Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Incredible Hampi

Friends, many of you have been following my blog for sometime now. This is the most laborious blog than any other. It consumed as much of energy and time in compiling and writing the blog as visiting and exploring Hampi. I had to recollect the things I learned from locals and Virupaksha Dani and even called him few times to collect accurate information and also explored through internet for details related to time and other important data. I tried to project the entire picture of Hampi to the extent we explored. So get ready for the feast of your eyes as i am taking you to the roller coaster of Hampi darshan through my blog.

For the past couple of years Virupaksha has been inviting me to visit Ballari. It finally happened in the month of September when my teacher took an Iyengar yoga intensive in Ballari. I visited Ballari two days before the workshop to see the arrangements. After making the necessary arrangements for the workshop, we decided to visit the world famous place Hampi in Hospet Taluka of Ballari district in Southern Karnataka. It is around 64 kilometers from Ballari. We had only a day left before the workshop and Hampi is such a vast town that one day is not sufficient and if we go by train or bus then it is nearly impossible to explore Hampi. We then decided to go on our motor bikes. Virupaksha, Rajaram Bagade, Tulsi and I started from Ballari at 6-30 AM on 1st of September 2017.

It was an amazing experience riding on a motor cycle on vacant roads early in the morning through the lush green agricultural fields alongside the road surrounded by beautiful rock hills all around. After travelling 35 kilometers from Ballari, we came across this beautiful lake called Daroji. It was a big lake surrounded by mountains on either sides. Unfortunately, there was hardly any water in the pond. And it was September which is usually a rainy season. There were hardly any rains in the region during that period.
We walked on this rock structure which is used for monitoring water levels in the lake.
On observing carefully, we noticed the columns of this structure are of a single stone without any joints. I wonder how they carried them and installed here.
Look at those beautiful rock hills around the lake. Virupaksha recently informed me over phone that the lake is full of water now due to heavy rains off late.
Around 9 AM, we reached at this beautiful site. This is the famous Tungabhadra river.
You see a tiny white structure on top of the hill? That is Anjanadri Temple. We had to reach there crossing the river. 
I was wondering how can we go that far parking our vehicles here and there was no place to park.
We then saw a boat coming towards our side and surprisingly it was carrying four motor cycles in it. Virupaksha then said it is the short cut to go across the river and he boarded our motor cycles on the boat and crossed the river for 15 rupees each.
This is how we crossed the river with our motor cycles. This shot was captured by Tulsi with her mobile on our way back. Viru said that we have saved 20 kilometers drive by doing this. We had to drive 20 kilometers had we followed the road. This is the advantage of having a local guy with you when you are traveling.
Anjanadri hill is situated in the Anegundi village of Karnataka 5 kilometers from Hampi. Anjanadri is believed to be the birth place of Hanuman from the epic of Ramayana. Anegundi is the kingdom of Kishkinda, the forest where monkeys lived. 
It is a beautiful village surrounded by rock hills and lush green coconut trees and paddy fields alongside the river Tungabhadra.
I shot these beautiful images of the lush green fields from top of the Anjanadri hills. There is an ancient Hanuman temple on the Anjanadri hills. You have to climb through 575 plus narrow steps on to the hill. The burning Sun and the heat emitted by rocks made our trek terrible.
As you are in the territory of monkey kingdom, you will find plenty of very friendly monkeys.
This is the tragic sight of Tungabhadra which was the pride of this region in the past which now looks like a canal.
This is the famous Anjanadri Temple of monkey God Hanuman. On entering the temple, you will find a piece of stone floating in an aquarium. It is believed to be the rock of Ramsethu that Lord Rama and Vanara Sena used to build a bridge on the Indian ocean at Rameshwaram in the epic of Ramayana. The priests here are from Rajasthan and plenty of people often visit here from Rajasthan as you can see in the picture below.
This is the image of Anjani hills on our way to Pampa Sarovar Pushkarini, the sacred water pond around the temple.
We are into Hampi now.  Hampi has been recognized as a world Heritage by UNESCO.  By 1500 BC, It was the capital of the great Vijayanagara Empire. Hampi was the second largest medieval era city and probably the riches at that time near Tungabhadra river with beautiful temples, farms and trading market attracting traders from Persia and Portugal. 

This is the famous Pushkarini near Vijaya Vitthala Temple. Tulsi near the entrance of an ancient Pushkarini.
This is the state of Pushkarini today. According to our local guide Virupaksha, people used to take a holy dip before entering the famous Vitthala Temple. Many priests and poets used to perform their Sadhana here in this region. Hampi was the home for great knowledge and scholastic people during Vijayanagara regime. 
The authorities run these little Eco-friendly Electric Motor Vehicles to drop near Vitthala Temple. But we haven't boarded this as it carries you less than a kilometer and you have to walk a lot from there.
 This is the closeup shot of Pushkarini.
This is the very famous monument of Hampi. It is the gateway tower of Vijaya Vitthala Temple. It is considered to be the ornate of Vijayanagara temples.
Some of the ruins besides Vijaya Vitthala Temple. Ruins of Hampi, once the capital of Vijayanagara empire have seen many ups and downs through time. Established by Harihara and his brother Bukkaraya 1 was at the peak of glory and prosperity during the rule of Krishnadeva Raya.
Later Vijayanagara empire was defeated by coalition of Muslim Invaders. It's capital was conquered, looted and destroyed by Sultanate armies in 1565 after which it remained in ruins.
The Vijaya Vitthala Temple represents the highest achievements of the Vijayanagara style of art and architecture.
The temple is dedicated to one of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu called Vitthala. The temple was originally built in 15th century AD. The temple campus then enhanced by many successive kings in their regimes.
The main highlights of the temple are the pillared halls and stone chariot.
The temple is built in the form of a sprawling campus with a compound wall and gateway towers. There are many halls, pavilions and temples located inside the campus. This is the Mahamandapa before the Sanctum of Vitthala temple.
This is the view of Sanctum Sanctorum of Lord Vithala.
This is the view of the roof top of the Sanctum that withstood the invasions of Muslim invaders and the adversities of the nature from a long time.
The hall is carved with overwhelming array of mind blowing sculptures.
The steps on the east of Mahamandapa are flanked by elephant railings. The facades are lined with forty pillars of ten feet in height.
The center of Mahamandapam has sixteen pillars decorated with Narasimha and Yali.


Some of the pillars have carving of the warrior riding an elephant, lion and a horse on each side.


The ceiling of the Mahamandapam is also covered with sculptural work.

Apart from this, there are many minute sculptural art work on each pillar and wall of the temple.
You can see some of the beautiful sculptures carved on every pillar and wall of the temple.

Vitthala temple is the center for magnificent art work.

We spent great amount of time here exploring and enjoying the beauty of the magnificent art work of Vijayanagara style.
If you are a photographer or an art lover, you can spend a whole day exploring the art work only in Vitthala temple.
Tulsi and I taking shelter under this magnificent temple complex from the burning hot Sun in the afternoon.
The Stone Chariot located inside the temple complex is almost an iconic structure of Hampi. This chariot was built by Krishnadevaraya during 16th century, who got fascinated by the chariot of Konark Sun Temple during his battle in Odissa.
You must have seen this in some of the Indian currency notes and the recently printed fifty rupee note. The stone chariot in front of the Mahamandapa provided with a brick structure is a reproduction of a processional chariot in wood, with wheels realistically fitted and it could revolve around the axis. Two elephants in front seems to be pulling the chariot.
This structure is actually the shrine of Garuda. Garuda is a large bird like creature or humanoid bird as per Hindu mythology which is considered as the escort of Maha Vishnu. There are also the remnants of ladder in between the two elephants. The priests used to climb up the ladder to the inner sanctum to pay homage to the idol of Garuda which is no more present.
From Vitthal temple Viru guided us to Kodandarama Temple which is around 4 kilometers walk from here. On our way, a huge Banyan tree caught our attention. 
Look how giant is this. Must be few hundred years old. We took shelter under the tree to beat the heat of burning Sun. It was really hot that day. Skin around face and neck of all four of us got burnt and turned dark for more than a week.
The cloth knots tied to the tree is the list of Hindu desires. Hindus believe that if you tie a knot on the tree expressing a wish or desire, it will be fulfilled by the tree.
Walking few minutes down the line we come across this beautiful structure. I don't remember what it is called.
This monument is opposite Sugreev Guha, the cave in which Sugreev lived from the epic of Ramayana. Everyone went to the stone cave of Sugreev but I stayed in the complex here and relaxed for ten minutes.
Then this beautiful sight caught my attention. A shepherd is seen grazing the herd of goats on this open land with little amount of grass around.
You see some of these not so prominent structures also attract the tourist's attention at different places in Hampi.

This is the view of the Mathanga hill. It is the highest point in Hampi from where you can have an aerial view of Hampi and its environs. It has its origins again from Ramayana where sage Mathanga used to live here and he cursed the monkey king Bali for throwing the corpse of a Buffalo on the hill. We haven't trekked to this place due to lack of time.
This is the view of Tungabhadra river near Kodandarama Temple. The temple is famous for a 18 feet single stone carving of Lord Rama. The temple was closed when we reached there. We peeped through the door asking the priest to see the Idol. It was an amazing and very attractive idol.
From there we walked towards Achyutaraya Temple through open land surrounded by beautiful rock hills.
You will find some of these beautiful rock structures all around.
Isn't it strange, the way these rocks have been arranged on top of the other? Doesn't it remind the childhood days when children arrange rocks like this?
This is the famous gateway tower of Achyutaraya Temple. It was built in 1534 A.D. You can see our guide Virupaksha explaining few things about the monument to Tulsi and Rajaram.
It is one of the splendid and awesome temples in the region of Hampi. 
This is the view of the gateway tower from inside. Unfortunately, this elegant and striking temple is in ruins as a consequence of attacks of the monarchs of Bahamani Kingdom.
It is located between the Mathanga hills and Gandhamadana.
In the image below you can clearly see the Mathanga hills from the temple premises. The temple is exactly on the foothill of Mathanga.
The stunning and heavenly temple is dedicated to Tiruvengalanatha another incarnation of Lord Vishnu.
The temple was named after the king Achyutaraya who succeeded the throne after Krishanadevaraya. It was during Achyutaraya's regime this temple was built.
The atmosphere around the temple is peaceful and serene as not many tourists visit here as it is located in the remote place where one has to walk a lot.

Many guides approached us but we had our local guide Virupaksha Dani. He is from an adjacent Village near Hampi. He visited Hampi many times and spent lot of time here in Hampi. I am not wrong if I say he spent his childhood days playing in Hampi.
From there we walked back to the place where we parked the vehicles. You can see Viru, Rajaram and Tulsi walking down the line.
Ice cream sold by the hawkers near Vitthala temple was the only relief for the tourists. We then drove back to the river from where we crossed in the morning. We then headed towards Badavilinga and Ugra Narasimha Temple. This is the famous site of Badavilinga Temple.
The temple has a huge monolithic Shiva linga which is around 10 feet tall.
Since the linga was established by poor peasant, it is known as Badavilinga. Badavi means poor in Kannada.
Adjacent to this, there is a giant statue of Lakshmi Narasimha. This site is very popular among Indian and foreign tourists.
There was a statue of Goddess Laskhmi sitting on the lap of Narasimha on the left side which is no more present today. Hence the name Lakshmi Narasimha. The statue of Lakshmi was either lost or damaged during invasions that led to the fall of Vijayanagara Empire. If you carefully observe the statue below, you will find the broken arm of Lakshmi around the waist of Narasimha.
This is the largest statue in Hampi. Narasimha is sitting on the coil of a giant seven-headed serpent called Adisesha. The deity sits in a cross legged yoga posture with a belt supporting the knees. It is this posture of the deity inspired Yogacharya BKS Iyengar to introduce belt as a prop for different asanas. Narasimha in this posture is actually known as Yoga Narasimha.
He is also called Ugra Narasimha.
Look at his fiery protruding eyes and furious expression in his face. Hence the name Ugra Narasimha.
Even the abode of Narasimha, the Adisesha also appears fiery here.
From here we moved on to Virupaksha Temple. Virupaksha Temple is a very ancient temple established way back in 7th Century AD. It is believed this temple has been functioning uninterruptedly ever since its inception and is the only temple to survive from various invasions. The temple attained its glory during the time of Krishnadevaraya. This is the famous gateway tower of Virupaksha Temple. This tower is above 160 feet tall.
This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Virupaksha is one of the names of Shiva. This is a very popular site in Hampi. There were some charges for taking the camera inside with a condition to take the images of courtyard and not the interiors. So I decided to keep my camera off and therefore no more images of the temple. I would like to share a very interesting information about the temple here. There are other two gateway towers after this in the temple complex. This tower is in the East, one in the middle and the other on the West of the complex. The middle tower must be around 75 feet tall and the north gate is around 100 feet tall approximately. As we were returning out after the darshan Viru took us to a corner to show something special. It was a dark corner with a hole on the Eastern wall and small door on the North. We were wondering what was he going to show. He then asked us to look through the hole and see the two gateway towers and said is the tall main gateway tower in the East visible to us? We said, yes. He said, now I will show you the reflection of the tall tower here appearing upside down with clear vision and color pointing at a wall in the west. I asked, are you serious? He smiled and closed the small door that was open on the Northern wall. The moment he made the area dark, the image of the eastern gateway projected on the wall upside down with clear color as he mentioned. That was engineering at the best. Hats off to those engineers whose vision and technology was way beyond imagination and time.
From here we moved on to visit Kadalekalu Ganesha. This is the temple of Kadalekalu Ganesha situated at the slope of Hemakunta hill in Hampi.
The towering statue of Kadalekalu Ganesha is of 15 feet carved out of a single huge boulder. The belle of Ganesha resembles a Bengal gram which means Kadalekalu in Kannada and hence the name.
From there we visited Sasivekalu Ganesha Temple. It has yet another huge statue of Ganesha, carved out of a single block of rock which is around 8 feet tall. The belly of Ganesha is of the shape of Mustard seed and hence the name Sasivekalu in Kannada.
A popular legend prevails in Hindu mythology about the snake around Ganesha's belly. Ganesha is a food lover and he once ate lot of food and ate to such an extent that his stomach is at the verge of bursting. He therefore tied a snake on his stomach to prevent it from bursting out.
We then visited yet another popular monument called Hazar Rama Temple. 
It is a vast and beautiful temple complex dedicated to Lord Rama. This used to be the personal temple for Royal family of Vijayanagara Empire.
The specialty of this complex is that 1000 images of Rama are carved on the walls of the temple and hence the name Hazar Rama Temple.
You can see the details of carvings on the wall in the below image. What amused me was the natural colors used on those walls are intact even today from so many centuries. The entire episode of Ramayana is depicted on the walls with beautiful carvings all around as you see in the image below.
It looks like black rocks are used to build the inner pillars of the Sanctum.
See how beautifully these images are carved on the walls. Lord Krishna with his wives Rukmani and Satyabhama.
Vasistha muni giving archery lessons to Rama.
The Svayamvar episode of Ramayana where Rama breaks the bow and Parasuram visits the venue in anger. Their confrontation is depicted here.
This is the beautiful image of Narasimha in Yoga Mudra.
I am not sure what is this episode. Looks like Varaha Avatar of Vishnu with Lakshmi.
Rajaram Bagade posing before the mighty army of Vijayanagara Empire.
This wall displays the strength of Vijayanagara Empire. Different battalions of Vijayanagara Army is depicted on this long compound wall of the temple.

From there we moved on to Vijayanagara Royal Arena Complex. It is a very popular site in Hampi. This is the famous site of Mahanavami Platform and Public Square complex. It is said that it was here the Dassera used to be celebrated in grandeur during Vijayanagara Empire which is now shifted to Mysore.
Artists and performers from and outside the kingdom used to perform here on the platform demonstrating their courage, battle and artistic skills while the King and the Royal family along with the people used to watch them.
It is here on this ruined site, there used to be a palace of Sandal wood from where the King and the royal family would watch the show.
UNESCO described Hampi as an "austere, grandiose site" that is spread over 4100 hectares with more than 1600 surviving remains of the last great Hindu Kingdom in South India that include 'forts, riverside features, royal and sacred complexes, temples, shrines, pillared halls, mandapas, memorial structures, water structures and others. 
  This is yet another popular site in Hampi for travelers and film makers.
Look at the water fountain made of stone. It is the live example of the technology that was used during that era to fetch water. During the time of Krishnadevaraya there were exchange of trade and technology from Persia and Portugal. It is said that lot of technology has been imported and implemented in the kingdom for drinking water and irrigation purposes. 
This Pushkarini is intact even today. I must appreciate the authorities for preserving this wonderful site.
 There is a long pipeline of water made of granite stones. Amazing isn't it?
There is a way to get water into the pond and also out of the pond to keep it clean and hygienic.
I was actually tired of watching these sights by now. It's not a physical tiredness but my mind felt enough for today. Exploring these many good things in a single day is too good to digest for the mind. Virupaksha made up his mind that he is not going to let any stone turn down in his hospitality. So he wanted to show as many things as possible. He wanted to take us to yet another famous pushkarini. I said, Viru! It's enough now let's return back and we will see the rest in our next visit. He said, okay, then I will show you the must visit place, The Lotus Palace of the Queen before we end. Here you go, the beautiful Lotus Palace. I would definitely have regretted, had I missed this.
I fell in love with this Palace. The king must have built it for his most loved wife. I moved around and captured it from all sides.
This is the site of vigilance by the soldiers protecting the Royal compound.
Now the visitors are not allowed to go inside and rightly so. This is essential to protect the beautiful monument or else it will be spoiled completely. People start writing names and show their painting skills by drawing ugly images on the walls.
Look at this beautiful courtyard. Thanks to the authorities who are maintaining it. Does it look like an isolated site for centuries? No way! It looks so lively as if somebody is still living in it.
Yet another view of the beautiful Lotus Mahal.
And look at this. Mind blowing isn't it? It remind me of Vasudhara falls in our Uttarakhand tour. There can't be a better end to Hampi than this. Amazing experience.
Virupaksha said, not over yet. Let us visit Gajashala. Just behind the Lotus Mahal there is a Gajashala where the Royal elephants were kept.
This elephant stable is a major tourist attraction. The long building with a row of doomed chambers was used to park the elephants.
There are eleven such doomed chambers interconnected.
The tower of the central hall resembles a temple and others are of different domes.
The Sun was now ready to set. We sensed the urgency to drive back as we have to travel long way on a high way at night and next morning we had the workshop.
We have covered these many sites in one day and I have not mentioned less significant places that we had visited or not able to capture them. Unbelievable; isn't it? It became possible due to two reasons. One, we had our motorcycles and the other because of Virupaksha. Otherwise this would not have become possible. Hampi is a vast place, tourists who want to visit Hampi should go for at least a week to explore it comfortably and peacefully.
By this I remember a popular anecdote that Virupasksha shared with us during our visit. In Kannada they say, "If you have legs, you must visit Hampi and if you have eyes you must see Kanakagiri Ratha" Hampi can't be explored with vehicles even today as walk is the main source of exploring the depth of Hampi. The only other mean is the bicycle. They let bicycles on rent near the market of Virupaksha Temple. Even for that you need legs. On the other hand there is a huge chariot in Kanakagiri which is really tall and big in size. Therefore they say you need really big eyes to see that. Hence the anecdote.
Paying adieu to Hampi we drove back to Ballari. After crossing 30 kilometers from Hampi I came across this beautiful sight of the moon during sunset.
See the beautiful color of clouds due to setting sun.
We drove back to Ballari on a dark night with bumpy roads and terribly speeding buses and heavy industrial vehicles making drive difficult for us. It is another story that I am not going to share and bore you anymore. I am certain that many will just roll on the page without going into details. But yet if you have gone through the entire details and reached here. I really appreciate and thank you for the patience.

Keep watching the space for more updates.