Virupaksha Temple, Hampi By Mabsentt
I had seen Hampi in a lot of  Indian films song sequences and  read a lot about its history.  I was awed with what I had read, and so I wanted to go to the place and see for myself.  Every journey is a search for something, but this time, we got more than what we asked for, lots of history, architectural marvels, and nice place to sit and see sunrise and sunset.

In November 2001, we ie me and hubby decided to go to Bijapur and Hampi.  Bijapur was the 1st leg of the quest and  Hampi was the second.  This travelogue is about Hampi and hence I will stick to the topic.  We took a bus from Bijapur to Hampi.  As the bus  moved from Bijapur towards Hampi, I could see vast expanses of barren land, really naked and completely exposed to the sun.  There were no trees, not a blade grass, no cattle and no village scenes that you will usually see during other bus or train journeys.  This bus ride in this part of the country was unique– North Karnataka is dry, very contrary to the South.  It is a large plateau.  It takes about 4 hrs to reach Hampi by bus from Bijapur.

To visit Hampi and the places there, it is advisable to stay at Hospet, which  is about 13 kms from Hampi.  One can engage a cab for about 4 to 5 days.  One will need that much of time to go around the place and admire the beauty.  Hampi was a very rich kingdom and the entire place is strewn with temples, palaces and their ruins.  This city of ruins  is declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Hampi is a dry, hot and dusty place, and hence one must be ready for the ordeal.  The place has lots of boulders and it seems like all the boulders were thrown from the sky on to the ground, and they have just occupied which every place was available.  The river Thungabadra flows through this terrain and hence there is a little green patch, the bank  is cool and is a welcome treat to anyone who is wandering around the ruins. There are a lot of villages around Hampi.  

Some dope about the history of the place.  Vijayanagar was the capital of a wealthy empire that made its money out of spices. Its seven concentric circles of fortifications housed half a million people, but these were not enough to keep out the attacks of Deccan Sultans. The 200-year-old empire came to a sudden end in 1565 after the disastrous battle of Talikota. Excavations still continue and more is being discovered about this fascinating city. After all, the locals.

There are no good hotels in Hampi and hence we decided to stay at Hospet.  I had a booking in a hotel called Mallige.  Mallige has 2 types of rooms. The Rs. 350 rooms have a double cot,  attached bath, and is  not so neat.  They have rooms for Rs. 500 that are extremely good - good interiors, cots, study table, a small sit out, TV, good bathroom with geyser etc.  The sit out has a garden too, and it is completely enclosed.  So, you can have your privacy.  Mallige also has a bar, swimming pool, cyber café & travel desk.  Not bad for a small town eh ! But, with the constant flow of foreign tourists, all these are a must.

Lot of foreign tourists visit this place.  Hampi is a hot destination for rock climbers now.  There are a couple of rock climbing outfits that have sprung up all of a sudden, they charge about Rs. 250 for a climbing session.  Hampi’s locals are not delighted about the hippies hanging out all over the place. There are a lot of rave parties that are held on the banks of the Tungabhadra.  I am told that there is a Indian Guru on the other side of the river, who lives in his Kutir, and supplies unlimited dope to the hippies.  There are a  lot of tourists who come to Hampi from Goa on bikes.  They spend a couple of days here and get back to their next destination.

Hampi has a lot of ‘must see’ places and hence 5 days is required.  The entire ruins are scattered over a area of about 20 sq kms, and hence one can get really tired.  The car cannot go to the actual spot.  Once needs to leave it and them walk around, it can get  tiring.  The places that have to be visited are many.

Hampi Bazaar : Now that locals are occupying the ancient buildings lining the main street, Hampi bustles with activity and life again.

Virupaksha Temple : At the western end of  Bazaar is the Virupaksha temple, built in 1442 with a 50 m high gopuram, and a smaller one added in 1510. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva his form as Pampapati or Virupaksha.

Kings Balance : The Tulapurusadana, is actually the scaffolding of the balance. It is here that the king was weighed on his coronation or after a victory, against gold or precious stones, which were then distributed to the brahmins or granted to a temple. The scaffolding faces the east and has a rough carving of the king and two queens being weighed.

Vittala Temple : A footpath from the eastern end of Hampi Bazaar leads to the Vittala Temple. This 16th century temple is a World Heritage monument. The temple was begun in the reign of Vijayanagar’s  greatest king, Krishnadevaraya, but was never finished. The outer pillars are called the musical pillars because they reverberate when tapped. There are several sets of these pillars, and each set of pillars produces sound of a different instrument.  There are 8 pillars in each set, one for each of the sapta swaras.  The ornate stone chariot in the temple courtyard has an image of Garuda. I was told that, the wheels could turn. Now it is neatly secured with wooden logs.

The temple was never finished. King and queens added to it but it was never consecrated. The reason? It was a temple of Vithala. Before it was finished he came to pay a visit. The earthy god of villages and peasants took one look at it and decided that it was far too elegant for him. He was going to stay put in his temple at Pandharpur. He returned and the temple was left incomplete.

A lot of film song sequence shootings are  held here.  Our taxi driver cum guide told that he has seen Shipta Shetty, Urmila, Sonali Bendre and several other heroines, skimply clad, dancing to the scores of the music directors in the temple complex and in the  thungabhadra river..which is close by

Achutaraya Temple : It is at the bottom of the Matanga hill. Built by King Achyutaraya, it has some exceptionally fine pillars and handsome sculpture. You will find some beautifully carved unique animals. In the north-western corner of the temple courtyard is a large kalyana mandapa where the wedding of the gods would take place. It is  a great to trek up the Mathanga hill and watch the sun rise and sun set.  It is advisable to wear a good pair of shoes, and be extra careful while climing up, as there are a few crevasses.  These are so dark inside, and could be very deep.

The Royal Ruins : This area of Hampi looks different. The boulders are missing. There are several stone walls.  The water work is sophisticated.  Over the river is the old bridge built by the kinds on which the army used to march.  It seems there used to be water works who would fill water into the canals / pipe systems  throughout the day.  There is an aqueduct standing inside the citadel.

The Queens Bath : This is a simple structure with a  plain facade and glorious interior. A narrow moat surrounds this building. Inside is a small tank or swimming bath. Around it is an arched corridor with many projecting balconies overlooking the tank. There’s some pretty stucco work on the walls.  It is open to the sky and surrounded by corridors with 24 different domes.

Hazara Rama Temple : This is supposed to have been the private place of worship for the kings. It is close to the ruins of the royal palace. Krishnadevaraya began the building by giving six tax-free villages to the god Ramachandra Deva on the occasion of a solar eclipse to gain merit for his parents.

The granite temple along with its attendant shrine is one of the most perfect specimens of Vijayanagar  architecture. As it is dedicated to Lord Rama, the walls and pillars of the two shrines and the inner surface of the courtyard walls depict the main incidents in the Ramayana and a few scenes from theMahabharatha.

The Zenana Enclosure : The Zenana Enclosure has some Indo-Saracenic buildings of note. The walls around it are far thin and tapering towards the top. Which means they were probably there for privacy, to protect the ladies from the prying eyes of the world. The main entrance faces the west. The Queen’s palace is represented by a ruined basement. There is also a tower that has been misrepresented as a watch tower; its architectural style suggests that it might have been a place from which the ladies could peer at life passing by.

The Lotus Mahal : This is one of the prettiest buildings in the complex. It’s an amazing synthesis of Hindu and Islamic styles in the great Indo-Saracenic tradition: while the pillars and arches are Islamic in nature, the base, the roof and the beautiful stucco ornamentation on this charming little pavilion are Hindu. The building is on a raised platform but the corners are doubly recessed which may account for its name. It had an early form of air conditioning: water-cooled air was driven through tubes to cool Krishnadevaraya’s queen in the summer.

The Elephant Stables : This is a grand building, with 11 domed chambers that once housed the state’s elephants. Only local tradition maintains that the architects adapted the domes used in the desert to cool palaces to keep their pachyderms cool and fighting fit. Now scholars believe it may have been living quarters and the rings in the wall were probably used to string up the punkahs. The central tower is in ruins but it was probably a stepped tower in the Hindu tradition. As it stands, the building is entirely Islamic in character: it faces west and the arches mark it as Western.

The underground temple : The temple was built so that the lingam would be around water. This is the temple of the Prasanna Virupaksha, the temple of the delighted Virupaksha. Judging by the number of Nagakals (or serpent stones) in the north-east corner of the temple, it must have been a centre of snake worship. The gateway facing east was left unfinished.   The Statue of Narasimha : The statues arms have been lopped off and his legs cut off. Narasimha, fourth avataar of Lord Vishnu dominates the village road, a monument to righteous justice. Originally, Narasimha’s consort Shri Lakshmi must have been portrayed sitting on his thigh but the only remnant of her is the arm she had around his waist. An inscription on a stone slab in front of the enclosure records that Krishnadevaraya ordered it hewed out of a single boulder. Although it is 22 feet high, and although it has been desecrated, it is still possible to see how detailed it is. On the base of the pedestal is a representation of the sun and the moon, an indication that the sculptor believed that it would last forever.

Other temples dot the area including temples to Krishna, Vishnu and Ganesha.

The Ganesh Moniliths : Oddly this one is named, Sasivikallu Ganesh or the stone like a mustard seed. Here is one of the best-loved gods of India, standing upon the open pillared mandapa on the rocky hillock above the shrine to Vishnu. His mount, a rat, is carved on a separate piece of stone, set in front of the image. Although this is not as powerful an image as that of the Narasimhan, it is an affecting image.

Inside a temple a few metres down the road, there is a companion image who is called the grain of gram stone Ganesh or Kadalaikallu Ganesh. From the temple, you get a wonderful view of the Hampi bazaar and the Tungabhadra beyond it.

The Archeological Museum at Kamalapuram : This has a small collection of sculpture, paintings, copper plates and coins which have been found at the site. The scale model in the courtyard will go a long way to help you orient yourself.

Dasara Bidda : Here the king sat as all around him his courtiers danced and caroused over the nine nights of Mahanavami or Navratri. Although it may now look like nothing more than a 12 m high platform, it was once the throbbing heart of the city, to which travellers came to see the glories of the Dussehra festivities. The small chamber in the centre of this huge platform is thought to be the place where the magnificently wrought throne was placed during the celebrations.

Anegondi : North of the river is the ruined stronghold of Anegondi. You take a boat - Rs 5 for a single trip - to get there. This was where the Viajayanagar empire was born. Harihara ruled here but many of the temples predate that founding since some of them clearly belong to the 10th and 11th centuries. The temples are dedicated to Vishnu who is worshipped here as Ranganatha (reclining on a serpent) and as Venkateshwara. The defensive walls are intact but the rest is all banana plantations. Check out the whitewashed Hanuman temple on the hill. There’s also a Sri Aurobindo ashram there that offers courses in meditation and yoga.

The Thungabhadra Dam & Gardens :  It is in Hospet and is on the Thungabhadra river.  It is the longest masonary work in South India, 2 kms long and 40 m high.  The gardens are well maintained and there there is a small aquarium also.

The only restaurant in Hampi is  Bhuvaneshwari.  It is good to have a simple lunch.  Lime rice, tomato rice, curd rice, egg omelettes are available.  Cool drinks are also available.  It is not possible to stay here.  But is a decent place to grab a meal in between the ruin trip.  There are several other shacks where you can hazard a chai.

Getting there :  

By Road : Once can reach Hampi from Bangalore road – 353 Kms.  Hampi and Hospet are connected by Bus Services for all cities and towns in Karnataka.

Nearest railway station : Hospet ( 13 kms ).  From Hospet one can get to Hubli, Mysore and Bangalore.

Nearest airports : Bellary  ( 74 kms ) , Belgaum ( 190 kms  ) and Bangalore ( 353 kms )

Going Around : To see the all the places around Hampi you may end up walking about 7 kms.  Hence hiring a cycle will be a good option.  If you are staying at Hospet, then one can engage a local taxi for the entire site seeing.  The cab drivers also double up at guides, and they are very helpful. One can engage the cab for about 4 for 5 days for a fixed rate.  

There are a lot of foreign tourists who get to Hampi from Goa on bikes.  If you are one of them, then you can go around on the bike.

Best time : October to march.

Trip duration :  3 to 5 days

Where to stay :

Hotel Mallige : This is in Hospet.  This is the only place where I suggest you can stay.   143/6, Hospet - Bellary Road, Hospet, Karnataka, India. , Tel: +(91) (8394) 428101~7, Fax: +(91) (8394)

Hotel Mayura Bhuvaneshwari :  Hampi bus stop. Kamalapur (Hampi), Bellary Dist - 583 221, Karnataka, India. , Tel: +(91) (8394) 441574, Fax: +(91) (8394) 428537