It is funny how sometimes things happen without any planning from your side and happens so well that you wonder why even after so much of planning some of our outings and treks don’t go this well.  You could call it providence or maybe a higher calling or maybe a divine intervention too.

This is how the trip to Hampi just happened. A very close friend Dr. Sachin Kadam, basically a Mumbaikar but working and staying in Kolhapur called me in second week of March and enquired what my plans were for the long weekend of March 24-27, four days of holidays which was a boon for an outdoorsy person like me. With nothing in the cards, he casually mentioned, why don’t u come down to Kolhapur and we can go for a visit to Hampi. I had, many years back already visited the other sites of Badami and Pattadakal but missed visiting Hampi. I said, why not and booked my tickets to Kolhapur via Konduskar Travels so as to reach on Thursday early morning.

Reaching Kolhapur on 27th March early morning, we planned for a Kolhapur tour with a visit to the famous Phadtare Misal Kendra which credits mention in the top 100 food destinations in TripAdvisor and, being in Kolhapur, a visit to the Mahalaxmi temple goes without saying. The day temperature was hot but we enjoyed not only the missal and the visit to the temple but also a walk around the lake. This day also doubled up as a rest day to recuperate from the overnight travel from Mumbai to Kolhapur.
Early morning on Friday, with a full pack of snacks and cold water bottles, not to mention the cameras with additional memory cards began the trip towards Hampi on Sachin’s Volkswagen Vento. I took us around 7 hours to reach our pit stop – The Clarks Inn at Kamalapura which is around 2 kms from the main Hampi site. The road from Kolhapur goes via Dharwad, Huballi, Gadad, Koppal to Hampi. The route upto Huballi (Hubli) is excellent with some stretches of it built by ITNL according to the signage on the way. However the road via Koppal is terrible with some real bad roads and around 24 odd speed breakers within a range of around 3-4 kms which is extremely frustrating to the driver of the vehicle. From Koppal the route to Hampi is a narrow two lane road which further delays our arrival at Hampi.

The Clarks INN hotel had just opened in January 2016, so the price of the rooms were very reasonable and well maintained. Post the noon lunch at the hotel, special mention that the food at this hotel was excellent, though the service was a bit slow, deciding to go all out without a guide, we took our vehicle for a general drive around Hampi.

Parking is available at various places around the heritage site and depending on which area you are visiting, you can take in your vehicle into that parking area. The parking charges are also very minimal. You can also hire bicycles / bikes to ride around the area so that you have enough time to enjoy the visit, though the heat makes it a bit difficult, especially in March, but would be very pleasant during the tourist season from October to January. We parked our car near the Virupaksha Temple, the most intact temple in the entire complex, and wended our way up to the first temple – the Kadalekalu Ganesha which is situated at a higher ground from the Virupaksha Temple on the Hemakuta Hills. There are around 53 points marked on the main map of the region as places of interest but the regular tourist visits only around 11 of the most visited sites. The uniqueness of this idol is that when you see it from the back, you can see that this huge Ganesha is sitting on the lap of Parvati whose hair braids and back in a sitting lotus posture are visible. Not many are even aware of this and miss seeing this amazing sculpted view.  Next we visited the Sasivekalu Ganesha which is built below the Hemakuta Hills, post which we roamed around the shrines and temples on the Hemakuta Hills and also visited the main attaraction in Hampi, the Virupaksha Temple, the Krishna Temple, the Laxmi Narasimha Temple, Matanga Parvata, Achutaraya Temple and the Badavi Linga. The look from the top of Hemakuta Hills is amazing with a larger perspective of the Virupaksha Temple and its surroundings and also a view of the vast area the Hampi ruins lie in. We enjoyed the first day’s sunset from the Hemakuta Hills. This half day excursion left us wanting and the need for a guide was felt so as to make the most of the Hampi visit.

We approached the reception of the hotel that evening and they recommended a guide to us who has been awarded with many awards by the panchayat and the government for his work as the best guide. However, he had already been booked and he promised us an equally good guide for the next two days. The guides charge anything from 1,200 to 1,500 per day as fees. You need to be very specific about the places that you need to see and what you require the guide for, else they show you the main 12-13 points which the regular tourist visits and you miss on all the other good spots. 

We met our guide on Saturday morning at 7.00 am at the hotel lobby. He introduced himself as a contract worker with the ASI and as a sculptor who also acts as a guide. Being with the ASI, he was well aware of the entire region, which was a plus point in his favour. We had a very clear idea of our requirements and expressed our desire to visit the ruins purely on a photography point of view and also see places where other tourists seldom visit.  Having a private vehicle also helps a lot as the distance travelled is quite large.  We started the second day with a visit to the Royal complex starting from the Royal Bath, through the Stone Gates of the royal complex, Mahanavami Dibba (a high plinth where, as per records, a beautiful structure made of sandalwood used to stand. The ruler along with his family used this area for conducting important worships and religious festivals and ceremonies, viz, Holi, Dipawali, Navaratri, etc as well as meeting important dignitaries. All one can see now is the plinth with the entire Sandalwood structure destroyed and set on fire by the Muslim invaders. This structure contains sculptures from the various generation of rulers of the Vijayanagara Empire. One can easily spot the difference in the style and usage of materials of the different generations. We then wind our way through the various other structures in the royal complex including the hidden underground rooms, the Stepped Water Tank (must see) the horse stable, the elephant platforms and the Pan Supari market to the royal enclosure, the Lotus Mahal and also the viaduct which was used to transport water from the Kamalapura Lake to the entire complex of Hampi. One can still see parts of it including the fired clay tubes laid down to for water to flow through the complex.

We then proceed ahead to the periphery and visit the Krishna Temple. The entire Ramayana is depicted around the temple in the form of sculptures and carvings on the temple walls. The inner pillars are made of hard black granite as opposed to the entire complex designed out of red granite. We also see lots of monuments and a few one and two floor structures strewn around and a few stepped tanks and Pushkarini. The Lotus Mahal is designed in such a way that the breeze blowing through the Mahal is cooled by the walls made of bricks and coated with a thick layer of lime. The entire structure is inlaid with hollow tubes through which water is circulated. This water is absorbed by the brick walls which cools the entire structure at least 5-6 degrees below the outside ambient temperature which could be anywhere between 35-40 degrees in the summer, making it an ideal spot for an afternoon siesta for the royal family.

Further ahead are the structures which used to house the royal elephants. Each structure is intricately designed and the designs are individualistic and unique in each room. Adjacent to the Elephant enclosures are the structures for residences of the Mahouts which is equally impressive.  The government has made this area into a mini museum with lots of sculptures collected, tagged and displayed inside this building.

We then proceed to the underground Shiva Temple. This temple is actually built below the floor level and has unfortunately been flooded with the water from the surrounding areas making it difficult to enter the inner sanctum. We then proceed to climb to a higher elevation in the Matanga Hills. The view from the top is breath-taking with a 360 degree view of the surroundings. We can see the Virupaksha Temple complex, the Krishna Temple Complex, the Achutaraya temple complex as well as the Vitthala Temple complex. Last but not the least we can also view the meandering route the Tungabhadra river takes through this area and the far off Anjanadri Hills. We also visit the various other temples in this area including the Sarasvati temple, the Hazara Rama Temple, the Queens Octagonal Bath, the Pattabhirama Temple, etc. That evening we also visit the Vitthala Temple Complex which is extremely beautiful with its stone chariot and the musical pillars, not to mention the breath-taking sculptures of the Kala Mandapa and main temple.  The walk around the temple complex and the Vitthala Bazar also leads us to the Pushkarini and the smaller shrines strewn around. Behind the Vitthala temple one can view the Kings Balance and the two storeyed buildings.  One should also visit the Malyavanta Parvata Raghunatha Swamy temple situated on top of a hill. This is the only temple where you see Lord Ram in a sitting posture anywhere in India. This entire area was also known as the Chitrakoota where Lord Ram along with Sita and Lakshmana spent major part of his 12 years of exile.

We had to plan our return back on Sunday noon, so limited our visit to the Anjaneya (Hanuman) temple on top of the Anjanadri Hills which is quite a distance away from the main Hampi complex. Here one can also see, preserved in a glass tank, one of the floating stones used for building the Rama Setu between Rameshwaram and Sri Lanka.  Returning back to the hotel, we had our noon meals, did a quick run to the Hampi Museum bang opposite out hotel , settled our bills and proceeded on our travel back home. Though the heat was killing, the entire trip was worth every penny, not to mention the animal and bird life that we also sighted all around the area.  For those who are interested, some history of Hampi can be accessed through the below link :
https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Hampi#/overview


As shared with IFIN Panorama Editorial Team

Ravi Vaidyanathan

 







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