Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Explore Karnataka: Hampi

Virupaksha Temple, Hampi
The historic city of Hampi is about 8 hours drive from Goa. My brother suggested that I would enjoy visiting the place, since I love photography. He even volunteered to drive me and my family to Hampi, and back.

I had never been to the place before, and did not know much about it. A quick Google search suggested that one should allocate at least 2 to 3 days to really explore the place. Unfortunately, we did not have that many days left in our schedule, so we decided to do a quick 1 day tour.  One thing that worked in our favor is that most of the important places now have road access, so we could easily drive to different parts of the huge 26-square kilometer city.

We reached early in the morning and located a tourist guide. The guide traveled with us in the car explaining the history of the place - and the various places of interest.

Hampi was the capital of the Vijayanagar empire that ruled South India from 1336 AD - 1565 AD. History of Hampi can be found here.

The first place we visited was the Vithala temple. Vithala temple was the epicenter of City. Even after centuries of being neglected, it still manages to show off its architectural marvels for the visitor.

Entrance of Vithala Temple, Hampi.
The first thing that a visitor encounters upon entering the temple is the giant stone chariot that has become the iconic image of Hampi. The stone chariot originally had carved horses in front, but they were damaged and were subsequently replaced by stone carved elephants.

Vitthala Temple Interior.

Stone Chariot at Vithala Temple, Hampi.
Intricate designs on the stone wheel.
The temple has various open halls that were dedicated for different activities. The main hall is called the musical hall, due to the fact that its pillars are designed in such a way that each pillar emits a different musical note when hit.

Carved stone pillars that emit different musical notes.
Close-up of musical pillar.
The other halls are equally impressive with their giant monolithic structures carved out of granite, and topped with intricate brick designs. While the granite structures will remain for a very long time, it is apparent that the brick carvings are crumbling and will need very delicate maintenance to keep them intact for future generations.

Prayer hall, Vithala Temple.
Brick carvings on the Temple roof. Crumbling away.
Outside of the temple, are the ruins of market place and other attractions. A large structure that used to be a giant weighing scale, and made of granite rock still stands intact. Legend has it that every year,  the King of Viyanagar used to sit on one scale, and fill the other scale with gold and other precious ornaments. These would then be distributed to the poor.

Weighing Scale outside Vithala Temple.
The Vithala temple lies close to the Tungabara river. The river was the source for all the water needs of the city. The river now is just a shadow of its former self - as the water is now contained upstream by the Tungabara dam. Only the controlled water released by the dam flows through the river. The remnants of the bridge foundation, made from granite pillars, is still clearly visible.

Tungabara bridge.

A small temple by the riverside.
The next temple we visited was the Ram temple. The temple is located high up on the hill and provides a panoramic view of what used to be the city of Hampi.

Panoramic view of Hampi from Ram Temple
Our next visit was to a place called the Queens Bath. The place was used by the Queen for her daily bath and has a complex aqueduct system that feeds water from the Tungabara river to the pool, and the surrounding gardens.

Queens bath - now dry.
Hallway around the Queens bath.
If there is a Queens bath, then it goes without saying that somewhere nearby has to be Kings bath - and it has to be bigger than the Queens bath.

Kings Bath.
The Kings bath (located in the Royal Center) is about 60 meters in length - longer than the official size of Olympic swimming pool. Like the Queens bath, the place is dry, but one can see the aqueduct system that used to feed water into these pools.

Aqueduct system at Royal Center.
Close-up of Aqueduct System.
The Royal center also has a stepped well, that is still intact to this day.

Stepped Well.
Close to the Royal center is the Hazara Rama Temple. The temple was used by the King, and its distinct feature is the stories of Ramayana etched on the stone walls.

Walls of Hazara Rama Temple.
Interior - Hazara Rama Temple
Ramayana depicted on the walls of the temple.
Outer walls of the Temple
The entire wall of the temple is sculpted.
Wide-angle view of Hazara Rama temple.
A short walking distance from the temple is the Lotus Mahal, the summer residence of the queen of Vijayanagar. The place is ingenuously designed with water system that kept the place cool during the summer heat.

Lotus Mahal
Close-up of Lotus Mahal.
Interior of Lotus Mahal.
Another short walk from Lotus Mahal is the royal Elephant stable and a museum. The stable housed the Elephants used by royals.

Royal Elephant Stable
We next drove to another place that has a large monolithic statue of Lord Narasimhadeva. This place is visited by many devotees.

Lord Narasimhadeva
Next up, was the Krishna Temple. This temple looks similar to the Vithala temple, in terms of style and architechture.

Krishna Temple.
Interior - Krishna Temple
A large container, carved from granite.
Our final visit was to the main Hampi bazaar, and the Virupaksha Temple, that has come to symbolize the city of Hampi. This is the only temple that is still used for religious services.

Hampi Town and Virupaksha Temple.
Interior - Virupaksha Temple
A musician blowing his trumpet inside the temple.
Outside the temple, the Hampi Bazaar used to be a vibrant place. Unfortunately for us, just 2 weeks before our arrival in Hampi, the local administration destroyed most of the market place as the constructions were illegal. The bulldozers were still in action clearing the place up - and most of the people who used to work and live here, were left homeless.

Clearing up the illegal Hampi Bazaar.
It was getting late in the evening. We decided to climb up the nearby Matanga hill to view the sunset. It was a steep climb, but we were rewarded with a panoramic view of Hampi Town.

View of Hampi Town from Matanga Hill.
And with that, our trip to Hampi was over. There were a few more places we wanted to see, but we ran out of time.

Perhaps another time.


Angad Achappa said...

Nice info here, and lovely images!! :)

Nevesa said...

Heard about this lovely place. Its a photgrapher's destination.Fabulous images and well explained.

Marzouq said...

Fantastic pictures as usual! Very lovely area!

Anonymous said...

I just visited Hampi last week. Went from Goa by car. It was about 390 kms one way. The ride was scenic and Hampi itself was very interesting. Had a good time. Thanks for the push to go that way. Always wanted to but kept putting it off. Got some lovely pics as well. Recad .. a fellow Goenkar

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