Hampi, UNESCO heritage site

We reached Hospet, the gateway of Hampi, a UNESCO heritage site located in Southern India. An overnight journey from Bangalore and Goa will reach you to Hampi center, housing the Virupaksha Temple and several other monuments belonging to the old city. It is located within the ruins of the city of Vijayanagara, the former capital of the Vijayanagara Empire. Predating the city of Vijayanagara, Hampi continues to be an important religious pilgrimage.

How we reached Hampi

After alighting from the train at Hospet all we need to reach Hampi. We found numbers of autorickshaw driver hovering around us to drop us to Hampi. But we walk past the autorickshaw drivers to find public (a government) bus. We enquired which bus will go to Hampi and we found the correct bus to Hampi. The bus took us to Hampi for Rs. 14.00 (via Hospet Bus Stand) and dropped us at Hampi Bus Stand, Near Virupaksha Temple. By auto-rickshaw, it cost around Rs. 200.00 from Hospet to Hampi, and the drive is through some of the dusty roads. Hence taking a public bus from Hospet to Hampi is the best thing.

After Checking in at the hotel we quickly had our breakfast, and went out to explore Hampi. On reaching Hampi Bazaar we tried to find moped for moving around Hampi but we didn’t find any. So we decided to rent a bicycle for Rs. 150.00 each for a day.

Virupaksha Temple

Our first stop, the Virupaksha Temple. Virupaksha Temple is the only temple in the group of monuments in Hampi which is functioning till date, since the 7th century. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the east facing pastel painted 9 tier towers (gopura) leads to the first courtyard. The pair cow horn structure on the top of the tower is a landmark of Hampi. Just after entering a statue three-head Nandi is on the left, which is only like structure in India. One of the three head is broken, and said to be destroyed by Muslim invader. The second tower, the three tier tower built in 1510 AD is known after its patron, Krishadeva Raya, one of the famous kings of the empire. The tower gateway gives access to the inner court.

After entering the inner court on the left side there is a little elephant. Named Lakshmi is the temple elephant, which goes to the river to take bath every morning at8 O’clock. Which is an interesting thing to watch. The most distinct feature of the court is the central pillar hall known as the Ranga Mandapa built in 1510 AD by Krishadeva Raya. Rows of pillars shaped with a rampant lion like ferocious looking mythical creatures (Yalis) standing on aquatic creatures (Makara or Crocodiles), is the main attraction.

The mural panel on the central portion of the hall is one of the few remains of this form of Vijayanagara art. Most of it is base on themes of God and Goddess from Hindu Mythology. Behind the main sanctum, a flight of steps leads to the rear exit of the temple complex. Just before the exit on the right side, there is a dark room with a slit (or a hole) on the wall. The sunray pass through this slit forms an inverted shadow of the main tower on the wall, a kind of pinhole camera effect created with stonework.

River Tungabhadra

After exploring Virupaksa Temple, we moved through the lanes of Hampi to reach the bank of river Tungabhadra. There is no bridge to cross the river. By jumping on and off the river rock or by motorboat or by Coracle, the river can be crossed. We were exploring Hampi by cycle, so jumping through the rocks was not possible so we took Coracle ride. Coracle is a circular shape boat made up of bamboo and some waterproofing material in the bottom. Coracle ride is one of the famous touristy things in Hampi. We loaded our cycles and two of us seated such that to balance the coracle and the boatmen took us to other side of river. It was our first coracle ride.

Treat your taste bud at Mango Tree

When you are hungry in this ancient surreal capital of the once mighty Vijayanagara Empire, you must visit the Mango Tree Restaurant. The Mango Tree is a restaurant, at Hampi Bazar and famous enough that anyone can lead you. The mango tree is the best place to treat your taste bud in the ancient Capital. With its rustic and earthy set up you can sit either on chair and table or on the well laid cushioned floor. They serve smoking, hot foods on a plate over the banana leaves. The food here is delicious. During our two day stay in Hampi we had our lunch here and one night we had our supper. We were very much impressed with piping hot delicious food and the service. If you have plenty of time and traveling leisurely, then it is the best place to kill your time and read books.

Trek and ride to Vitthala Temple

After completing our lunch, Vitthala temple is our next place. Vitthala temple is around 10 km if you go by road and it is around 2.5 Km if you trek and go. And chose to trek. On querying, we found that we can go by cycle, only at two places we have to carry our cycle. Slowly somewhere trekking somewhere cycling along the river Tungabhadra we reached Vitthala Temple. On entering Vitthala temple complex we say famous stone chariot. The stone chariot is a shrine design in the shape of a chariot. The stone chariot once contained an icon of Garuda (Lord of eagles), the carrier of Lord Vishnu, is now empty.

After passing the Stone Chariot we entered the main hall (Maha-Mantapa), in the front of the Vittala temple. The main hall is partially damage but still, it is a magnificent piece of stone carving. The Maha-Mantapa contains four open halls within in all four directions. The south halls, north halls, and the east halls are still intact. The central western hall has collapsed. The inner sanctum is devoid of any idol. A narrow and unlit passageway encircles the inner sanctum. A few steps on either side of the sanctum’s main door give access to this passage. The outer wall of the sanctum is richly decorated with the Kumbha-Pankajas which can be seen from the passageway.

Kings Balance

Close to the Vitthala temple, on the back side, a tall arch-like structure known as King’s Balance. Legend says, during some special ceremonies and festivals the King used to weigh himself at Kings Balance with gold, silver, gems, and precious stones, and distribute it among priests and the poor.

Hike to Matanga hill

Hiking to Matanga Hill will never go fruitless. About 1 KM from Virupaksha Temple on the eastern side lies Matanga Hill. A stony path with stone stair leading to the top of the hill. The view from the top is a breathtaking and aerial view of Hampi will give an idea of how nature has well-protected Vijayanagar Empire from its enemy. Matanga hill main attraction is sunset. A number of tourist and traveler in evening trek to the top of the hill to see the sunset.