous places have motorable roads leading upto them, and at one place there is an electric powered toy train run by local girls. You can buy a local map costing Rs 15, and cover all the places on your own at your own pace by bike / scooty

Hospet is a very small town and the Railway Station, most hotels, and the bus station are within a couple of kms along one main street from each other. There is no danger of getting lost! One can easily walk it, or take an rickshaw for max. Rs.20 from moving from one end of Hospet to another.

Another place worth visiting is the Tungbhadra dam which is another 16 km from Hampi. Unfortunately, due to our tight schedule we were not able to see the Tungabhadra Dam. 

To do justice to all the sites, one needs at least 2 – 3 full days of sight seeing. To discover all the ruins, it may take much more than 3 days - may be months.

2 Comments:

  • At 2:19 AM , Blogger Nishitha KM said...

    hi..thanks for the post.Are you planning any holiday trip with family.i will suggest you the places br hills resort and also near by place k gudi resort..its a nice place to enjoy with family..do visit..

     
  • At 12:58 AM , Blogger Admin said...

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