Let me take you to Hampi – the birth place of Hanuman, Kishkindha and the capital of Vijaynagara empire.TIME TRAVEL becomes a reality in Hampi .During my short visit to Hampi I explored the two sides of Tungabhadra river and tried to understand the history related to each side.
On the one hand when you arrive from Hospet you will be on the side where you learn the recent history of the Vijayanagara empire, the bazaars and the temples. Once you cross the river you will reach the place related to Kishkindha from the Treta Yug (Ramayana times).
Hospet which is the closest town to this city of ruins is accessible through roads and train. From Hospet you will have to take an Auto Rickshaw (Indian Tuk Tuk) or a local bus to reach Hampi. I took the bus as it has its own fun and intimacy shared with actual residents of the place. I recommend everyone to take a bus only if you are not in hurry as it might take around 15 minutes more than the Auto Rick. But if you are coming to Hampi the most important traveller tip that I want to give is “NOT TO BE IN HURRY” coz you may end up in missing the stillness of this antiquated destination.
How i planned my day !!
Back in 2013 there was almost no network in and around Hampi, So once you reach there you used to be almost cut off from excessive information or distractions . In Hampi this is an ideal situation because the place is so trippy with amazing landscapes, ruins, boulders, river, hills and amazing people that you can only enjoy if you go with the flow.
Amidst the chaotic hustle bustle of the bus stand where agents would pester you to join them for the best room at the best price for stay, I had a friend waiting for me who owns a homestay perfectly located with a terrace adjacent to the backdrop of amazing old ruins and overlooking the very famous Virupaksha temple from a little distance. It was located so well that without being noticed I could just reach anywhere through the lanes.
Without wasting much time after a quick shower and packing my essentials like swimming trunk, sunglasses, sunscream and CAMERA, I went for darshan at Virupaksha temple. In general, whenever I visit any place , the first thing I do is to pay a visit to the presiding deity of that place ( Gram Devta or Adhisthatri Dev) which in this case was Lord Virupakhsa( Lord Shiva).
This is one of the sites in Hampi included in the UNESCO world heritage list and has a huge history associated with it. It is the tallest structure in Hampi at a height of around 49 metres or around 160 feet constructed in the 7th century and then expanded by Chalukyans and Hoysala Kings till the rule of Vijaynagara kings till 15th Century.
The temple was developed by various rulers with the renowned king Krishnadevaraya being the chief contributor to various architecture in Hampi. There is an interesting story of how this temple survived while other temples and mahals were grazed and destroyed.When the Deccan Sultans attacked Vijayanagara, they saw the Royal Emblem inscribed at the entrance of the temple (Gopuram) with Varaha ( wild boar) which signifies the Varaha avatar of Lord Vishnu. The muslim invaders thought this temple to be haraam and related to Satan. My friend told me that they got some inauspicous news while they were about to enter the temple and saw Yali ( the mythological animal) . They thought it to be a bad omen and decided not to enter the shrine. Thank Goodness that saved one of the most amazing architectural wonder in the world. This temple has remained a predominant pilgrimage centre ever since.
The temple experience is incomplete without the blessings from Lakshmi, the temple elephant. If you are lucky, you may witness and enjoy the elephant bathing in the nearby Tungabhadra.
In my opinion you should dedicate one full day to visit just Virupaksha to appreciate the architectural wonder it is.
A narrow channel of Tungabhadra river flows along the temple terrace and then descends to the temple kitchen to the outer court and flows through the temple, which shows the intricacy of the design. I was amazed to find out that the temple is decorated with various mathematical concepts. The temple has repeated patterns demonstrating the concept of fractals. This actually depicts the phenomenon of evolution of the universe, galaxy formation through crystal growth. Just look at the picture and you can see how the structure pattern from the top divides itself and repeats the pattern to create a perfect triangular structure.
The temple also has a lot of inscriptions with various gods on the pillars of the hall and outer walls. The most prominent and exceptional is the mythical animal found at the entrance, Yali. The Yali is a sculpture with the combination of various animals, starting at the bottom is crocodile, feathers of peacock, body of a lion, neck of horse, ears of a rabbit, trunk of an elephant. This is also found in several other Dravidian style temples of south India as a protector of the temple.
The temple is a perfect place to start the tour in the morning as you can find guides, Auto Rickshaw, even bicycles and mopeds to hire. There is main bazaar ruins in front of the temple where you can start your tour of this town with architectural masterpieces.
You can spend the whole day to visit several other temples like Vijaya Vittala temple, Badavilinga, Kadalakelu Ganesha, Lakshminarsimha and other temples in Hemkunta hill.
Hampi is like an open museum which can keep you exploring for days. In my opinion you should visit the temples with a guide to understand the symbolism and explore efficiently.
Even a random walk in the ruins of Hampi will present an oppurtunity to explore the ancient city and discover something unique at every corner of this beautiful place.
Wildlife near hampi
The lesser known attractions in Hampi are the wildlife sanctuaries near this ancient town namely the bird sanctuary near Sonapur lake and the Daroji Sloth bear sanctuary. Even if you dont get to visit the sanctary you will find the various species of birds in the morning with the melodious chirping of birds while going for the sunrise. Some of the commonly seen birds in Hampi are Bee eaters, Kingfisher (especially white throated Kingfisher), Francolin, Cuckoo, Laughing Dove, Sparrow, Quails, Parrots, Owls, wagtails, etc. It is estimated that there are 90 species of birds, and 27 species of butterflies were present in and around Hampi.
For wildlife lovers Daroji Sloth bear sanctuary is a must visit where you can spot a sloth bear which are abundant in the area but are mostly hidden in the rock-strewn areas hidden under the bushy forests. It is advised to dress in dark coloured clothes while visiting and carry binoculars. In the popular folklore these sloth bears are believed to be connected with Jambavanta/ Jambavana, the bear king (kapishreshta/ Rikshraj) in the Ramayana.
Tungabhadra and the coracle boats (Dongis)
For adventure lovers the round coracle boat ride locally known as Dongi is a must do actvity.
After a quick walk through the Hampi Main bazaar I went to explore the other side of Tungabhadra by a coracle boat. The water is shallow for most part of the year and is ideal for some adventure for swimmers. I jumped off the boat in the middle and had an unforgettable swimming experience in the Tungabhadra river.
Exploring the other side of Hampi
On the other side of Tungabhadra lies the calm and sleepy village, Anegundi close to where most of the backpackers stay.
After my little adventure crossing the river, I went for a nice tea in one of the guesthouse. There I met Vijay, who helped me to hire a Moped which is almost the official way to commute for a solo traveler like me in Hampi. I was riding a Moped for the first time in my life and it felt like a toy dirt bike ;).
Vijay gave me a few extra bottles of fuel, in case of an emergency, which can be returned if not used. Hiring bikes is very cheap in Hampi starting as low as Rs 100 for a few hours.
Tracing the footprints of Lord Rama to kishkindha
I enjoyed my day driving around with a few backpackers from Europe. Cruising through the paddy fields in the countryside with unique landscape and boulders around the roads is just refreshing.
and then I went to visit the Pampa Sarovar.
It was almost 2 pm when I reached the Pampa Sarovar, one of the panch sarovars or the five sacred lakes of India, as per Shrimad Bhagvat Puran. The other four being Mansarovar ( Tibet) , Bindhu Sarovar and Narayan Sarovar( Gujarat) and Pushkar Sarovar ( Rajasthan).
This lake is believed to be the place where Lord Rama met Shabari mata in Ramayana. This place was blessed by Shabari’s guru Rishi Matang to be blooming with flowers. Shabari mata used these flowers to decorate the ashram everyday waiting for bhagwan Rama till his arrival. This was the place where Lord Rama was guided to Rishyamook parvat where he met the monkey king Sugriva, who finally helped him to conquer Lanka.
I was blessed to visit this place and I met an interesting sadhu ( svetambara monk) who told me some interesting facts and anecdotes about the sarovar. He guided me to visit the birth place of Hanuman located nearby the Pampa sarovar called the Anjaneya hills.
anjaneya hills, birthplace of the great hanuman
I was eager to visit the shrine where the super powerful ( Atulitbaldhamam) Hanuman Ji was born. So after parking my moped at the foothill, I started climbing around 600 steps to reach the top of the hill. When I visited for the first time, there was not much constuction and the steps were raw. Now they have covered the major parts of the steps to protect from sun and rain. It takes around 30-40 minutes to walk with a few small breaks. There are seperate temples dedicated to Hanuman and Ma Anjaneya ( Hanuman’s mother).
The small temple has a yagya kund and information about the Kishkindha area. There used to be a very old priest who narrated the story of Lord Hanuman’s greatness. Anjaneya hills seen from a distance, like from the stone chariot you can see rock formations resembling Hanuman’s face. All Hanuman bhakts must visit Hampi for this amazing place.
The hippie Island- Virupura Gadde
The island is called the hippie island because of the settlers from Israel and parts of Europe. This place is perfect for those who plan to stay without a plan cheaply and enjoy the beauty Hampi has to offer. You can find a lot of folks busy doing nothing and spending most of their days on the hammock with a book.
This area is less crowded and is perfect for those who seek solace in their weekend getaways. Non veg food and drinking is allowed on this part of Hampi. You can find a number of guesthouses, hostels, camps and homestays nearby and stay pecefully. A lot of adventure loving western backpackers love bouldering, cliff jumping and swimming in nearby water bodies like Sanapur lake.
This place has amazing vibes especially after the sunset when you will hear people singing, playing some instruments and enjoying simpler things in life. This is a place which definitely lifts your mood in a unique way. There is just one piece of advice if you want to stay here.
” Be Groovy or Leave “Bob Dylan
Splendid Morning sunrise from the Matang hills
Next morning, I went with some friends that I made during my stay at Hampi to witness one of the best sunrises to remember from the top of Matang hill. We started as early as 4:45 am on bikes to reach the foothills of the hill named after Rishi Matang.
I would suggest you to carry a torch and wear shoes with good grip. Do not wear flip flops or chappals as you will have to jump a few boulders on the way. The experience is just magical once you are on top and the light hue starts coming.
The bird’s eye view with the ruins and the boulders on one side with Paddy fields and banana plantations on the other presents a mesmerizing panorama.
Though it is hard to resist taking pictures, I would suggest to just soak in the feel for some time and bask in the glory of the past unfolding before your eyes. Its a surreal experience where you find yourself amidst a Jurrasic era settings.
Once you start climbing down the hill, you will find the real heroes of Kishkindha who even rule today, MONKEYS. They will be sitting pretty and climbing the hill after the sunrise to have a look at their empire.
What fascinated me the most is that the monkeys were the permanent rulers of these places even after so many rulers came and went. Hampi is another place which gives you a message about the reality of life and our place in the universe.
my Ranking of the activities at Hampi
(checklist before you leave hampi)
- Boating in dongi, the round coracle boat
- Visiting the Virupaksha temple
- Sunrise at Matang hill
- Visit of Anjaneya hill
- Night at Vitupapura at a vibrant joint
- Riding a Moped
- Swimming and cliff jumping at Sanapur lake
- Visit the Pampa sarovar
- Take a temple tour with experienced guide
- Shopping for memoirs from the Hampi Bazaar
Hope you enjoyed reading the blog, please leave your comments on how it can be improved.