50 km before Goa. Karwar a small beach town on the Arabian shores, from where I started my journey to the last place of my south India trip. And if you are thinking that it’s Goa then you are wrong. The thought of having King’s Beer laying on those pristine beaches did cross my mind but I saved that for other time. This time, my destination was Hampi.
Hampi is a village in northern Karnataka on the banks of Tungabhadra river, what is left of the ruins of former Vijayanagara Empire. Now a world heritage site, in its heyday it was one of the richest and largest kingdoms in the world.
After crossing the bustling town Hospet, which is the gateway to Hampi, my eyes got the treat of a unique landscape. Mountains made of giant circular boulders, some small, others huge all placed on the top of each other, as if they were deliberately placed. Then these sandy colored boulders surrounded by stretches of lush green paddy fields and banana tree plantations all the way to the heritage site. A sight which left me spellbound.
The main ghetto for the backpackers is Hampi bazaar with maze-like streets crowded with budget restaurants, lodges, and shops and is towered over by the Virupaksha Temple. There is also a hippie side of the village away from the hustle & bustle of the main bazaar on the other side of the Tungabhadra River. I got myself settled in one of the lodges at the main bazaar only to realize that I will have to move to the other side!!!!
Before venturing out on this trip Ramneek, also, a motorcycle traveler and a friend shared my phone number with Vinod Mallappa (a localite) with whom he bonded during his trip here. So after I checked in Vinod called me and asked to shift my base on the hippie side to experience Hampi better. Although, It cost me a non-refundable 400 bucks but it was worth it. To reach the hippie island one has to ferry a river and there are 2 ways to do it. One is the ancient way through a coracle (A huge floating basket). They charge Rs 10 for you a and a bicycle and for a motorcycle plus you the charge is Rs 20-25 which is certainly not recommended if you are a weak-hearted one. Considering the hefty weight of my motorcycle with luggage mounted on it, I opted the other way to ferry the river on a motor boat.
The beauty of the island lies in the scenic view of green rice paddy fields separated by an unpaved stretch with guest houses, cafes, and restaurants on the other side, all crammed with hippies (mostly foreigners) chilling out. I checked myself in Gauthami Guesthouse which has one of the best cafes in the island.
Walking is always the best way to explore any place. However, walking in Hampi was like boarding in a Time Machine seeing all the ruins scattered everywhere, gives a feeling of being in the king’s era.
I was informed to experience the magnificent view of the sunset that Hampi offers from the Hanuman Temple.
At the top of the Anjaneyadri hill is the whitewashed temple dedicated to Hanuman, (the monkey warrior god) accessible by an odd 550+ step climb with a blissful view of the rocky terrain around. I was courted all through by the playful monkeys and inside the temple, I also found a bunch of chillum puffing sadhus.
Sunset is the prime time to be at the Anjaneyadri hill and I was in the right place at the right time with a horde of sightseers. A 360-degree view of the sandy colored boulders with green fields and the Tungabhadra river flowing was mesmerizing. I was transfixed watching the sun going down into the horizon, which filled my heart with great joy and happiness.
Hampi does not have any night life and roaming around after dark is not safe as Hampi is devoid of any lighting and it could be difficult to trace yourself back as the trails are not recognizable. Knowing this I came back to the guest house and bonded with Vinod (Ramneek’s friend, whom I met the first time) and the hippies over a bottle of scotch.
Day #2 my last day at Hampi. The plan was to see all the temples on both side of the river and I started from the main bazar side of the Island.
1. Virupaksha Temple
The temple dedicated to Lord Shaiva located in the center of Hampi and is still in use for worship being a main center of pilgrimage.
2. Hampi Bazar
Also known as Virupaksha bazaar located right in front of the Virupaksha Temple. On both sides of the streets, there is an array of pavilions which were once used to be a market.
3. Sule Bazaar
The Courtesan Street or Sule Bazaar in Hampi is a deserted temple street located at the foot of the Matanga Hill and in front of the beautiful Tiruvengalanatha Temple. As the name indicates, it used to be a marketplace occupied by prostitutes.
4. Underground Temple
This underground temple of Lord Shiva is one of the oldest temples in Hampi. This temple for some reasons was built several meters below the ground level due to which the sanctum, as well as the main parts of the temple, remain under water for most of the time round the year.
5. Hazara Rama Temple
Hazara Rama Temple in Hampi is an important shrine in Hampi. This small but beautiful temple is located at the center of the royal area. The temple is dedicated to Lord Rama.
6. Queen’s Bath
Queen’s Bath is the first of the ruins that you would visit. From outside this building appears to be a plain rectangular complex encircled by a big water channel that one might need to cross at some places using the bridge-like structure.
7. Royal Enclosure
The royal enclosure is a sprawling area with the ruins of many stately structures. The king used to watch the annual parade of imperial majesty and military might.
8. Lotus Palace
Built in Indo-Islamic architecture style, the palace is a two-storey structure. It was used by the royal ladies. The structure gets its name from the lotus bud curved on its dome.
9. Elephant Stable
The shelter for the royal elephants. This long structure is made of a series of chambers with domical roofs. Each chamber is big enough to accommodate two elephants.
10. Vijay Vithala Temple Complex
It is one of the most visited exceptional architecture in Hampi with compound walls and gateway towers. There are numerous halls, pavilions, and temples present on the campus of the temple complex.
11. Sanapur Lake
The last place of the day and also Hampi ended with a splendid view of the cool blue water with boulders all around the Sanapur Lake. I spent hours sitting beside the lake absorbing the beauty and awesomeness that traveling provides.