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Hampi, ruins of a lost Empire

Hampi is a small village predating and situated in the ruins of Vijayanagara. A bright, sun-soaked land of stark contrasts, it stands on the spot of the ancient capital of the Vijayanagara empire straddling a piercingly green river lined with lush vegetation amidst a sparse red rock landscape reminiscent of Utah. The bones of this once massive empire are evident, huge looming ruins and smaller scattered features showing the extent of the huge city itself. At one point the second-largest city in the world, the town has long been a featured stop on most traveller’s trip to south India due to this incredible heritage and fascinatingly alien landscape. Intricate and extensive rock features of many kinds provide a perfect playground for intrepid boulderers and some areas lend themselves to rock-climbing. Long years of travellers coming to the area and staying to explore the amazing terrain have led to guesthouses springing up all over the area offering cheap beds, motorbikes and equipment for the climbers. Every evening during the season there is a drum circle on top of a nearby rock formation for everyone to enjoy the sunset with a little bit of music. The local shop provides instruments including their own hang-drums for the locals and travellers to enjoy at a fair price. Going to visit the ruins is an absolute must for those in the area. With so many things to do, many end up staying months, truly getting to know this incredible area and all it has to give. Taking a trip through the local sights with us is an easy way to get a picture of how anyone planning a trip to South India can really enjoy Hampi.

Jimmy s via Flickr

The river that runs through the town is the focal point of the community and upon arriving in the so-called Hampi Bazaar, make a beeline for it on foot ignoring the offers of rickshaws there. Once there, cross the river on a coracle for around 10rs or get a ticket for the flat boat for 25rs. The boats run from 5-6 am to 5-6 pm. Getting across is a priority in order to dump the bags at a hostel. Most are pretty decent for those looking for a budget stay. They regularly offer good prices for longer stays, starting at 10 days or so. Once over the bridge, the road splits into two. Going right, all the way to make it to Manju’s guesthouse is a sure bet for the first night at least. You can pay 75rs for a mosquito net and a mat in the communal circle or 150rs for a small hut for doubles. His neighbor has rooms and huts too. Alternatively, take a left at the fork and get somewhere down that road on the left. They are all approximately the same in terms of quality. The deciding factor is normally where the crowds are in order to have a posse to go enjoy the sunsets with and go swimming.

Zai Khan via Flickr

Getting a small scooter or motorcycle is a good idea. Most of the coolest sights are at least a drive away, so having to rely on rickshaws is unrealistic, especially due to their scarcity on the same side of the river as all the good accommodation. Get across the river on a bike with an extra ticket for 100rs. Use the bike to find a guesthouse or hotel that suits you best if you want to follow the crowds. Check out the following activities if lounging around proves too hard:

Jean-Pierre Dalbéra via Flickr

Temples, beginning with what is known as the: Sacred Centre. Particularly Virupaksha Temple, the surviving temple and temple complex that is the core of the village of Hampi. Also known as the Pampapati temple, it predated the empire and was extended between the 13th and 17th centuries. It has two courts with gopurams (entrance towers). The main entrance with a 50-meter (160-feet) gopuram faces east into a ceremonial and colonnaded street, that extends for about 1 km (0.62 mi) to a monolithic statue of Nandi. [From Wikipedia]

Hampi, Vittala Temple, chariot
Arian Zwegers via Flickr

Vittala Temple, situated northeast of Hampi, opposite the village of Anegondi, this is one of the principal monuments of the city. It is dedicated to Vittala, an aspect of Vishnu worshipped in the Maratha country. It is believed to date from the 16th century. In front of the temple is the world-famous stone chariot or ratha. This is one of the three famous stone chariots in India, the other two being in Konark and Mahabalipuram. The wheels of the ratha can be rotated but the government cemented them to avoid the damage caused by the visitors. One of the notable features of the Vittala Temple is the musical pillars. Each of the pillars that support the roof of the main temple is supported by a pillar representing a musical instrument and is constructed as 7 minor pillars arranged around a main pillar. These 7 pillars, when struck, emanate the 7 notes from the representative instrument, varying in sound quality based on whether it represents a wind, string, or percussion instrument. The British wanted to check the reason behind this wonder and so they had cut two pillars to check anything was there inside the pillars that were producing the sound. They had found nothing but hollow pillars. Even today we can see those pillars cut by the British. The road leading to the temple was once a market where the horses were traded. Even today we can see the ruins of the market on both sides of the road. [From Wikipedia]

Aasif Iqbal J via Flickr

Check out the sunset from the viewpoint near Manju’s place on the guesthouse side of the river. Go straight ahead coming from the river and stop on the sandy lot just after the corner at the base of the rocks. Listen to the music coming from the drum circle.

Loky Stelaris via Flickr

The nearby reservoir is huge, offering a chance for those thirsty, dusty travellers to go for a dip and refresh themselves. To get there coming from the river crossing in Hampi take a left at the fork, follow the road past the aqueduct to the highway and take a left. Go down the highway and follow it to the next village and as locals to point the turn out to you. Once you approach the reservoir, go left to the small building to park up. Climbing the rocks on the left a few hundred metres up the shore leads to some awesome swimming spots and a few rocks to go cliff diving. Obviously the depth should be checked first. There may be a coracle to take you around the lake for a few hundred rupees.

Hanuman Mandir in the background. Saad Akhtar via Flickr

The Hanuman temple is a small building atop a perilous and winding staircase, snaking it’s way up one of the tallest hills in the area to a rocky plateau. The Monkey god Hanuman dwelled in this place for thirty thousand years and now a large colony of monkeys lives there. The view on the way up is stunning, a jumble of rocky valleys, the deep red of the stone contrasted by the green and blue of the river. At the top it offers uninterrupted views of this beautiful landscape and is the perfect place to snap a few pictures. It is about 7 km away from Hampi, the opposite direction from the reservoir on the main road.

I hope that you will all spend at least three weeks to a month getting to know the area, it is incredibly rewarding. Please direct any tips or things I forgot to the bottom of the page in the comment section.

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