Hampi

Friday 10 August 2018

I’ve tried to come to Hampi the last few times that I’ve been in India. It’s not too far from Bangalore. A 6 hour car drive. An 8 hour overnight train. Or a 8 hour overnight bus ride. But I didn’t particularly fancy any of those.

Then in May 2018, a direct flight started from Bangalore to Vidyanagar! Which is about an hours drive from Hampi. Winning.

And the flight is about £24 return. Easy.

Only downside is that the flight is at 3.30pm on Friday afternoon. So a rather early finish from the office.

I was surprised that the flight was full. This route is relatively new. And goes to pretty much the middle of nowhere.

Vidyanagar airport is nothing more than an airstrip. Next to a steel factory. You walk right off the plane and essentially onto the main road.

I had booked an airport pick up with the hotel. I’m staying just around the corner and it took about 2minutes to drive. Could have walked….!

It was about 4.30pm when I arrived. I didn’t do much for the rest of the evening.

Saturday 11 August 2018

Hampi began in 1336 when a Telugu prince chose Hampi as the site for his new capital. The city grew over the next few centuries into one of the largest Hindu empires of around half a million people. However the city ended in 1565 after being defeated.

Today, the city is just piles of (3700!) ruins and old temples, spread out across 36 square kilometres.

I booked a driver for the day through the hotel (1650 rupees – £18!) and they recommended that I leave early, around 7.30am.

The driver had other ideas though, and didn’t turn up until 8am. Apparently today is the monthly pooja festival.

It’s about an hours drive to hampi from Vidyanagar. We passed through busy villages. Cows wandering around. Pigs rummaging in rubbish piles and people everywhere.

And lots of farmland. Fields of corn. Coconuts. Mangos. And sunflowers!

The first stop in hampi was the Virupaksha temple. This is the oldest temple in the area and is the only working temple. Just past the entrance was Lakshmi, the temple elephant. Surprisingly she wasn’t tied up. Just standing around, eating grass.

There were macaques running around everywhere. And people feeding them bananas.

Outside the front of the temple is the Hampi bazaar, which used to be filled with shops and guest houses both historically and more recently. Until the government decided that they wanted to preserve the monuments and wouldn’t allow people to live/work from them anymore. So instead it was full of tuk tuk drivers, cows, monkeys and people sitting around.

We stopped off at the top of a hill, overlooking the bazaar. Here is a Ganesh temple, with a massive stone Ganesh inside. And some smaller temples built on the edges of the surrounding rocks.

The sides of the road are littered with temples. We stopped off at another famous one – the Lakshimi Narasmiha statue. A 6.7m tall statue, with a massive grin and big eyes.

Then through the banana plantations, onto the Zenana enclosure.

You need ticket to enter into this walled area. But the ticket selling man had disappeared, so I had to wait quite a long time for him to return. They must have recently put the ticket price up, as it’s now 600 rupees for a foreigner (£6.80).

The walled area has watch towers on each of the corners. And inside is a few piles of rubble. Plus the elaborate Lotus Mahal. A decorative a pavilion which was supposedly the queen’s recreational mansion. The arches were engraved with animals all around.

Just outside the main walled area were the 11 elephant stables. This was a long building with elaborate arched entrances and domed ceilings, each one with a different design.

I walked to some temples behind the elephant stables and it started to pour with rain. There wasn’t anywhere to hide. So I got rather soaking.

I bought a coconut from a man at the side of the road, 30rupees (34p). Standard pricing.

Then next up, the Royal enclosure.

The main building inside this area is the Mahanavami-diiba, a 12m-high three-tired platform which was used as a Royal viewing area. The sides of the structure were covered in elaborate carvings. Elephants. People. Camels. Monkeys. So cool.

Also in this complex was the stepped tank. I wanted to see this. Didn’t realise it was in this complex. And stumbled across it by accident, which was lucky. Although a shame there was a police man sitting there marking sure you didn’t climb down.

Scattered all around were elephant statues, ruins of buildings, an underground building which was exposed and a man with his cows.

Just down the road, the Queen’s Bath, a plan square building from the outside, but inside, covered in Indo-Islamic architecture.

The last place we were visiting was the Vittala Temple. A rather strange concept, you had to pay 20rupees to go on a golf buggy to take you to the temple. My driver had told me (in poor English) that you couldn’t walk.

The wait for a buggy took a while – about 20mins. But the drive didn’t take too long.

This temple was never finished or consecrated. But is elaborately carved and is considered the pinnacle of Vijayanagar art.

In the middle of the courtyard is a stone chariot, which is Vishnu’s vehicle. Apparently the stone wheels used to be able to turn.

It was still raining, sometimes pouring. Sometimes drizzling.

I considered walking back. But it was relatively far. With no cover.

But I hadn’t anticipated the 30minute wait for a buggy. They really need to run more of them. There were only 2 in all that time I waited.

It was now 2pm and well past lunchtime! We stopped off at a roadside restaurant, which was basically someone’s garden! I had a thali – really delicious and only £1!

Then for the drive back to Vidyanagar. We went back the way we had come, through all the villages. Until we got stuck behind two massive herds of goats! And went rather slowly behind them.

It was still raining when I got back. So no swimming.

Instead, went to the spa for a massage.

Sunday 12 August 2018

Today was the first day I’ve had a lie in. And was much needed. I was pretty exhausted.

I had a late breakfast (always idli!) then went off for a walk around the town.

This town is rather odd. It’s quiet. No street sellers. Shops in a designated little area. No people hanging around. Flowers and plants everywhere.

Normally, there are little shops everywhere. But not here. Took me a while to find the designated shop area! And even more surprising, next to the little fruit shop and general stuff shop, was a dominos pizza!

On the way back, I went past the village temple. Again, very strange. The fanciest temple grounds I’ve ever been to. Perfect walkway and surrounding jungle.

I wanted to go swimming. But it was raining. So instead lazed around. Before walking the 1km to the airport, ready for my 2pm flight back to bangalore.

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