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Friday, 8 August 2014

From The Land Of Tenali Rama_ HAMPI

       Visitors from northern India generally have  two places earmarked for visiting in Karnataka ,those being Mysore and Bangalore ..Little do they know of the numerous places in Karnataka worth visiting.The wonderful carvings of Belur and Haleebedu,the lush green landscapes of Chickmangalur and  Coorg,the magnificient Jog falls,the temples and palaces of Shimoga,the beaches of Gokarna or the ruins of Hampi which date back to the 11th century AD.
   Our recent visit to the small sleepy villge of Hampi ,in north Karnatka,in the district of Bellary,unveiled a lot more than expected.
   Hampi,was once the capital city of the Vijayanagara kingdom .King Krishnadevaraya of the Tulu dynasty ruled over this kingdom from the capital city Hampi,was considered the most powerful king of the Vijaynagara kingdom.He reigned for a long period of twenty years ,also referred to the Golden Period of  this kingdom .The much heard of and the much read about stories of Tenali Rama ,who was  the minister of King Krishnadevaraya, happened here !

     Tunga and Bhadra being the 2 tributaries of the Tungabhadra originate in the western ghats and meet to form the Tungabhadra. Hampi is located in the banks of the river Tungabhadra.In our two day visit to Hampi we did not forget to include the Tungabhadra dam to our itinerary.
     This tour was done in the year end holidays,which I feel is the best time to visit Hampi,because even in the month of December it was quite warm ,something we had not expected . We drove from Bangalore along the Tumkur highway,and reached Hospet in about seven hours.The roads on the whole are  in good condition except for a few patches in between .On the way 200kms.from Bangalore lies the Chitradurga fort,a quick visit can be made if time permits. I must mention that there are not any good eateries in this route, so it is best to pack something for the way . A proper meal can be thought of only after reaching Hospet. We reached Hospet at about 2 p.m.,so we visited the Tungabhadra dam the same day,and set off for Hampi the next morning,  after an early breakfast.

      In Hampi ,as we visited one monument after another the ruins of this place brought alive the once studied pages of our history books .A village completely oblivious of the fact that the stone structures which they are very used to seeing every day were actually the remains of a kingdom once so prominent ..The ruins which were once covered with foliage was first discovered by a British officer before independence.Since then numerous excavations were done and an entire city of ancient India slowly started taking shape.

This was the first thing that caught our attention .A huge stone door lying in front of the royal enclosure.Was it an earthquake or the invaders ...no one could answer ,or did it never get fixed in its place since it was sculpted?

     Some of the ruins ,for example the Stepped Tank were entirely under the ground.This tank was probably used for functions by the royal family as this was located in the royal enclosure

The stepped tank


                                    Though the temples formed the core of all socio -religious activities,the structure above shows the Mahanavmi Dibba,this was where Dussehra was celebrated for one and all.This is a very noticeable monument in the royal enclosure ,so the kings presence during festivals at this place was inevitable.
Hampi is also called the city of many temples.We visited quite a few of the list of temples.

   The Saraswati temple ,to begin with,the Chandrashekhara temple,the Hazara Rama temple-known for its intricate carvings of the Ramayana and The Mahabharata,.
The Saraswati temple
  The Hazara Rama temple is the one which is most intricately carved after the Vitthala temple, ,and it needs no mention that this temple  enjoyed royal patronage.
A front view of the Harara Rama temple
Carvings on The Hazara Rama Temple
The underground Shiva Temple-which holds the mystery of slowly stepping down into a small pool of water..It is yet to be found why this temple was built in this way.
The  Underground Shiva temple

A view inside the underground Shiva temple
The Virupaksha temple is the only one where worshipping is still done. I could not get pictures of the temple though.

The Vitthala temple at sunset

                                                                                   The Vitthala temple with the famous  stone chariot is known for its stunning carvings and musical pillars.
The picture above shows one of the carved pillars of the Vitthala temple.We were astounded to see the carvings,wondering how much time and patience had gone into carving these masterpieces.

           Science seemed to be quite advanced  in those days.The entire town was supplied with water by a water pipe carved out of stone,which can be seen running all over  the place.(called aquaduct).The picture above shows the same.

          The picture above shows the Lotus temple in the  Zanana enclosure,( zanana means womenfolk),so this place was where the royal ladies used to stay and watch all activities through the covered balconies.Interestingly ,this enclosure had a watch tower at one of its corners,does that in any way show the kings concern for the security of the ladies?

        The ruins of the many market places show that the town was as organised as any other modern township.If you can see the row of structures lined up in the picture , they are actually what it remains now of the market place of the kingdom.Standing there for a few minutes I could almost sense what a hub of activity it used to be in those days.

        Here stands a structure which impressed me the most ,can you guess what it is?It is The Elephant Stable.....this was one of the few structures which was found almost intact.So it was here that the royal elephants once rested after their tiresome battles with invaders?. The structure makes us wonder what the importance of the cavalry must have been during those days .Adjoining this structure was a double storey building,with big airy rooms and huge corridors,which we were told were the quarters of the kings employees who took care of the elephants....I could not but agree that this was definitely the golden period of the empire, and the lawn on which we sat clicking pictures  was probably the place where the kings entire cavalry used to line up ,in full form,ready for the ensuing prestigious battles.!

      .Be it monarchy or mythology-Hampi has both in store for us.Kishkinda the mythological  birthplace of hanuman lies here.It is a small hillock atop which Hanumans motherAnjaneya is said to have begot Hanuman from the wind god Vayu.
    Hampi is abounding with such enchanting mysteries ,unfortunately time being a constraint we could not prolong our stay there by another day. Had we stayed there for another day we could have visited Anegudi,which was the former capital of the kingdom ,and lies across the Tungabhadra.We were so exhausted that we could not even make it to the hilltop which claims to be the birthplace of Hanuman,because it meant climbing quite  a few steps.

    The roads in Hampi  are good enough to drive from one monument to another,  there is no question of walking in between the places.Also there are no entry tickets to any of the monuments.
Hampi is mostly visited from a small town -Hospet(we stayed there)about 20 km from Hampi-though many small hotels and resorts have cropped up in Hampi itself. If you are interested in staying in Hampi itself ,you should book the hotels or homestays well in advance , because options are few  and they get booked early.Being a World Heritage Site it is frequently visited by foreign tourists and is pretty well equipped to host foreigners.Our visit to Hampi would have been incomplete without a visit to the Mango Tree Restaurant.It caters to both south Indian and north Indian tourists as well as foreign travellers.

A few more pictures of the eateries in Hampi ,and the shops from where one can collect the souvenirs from.

    From Hampi to Hospet
              At the end of the day we drove back to our hotel at Hospet,leaving behind the many stories that the stones of the village had to tell-very few heard and most yet to be heard.Once again we saluted the masters, who had crafted history  on the banks of the Tungabhadra

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