“Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.” ― Anita Desai
“Let’s go to Hampi“, I burst out at Lokesh and Ashwini, after an evening of indulging in chocolate and pizzas. “Yeah, let’s ask the others“, came their prompt acquiescence.
I was on cloud nine, I had been wanting to go to Hampi ever since the final year of my college. My next duty was to call Neethi and ask her to join, which she agreed to. Ashwini called her friend Sushmitha, while Lokesh called Utsav, Vishnu and Siddharth, and our group was complete. Getting a vehicle wasn’t an issue, Ashwini’s father owned a travels business (see contacts below).
Soon enough, Friday arrived and so did the Qualis. Ashwini and I got in, picked up Lokesh, Vishnu and Siddharth, and made our way through the city from Kengeri. At Hepbal we picked up the remaining three of our fellow travelers – Sushmitha, Vishnu and Neethi, and before we knew it, we were on our way. Introductions followed, and soon enough everyone grew comfortable with each other, with occasional jokes being cracked, stories being told, an atmosphere of genial friendliness prevailed. And slowly, everyone drifted off to the land of dreams..
I had been up for some time when we arrived in Hospet, which is about 12 km from Hampi. It was 6 am and our rooms at the hotel weren’t ready yet. After a little freshening up, we decided to use this time to visit Tungabhadra dam and reservoir, which was about 7 km from the hotel we were staying at, in Hospet. On reaching there, we found out that they only let in visitors after 7:30 am. We still had about 45 minutes to kill, so we decided to wait it out. A large arched gate led to the road to the dam, it was still early and not many people were around. I believe the security guard took pity on a bunch of young adults waiting around, and let us in early by 7:10 am. The path to the actual dam is about 1-2 km walk through a well-built garden and beautiful sidewalks. When we finally reached the dam, we were awestruck. In this early morning light and chill, all we could see was a never-ending expanse of water. “The edge of the world…”, the phrase went silently through my head. We gazed on in awe, walked into the adjacent garden to try to get close to the reservoir. A family of monkeys walked in a line over the edge of the railing overlooking the reservoir. We were all lost in our world, as we strolled through the place.
Ashwini and Lokesh found out from the resident security guard there that the guest house on top of the hill is a must-see place and will give us a bird’s eye view of the reservoir, dam and surrounding gardens. The path to it, was a short trek uphill through overgrown bushes and crumbling rocks. There was a proper road that led to it, but this was us, why would we chose the normal way. And so we did just that, climbed our way to the top, stopping to catch our breaths a couple of times, and a few pictures of the flora around. The very helpful guard wasn’t wrong, the view was beautiful. It was the kind of view that left you a little out of breath, a little reminiscent perhaps and filled you with hope. On one side lay the endless expanse of water, and the other side, the meticulously crafted gardens, separated by the dam. “I don’t regret making this extra little trek uphill”, said Lokesh, and he was right, it was definitely worth it.
We made our way back to the hotel, had a quick breakfast and freshened up by 11 am and were soon on our way again. “Hampi, here we come..“, I thought with excitement building up in me. It didn’t take long for us to start seeing the first signs of the ancient city, old stone-carved temples started popping up, and then the scenery slowly morphed into wide expanses of fields, then giant boulders and distant structures carved out of stone. Our first stop, as we discovered was Virupaksha temple. All buses from Hospet terminate over here, we found out.
Lokesh and I made our way towards the temple, having purchased a little guidebook of Hampi for about 25 Rupees. We passed by a man who was playing a string instrument, which we couldn’t recognize. “I want to know what he’s playing, I want to talk to him”, I didn’t know I had said it out loud until I heard Lokesh say, “Let’s ask him then“, and we both turned around and practically ran after the fast disappearing man. We finally managed to catch up to him, and me, being me, proceeded to bombard him with questions. Pitiloo- an instrument made out of a coconut shell and bamboo, Bashaiyya, the man with the instrument informed us. He then played for us a popular Bollywood tune on it, when I made a video request. He had a face that wasn’t surprised by my request, he seemed so used to it. It was a part of life for him, life was the usual, continuous, flowing. Passive, throughout. I wondered what would make that expression change, I wanted to know what would…
The temple tower is more than 160 ft high, and has 11 floors. In the middle of the temple compound, there is covered canal through which the water of the Tungabhadra river flows. There are two towers and two compounds. As we made our way in, much to our surprise, we found an elephant inside the compounds, used for worship purposes. Legend has it, that a woman called Pampadevi did penance for Lord Shiva, one of the Holy Trinity’s of Hindu mythology, who married her so that their son could destroy the demons in that place. Lord Shiva remained there in the form of Linga (Shiva Linga). At the back of the temple, there are a few stairs that lead up and out, just before they end, there is a dark chamber on the right side. On one of the walls there’s a little hole through which the sunlight enters and somehow forms an upside down shadow of one of the temple towers. Outside there’s a temple pond, and if we go further to the right, we can see the Tungabhadra river flowing there.
To the left of the temple, there is a small hill with various temple-like structures carved out of it, and huge boulders around it. We made our way to it, rested under the coolness of a boulder, and day-dreamed for a while. We then continued to the top, and then down the other side. The whole place was called Hemakunta. On the other side of the hill, we found a giant monolithic statue of Lord Ganesha, one of the Hindu Gods. It’s called Kadalekalu Ganapathi.
By the time we got back down the other side, and reached the road, we were all dying for some water. We rushed to the road-side stalls and indulged in some refreshing coconut water, ice-cream (for me) and some good old water.
And we were on our way again. I must mention at this point of time, that we didn’t really have an itinerary planned, we relied on the locals and the handy little guidebook we had brought from the parking space of Virupaksha temple. The book also has a little map, that outlines the places to visit, I’ll post the necessary references at the end of the post and a picture of the map as well.
Next up, we reached Badavalinga Temple, which housed the biggest Shiv linga in Hampi. This beautiful Linga is made completely out of black stone, and is more than 10 feet high. It is always in water since a canal passes through the temple. Next to it, is the biggest idol in Hampi of Ugra Narasimha (The word Narasimha consists of two words “nara” which meansman, and “simha” which means lion. Together the term means“man-lion”, referring to a mixed creature avatar of Vishnu. He is known as Narasingh, Narasingha, Narasimba and Narasinghar in derivative languages.)
Next, we made our way to Pataleshwara Temple ( The Underground Temple) or the under-ground Shiva temple, as the signboard read. We made our way in, and down stone stairs into the temple. “You came all the way here and won’t enter, come on, don’t end up regretting this”, Sushmitha tried to convince, me, Neethi and Lokesh. We were all three a bit annoyed at the continuous removal of shoes and walking through mud and dirt. Hearing those words was a wake up call to my lazy-ass, and so thanks to Sushmitha, we did continue in. The ceiling of the temple is at ground level. There were two inner sanctum, joined by a narrow corridor. In order to continue, one has to wade through water, the canal waters of the Tungabhdra river flow through the temple.
The lemon juice seller outside the temple directed us on the way to the Lotus Mahal (Palace), Elephant Stables and the Queen’s Bath. We ended up at the Queen’s Bath, missing the other two and decided to backtrack after exploring the Queen’s Bath.
The Queen’s Bath is a beautiful structure, with a swimming pool structure in the middle, 8 feet in depth. There is a canal for water to flow in from outside and outlets for the used water to flow out of. The place was teeming with people. There were tourist buses waiting under the trees for its passengers to return, there were college students, I presume on a trip from the college; lunch was being served to the students, and as we explored the back of the structure, we found another group being served lunch. People were settling into the grass outside, some for food, some for their mid-day soiree perhaps. It was enough to remind us that we were starving. Just two more places and we’ll rush to lunch, we decided.
We backtracked the way we came from, and finally found our way to the Lotus Mahal. It is a beautifully crafted mortar building, thought to have been built as a rest place for queens. Further ahead, after going through a doorway in a wall we reached the Elephant stables. Each of these 11 stables had different some shapes, and was meant to house the royal elephants. By the time, we finished exploring the stables, and the nearby structure, which was said to house the guards, our stomachs were growling with displeasure. It was 3 pm, and the last meal we had was almost 6 hours ago.
Utsav suggested we go to a popular restaurant called Mango Tree, all of us, starving as we were, couldn’t care less, and hence promptly agreed. We made our way back to Virupaksha temple, adjacent to the temple, there is a small colony of buildings. Google maps directed us through the narrow streets, as we continued. We came across road-side shops selling little trinkets, jewelry, dream catchers and clothing. The whole place had a hippie look to it. We finally arrived at a building which proclaimed itself to be the Mango Tree restaurant, removed our shoes outside and made our way in. The whole place had a rustic indie vibe to it, there were low tied lights, walls filled with paintings of Hindu deities, paintings on the walls, patchwork curtains and long clothes hanging from the ceiling, separating the area into two. You could either opt for a table-chair arrangement or chose to sit on cushions and a low table, where you could lie down and even sleep if you so wished. Very soon our orders were taken, and we were promptly served by Anil. The food was delicious. You couldn’t help but relax and let go in this place. “You should write about their amazing music collection here“, Utsav said to me, as the speakers played Kannada, Hindi, English and Malayalam songs. Slowly as we relaxed further, we started talking about life. Utsav mentioned a few struggles and stories from his past. “Everything happens for a reason, it’ll be alright“, muttered Ashwini, in the usual quiet manner of hers. She was a picture of a strong, responsible and independent woman to me.
Utsav has this habit of collecting the bills of places he goes to with his friends, so everyone lay back and wrote into any space we could find on the bill, as the lull of the music grew louder.
“It’s time for the sunset“, said Neethi, breaking us all from the trance we had fallen into.
“But I’m so full…and sleepy“, muttered Vishnu from next to me. Good company, good music, and a fulfilling day tends to do that to you...I thought happily.
“Yeh joh mohabbat hain, yeh unka hai kaam…“, Utsav sang along to the tape of the 1970 song (This love is the job of or love is meant for).
Pic Courtesy: Utsav
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Travels Details (car, mini-bus, bus): Ashwini Travels, Contact- 9449977541, 963236226
Hampi Travel Guidebook: A Tourist’s Guide by Sri Belur Krishna Murthy [Publishers- R.Vengatramani Dass]