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Hampi – The Ancient City That Speaks – Part 2

 

The skeleton of the ancient city of Hampi expands over a vast area—as far as the eyes can see.

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Walking the passages cut through the dangerous crevices between huge boulders, we were now heading towards the banks of the Tungabhadra river.

Though October to March is considered the best time to visit Hampi, the winter sun of December continued to shine mercilessly on us.

The scorching heat and the dust make a nasty combination of sweat and dirt on your skin. However, if you are with friends, don’t worry, you all will appear equally tanned and covered with the red sand.

Keep your gear ready with these essentials—2 bottles of water per person, a cap/hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, good pair of shoes, some snacks.

We had rented cycles, from the locals—they had set up a small corner, renting two-wheeler on a small lease rate, for the whole day. The cycles did help us on the long stretches of roads linking different stone monuments. The cycles were hired at rupees 150 per person.

Cycling is the most favourable way to discover places in Hampi though you won’t be able to reach all places or trek up dragging a bicycle along with you. Walking on foot comes second, but could be tiring and time-consuming. You could even hire a bike or taxi otherwise. You would still have to walk or trek to see few places that are on the hilltop.

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Things changed quickly. It wasn’t a pleasant experience walking over a massive stretch of rock and carrying our cycles instead of riding them. We parked them in a corner with the hope that nobody would steal them and continued on foot from there.

The labyrinth through the gigantic boulders somehow opened into a stretch of a rock base that descended decently and not steeply into the river.

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Tungabhadra River, Hampi  Picture Credits: Akshayrajsinh Jadeja

Laying our feet in the refreshing and cool muddy water on the slippery and rocky banks of the river, I released a breath of relief. The calm ancient breeze that flowed closer to the water along its ragged banks welcomed me in its territorial land.

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Coracle ride along the banks to ferry you across the river

There was an upturned coracle (a huge circular boat, which has a framework of bamboo sticks, reeds, and plastic sheets)—waiting for its passengers to be ferried to the other side of the river.

The charges for the coracle ride was 500 Indian Rupees per person.

We rejuvenated ourselves with a hot cup of sugary tea in small tea-shop built under the shades of a huge tree.

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After regaining our strengths, we braved the sun to watch the ruins of Hampi, which is scattered over an enormous stretch of the land, belonging to the capital city of the Vijayanagar Empire.

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King’s Balance, source: wikimedia.org

We crossed the famous King’s Balance—of what remained only two gigantic 15-foot tall pillars. The balance was weighed with gold, silver, rubies and all precious things equal to the weight of the king who would sit on the other end of the balance. This was distributed among the priests and the people of the kingdom.

Vitthalla Temple

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One of the entrance gates at Vitthalla temple

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A closer look at the art

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Vitthalla Temple Compound

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Our next stop was the majestic compound of the Vitthalla temple that was surrounded by stone walls on the four sides. We covered a little over a kilometre on foot.

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Temples supported by stone pillars embellished with beautiful carvings. Below, these abandoned temples probably held sculpture of Gods and Goddesses which are nowhere to be seen now.

 

On our way, we saw lifeless ruins covered with dust and vegetation cropping from the unattended corners and gaps of the structures that seemed to be the places of worship in the ancient times.

When we reached the remains of the Vitthalla compound, the area was brimming with people while the architecture lulled us to the huge entrance gate.

We couldn’t take our eyes off the remarkable brick and stone work that offered a glimpse of the life of people who would have at one time lived peacefully under the roof of these ancient structures.

The Stone Chariot

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Vitthalla temple holds in its compound one the most iconic piece of Indian stone art—the Stone Chariot. It may look like a monolithic structure—cut out of a single piece of rock. However, Stone Chariot has been built using blocks of granite rock placed over one another with such dexterity and skill that the structure attracts attention in a single glance.

The Stone Chariot is an imitation of the Konark Sun Temple in Orissa that inspired Vijaynagar’s famous king Krishnadevaraya to build a similar structure in his own empire.

The 16th century stone architecture hosted Garuda, the mount of Lord Vishnu—but the sculpture is nowhere to be seen today. The chariot rests on a granite base, about 1 feet above the ground with life-size wheels and axle carved out of rock with perfection.

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Picture Credits: Akshayrajsinh Jadeja

Architectural structures have innumerable stories depicted on its walls—the chariot temple and other structures in the Vitthalla temple compound have scenes of war engraved on their walls.

The stone elephants sculptures in the front of the temple that seemed to be pulling the chariot were built to replace broken horse sculptures that stood there before—the remains of their rear including tails can still be seen.

There is a stone ladder in between them, which was used by the temple priests to reach the sanctum for offering prayers to the Garuda.

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The Stone Chariot

It is believed by the people of Hampi that if the chariot moves from its place the world will come to an end. We can just hope that the stone structure stands remains intact and static, as a remnant of the ancient Hampi.

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There are various stone structures around the chariot in the same compound of Vitthalla temple—it may take you around 2 hours to visit each of those in the periphery.

If you wish to know the stories associated with each of these structures and want to go into the depths of the time, you can easily hire guides to show you the place along—these are official tourist guides and have ample knowledge about the magnificent history of the place.

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We have reached the end of this ancient world, next to the Vitthalla temple compound

From here, you could either retreat or move ahead to the remains of the Queens’s Palace, where you could relax and enjoy the evening sun. Oh! and how could we miss mentioning about the Archaeology museum, the treasure house holds the collection of old photographs of Hampi and valuable remnants from the past.

Keep a separate day for the basement of the Queen’s Palace, Lotus Mahal, Elephant Stables including the museum.

Want to know where to begin when you reach Hampi? Here is your tour guide for the first day. 

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The Tragic Comedy In Bodhgaya, Bihar: Best Friend’s Wedding Part 1

Gaya Junction is a small station that is a part of Eastern Railway zone of India. Like any other railways platform in India, we envisaged it to be brimming with people, walking to and fro and waiting eagerly for their trains. The station was unexpectedly both clean and empty in the early morning hours when we arrived.

Know how to reach from Bangalore To Gaya, via the second largest city of India, Kolkata.

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Our friend’s brother had come to receive us at the station. Miss Annu, the bride and our best friend was at home, playing badminton and holding onto every opportunity to shed a few grams of fat before her wedding day.

Gaya reveals its deepest side in the narrowest lanes of the city. In quick successions of a few left and right turns, we crossed a market place that was just waking up from slumber and took a final left to enter into a lane. The houses hugged each other side to side—the road was empty yet carried a plethora of sounds coming from adjacent households. The three-storeyed house stood tall—the back of my head touched my neck as I stared at what we would be calling it for the coming days—home.

The Best Friend’s Wedding

Warm hugs and smiles welcomed us. It was a pleasure everyone in the family who had been expecting us since so many days—Aunty (our friend’s mother) called us for breakfast, something we had really been waiting for. We gorged on the food, satiated our hunger and went upstairs to our friend’s room for the ‘talk’.

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Trying our friend’s Jewelry – Things To Do At The Best Friend’s Wedding

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Me: “There is no stopping to the drama, Ok! ”       Shalvi: “This thing in not fitting in my nose”

Our best friend was getting married and like all girlfriends we were super excited to make the best out of these moments—we were the bridesmaids!

The Mehendi

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Henna design in the Making

Applying mehendi or henna on the hands and feet of the bride is not just a traditional embellishment to make the bride look more beautiful.  The lesser-known scientific reasons that back the practice are the cooling effect mehendi has on the skin. A wedding includes a series of customs that are performed one after the other. Mehendi provides a cooling sensation and releases the stress build from the whole day’s events.

 

 

We had to feed our friend, while her hands and feet were being dyed with the rich-smelling herb. It was a tedious 4-5 hour long process, which the aunty who had come to apply her mehandi completed without a sigh of exhaustion.

Our girl was ready, but we, her best friends made sure that her hena design was perfect and took the cone, much to the reluctance of the mehandi-wali-aunty, added a few streaks of wet mehandi giving it a final touch up.

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The Final Outcome

The act was completed after dabbing a solution of lemon and sugar on the dried mehandi to churn out the color.

The Sangeet

Adjacent to the Falgu river, on the Bakraur village road, almost 14 kilometres from Gaya, stood the famous Mahabodhi temple—the place known to have been an abode for Gautam Buddha, where he meditated for seven weeks at a stretch. Across the river, only 1.7 kilometers away stood the Mahamaya Palace Hotel, where the wedding was to take place.

In the late hours of the previous night, we had arrived with all our luggage at the majestic hotel in a slumber. With our eyes almost giving away to sleep, we made a way to our room and unloaded ourselves. The calm vicinity and light summer breeze of July allowed us to settle down with ease and brought the sleep quickly.

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The ceremonies had begun early the next morning when we were still snoring in sleep. The commotion in the room stirred us awake—we squinted, looking at our friend who was busy getting dressed up and ready for the occasion we had no clue about.

Our friend had to change about half a dozen saris for the ceremony.

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Our beautiful lady in Red – Hugs and Kisses

Rubbing our eyes, we saw the bride in a beautifully embroidered brilliant red sari. We were still in our bed in our nightwear, while a number of unfamiliar faces poured in the room much to our embarrassment. As girls in their mid-twenties among aunties clad in saris and traditionally intact, we got some sheer glances from top to bottom. We were being excused as friends from Bangalore by our friend who was by now completely transformed under the shades of makeup and traditional wear.

 

We witnessed a series of wedding rituals including the Haldi. Our friend had to change about half a dozen saris, one for each ceremony. We helped her get ready every time, to change the jewelry, sari, footwear and a touch of makeup.

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Our best friend and bride to be.

The whole scenario of the bride coming to the room and quickly changing into a new piece felt more like an Formula 1 race pit stop—where the car comes to a halt in between the race and gets a tire change, fuel refilling, mechanical adjustments and hurriedly speeds up to join the race once again.

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Please excuse the expressions – We were basking in the summer morning light.

Evening was as fantastic as it could be. We dressed up in ethnic wear and came down to the banquet hall that was equipped with a wide stage and speakers blazing with party soundtracks—our happiness had no bounds! We both were shy at first, but on repeated insisting we took to the dance floor and then there was no stopping.

Then, it was just two of us, the stage, the light and lots of vacant chairs to see us perform.

The Party

The songs auto-played dance numbers one after the other and we couldn’t hold ourselves shaking a leg to each of them. The guests started retreating to the dinner table but we were still dancing on the stage with a few other people.

Those people then got off and we were left to dance with small kids. Then, it was just two of us, the stage, the light and lots of vacant chairs to see us perform.

Our friend asked us to come down, but we were high on adrenaline and pulled her along.

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The Three Musketeers sharing the spotlight.

When only we two were left on the empty stage, the famous Indian number Kajra Re started playing, we couldn’t stop ourselves and kept performing the signature step until they put off the music.

“What do you think, we will back off if you put off the music?” We asked the cousins that sat cornered in their chairs at the far end of the banquet hall.

Undeterred, we started singing the lines of the song and finished the show.

The curtains fell with grace.

 

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The Old Lady In Blue Sari

I was walking back home from the bus stand. A long day I must say, plus the honks of traffic and the bustle of the vehicles clearly didn’t make things any better.

On the way, I saw an old lady walking ahead of me. She carried a jute bag full of clothes—it was her ripened age that made her bend over rather than the weight of the bag she carried. A polythene with a few Parle G biscuits hung loosely from her fingers. She wore a blue sari wrapped shabbily around her petite frame. With her ragged white hair spread carelessly on her tiny head and her hunched debilitating body, she walked at a slower pace. I easily overtook her.

Through the corner of my eyes, I saw her turning into a lane—was it my curiosity or my pitying over her state, I slowed down and started following her.

Her steps were little and her walk was slow. I had to stop to keep up with her—I pretended to be on phone, lest she notices me following her. At one point, I saw her talking to herself, gesturing at the big houses that we were passing.

I realized she might have been not been in the best of her mental health, probably, downtrodden by the rugged conditions of her life . Walking parallel to her and keeping up with her pace, I saw her approach a few street dogs. She sat on the road side, called out to them and started breaking and throwing the biscuits  at them. I was so touched by her act—despite being in a deplorable condition, she was feeding street dogs, who happily waged their tails, feeding on the morsels she had to offer.

I couldn’t hold myself—I went near her and knelled down next to her. I started petting the dogs to make it look like I wasn’t following her lest she might become suspicious or uncomfortable. When she saw me, she started talking to me with vigor, but in a language I couldn’t understand. She talked about the dogs ( Naai in Kannada language ) in the beginning. We engaged in a conversation as if we were casual friends and had met after a long time.

A closer luck at her made me feel sad. Her face was a wrinkled with stretches of lines running athwart the face. Her puckered skin had adjusted to her aging body. Her eyes reflected the pain and turmoil a 75-year old could have gone through.

While talking, her tone shifted suddenly. From the bits of Kannada I knew, I could make out she was talking about her house—her voice wavered and streams of tears started pouring down her cheeks.

She continued speaking and what I understood was that somebody (probably, her family) left the house, leaving her alone. She said she didn’t know where they went. Her lips quivered—grief and dismay poured from her eyes. She spoke in low, cracked voice—though I couldn’t make out single word she was saying then, I listened to her.

I brought my hand near her face and, gently, rubbed off the tears from the creases of her skin. I pressed her hand in reassurance—though she might not have understood my tongue, I consoled her and asked her not to cry. The touch of sympathy made her cry even more—I tried holding back my tears as I felt her pain. She pinched her arms, showing the loose skin that hung from her thin limb. I couldn’t say anything to comfort her, but I offered her grapes that I had purchased that evening and the little money that I carried in wallet at that time.

She folded her hands to thank me, but I persuaded her against it. Refusing to accept her gratitude, I tried to deviate her from the topic by asking her about her home, making the shape of house by pressing together my finger tips. She understood and spoke something, out of which all I could get was ‘Kerela’. We continued talking that way deciphering and responding to each other’s words with our expressions and gestures.

People passing by noticed us and gave us quizzical glances. I thought I could ask someone to interpret the old lady’s language for me, but, then, felt against it. I might invite unnecessary comments and the old lady may get uncomfortable—so I stayed put.

We talked like that for good 15 minutes, after which we both instinctively got up to walk again as if we knew the time was up. She called on those dogs and started feeding them. She somehow explained me the way to her home—inge, ange and asked me where I lived. I couldn’t explain much but she seemed convinced and moved on, talking to the dogs and speaking to herself.

I continued walking towards home contented. Strangely, my heart felt lighter after talking to her.

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Image Source: http://www.shutterstock.com

P.S: I didn’t want to take her picture. Taking and posting her photograph felt like a tool to gain attention online and a disrespect towards her.

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The Tragic Comedy In Bodhgaya, Bihar: Howrah Special

Bodhgaya, also known as Gaya holds at its heart a place of historical as well as religious importance. This small town in the state of Bihar beats with life like any other, but only time has known better of its past.

I got a chance to visit the land where the great Gautam Buddha received enlightenment—the light of wisdom and knowledge. Though I wasn’t expecting anything similar, I had my own share of experiences that enlightened me with wisdom in the most unexpected and ludicrous ways.

I won’t be called a good friend if I refrain from mentioning that I had the opportunity to witness a traditional Bihari wedding—my best friend was getting married after all.

Not only is it a personal anecdote, it is a story of adventure, experiences and a great amount of entertainment. Buckle up your seat belts friends—we are about to take off for this journey, which starts from the southern bustling city of Bangalore on a pleasant breezy day of July.

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We were flying from Bangalore to Kolkata. From Kolkata, we were to board a train to Gaya or Bodhgaya, Bihar.

5th July 2016; 4:10 PM – Bangalore To Kolkata

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Loaded with excitement and energy, we boarded our flight. Attending our best friend’s wedding was what we eagerly awaited. As the steel bird raced on the runway, we couldn’t help clutching our armrest and looking at each other—our expressions were somewhere between a full-stretched smile and a teeth-glaring soundless laugh. The excitement only surged with the gain in altitude.

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We jetted over the Bay of Bengal—one downward glance at the water body and thoughts of crashing into the sea initiated a series of events. I was playing my own death in my head.

Remembering what the flight attendant had told about safety instructions, I cheered up thinking if we really did fall in the sea below and survive, at least I would get to slide out from those air-filled slides into the saline waters.

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My mind was blurred by my imagination and so was my outside view by the clouds. We descended quickly and the touchdown felt like a milestone completed.

As we moved out of the airport, a gush of humidity welcomed us—Kolkata felt like that sweaty aunty who wants to hug little kids.

Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Airport To Howrah Railway Station

We collected our luggage and went out of the airport. A row of yellow ambassadors stretched along narrow footpaths inside the airport area.

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In Kolkata, be it at railway station or airport, one needs to book a prepaid taxi, which is mostly a fat yellow Ambassador car. The taxi charges between 100-150 Indian rupees for a 16 kilometers drive.

We didn’t know about it, but on asking few people for help, we were directed to the counter where we booked our taxi.

Warning: In between, we wandered off away from the airport thinking that we will get taxis at cheaper rates. However, roaming around anywhere in the world late in the night is not safe. We were suspicious about a man who seemed to follow us. We called our friends to ensure we were doing right by catching the yellow taxi outside the airport. Instead, we were told to quietly return back and book a taxi from there.

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Kolkata – The First Impression

After getting into the taxi, we eased ourselves and let the slideshow of the city pass before us. We didn’t remember when the wide clean roads of the airport transformed into congested lanes that took us through a number of red lights. 

On either side of two-lane roads, a row of apartments stood shabbily. Clothes hung on the grilled and brightly-painted windows of old buildings, big banners displayed photographs of local artists, a few buses carried people the through traffic. Our pretty yellow ambassador honked through narrow roads, making space for herself amid the hustle bustle.

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Replica of London’s Big Ben originally known as Kolkata Times Zone, Lake Town-VIP Road area. Picture Credit: Shalvi Singh

The archaic structures of the city—towers, buildings, houses, and shops took us back in another era. We were time-traveling, following lane after lane and moving deeper into the city—passing through narrow streets lit by the tall pillars adorned with sodium lamps. 

Few houses had walls with naked bricks peeking from the dull chipping paint, a climber was growing in between the cracks on a building, petite men pulled rickshaws, carrying people with the sole strength of their arms, small shops were cropped up in the tiniest of possible places in the streets. 

Howrah Railway Station

All I can describe after reaching Howrah is a large number of people—being everywhere, going everywhere.

Hand-pulled rickshaws were coming to a halt at the entrance, wiping the trickle of sweat and waiting for the customers to unload. People of all kinds rushed with their luggage towards the main building of the station, dragging their trolley bags through puddles of water. Vendors shouted out to people, selling food items and tit-bits on the footpath. A few beggars waited desperately sitting on the sidewalks, some approaching the striding travelers.

A stench of urine, a stink of drain water and a whiff of fried food had concentrated the humid air—it was difficult distinguishing between the smells.

We entered the platform and saw a train slowing down at the station—the mob that got down the train seemed to put a cluster of ants around a sugar cube to shame. There were so many people around us, moving here and there that we thought we might get drifted away and separated, so we both stayed close.

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Platform No. 9/9 C

The platform number left us perplexed more like Harry Potter in The Sorcerer’s Stone, where the protagonist, Harry was supposed to reach platform number 9.3/4. Ours was platform number 9/9 C. With the visible clarity, I assumed we weren’t supposed to run through any brick wall to reach our express train on the other side. But, we were surely going to a magical place for muggles.

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Picture Credit: Shalvi Singh

We reached our platform and waited for our train to get shunted onto the main line. Trains chugged in and out of the station, carrying people and goods. We sat there halted yet again in time, waiting and looking at the people, arrive and leave.

Bodhgaya was calling and we were only desperate to leave Kolkata.

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Hampi – The Ancient City That Speaks

Day 1

The burning morning sun and the dust agitated by the passing vehicles made me think if I should have listened to my roommate.

“There is nothing in Hampi. What will you do there?”, She had said.

The First Impression

 

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Virupaksha Temple in the far left corner

 

The only bus stand in Hampi seemed like a parking place for private cars. Rows of temporary shops awaited for their customers desperately. Auto-drivers and locals selling small items came like a swarm of bees towards the honey combs except that we weren’t honey combs — we were tourists—new to the place and almost completely lost at where to begin.

How I Reached Hampi From Bangalore

I booked a bus from Yatra.com, but I suggest you book a bus from KSRTC Official website  There may be a price difference of 200-300, but the service is comparatively better and the buses are always on time.

After a 7-hour journey from Bangalore in the rickety sleeper claiming to be a multi-axle, the bus dropped us at Hospete. I quarrelled with the driver as I had booked the bus till Hampi, and he claimed that the private buses weren’t allowed in there. Only when he assured me that he will provide an auto service at his own cost did I retreat.

No Private buses are allowed in Hampi. You either take a share auto or a local bus from Hospete Bus Stand to Hampi.

Always book a multi-axle bus for a comfortable journey, else you will feel each bump on the road reverberate through your body. 

Luckily, I met my friends at the major bus depot at Hospete. From there, we took a local bus to Hampi, which took us another 30 minutes.

City That Once Flourished

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Hampi—an ancient city in ruins—stood before us, silently shouting of its glorious past. People still live there but not as they used to in the 15th and 16th century or even before. There are monumental structures that stand tall and sturdy through the weathering of time, though nobody stays in them. Hampi was one of the richest cities, and a center of trade of horses, gems and arts and culture. If you ever heard of Tenali Raman, and the court of Krishnadevaraya, it was this place where the intelligent Brahmin impressed the king with his witty answers. Under the rein of the generous king, the Hampi, the then city of Vijayanagar under the majestic empire of the same name rose to the zenith.

Hampi is situated in a semi-arid area of northern Karnataka. All you can see in your vicinity are stretches of huge chunks of rocks. Little vegetation has turned the air dusty, and the sunlight scorches mercilessly through the already dwindling shade. The only relief to the eyes is the water of Tungabhadra River that traces a snake-like path between lower rocky terrains. On either side of the river, the intricately cut out rocks have astoundingly taken the forms of temples, gateways, deities, animals, and other innumerable structures. These designs and carvings emanate and highlight the cultures and traditions that would have otherwise been buried with time.

After walking for a while, the sun felt warmer and took a toll on our imagination, wavering it to the wildest corners. We guessed that Hampi got its name from its range of hills that looked like the hump of a camel. Hampi was originally called as Pampi, which was the old name of Tungabhadra River.

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Centuries ago this place would have been pleasant—fed by the swollen river, surrounded by lush with the days much cooler and the sun not so harsh on the people who belonged here. Children would have played amid the rows of tall stone pillars, engraved with pictorial descriptions of wars, horses, courtesans and deities. Women clad in sarees, would visit Virupaksha temple for early morning prayers, with a plate full hibiscus, banana and coconut to be offered to Lord Shiva. Horsemen would stand patiently for the traders, watching sturdy bunch of horses to be bought and sold.

Virupaksha Temple

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We started with one of the giant structures visible around. The Virupaksha temple—which was a prominent landmark in Pampi back in the 15th-16th century—has two huge courtyards with a giant gateway connecting them. This nine-storey entrance gate of the temple was a master stonework of constituting of sculptures at every level. Few of these  figures that stood high displayed eroticism similar to the monuments of Khujrao in Madhya Pradesh. It could have offend any person with staunch believes and an orthodox approach. From a second perspective and the claims of the history and the culture of the place, fertility was considered auspicious and not derogatory .

The Mortals

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One must walk barefoot inside the temple and pay at the ticket counter near the entrance if they intend to take photographs. The open temple courtyard has pillars on the both sides of the walkway. On the left, they had kept an elephant to amuse visitors. She was trained to collect money from them and pat their heads with her trunk, as a form of blessing. I lost the count of people who took selfies with the elephant, who was mindlessly munching on the eatables they provided to her. I stood there for long and waited for the people to disperse. I stared at the she-elephant and conveyed to her, how sorry I felt for her, to be away from home, here, surrounded by some silly people, asking for her blessings after enslaving her. I thought she might feel grateful that she is not their God—’They’ would have faced torments if ‘They’ lived among us. It was as if she understood me and brought her head closer towards me. I gave the 34-year-old a gentle pat of assurance and wished her a good life ahead.

The Gods

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The temple hall had stone-carved lions on the outer side of its pillars. One could look up to find the ceilings display rows of beautiful murals—it reminded me of the typical South-Asian gods and goddesses with slender eyes and sensual gestures.
The Shiv-Ling, confined to a small space inside the main enclosure, was barely visible. The walking area around the temple had its roof covered with rock slabs, which blocked the sunlight. It was quite dark and cold inside. While circumventing the temple, when we switched on our cell phone flashlights, we noticed hundreds of tiny bats hanging quietly on the ceiling of the walkway without our knowledge. In fret, we quickly circled the temple in the dim light coming from the cracks between the rocks slabs above us and hurriedly came out from the other end.

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The bright sunlight welcomed us again. There were people and monkeys everywhere. The former offered prayers to the deities at the functional temple whereas the latter got all the blessings in the form of food. We walked further to reach an open space and found a few rock statues silently basking in the sun. There was also to an algae-struck pond, probably a reservoir but, thankfully, it was devoid of any human waste. The rear exit of the temple courtyard opened to a mini market along the Tunghabadhra River. A few people—mostly men—went down the step-way to take a dip in the shallow and rocky waters. Not so far from the river stood few changing rooms for the ease of the visitors though the men didn’t seem to make use of them.

Slightly tired, we sat there under the shade and waited for the time to pass and the sun to relax. Fruits were readily available along with things like jewellery and decorative items —it was sold by the locals along the roadside. I went past them like a raven attracted to their glitter. But, then, I wanted to meet the elephant again and traced my own steps back.

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Om sans Shanti: Gokarna-> This Way

The famous Om beach in Gokarna is a stretch of coastline that is separated from Kudle beach by a rocky terrain. Somewhere, a trail without a noticeable direction or sign board leads to Om beach. Every time we asked for directions from someone, they pointed everywhere except the sea. There was a ferry to take us there, but we decided to trek and get lost.

We chose a path and started trekking over the hills, to the other side of which lay the Om beach. It is called so because the beach line traces a shape strikingly similar to Om — the spiritual sign in the Hindu religion. After climbing a set of stairs that were in no-so-good condition, we found ourselves in wilderness amid tall trees and dangerous slopes. The sea was always in view—we were walking around a hill to reach the other side.

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The beach was spell-bounding! It was more crowded than Kudle, though not too much. No lazing here—people buzzed around—in restaurants, shops, in waters, and on the beach. Many localities were selling hand-crafted jewellery, fruits, and coconut water. Few tourists basked in sun, some in lungis, others in bikinis—the former ogling at the latter. The scene wasn’t a comfortable one I would say—a few people blinded by their surged testosterones, passed lewd comments at the foreigners— they didn’t give a damn, probably because they didn’t understand the language. But, I found it embarrassing and disgraceful to belong to the same place as those pervert men.

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It was quite sunny on that part of the land or maybe we felt it that way. I laid a piece of cloth over the hot sand and took out an Umbrella (thank God I carried one) to sit under it. It was awkward but the shade felt good. I dared not think of entering the water, containing wild animals, in their excited states.

A drunkard came quite close to a lady who was basking in the sun nearby. She was reading a book and in between braving the waters to get some cool. We thought of warning her, about the not-so-safe zone she was in, as the drunk man was muttering something, which even we couldn’t understand. Few other men came to pacify him and engrossed him in a conversation, as we patiently watched what’s going to happen next. She didn’t even budge—the lady continued her routine and after she was content, got up to walk away. All this while, we were preparing ourselves to jump in, if the things went wrong. But, as soon as the woman walked away, we too calmed our nerves and moved to a safer zone to rest. It was sad to witness such a drama.

We found a much descent place to rest, after which I gathered some courage to get into the now ‘safe waters’.

The shore at Om beach steeply slants into the sea. Believe me when I say that ‘the waves took me in’. It was scary! My heartbeat surged as I felt the land beneath my feet incline towards the sea. I am a bad swimmer. Yes, I swim, but only in shallow waters—as much as my height, which is a little above 5 feet, and with no waves in it. As the waves pulled back, I struggled to fixate my feet over the ground. I breathed heavily with every wave. I tried to laugh it out, but my lungs shuddered with the water going wavy above my neck and sometimes inside my mouth and nose. My fear of water came haunting back. The waves were strong and pushed me in the direction of some rocks nearby. The moment I thought I will lose it, I hurriedly flapped my way back to the safety of the shore and breathed air.

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It was so warm in the afternoon that I used my towel and my much-loved Umbrella to hide from the sun. Some foreigners who were basking and happily getting tanned in the bright sun, gave us surprised looks.

I wanted to go home to the Kudle beach, after a rough day— The Om sans Shanti (Peace). So, we trekked back but through a different route this time, which was out of the trail.

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On the way, we saw a few hidden restaurants, where two men, who just didn’t seem they were in present, rested in their arm chairs and lazily looked out at the sea. In between some throat-clenching climb caught hold of us. From a high altitude, we could watch the sea almost 40 feet below us, hitting huge rocks with fierce aggression. It turned out to be a tough climb that could send us straight down if a rock wasn’t up there to prevent us from a fall or slip. With our hearts in our mouth, we braved through it but never looked down!

We got a signboard warning us to beware of robbers. It was relieving because that meant we were back on the trail! After a physical and mental adventure, tanned and tired, we reached home—we reached back to Kudle beach. If you want to know more my experience at Kudle beach, here it is.

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Kudle Ahoy! : Gokarna -> This Way

The sand started seeping in between the spaces of my feet and my footwear. It was coarse yet comforting; We had reached the sea.

Kudle Beach

There lay a vast stretch of pale yellow sand, protected under the cover of hills on one side and pampered by the sea on the other. A line of shacks calmly waited across the beach for their customers. The saline waters washed the sands gently, making sounds that gave the longing pleasure to my ears. The sun was mild, the sky was clear, the air was heavy but windy. All of it brought a streak of excitement. I took off my shoes and absorbed my vicinity as much as I could. The rushing water against my ankles and the drifting sand beneath my feet made me chuckle as I lost my balance.

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Kudle – clean and calm

A warm sunny day, awaited us, as we lazily walked passed the waves, rushing in to gently kiss the land. We had booked a shack in advance at Ummamaheshwari cottage and walked over to the place, across the sand lands. They had concrete room with basic facilities–bed with mosquito nets, cupboard with hangers, attached bathroom with shower. They even had a balcony with reclining chairs. Wifi service, as they claim to provide doesn’t work.

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PC: makemytrip.com

The room was pretty clean until we entered in after coming from beach. The sands followed our bare feet everywhere, just everywhere! Find out more reviews here.

The Salty Waters

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When the waves call you to jump in!

I changed to my beach wear and ran out to plunge into the sea. Amidst all the excitement, the saline waters entered my nostrils and came out though my mouth! My eyes burned with excess salts of the sea but it didn’t stop there. The waves knocked us out, tossed us left and right, against our wishes, toppled us over and we went happily smashing ourselves against the waters. For once, we accepted the Mother Nature and embraced it with all the happiness in our heart. We floated and swam, we played dead on the surface, sometimes facing up, and other time fearfully facing down. We gave up ourselves and became a part of the nature. We became those over-advanced species of time, who finally came back home, to their roots, after following on a long tired trail of evolution.

Some guys in our vicinity carried themselves semi-nude and played around in water, throwing each other against the waves. Some pretended to be new born dolphins, while others clung their girlfriends tightly, fearing they would swim off or drown away.

Nevertheless, the day was one of those, straight out of heaven!

Lunch kept us waiting, while hunger bothered us quite a lot. We noticed that our shack’s restaurant kept us waiting for long. The staff at  Ummamaheshwari cottage continued serving the foreigners first, though we had ordered our food before them. Racist, our own country people I tell you…: P We complained and expressed the same to them, shortly after which our lunch arrived but for the first and last time in that shack restaurant.

Don’t eat at Ummamaheshwari cottage, they will keep the local customers waiting and serve the foreigners on preference.

When we played with Sandy!

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The night came upon us like a guardian angel, bringing us rest, peace and contentment. We didn’t let it go so easily though, and made our own peculiar sand castles and devil faces, the beach playing our backyard. The same burning sand during daytime, turned cool and soft by night. We dug our feet below our sand dunes and sat there, waiting for the time to simply pass by.

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Dreamy restaurants, Awesome food!

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Another dreamy view of the restaurant

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Rowdy Me

*Magic of the Sea Shore*

The night sky displayed wonders with blankets of thousands of twinkling stars. All the shy brilliance that usually hid behind the curtains of urban dust, showed itself like a magical event that had always been waiting to happen. I felt as if I was doped by the elements of nature. The sound of crashing waves, the starry sky and the cool whiffs of air made me enter into a world away from the world. I felt high without getting intoxicated! Thereafter, the sleep came like a fairy carrying star-dust, and we finally made peace with our dream worlds by being in one ourselves.