The history book of high school had described the Vijayanagara and Bahmani empires of south. However, I don’t remember if there was any enthralling reference of Hampi that could make me visit Hampi during many a visits to Bangalore that I made during my professional career. Some years ago I read about Hampi in an article. The writer had referred to the Nobel laureate VS Naipaul’s critical comments on Hampi. “Look carefully and you can see scattered everywhere the crumbling wreck age of former greatness: “Palaces and stables, a royal bath … the leaning granite pillars of what must have been a bridge across the river. A long and very wide avenue, with a great statue of the bull of Shiva at one end, and at the other end a miracle: a temple that for some reason was spared destruction, and is still used for worship.”
Everyone whom I referred about my intention advised me to use overnight train from Bangaluru to Hospet. However, I decided to go by road. On Nov5, we started after a lovely breakfast from Mini, the daughter of my host and the friend since IITdays. Even at 9AM, it took almost an hour to reach Yashwantpur on NH4. Bangaluru has over grown its infrastructure development. Up to Chitradurg, the NH is part of the dream North-South Corridor. The hills around Chitradurg are dotted with huge number of wind mills something that we had seen in Tamil Nadu when we took a tour of its temples. The road between Chitradurg and Hospet is single lane but pretty smooth but for a small portion. It’s barren and rocky on both sides of the road and with little water resources. But the farmers grow sunflower and maize. One gets hardly any important township or rest place on this stretch. But as we neared Hospet and the huge water reservoir on the Tungabhadra River.
Suddenly, we found the land becoming very fertile growing good crop of sugarcanes and banana in around Hospet. A large number of steel mills appeared on the right side belching smoke as we neared Hospet and I got reminded of infamous Bellar, that is pretty near to Hospet.
Hospet appeared to be very poor and dirty. I never expected it as Hampi the world Heritage site in just near it. I wish the tourism as well as urban development ministries of the state and centre would have made some planned nedeavour to improve it, as it as the entry for the millions of tourists coming for Hampi. But how can we hope for improvement of the quality of faculties when the corruption has gone so deep in our country in every state and town. However, I was really happy to find an oasis in Vijayshree Heritage Village resorts with wonderful facilities. We rested and in evening enjoyed Rajasthani entertainment: Jhummar dance, rope tricks, magic and many things and finally the Rajashthani cuisine in dinner.
Nov 6 was the day for seeing Hampi as it existed. We took the assistance of a middle aged guide. It was nice that our vehicle could go to all important destinations of interests. I divide the city and our visits to five types of the structures.
1. Hampi had some huge stone sculptures: kadalekalu Ganesh, Narsinmha, Siva Linga, Stone chariot that lies in Vitthal Temple courtyard.
2. Hampi has a large number of temples built in different corners. The deity in main Virupaksha Yemple is still worshipped. Vittthal temple, Hazara Rama temple with thousand panels depicting incidences in Rama’s life and all other temples are in ruins. The deities are damaged but the decorative relief carvings, statues and panels in the temples and its various mandapas are intact. Many structures such as Gopuram and halls of dance are in good conditions. But main and unique feature of Hampi is the presence of well constructed and laid bazaars in front of the main temples. Vijaynagar was known of its trade that expanded up to Europe. I have not seen such combination in any other places. Perhaps this was the innovation of Vijayanagara’s kings, traders and architects. There are many temples in ruins worth seeing but with our limitation, we could see only the main ones.
3. The area that housed the palaces of the kings such as Harihar Rai and Krishnadeo Rai is huge and is lying in full ruins. I wish I would have visited this place when I was a little younger. Yamuna remained seated in the vehicle in most of the places. It further reduced my enthusiasm.
4. Zenana enclosure was for the queens. The main palace like others that were surprisingly made of wood has vanished after the whole city was burnt by the Muslim army of Bahamani Empire. But Lotus Mahal and the Queen’s Bath got spared and are intact as there were built in bricks. I couldn’t understand why the bath and dining halls of the queens were not integrally built but located at certain distance.
5. Royal enclosure is another impressive area. It has the beautiful step well, stone channels for carrying water from River Tungbhadra to different places. It had separate meeting places for royals with ministers and officers as well as with public.
And finally the surrounding hills presenting different things with the varying sized and shaped bolders moved me. As someone has very rightly said,”If dreams were made out of stone, it would be Hampi.”
My last place of visit was the Kiskindha where Ram and Lakshman waited for Hanuman to bring the news of Sita being in Lanka. I saw a number of persons reciting Ramcharit Manas in the Rama Temple on the top of the hill. My imaginations flew few centuries back how Rama with Lakshman spent their time waiting.
But naturally after walking for six hours we were pretty hungry. I made somehow to Mango Tree Restaurant that has become famous among the tourists both Indians and foreigners. I had known about Mango Tree through a blog. Its popularity was evident from the crowd there. It was beautiful and clean and also provided good food too. Yamuna had some trouble in reaching the place but either she braved or the hunger made her walk though with few stops in between. And we returned to Village Resort.