It is so easy to get attached to places, people and things that eventually it becomes difficult to cope with the inevitable parting.
I hadn’t laughed so much in the past few weeks as I had in those two days in Hampi. It is wonderful how the right combination of people and place can make the world seem nothing but perfect.
The Train to Hampi
The 10 pm Hampi Express was patiently waiting at the platform of Majestic Railway Station, Bangalore when we reached. Vendors roamed around clumsily. Paunched men and few saree-clad women had already set up the berths for the night.
The nearly-empty platform was relieved of the last bit of the daily commotion as our train slowly chugged out.
By 8 am, the next day, the boulder mountains marked the beginning of the city of Hospet. As I peeked out of the open door of the rushing train, the wind hit me with a welcoming warmth. I immediately knew it was going to be a fantastic weekend trip.
We took an auto from Hospet Junction to Hampi, which cost us around 200 Indian Rupees per auto. After dodging the dust and traffic on the bumpy roads for almost 30 minutes, the ancient city came into view.
A small lane laid with sandstone led us to the banks of the river Tungabhadra, that streams behind the famous Virupaksha temple. We descended the stairs to reach the bank from where a small motorboat took us to the other side of the river.
The locals identify Hampi as two regions. The river bank where the Virupaksha temple and a whole lot of other architectural ruins stand is called the holy side. The other side or the ‘hippy island’, where most people spend time relaxing and loitering, is popularly called the jolly side.
This was explained by our lively and cheerful auto driver, Mr Ranjith, whose auto got featured in the Marathi movie named Hampi in which the character of the auto driver was inspired by him!
You can contact him at +91-8762024986 ( humpibumpi on Instagram) and rest assured that you will have a jolly time at Hampi.
Stay At Hampi
On the jolly side, right opposite a small boulder mountain and across the unnaturally green paddy fields stood a group of shacks called Bobby ‘One Love’ Guest House. It opened to a restaurant with floor seatings at the entrance followed by a passageway under the canopy of tall trees. On either side stood tiny coloured huts with a thatched roof, which looked more like doll houses.
Our basic single room huts came with netted beds, attached bathrooms. A floor-seater restaurant catered to both Indians and outsiders. Hanging light bulbs discreetly hidden behind colourful shades reminded me of Goa. The only thing I missed was the sea and clearly, Hampi made up for that.
1. Adventures at Sanapur Lake
We hired a two-wheeler and visited the first place on the jolly side is Sanapur Lake.
Coracle Ride: nothing will give you more peace than riding in the coracle boat, across the Tungabhadra river. Pay a bit extra and the boat owner will take you to the safe swimming spot, which is on the other side of the lake.
Cliff Jumping: for those of you who know swimming pretty well, plunge into the reptile-infested river from a nearby cliff for a rejuvenating break from life! Just kidding. No crocodiles in Tungabhadra.
2. Stunning Sunset at Hanuman Temple, Kishkinda
Sunset at Hampi is mystical and enchanting no matter where you witness it from. However, if you are on the jolly side, watching it from the Anjaneya hill is a treat to the eyes.
The holy site is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Hanuman, the ardent devotee of Lord Ram and one of the central characters in the scripture of the Ramayana. We climbed a total of 575 steps. Our cameras came out every time we stopped to look at the beautiful landscapes across the boulder land. After visiting the temple, we found the most comfortable rock to rest on and enjoy the setting sun.
3. The Unrivalled Beauty of Ruins
And, how can you go back without visiting the ancient ruins! Hampi’s rich history reflects in the awe-striking architectural structures that are scattered across its landscape.
This massive 15th-century temple remains functional since its consecration. The temple courtyard is where Lakshmi blesses people with its trunk when offered a 10 Rupees note yes—she is the living goddess there. Langurs lurk around looking for a quick snatch meal. Bats still hang from the ceiling wall within the dark inner sanctum.
This time though it was special. I saw the inverted, surreal shadow of the temple Gopuram cast upon the inner walls of the temple chamber—the architectural amazement is an evidence of the scientific understanding of the people of that time.
Lakshmi Narasimha and Badavilinga Temple
Our auto zoomed up to the top of the Hemkunta hills and dropped us right outside the compound of the Narasimha and the Shivalinga. The monolithic stone sculpture and one of the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu, the Narasimha is a half-lion and half-man.
Adjacent to it, quarterly immersed in the water is the Badavilinga temple—a 3-metres long, monolithic Shivalinga. The temple priest was an old man bent double with age and ailment, yet staunchly dedicated to taking care of the sanctum.
Zenana Enclosure and Elephant’s Stable
This is where you halt to catch your breath after a long excursion. The shade in the well-maintained gardens of Zenana Enclosure was a relief from the scorching sun.
A fortified place for the Queens of the Vijayanagar empire held many beautiful stone structures that were damaged by the Mughals attackers. The ruins can still be seen. Out of those, Lotus Mahal stands as the sole attraction, that takes us back in time.
I had this urge to climb up one of the dilapidated watchtowers and I stayed out of the enclosure in search of the doorway, towards a pile of rubble. Before I could find one, a local lady appeared out of nowhere and asked me to not venture out of the enclosure. Reluctantly, I abided by her stringent warnings.
The Elephant Stable is a fun place to be, maybe not for the elephants then. A vast ground spread before the multiple chambers that you could run across like somebody gifted you ‘freedom’!
The Royal Enclosure
Ever wondered how a king would feel looking at his gigantic kingdom? Climb up the steps of the architectures of the Royal Enclosure and discover for yourself!
The remnants of the vast Royal complex, spread over 59,000 square metres, included Bukka’s aqueduct (towards the extreme left). It was an advanced network of stone pipes that connected various wells and ponds across the empire.
Don’t miss out the underground tunnels and chambers present in the Royal Complex where, it is believed, the king held the most crucial discussions with his trusted aids.
The Vittala temple is the most ornate and the most visited architectural monuments at Hampi. It will take you close to an hour to completely absorb the essence of this place. It is here that you will find the famous Chariot temple and various Mantapas that boast of Vijayanagara’s architectural excellence.
4: Quiet Nights
This tiny town embraces the silence of the night. There is nothing like witnessing a quiet, moonlit countryside.
The boulders stood before us like sentries and I couldn’t stop admiring the stillness that engulfed them. On a new moon day, the night sky is lit with stars that you can’t resist looking at unless other indulgences keep you busy.
5. Ginger Honey Tea and Bhajji
Out of the umpteen options on the menu of Bobby Guesthouse we got addicted to their Ginger Honey tea that got us completely inebriated with its taste and tanginess—a must try at the guesthouse. Additionally, when you are in Hampi, don’t forget to eat bhajji from the local stalls near Virupaksha temple.
For our gang of five, an overindulgence in ginger honey tea and a hearty laugh over UNO (the card game) made our day at Hampi.