Hampi- The Lost Empire!

Giants among men do exist. If you have any doubts feel free to take a day off your schedule and walk around exploring a vast cohort of “could be’s” and “would have been likes” while you walk around what remains of a mighty magnanimous empire. Covering Hampi in 1 day may not be the ideal way to uncover the “secrets of the stones” that live here, but it is do-able.

Finding your way around these mighty remains is actually as simple as made out to be complicated. If you’re the aggressive, over enthusiastic type of traveler (which I am).. this plan could work wonders for you. Alternately, If you prefer the passive approach to sightseeing, then this plan would work equally well spread over 2 days. What follows is my attempt at breaking down a 3 day Hampi tour in simple steps which we spent more time than necessary contemplating over.

Hampi- How to get there?

We flew to Bangalore and hired  cab from the airport to the village of Hampi about 300 Kms and 6 Hours away. The transport to and back from Hampi is varied and frequent- buses, taxis, trains- Name it you got it. The route is fairly average, up until you come across the first glimpse of the Tungabhadra river which works as a genuine build up to what lies ahead. The highways connecting Bangalore to Hampi are spectacular and the entry to the main Village- Grand! The moment you’re past the entrance the scenery becomes spectacularly stunning, to the point that every way you look, youdsee your mind registering an eccentric painting- surreal, avid and buzzing with the slightest vibrations that the mind conveniently overlooks.

The village of Hampi lies on one side of the Tungabhadra river, and most of the guest houses lie along the other side which is that part of the national reserve of Karnataka that buzzes with Reggae music, soft chatter over drinks and crowds of young people drifting animatedly up and down the street, in and out of shops. For a second, the scene almost reminded us of a supremely relaxed Goa scenario- The colors are subtle, the music is amplified just enough and the winds blow just as fervently across the rice fields as it does across the skins of people it touches. As custom would have it, one would be required to cross the river to get to the guesthouses, a short 4 to 5 minute ride that brings together cohesive images of the famous ruins, even in the water. Submerged temples, Statues peeking over the water and an endearing Nandi statue that never fails to catch anyone’s attention while on the boat.

Hampi in 1 Day

As promised, Here’s my steadfast guide to covering Hampi in one day!

Hampi, located on the southern bank of river Tungabhadra was once the capital of the Vijayanagara empire, and the seat of culture, literature and knowledge for one of the longest spans of time seen in history. The kingdom was ruled by 4 dynasties over time, the Sangama Dynasty, the Saluwa Dynasty, Vijanagara Dynasty and the Tulu dynasty and over time became the standing testimony of varying cultures, beliefs, rituals and implementations miraculously bound by common roots and the unshakable love for knowledge. This is important to know because this is exactly what the remains talk about- in glimpses and snippets. Uncovering the stories is passable but the process of the brain taking in the grand remains and contemplating “what could have once been” is FANTASTIC!

Wake up early in the morning, have a hearty breakfast at one of the several eccentric cafes along the street or simply sitting by the rice fields and then walk down to the river. The first boat leaves at 8 AM. once on the other side, the simplest way to go about things is to follow a streamlined approach and literally covering everything that comes along the way- A map would be handy and be ready to walk, walk, WALK!

Virupaksha Temple

The oldest temple in Hampi, the Virupaksha temple tower also called the Bistappaya Tower is an 11 storey tall magnificent structure. The temple has 2 towers and 2 compounds and is dedicated to Lord Virupaksha or Pampapati. The temple is massive with steps leading into it from 3 sides and has a major middle hall and inner sanctums with temples dedicated to Pampadevi, Goddess Bhubaneshwari, Navagrahas, Shiva and Ganapati. The queen of this temple and a star attraction is Lakshmi, the endearing and captivating elephant that gracefully accepts eatables in return for her blessings, not to forget the perpetual residents of this place- the Monkeys and black faced langurs!

  1. Achyutaraya Temple

This was probably my favourite tourist spot in Hampi. The temple is set against a gorgeous location, nested in the middle of the mountains surrounding it! The Achyutaraya temple is surreal, large arches, vast madapas, gigantic pillars- all lying in absolute ruins. Its so beautiful its truly hard to explain. For this once, I think I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

Valley View of the Achyutaraya Temple

  1. Temple of Kondan Rama

Located by the river, in my opinion the temple with the most beautiful view in all of Hampi. SIt is one of the temples that come along the way while walking from the temple of Achyutaraya, through the remnants of bustling carnival alley ways towards the Vitthala Vijaya temple. As opposed to the Haara Rama temple which was built as a private temple of the kings complete with a royal center of attraction this temple is delicate, elegant and highly basic in comparison.mall simple temple compound sprawling with Black faced langoors is the perfect setting for some self reflection and photography.

Matunga Hill

Once you have seen all of the Virupaksha temple, you can walk to the foot of the Matunga hill. Here there are two options- you can either walk all the way up the hill, a 45 minute hike that ends in a breath-taking view of the surroundings OR take option number 2, walk up the stairs on the left! The stairs to the left of the hill lead up the hill through a series of smaller temples built into the rocks ages ago. The walk continues through demolished gates, Hanuman temple nested in the rocks, cacti and  giant scenic stones only to lead to a brilliant view of the Achyutaraya temple, that lies at the end of the walk down the hill.

  1. Sri Vitthal Vijaya Temple & Stone Chariot

The Vitthala Vijaya temple complex is a sight to behold but what I will remember the most is the walk towards this temple through sprawling boulder hills and ancient structures that meet you along the way, be it the king’s balance which still stands today where once upon a time the current king was weighed against sacks of gold to be distributed amongst the poor. A kingdom of Heart Indeed. Even so, nothing beats the view of the spectacular barren hills against clear crystal skies and the wind whistling in your ear. The Vitthal Vijaya Temple complex is gorgeous surrounded by tall mounting walls and grand gateways, with multiple mandapas dedicated to each of the crucial rituals that each of us undergo in life. The detailing is sincerely shocking, with each and every curve and chisel mark on the structures telling a story. Everything holds significance here. the stone chariot stands right in the middle of the temple complex summarizing the mandapas around into the structures built into the chariot driven by the Lord Vishnu while the mandapas stand around it in grandeur, each stone structure a beauty on its own. These structures include the Kalyana Mandapa (Wedding hall), Ranga  Mandapa, Utsava Mandapa and the Sabha Mandapa! The Utsava Mandapa is truly a sight to behold as one witnesses the presence of 56 singing pillars, each producing the sound of a different instrument which were used in the days of Krishnadevaraya to create an ambiance of celebration. Suddenly, an evening lit up with radiance comes to life where dancers rejoiced to the tunes of these singing pillars being struck in harmony. The architecture is intelligent and it is astounding to see the kind of depth and insight builders had into the sciences at the time when the world was still coming to terms with development.

  1. Queen’s bath and Old Palace

Ok so by now, youhave walked alot. Probably more than you would normally in weeks. But stay rest ensured the sights that await are worth the efforts. The Queen’s bath is what remains of a wealthy, larger than life lifestyle. The old palace remains are extensively spread out, complete with the tower of judgment, secret meeting halls under the ground, horse stables, soldier hostels, messes for the workers and celebration enclosures.

The first sight of the old palace itself are two massive doorways spread across the ground as the structures to support it no longer exist. A sight like this can truly haunt and excite Anyone with an imagination, especially when one comes across the beheading station where so many countless lives were executed and disposed off.

Zanani Enclosure- Lotus Mahal, Elephant stables, Watch tower

The Zanani enclosure is a pleasant walk, much needed after the window into the life that once was within the old palace halls. The Lotus mahal is symbolic and majestic while the watch tower stands tall and solitary at the corner of the yard. the tower overlooks the old palace, queen’s bath as well as the much guarded royal treasury, a panorama of all that the kingdom held dear. Just beyond the tower stand the huge elephant stables, once home of the royal elephants and every bit as majestic as one would expect.The special thting about Hampi is that the entire village stands testimony to the spectacle that this kingdom once was, and the weight that carries is probably why it is called the ghost town- it leaves you with mixed emotions and the weight of neglect through the centuries.

Underground Shiva temple

My favourite place in Hampi, this spot is a gem! The underground shiva temple is literally a shive lingam located in the womb of an astounding temple complex located in a cave habituated by bats and creatures of the night.  The highly regarded and revered lord Shiva was once celebrated here with pomp and splendid display, today it stands neglected but powerful. The energy is high and so is the sense of adrenaline rushing through your blood as you hop and skip your way into the cave to take one good look at the majestic god.

Badavi Linga temple

Another spectacular shiva temple located right next to the Narsimha Statue is the Badavi Linga. Surprisingly one of the only structures that escaped any damage through time and natural consequences, the 3 feet tall Linga statue is the largest structure of its kind in Hampi. It is an overwhelming monolithic black stone statue that stands immersed in a naturally flowing water and is highlighted by the sunlight consistently streaming in through the top. Legends of the Badavi Linga are ripe and for all to indulge in, and the experience of seeing it yourself is unmatched.

Badavi Linga Statue, Hampi
Ugra Narasimha Temple

Located right next to the Badavi Linga, the Narasimha statue minus the Lakshmi statue which disappeared over time is a visual delight. Built in 1528 AD, the statue was destroyed during war and lakshmi was separated from Narasimha even though her hand can still be seen resting on his back. The largest monolithic structure in Hampi, the statue is covered by  the snake hoods of adishesha and this statue celebrates the fierce form of Lord Narasimha. The Lion face based atop a human body is truly a symphony of expressions.

Ugra Narasimha statue, Hampi
Hemakuta Hills

The Sacred center of Hampi, Hemakuta got its name from a legend associated with Hampi where Shiva agreed to marry his devotee Pampa impressed with her penance and will to marry him. It then rained gold on this hill, therefor Hema which in sanskrit means gold. The hills flattened unique structures spread out with temples dedicated to Shiva and Ganesha. The view from the top is worth the 15-20 minute climb and the silence and peace attained once on top is worth all the sweat and blood lost. One can see almost all of Hampi from the top and the hills offer great opportunities for photography, especially during sunrise and sunset. The main temple located here is the main Virupaksha temple dedicated to lord shive and his Pampa devi with the more interesting yet highly underrated Ganesha idols lining the second entrance to the top of the hill from the other side.

In Summary, All there really is left to say is that you have a holiday coming up and want to explore some place where magic may or may not have existed, Hampi is where you need to be. A perfect balance today between the old and the contemporary it is the perfect short holiday to spend with your friends, for reasons you need to be IN Hampi to decipher!

Shanti Inn, Hampi

Lakshmi Bathing by the Tungabhadra river and waving as we pass her by
With Love, From Hampi!

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