On the Banks of Tungabhadra River
By Saswata Chandra
India, being a confluence of different race and religion since centuries, is one of the greatest sources of historic and archaeological shreds of evidence. Hampi, in the eastern parts of central Karnataka one of the major structural wonders in India rightfully carrying the legacy of the incredibility of ancient civilizations. While many of the scholars around the globe were interested about the site, Hampi remained under cover till the time it was surfaced by Robert Sewell’s literary work “A Forgotten Empire” in the year of 1900. With no surprises, these 14th-century relics astounded the world with its residual beauty. Thereafter, the ruins of Vijayanagara, aka Hampi, kept bewildering people with its monuments and secured its position of one of the most visited archaeological and historical sites in India.
Hampi: Day 1
The sites of Hampi can be divided into 3 zones, namely – Sacred Centre, Urban Core and Royal Centre. The area coverage is 41.5 square kilometres. Sacred Centre consists of temples and monuments pre-dating Vijayanagara Empire while Urban Core and Royal Centre has all monuments and public utility infrastructures of Vijayanagara. One can observe Hindu as well as Jain temples around the site and a Mosque which infers a multi-religion civilization.
The “Virupaksha” temple at the very starting point of the Hampi exploration is one of the main attractions of Sacred Centre. This 160ft high temple of Shiva and Pampa (also known as Durga –A Hindu Goddess) of 11th Century was extended by Vijayanagara dynasty and said to be the only gathering place for Hindus and pilgrims. This pyramidal superstructure has intricate sculptures of mythical animals, armed warrior and erotic figurines engraved in all its pillars and plastered storey. Head towards “Kadalukale Ganesh” temple to observe the magnanimous monolith of 15 feet.
The name “Kadalukale” has been derived from Bengal gram which resembles the shape of the chiselled belly of the statue. A picturesque view of the Hampi marketplace and Matanga Hills from this temple will surely attract shutterbugs. About 1 km south of Hemkuta hill located Krishna temple also called a Balakrishna temple. The statue of the Balakrishna is in Chennai museum but reliefs of Ten Avatars of Vishnu in all its pillars and entry gates make it a worthy site to visit. Towards further south, with a sprawling lawn located at the north, situated Hazara Rama Temple which is probably the only temple having a multitude of the bas-relief of Ramayana story panels on its wall. Towards Royal Centre, “Mahanavami Tibba” or the public square complex is hard to miss. This is probably the highest point in the urban core of the city which happened to carry the memoirs of the foreigners who visited the city. A stepped water tank south of the “Mahanavami Tibba” tells about the robust water infrastructure Hampi had. This tank was excavated in 1980 and believed to be a public utility for commoners and foreign pilgrims. East of the royal enclosure exists the Elephant stable which has eleven square chambers with arched openings and stairs to the roof access. Closed to this, there exists Lotus Mahal, speculated to be the council hall carries no inscriptions on its wall and has no influence of Muslim patronage on its structure. Save your thirst of hopping to other places and get back to stay.
Hampi: Day 2
One can typically start the day 2 in Matanga Hills, watching the 360-degree view of Hampi at sunrise. Head towards the northeast to see the signature temple complex of Hampi, named after one of the names of Lord Krishna, “Vitthala” Temple. This temple was created mid of 16th Century speculated by multiple sponsors. Exceptional Dravidian architecture and unmatched craftsmanship can be observed in its musical pillars and in the stone chariot.
The temple complex can be divided into “Maha Mantapa”, “Ranga Mantapa” and “Stone Chariot”. Maha Mantapa is orchestrated with elephant balustrade and 40 pillars around it. Intricate design works in ceiling and pillars still awes visitors. Turn to the Stone Chariot and observe the architectural wonders in each of its 7 levels.
In Ranga Mantapa, watch the 56 musical pillars or commonly mentioned as SAREGAMA pillars. Tap the pillars gently and they will emanate musical notes. There are 7 minor pillars around every main pillar which emits the musical notes of each instrument. The constructional science behind the emission of musical notes still remains a mystery. After watching this jaw-dropping beauty, head back to river Tungabhadra and take a coracle ride. This country boats are being used since the time of the Vijayanagara Empire. It will certainly be an experience to be treasured if you are not really weak hearted.
If you see the sun leaning over the west, start your journey to Tungabhadra Dam. This is comparatively less explored by tourists but will surely be something to be mentioned separately. The dam, which creates the biggest reservoir with 101 thousand million cubic feet of gross storage capacity, has a height of 49.5 meters from its deepest foundation. On the garden complex, indulge yourself in 5D experience or enjoy a boating session. Before sunset, get a bus from the TBD garden and reach to the top of the watchtower. A spectacular view of the river Tungabhadra, a tributary of Kaveri, will justify its sobriquet ‘Pampa Sagar’. Prepare for rebasing and resume a mundane regular life but places like Hampi will surely add one more reason to believe why India was, and still is an incredible place!
How to reach
The city of Hampi is about 12KMs from Hosapete of Bellary district of Karnataka. Hosapete is well connected with major cities through railways and bus services. The nearest airport at Hubli, commonly known as Hubballi Airport, shares a distance of 155KMs. While there are lesser options to stay near the city of ruins, a plethora of Hotels or other accommodations are available respecting various pocket pinches. Hire a chauffeur driven car to start your experience with Hampi from the local booking agents.