Addicted to roadtrips, as we always are, we couldn’t leave the chance to explore the Karnataka side of ‘Incredible India’ this time. Graceful it is indeed, true to its tagline : One State, Many Worlds.
We were lucky to visit Hampi on the first day of World Heritage Week (November). It made the trip all the more special. We started from Pune one afternoon suddenly. Sudden plans are always the best. We booked accommodation on the move and got great deals. We took a night halt in Kolhapur and drove straight to Hampi next morning. The National Highway 4 (Now 48) is a breeze except for a small patch when you cross Hubballi. But for all those who love to drive, we would surely recommend driving on this route. We are really proud of National Highways Authorities of India (NHAI) for building and maintaining such incredible highways. We had the same experience during our Rajasthan Roadtrip (NH-8) NH4 too has Smooth roads, efficient toll management, more on the Karnataka side though. But indeed a terrific drive.
Just when you enter the state of Karnataka, sunflower fields lure you into loving the state right away. You will see yellow beauties on both sides of the super NH4 , continued by NH 63 ahead. These are one of the few perks of travelling by road. Of course we had to park our car and get down to click this beauty. I felt like I needed at least 8 hours to click ’em all but given our road-trip target, we could spare just 8 mins.
We reached Hospete (It is just 20kms from Hampi and one of the biggest town near the ruins of Hampi) in the afternoon and headed to see the enormous Tungabhadra Dam in the eve. It is indeed a masterpiece. A site surely not to miss if you are in the vicinity. The construction began way back in 1940’s and is the largest dam in Karnataka.
The Tungabhadra river is rightly named and is as vast as you can see. It ends at the horizon and resembles the ocean. Just a calm, quite and serene ocean. You can park your vehicles and go up the viewpoint in the buses run by the Government. There is also a gorgeous garden at the basement of the other side of the dam which has colourful fountains post sunset . All facilities are beautifully maintained.
Hampi is a small village in Karnataka which has gained glory due to the presence of ancient ruins of the Vijayanagari Empire. Archeological Work is still going on at some locations and if you are lucky you can witness the excavation process. The next day we started to explore Hampi and encountered this monumental statue of Lakshmi Narsimha. It is the largest monolithic sculpture in Hampi. The entire group of monuments in Hampi are stone structures. The details with which it was built, the humungous nature and its strength leave you awestruck.
Hampi has a collection of Pushkarni – stepped tanks. There are different forms of tanks and the structure define its purpose. Many of the temples have such tanks attached to it, We also saw such tanks during our exploration in Chaul. History is beautifully weaved on the map of India and the threads link one story to other.
There are a few walking trails (which we highly recommend) or you can also take the rickshaws to the main locations in the ruins of Hampi. We took the trail up the little hill and then descended to the Virupaksha Temple (one of the most important monument in Hampi) The trail gives the essence and feel of the ancient town and if you give power to your imagination you can actually see the city alive.
Hampi is a collection of boulders. All over Hampi, there are stones stacked in a peculiar manner. You get a feeling that they are surely going to stumble but they stand as though they are stuck in there for centuries. Huge and Tall and Steady !
The trek in the ruins is like walking through a magical land. We had the same level of excitement as we had while walking around in Universal Studios. Each turn and few steps that you take, you discover a new story and reach a new level of amazement.
Virupaksha Temple in Hampi is the oldest and one of the most important temples. I really wonder the amount of energy needed to carve such elaborate designs on stone walls. Did our ancestors have magical powers?
There is so much to see and admire that any amount of time spent is less. But if planned well, you can go through the group of monuments in one day. That includes a lot of walking though. Next we took a small trek along the river, the path went through the mountains – to the Vitthala Temple – the highlight of Hampi.
Excavation from ruins is a delicate yet strong job. Imagine the strength needed to cut through these boulders which are centuries old, and yet the mastery needed to preserve the intricate designs and carvings.
The group of monuments in Hampi come under UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. Dravidian style of architecture which is highlighted by enormous dimensions, sheltered enclosures, and magnificent towers at the entrances with an array of decorated pillars is seen all over Hampi.
Finally we made our way to the star attraction at Hampi : The Stone Chariot ! It is said that the wheels of the chariot were designed for rotation and they did turn until sometime ago. But the government sealed them in order to protect them from further damage caused by their turning by a huge number of tourists. The stone chariot is indeed a piece of creative excellence !
The covered spaces seen around everywhere in the ruins of Hampi, are called Mandapas. It is a beauty in itself, neatly arranged array of symmetric structures together.
Next, we drove to other part of the hamlet, where some more interesting monuments lay, This stepped well is a unique one, which has some script written on top of each of its stone and also has a stoned pipeline to throw in water.
The Royal Enclosures at Hampi has a huge beautiful stone platform, which has a special place for the King to watch the celebrations and the whole ground underneath for the commoners. The Royal Enclosure looks like a set of the famous TV Show – Game of Thrones. The Queen’s Bath (name announces its purpose), the underground temple, the Hazar Rama Temple, Hampi Bazaar, Pushkarinis, The Lotus Temple, the symmetrically designed massive elephant stables and a lot more monuments await your arrival and appreciation.
Hampi is not a tourist place, it is a travellers’ paradise. It does not have eateries around each monument and is not a place for any person to visit. If you find joy in heritage, history, architecture, art and stories, it is the right place for you!
Hampi is like a stroll through the Royal history. Each stone tells a story. Imagine the stones were there when the empire was alive. The stones and the monuments saw everything, heard them laugh, celebrate, cry. Some atmospheres have history’s presence lingering around. Hampi is surely one of them. History is calling, do you want to listen?
P.S. India is a magnificent country and we live on a beautiful planet. Please do not litter. Be a responsible traveller.