The sounds of music echoed across the granite. They could be heard well around the temple. Ephemeral voices and gay laughter floated around in the breeze.
Every single lamp holder in and around the Vittalaya Vijaya Temple was lit up today. The soft glow permeated the area around the temple, and made it seem as though the sun had never set here. The Sangeetha mantapa was covered completely with silk curtains flowing down and secured tightly. An onlooker would only be able to see the light emanating through the cloth and soft shadows of its current residents.
The voices and laughter stop…the sound of music rises, and through it all one can distinctly hear the ringing of the Ghungroos* keeping time with the music; until only the music prevails..the rhythmic ringing of hundreds of tinkerbells, the beat of the mridangam, the soft but strong swaras of the Veena, and the consistent tamburu binding it all together..
This was where the beautiful dancer, Chinnadevi, wife of the great Krishnadevaraya, emperor of the Vijayangara empire danced away a few special evenings, with her close family and friends.
*Ghungroo- an anklet work by classical Indian dancers, made by stringing many Tinkerbell’s together. The ornament will create sound and music depending on the size and number of bells tied together.
The second day dawned, and we were up and about by 9. “I wonder if the boys are up”, I wondered aloud..”You think? After the night they had..”
I couldn’t help but laugh. Yes, I thought, probably not, as I recalled the debauchery (we mustn’t speak about it) from yester night. “I’ll kill Utsav if he gets us late”, I narrowed my eyes and spoke to noone in particular. Ashwini and Sushmita were up as well, we saw as we headed out for breakfast. Utsav joined us for breakfast. “Did the rest of the guys have food?”, asked Neethi. “Yeah, they had yesterday night’s food today morning, I told them so”, sighed Utsav. Me and Neethi raised our eyebrows at him as we thought of the food we got them, after having to continuously change the order again and again.
Soon enough, everyone was out and packed and we were on our way to one of the main historical temples in Hampi, Vittalaya Vijaya Temple, famous for its musical pillars.
As we passed the old town, I could sense the now familiar excitement in my belly. A melange of presentiment, eagerness and the pressing need to be lost in another world perhaps..
Neethi sat next to me quietly.. “Bhai..”, I didn’t have words to explain the barrage of emotions..”I know..”, she said, and I knew she was lost in this world we chose to see.
Chiranjeevi, our guide here, proceeded to take us through the beautifully carved structures.
Krishnadevaraya, reigned over the empire at it’s zenith, earning the title Kannada Rajya Rama Ramana (Lord of the Kannada Empire). He was one of the most powerful Hindu rulers to have ever ruled in India. His reign was an age of prolific literature in many languages- Kannada, Telegu, Tamil and Sanskrit. Many poets enjoyed his patronage as well.
It took 42 years to finish building this temple. The south east corner has a kitchen room, there’s also an open dining hall, the other structures are the bhajan mantap, kalyanam mantap and the Sangeetha mantap. A beautifully carved chariot presided in the center of the temple courtyard, the likes of which could only be found in Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu and the chariot at the Corner Temple in Orissa. The wheels of the chariot could be turned in prayer once upon a time by Vishnu bhakts.
Each of the walls of the structures was conscientiously carved to depict the way of life from that time. A particular set depicted the various traders which came to the thriving empire of Krishnadevaraya to exchange goods. The exquisite delineation showed the Chinese, Arab, Italian and Portuguese traders, trading horses. The carvings went on to show how the horses were checked to note their condition before closing the deal; the teeth and legs were checked, jumps were checked, and only then the deal was sealed.
Sarabhaiya, the architect of the palace also carved into the walls the plan of the temple in its entirety.
This beautiful carving depicts a frog, jumping, a cobra, a chimpanzee, Lord Hanuman jumping Lanka and human climbing all at once, depending on which angle you view it from.
Chiranjeevi then proceeded to rythmicaly hitting the pillars, demonstrating how the frequency of the sound varied, and how it resembled various musical instruments. We were awestruck..and soon a crown had gathered around us to hear Chiranjeevi make music from seemingly nothing but stone pillars.
He continued explaining to us the history and culture of a time from ages ago, and how many of the temples now stand corrupted, after being plundered and looted by the Mughals rulers.
I leaned against a pillar and looked over the expansive courtyard, and at the many structured nestled in it, a long sigh escaped, and merged into nothingness..(what is it about sighs that turns us all into romantics?!). I was here, and this moment was for the taking.
All of us made our way out, and were accosted by a coconut water seller, so of course we had to stop. And from there, it was quick ride back to the car on the buggy, where we waved at passing school kids, who waved back at us gleefully, curious, shy and excited all at once.
For lunch, we made our way to Hippie Island, to a restaurant/ hut stay, called Goan Corner. The place was similar to the Mango Tree, with long drapes, cushions to relax on and an overall ambiance of informality. Half of us ran off to play volleyball, while me, Neethi, Lokesh and Vishnu chose to stay back and just take in our surroundings. There parrot (maybe a macaw parrot)that wouldn’t stop squawking at a lady,. Who turned out to be the owner of the place. When I asked if he was friendly, a young man informed me that he bites. Outside, there were a few dogs and a Persian cat, with two little ones. The surroundings consisted of little huts where you could book your stay. After the fulfilling meal, and both our minds and stomachs quenched of their thirst, we made our way back to the car.
Maybe it was the time, or the events of the journey, but I chose to believe it was the place. I had fallen in love, maybe not so much with the place, but more so with the stories that were lost in time there.
”I’ll come back, when you call me. No need to say goodbye..” – Regina Spektor
————————————————People and Stories———————————————————–
Yellapa, the shy, smiling 6 year old boy, sold post cards and books to the visiting tourists.
The beautiful old lady, sitting outside her but with a stuck in her hand, who dropped it in surprise and smiled brilliantly at me when I waved at her.
Chiranjeevi, the wonderfully patient guide, who took us around Vittala Vijaya temple.
“The more I saw..the more I fell in love with this place…”
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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]