Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Exploring the land forgotten in time : Road trip to Hampi (Hampi Travelouge)


Trip Introduction:

Hampi - A place that does not only exist in History textbooks has so much more to it than just the ruins of the Vijayanagar Empire. I had read about the place online when I saw Instagram photos uploaded by a friend. It seemed interesting and I had to visit this place which lets you take a walk back in time. I had planned this trip a good 15 months back, but it did not work out. So finally here I am, in Hampi! And it was way better than what I had hoped for. Before I went to Hampi, I had a very different idea about it in my head. Yes I knew all about the erstwhile Vijayanagara kingdom and I knew it was a UNESCO World Heritage site. What I did not know was that it was also a cultural potpourri.  Within a day we were chilling with people from so many countries at roadsides and the little cafes doting them!

Before you read on, let me assure you that Hampi is well worth the visit. The area is simply stunning and you will be in awe of not just the magnificent ruins but also the stunning landscape with millions of boulders surrounding the area.  Within this landscape lie lush palm, banana, and mango plantations, quiet winding roads, colourful local temples, sky blue lakes and the Tungabhadra River and Dam. Moreover, Hampi is a great place to spend a few days wandering around and discovering the rich, vibrant history while also having a bit of 'me' time. It is a visual delight, especially due to its stark contrast from most other places. Rocks are all you see whichever direction you look at. Vegetation is visible in some places; but again it never dominates the landscape.

How to get there/ get around?


Hospet is the nearest city to Hampi. So you need to take a bus or train to Hospet. You can also drive down from nearest cities. It is 320 kms from Goa, 329 kms from Bangalore, 136 kms from Hubli and 392 kms from Mangalore. There are daily buses from Goa, Bangalore, Mangalore, Mumbai, Chennai and other places. There are also KSRTC buses run by the state government.

Best way to travel Hampi is via road. A roadtrip on a bike or jeep is the best option. We were driving a car and it wasn’t the wisest choice. When in Hampi, you can hire bikes or bycycles and explore the place on your own. There are motorboats and choracles to cross the river, so you can avoid the 40 km ride across the river to the other side of Hampi.

Climate:

Since we decided to go there in March, it was already summer and the weather was hot. Unlike Goa, it wasn’t humid, but the sun was scorching during the day. The nights were warm too. There is breeze blowing at the river side, so it’s best to sit there in the evening and relax for a bit.

Culture of Hampi:

One part of the town, which is one side of the river, is totally a temple town and you wont find a single liquor shop or a non-vegetarian hotel. The other side of the town, accessible by boats and coracle may host activities which are not termed Godly in Hindu mythology.

Even though Hampi touts the famous UNESCO heritage site status, at the heart Hampi is a very humble town, where the main occupation is agriculture. People roaming on streets are very friendly with tourists and don’t mind a couple of tourists having fun at their farms.

Food:


Food is a plenty in Hampi. Every corner has a restaurant or a cafe serving mainly vegetarian food. The menu is varied with Global cuisines since Hampi attracts International travellers. The cafes aren’t unlike any we have seen in other parts of the country. Even though some have the table and chair arrangements, most have mattresses on the floor. You can sit on the mattresses and have a good time interacting with friends and other travellers as you eat your food.

Cafes we visited:

Other places which were on the list, but we did not have time to visit (probably next time):

Shanti Guesthouse Cafe
Top Secrets
The Tribes cafe
The Goan Cafe
Funkey Monkey Restaurant.

Where to stay?


There are a few hotels in Hospet. These are ideal stay options if you are with family or are looking for luxury. Besides you can stay in Hampi or at Virupapur Gadde (that is the other side of the river, also known as hippie island). There are numerous guesthouses and hotels around Hampi. You will find a place even without pre bookings.

For night 1 we are put up at Hotel Mallige in Hospet. Decent hotel with neat rooms, great service, in-house restaurant and lounge, swimming pool and free breakfast. Recommended if you want to stay in Hospet.

We did not stay in Hampi, but headed towards Hippie Island and got a guesthouse there. The guesthouses on this side of the river are rather chilled out and meant for budget travellers and backpackers. Little cottages and huts with basic amenities like bathroom, electricity and WiFi. Some are facing the rivers and the fields. They have open balconies with hammocks and cots put up.

We stayed at Nargila GuestHouse for two days.  Other places to stay at:
Shanti GuestHouse
Mowgli Guesthouse
The Goan Corner
Funky Monkey Guest House

Shopping
Shopping in Hampi is all about buying gypsy stuff. There are numerous shops displaying various products including jewellery made by Lambani nomads, embroidered textiles to shawls, skirts and bags, antique coins that make for some great souvenirs to take back home. Handicrafts, beautiful dreamcatchers, hippie clothes and sandals, suede bags and shoes and funky jewelry are a must buy in Hampi. Read all about it here

Places of attraction
As you enter Hampi, you are welcomed by boulders on both sides. As soon as we reached Hampi, we hired a guide to explain to us the different places and their significance. None of us are brilliant in History or Archeology and we wouldn’t understand a bit if not for the guide. Also we managed to finish the sightseeing early since he was guiding us. Here are snippets of the info he gave us as we visited some important locstions in hampi:
When it comes to the important world heritage sites in India, the ruins of Hampi hold the top position in the prestigious list. This place, apart from being an important religious centre, is home to several other monuments that belonged to the old city. One of the interesting facts about Hampi apart from its history and culture is that this place is closely associated with the incidents of Ramayana. 
In terms of etymology, the name of Hampi has been originally derived from the word ‘Pampa’, which used to be the earlier name of the Tungabhadra River. From the word ‘Pampa’ was derived the Kannada word ‘Hampe’, which went on to be anglicised as ‘Hampi’.
The most important attraction of this place, which also serves as an eminent religious centre of the region, is the Virupaksha Temple (a temple dedicated to Lord Virupaksha, who is considered to be the deity of the Vijaynagara rulers). Because of this, Hampi is also at times referred to as Vijaynagara and Virupakshapura.
Hampi is considered to be the largest open monument and lost city of Asia. At the same time, it is easy to understand the past grandeur of this city and realise what it used to look like some 6-7 centuries back. The first historical record of settlement in Hampi dates back to 1 C.E. Dating from 1336-1565 Hampi was considered to be one of the core areas of the capital of the Vijaynagara Empire with palaces, temples, fort walls, civil buildings, tanks, irrigation channels, etc. spread over an area of 25 sq km.
This place reflects the power and prosperity of the Vijaynagara Empire, not forgetting the fact that only an empire so big and powerful could have created it. Religion, which played an important role in the construction of this place, also had a crucial role to play in its destruction, thereby justifying the fact that one man’s fundamentalist is another man’s infidel.
Apart from this, the Archaeological Survey of India keeps conducting excavations in Hampi to discover something new every now and then. In current times, Hampi is one of the favourite tourist spots of India visited by people from across the world. In simple terms Hampi is a must-visit destination when one is travelling in India especially South India.

Virupaksha Temple


Virupaksha Temple


Virupaksha Temple


Virupaksha Temple


Vijayanagara Emblem


Virupaksha Temple


Virupaksha Temple


Nandi Statue


Virupaksha Temple


Virupaksha Temple


Virupaksha Temple


Virupaksha Temple




















Badavilinga


Badavilinga






Tenali Raman Tower




Two sisters










































Vitthala Temple










Vitthala Temple


Vitthala Temple




































Stone Chariot






Royal Enclosure






Queens Bath

Queens Bath




Queens Bath


Royal Enclosure


Royal Enclosure














Lotus Mahal
















Elephant Stables




























































Choracles





















































































































Recommendations:

Visit during the winters

Hire a bike or luna to explore Hampi
Get a tour guide only at Vitthala Temple since there are a lot of interesting things he explains. Rest of the places are self explainatory
Do not miss the boat ride
Bask in the sunset at Matanga Hill
Stay on the Hippie Island
Bargain shamelessly when buying things
Try the salted amla with chilley and the masala lemon soda sold outside the places of attraction
Try the cafes which have a mattress setting since it has a great vibe to it and isn't there in other places

Thank me later.  Hope you have a great trip like we did! 


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Text and photographs: Flexcia D'souza
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