I always used to get fascinated by Hampi when ever I used to come across the pictures of larger than life boulders, the scattered remnants, the majestic temples, the splendid river and the glorious sunsets. But until I did my research for planning my travel to Hampi – a UNESCO heritage site, little did I know that there’s altogether another world within this small town of heritage and traditions. Now, I was even more floored by this destination which has turned itself upside down in centuries.
Another long weekend and we zoomed our car on Karnataka’s buttery highways to reach Hospet ( the closest city to Hampi with a good number of hotels). We decided to keep our base at Hotel Malligi to explore Hampi for next 3 days. Although being a backpacker’s paradise, Hampi offers a lot of hostels and guesthouses for one to experience Hampi from close.
As we set off to explore Hampi, I spotted a westerner sporting a T-shirt with the quote “Don’t worry, be Hampi”. I suppressed that sly smile on my face and it’s when I knew something not so ordinary is in store. We had entered from the village side of Hampi while there is another way of entering this ancient town from across the river.
Also read – A story of a ghost town – Dhanushkodi
While walking towards Virupaksha temple, we were mobbed by guides and sellers but instead of walking faster to avoid them, I kept oscillating my eyes at them with my mouth wide open at their westernized accent and phenomenal command over English. I wondered if I have gotten really late in visiting this part of my country. I was blown over by what my eyes just saw in this small South Indian town. But then reality stuck hard when I entered the temple and saw decked up (even in that sultry weather) Indian folks taking a tour of the temple.
The guide (whose services we finally agreed on) unveiled the significance of Virupaksha temple to us. It is where Hindu god Shiva and Parvati got married. There are so many hidden spots inside the temple which we would have easily missed if our guide wouldn’t have shown us around. The inverted image of the temple’s gopuram, unusual underground temple and many stories around the temple were explained to us by him.
We walked till Hampi Bazaar to find nothing like Bazaar (market). It was a vast piece of land surrounded by boulders and the remains of the bazaar which added wilderness to my thoughts. Imagine a bustling market area of an important town of a kingdom is left barren and aloof from the advancements of the world.
Having heard of the famous stone chariot which used to move in yester years, the urge to know more about it got satiated upon stepping inside the other famous temple of Hampi, called Vittala temple. The temple which never got completed still boasts of the most descriptive, elaborate and stunning architecture. Our guide also revealed the stories around the ornate pillars which can play music.
After soaking so much history and traditional vibe of the village, we retired for the day only to start the next day in other part of Hampi.
A hearty breakfast and we set off to explore the world of free spirits in this ancient town of Hampi. To enter that world, we had to cross Tungabhadra river in a boat which only runs from sunrise to sunset. The aura of this side was strikingly different and before we could get the hang of the place, we were subtly offered a thing. Still trying to gasp the vibe of the area, we walked hurriedly.
We hired a motorbike to explore the untouched countryside dotted with swaying lush green rice fields. We kept driving in whichever direction we felt like and halted near a large man-made lake. Some people were adventurous enough to try cliff jumping there even when there were crocodile warning signs.
We climbed around 500 stairs at Anegundi Hill to the Hanuman temple. It surely looked like a monkey kingdom where monkeys didn’t leave us alone even for a while. The temple has preserved the rocks from Ram setu and are displayed at the temple. People usually stay back to watch the sunset over this hill-top but it was only afternoon, so we decided to chill in one of the quirky cafes overlooking the river.
The vibe of the cafes didn’t belong to the Hampi I had seen the day before. With peppy music, the counter-culture had taken over the free and high spirits who were chilling in their own zone right across the heritage, traditions and history of the town which was once the center of Vijayanagara, capital of one of the famed Hindu empires of South India. That’s the magic I believe of Hampi! We relaxed in one of the cafes for a while before taking the boat to the other side.
We climbed up the hill next to Virupaksha temple just in time to relish the views when sun scattered all its amalgamated shades on a huge grey canvas of sky. The view couldn’t be more magical with coconut trees and temple’s gopuram adding to the charm of this psychedelic landscape.
Next day we started with a stroll along the river with huge boulders all around till my eyes could stretch. The trail led to a few small temples. The touristy coracle ride among the ruins and sun-baked boulders pulled me too.
The rest of the day we spent exploring other historical sites like Lotus Mahal, the Queens bath, Ganesha statues and Lakshmi Narsimha statue (carved out of a single boulder) on Hemakuta hill.
On my way back to Bengaluru, I wondered how the old quaint town of Hampi would be! All I saw was the town which was once India’s richest and used to attract foreign traders has now turned into a town of boulders and ruins. Although a town in ruins, yet a happy town with laid back and chill vibes!
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