Take a semi arid, rocky land scape with a river meandering through it. Add a 500 year old vibrant and rich culture and heritage. Spice it with Ramayana mythology. Lace it with devotion. Shake it with an agrarian rural life style. What do you get? Voila, Hampi.
Accommodation in Hampi is divided into two zones with the river Tungabhadra graciously doing the bifurcation. One side of the river called Virupapura Gaddi is reminiscent of Goa but a bit easy on the pockets when compared to Goa. Here 99% for the tourists are white skinned with the locals doing their best to make them feel at home. We(Pavitra and me) sighted a couple of sign boards in Hebrew, a rickshaw with Russian on it. Most of the eat outs have a lounge sort of look with beds substituted for seating, playing soft fusion music(Buddha bar kind), the walls adorned with radiant posters of Buddha and Shiva and semi clad ladies(artistic not erotic), dim lighting in the night and tourists lazing around smoking, drinking, playing cards or other board games. The menu looks like a confluence of world cuisine, serving everything from rice to roti to pizza to falafel to porridge.
We took a cottage in Virupapura gaddi for 300 rupees a night in Gautami resort. You have lots of accommodation options here and I am sure in a few days supply will out strip demand. We hired bicycles on the first day for rupees 40 per day and toured the places accessible from Virupapura Gaddi. Our total cycling distance for the day approximately came up to around 26kms. If you are not healthy or not used to the sun do not try this as this really sucks the energy out of you. We cherished it a lot, considering the fact that both of us were on a real bicycle after ages. Along with that, riding in the country side accompanied by local village folks and kids returning from school adds it’s own charm.
Our first stop was Anjanadri hill, birth place of Anjaneya(which we did not know at that time). Parked our bicycles on the foot of the hill and after a long and arduous climb, were treated to a 360 degree view of the surrounding land scape.
Next stop was at Pampa Sarovara, followed by Anegundi where we had a sumptuous lunch at 5 in the evening in a Brahman Iyyengar hotel (do not remember the name of the place). The host was an extremely gracious person who encouraged us to devour more and more food and by the time we stepped out, I am sure we had regained all the calories lost from the day’s cycling.
Evening was spent cycling back to Virpurapura Gaddi with a stop at Bukka’s aqueduct, where we watched the twilight welcome a full moon on a clear sky.
Next day we crossed the river and toured Hampi with an extremely enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide Anegundi Mallikarjuna. We decided to split our Hampi tour into two days, first day to cover all the religious monuments on the river side by walk.
We started off with Virupaksha temple which has not witnessed the vandalism of barbaric Islamic invaders and is one of the few functioning temples of Hampi.
Whole of Hampi village is clustered around this temple. We visited a number of places of which Vittala temple is the most famous, this is the one housing the magnificent Hampi stone chariot.
The next day began with a yummy breakfast of paddu and idlis in a nondescript shack in one of the inner by lanes of Hampi. With Mallikarjuna in tow, we strolled from Hampi towards Kamalapura visiting small ruins on the way till we reached the royal enclosure of erstwhile Vijayanagara empire. On the way we saw the ASI restoring a wrestling school of yesteryear. The day was spent covering the royal side of Hampi, the palaces and administrative blocks. The vast sprawling royal enclosure is spread over 250 hectares with an inner and outer fort surrounding it. We were mesmerized by the detail, technology, mathematics and human effort that would have gone into bringing this city to life over a period of 200 years and all it took was 6 months of wanton destruction to return it to where it came from. As all the monuments are locked out by 5 in the evening we were not able to cover everything, so we decided to come back the next day. We checked into Harman’s guest house in the evening on the Virupaksha temple side for 300 rupees per night. The day ended with a kerosene lantern dinner in the iconic restaurant Mango Tree. We relished the food facing Tungabadra, under an old mango tree.
Next day we got up at 5 in the morning and trekked to Mathanga hill to catch a glimpse of the sun waking up from his slumber. The path to the top is not intuitive, so we waited for some company. After a couple of minutes we sighted a local, guiding a couple of foreigners and followed them. At the top we were welcomed by a panoramic view of Hampi, which very well compensated for clouds covering the sun on his journey from east to west.
After an over priced breakfast in a local shack we resumed our left over tour from yesterday on a kinetic which we hired for 150 rupees. Learning to kick start the old jittery vehicle was a feat in itself and by the end of the day I had become an expert in starting it with a single kick, which I proudly used to demonstrate to Pavitra all the time. The most exciting part of the trip was climbing the Virpupaksha temple gopura, which we did in the evening with the aid of a torch, thanks to Mallikarjuna. The pathway gets narrower and narrower as you climb up and in some places you have to get into acrobatic poses to proceed. We got an adrenaline fix out of this which was later calmed by the spell bounding view of Hampi, from the top of the tower.
Mallikarjuna bought Hampi back to life with his descriptions and anecdotes. Without him we would not have enjoyed it the way we did. So, hire a guide even if it burns you pockets. In Hampi you can witness various temple architecture styles from Nagara to Dravidian and also temples built by different dynasties starting from Rashtrakutas to Hoysalas and finally the Vijayanagara kings.
Throughout Hampi your constant companions will be the precariously placed rocks on the hillocks which follow you in the same way Betaal followed Vikram. These rocks look as if someone arranged them the way they are. No wonder people claim Hampi to be the mythical monkey kingdom of Kishkindha. We even invented a game of identifying different shapes in the rocks.
Are you a history or mythology buff? Do you want to experience the Indian rural landscape? Want to get a good tan? Are you an avid bouldering enthusiast? Do you just want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and spend some time in relative calm? If your answer is yes to any of this, Hampi is the place for you.
- Guide Anegundi Mallikarujuna’s phone number is 9449981201. He will be an asset on your trip.
- Many posts on the net say there is no ATM in Hampi but there is a Canara bank ATM.
- All the hotels and guest houses that we saw had a check out time of 10 AM in the morning.
- Expect power cuts at any time. So better have a torch with you.
- Take a bus from Hospet to Hampi or vice versa which costs you 10 rupees per ticket instead of spending 100 rupees on an auto. Last bus from Hampi to Hospet is at 8 in the night.
- Check the prices of food in the road side shacks as they have the habit of over pricing things for tourists.
- The last boat to Virupapura Gaddi is at 6:30 in the evening. So make sure you are on the river side by this time if you are planning to stay there.