Hampi was on my list of places to visit for a long time. I never found the time or the company to go with. And then out of the blue, I managed to find both. The latter turned out to be quite a find 🙂 (for those who know the story).
Hampi is a mesmerising place if you’re a lover of history and culture. Now, a small village, but a thriving metropolis during the rule of the Vijayanagara Empire in the 15th century, it is one of the few relatively well-preserved historical sites in India. Like most thriving cities, it finds itself on the banks of the Tungabhadra river.
While most of the remaining structures can be traced back to the Vijayanagara Empire, some predate to as far back as 1CE. Jain temples found in this region are also traced back to a pre-Vijayanagara period.
Hampi can be reached by road via three major routes from Bangalore – Chitradurga/Hospet, Hiriyur/Bellary and Anantpur/Bellary. The Hiriyur-Bellary Road is probably the most scenic, and with hardly any traffic, it’s a pleasure to drive on this stretch. As you near Hospet, be prepared for crater-sized potholes and heavy truck traffic.
A city of this size with seven layers of fortifications (of which only the innermost is well preserved), seems to have been a well-planned and constructed settlement. An ancient gateway that served as a toll gate in those days still stands strong. Talarighatta Gate, meaning toll gate, was one of the primary entrance points to the urban centre of this sprawling 15th-century metropolis. The road from here also leads to what is probably the most famous site in Hampi, the Vijaya Vittala Temple Complex.
The image below if of one of the three massive gateways to the Vijaya Vittala Temple. Archaeological Survey Of India has banned the movement of private vehicles around this area. They have shuttles (electric vehicles) driven by women (+1 for women’s empowerment) that will get you to the main site and back to the parking lot.
Once you’re in, you will notice many temples and courtyards around you. The one structure, that grabs everyone’s attention is the famous Stone Chariot.
It might look like a monolithic structure, but it isn’t. Since the chariot couldn’t be moved, it’s wheels were spun and you can notice the wear and tear. [Some interesting facts about this iconic structure in Hampi http://hampi.in/
You will find intricate carvings on stones everywhere you look. Stories from the Ramayana and depictions of Chinese travelers who visited Hampi during its heydays can be seen in many places.
As you walk around and absorb the beauty of this place, you will also notice the artistic talent, architectural vision and clever use of the structures. The first picture in the collage below is a blueprint/miniature model of the temple behind it. The bottom right picture is an example of rainwater harvesting. The fine holes drilled into the stone is for water to drip and collect below.
Another example is how they provided slits in the roof for the light to come through and reflect off the water below to light up the interiors. All we can come up with these days, are energy inefficient glass-fronted buildings.
Away from this temple complex is another area of well-preserved structures where you’ll find bathhouses, last remains of the fortification, a destroyed Queen’s palace and much more.
On the second and last day of our trip, we visited the most religious and famous temple in Hampi. Virupaksha temple located in the old town of Hampi is considered the most sacred of temples there. The large gateway (Gopura), a nine-storeyed structure, is the main entrance that leads into the courtyard and the temple.
The area facing the temple is the bazaar which until recently was still being used by squatters. Thankfully they’ve been evicted and hopefully it will be restored soon from whatever damage it might have suffered.
If you’re looking for other activities besides visiting places mentioned above, Hampi also offers lots of trekking and rock climbing opportunities. A short trek from this place (http://goo.gl/yG9ulX) took us to the view below. The stones arranged like little pyramids can be seen all over this place. A local we spoke to at the temple below, who came with us on the trek, told us these were created by folks who come up here to make a wish.
If you live in Bangalore and looking for a quick weekend trip, Hampi is one of the best places you can go to. The trip turned out to be a memorable one for many reasons.
Have you been to Hampi? I’d love to know what your experience of the place was like.