The second day of our holiday saw us heading towards the historic site of Hampi. Hampi is located amidst the ruins of Vijayanagara, is the former capital of the Vijayanagara empire and is believed to predate the existence of the empire itself. It being a fairly long drive we reached around 11-ish and directly proceeded to the Virupaksha temple. Being the main centre of worship at Hampi it has magically survived almost completely amidst the surrounding ruins. Similar to other temples we visited, this too is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is believed to have grown from a small shrine to a large complex under the patronage of the Vijayanagara rulers. The mighty TungaBhadra flows serenely alongside the temple. There were the usual crowds washing/ bathing/ eating near the river side while a procession of devotees chanting various mantras snaked its way along the road separating the river from the temple. There are old paintings of the dynasty-tree of the various rulers who ruled the kingdom and also a painting of the Vijayanagar raja-mudre on the temple walls – sadly these are in bad shape and the paint is almost peeling off 😦
After offering our prayers at the temple and obtaining the blessings of the temple elephant that has been superbly trained to bless only if given coins, to eat the bananas and hoard the coconuts, we headed to the Hemakuta hills spread along-side the temple compound on its right side. There are various temples and architectural structures in various stages of renovation on these hills. One gets a beautiful panoramic view of the temple-town with the river-waters flowing downstream from afar. On the other side of the hill are the famous Ganapati statues… but not being sure how far off that was we headed back to the parking lot and drove to their site.
A prime feature of the Vijayanagara architecture is the carving of the large monoliths – the examples are seen all around Hampi. The Kadlekalu Ganesha (named so for the closeness in appearance of the shape of its belly to an unsplit Bengal gram) being the first of them at a height of 4.5 meters… The beautiful structure is a mammoth in proportions but sadly more than half of the huge belly has been destroyed by the invaders 😦 The second Ganesha – the Sasivekalu (mustard) one is comparatively smaller at 2.4 meters and thankfully hasn’t been ruined much. Once we had paid our obeisance to the elephant-God we began our tour of the various other attractions that dot the town – to describe them in detail would be a Herculean task which I wouldn’t dare try! I shall restrict myself to listing the landmarks with a line or two about their specialty.
Krishna Temple- Pushkarni- Krishna/ Hampi bazar – is the site of the famous Hampi bazar where gold and precious stones were supposed to have been sold on the road-side during the prosperous times of the Vijayanagar rulers! Also houses the huge pushkarni which is now bereft of any water and the ruins of a huge temple built in honour of Lord Krishna. The latter Krishna temple was where chanced upon Gulzar with his daughter Meghna and son-in-law in tow, obviously out on a holiday away from the maddening crowds. They understandably refused to pose for any photos.
Lotus temple – Elephant’s stable – Ranga temple – the Lotus Mahal is oneof the several structures housed in the Zanana Enclosure – which is a structural complex with tall enclosure walls on four sides with watch towers. The structures enclosed are Indo-Islamic in architecture, the Lotus Mahal being a finest example with its typically Hindu base and Islamic superstructure. It has exemplary plaster work on the outer faces of the cusped arches in the form of Lion-faced toranas and is also referred to as Chitrangini Mahal locally. The Elephant’s Stable is a 15th century domed, large rectangular structure considered to be the stable for the state elephants. The domes are of various shapes and are symmetrically laid out. The ruins of the Madhava/ Ranga temple are also located close to the Zanana enclosure.
Hazararama Temple and the royal enclosure– this is the only temple located at the core of the royal zonebetween the residential and ceremonial enclosures. Dedicated to Lord Rama it is a beautiful Dravida Vimana type of temple, undoubtedly of royal patronage. It is known for its sculpted friezes (an architectural ornament) depicting the Ramayana in three tiers running all around the main shrine with narrative sculptures of Lava-Kusha story around the Devi shrine. It also has beautiful narrative sculptures of the Bhagavata especially of Bala-Krishna.
Near the temple is the royal enclosure, with remains of the huge King’s audience hall and an underground shrine chamber whose design was truly intriguing – though the roof no longer exists, once we stepped down into the passage it was all inky darkness and we couldn’t see beyond a foot! Literally had to walk blindly through the circumventing passage before emerging into sudden brightness!
Also in the enclosure are the deep Stepped Tank and the public bath – the inlets for the water flow, made of stone are still intact and showcase the cleverness and sturdiness of this design.
Mahanavami Dibba – at the northeast end of the royal enclosure is this pyramidal three tiered stone platform 8 metres in height. It was one of the most important ceremonial structures of royal use built in granite. It is believed to have been used for important festivals like Mahanavami – references to which have been made by visitors like Abdur Razak.
A little distance away from the royal enclosure is the Queen’s bath – which is again a huge, well guarded, enclosed structure. The design for the water inflow and outflow and attention to maintaining privacy for the queens is again noteworthy.
We then headed on to the last leg of our Hampi visit, a little away from the main town – to the site of the Vijaya Vitthala temple. The Vitthala temple marks the highest watermark of the Vijayanagara style of art and architecture.It is one of the largest temples of the period built under the patronage of Devaraya II. Substantial portions of the current structure were added during Krishnadevaraya’s reign – the special one being the hundred pillared mantapa/ pavilion to the southwest of the main temple. The pillars originally were believed to produce musical sounds of various instruments, but are now out of public reach – being damaged thanks to public apathy!
The magnificent stone chariot at the entrance is a reproduction of the processional wooden chariot and is perhaps the most stunning achievement typical of the Vijayanagara period. It houses an image of Garuda, the vehicle of Lord Vishnu. An ornate Kalyana mantapa, Utsava mantapa and the Devi shrines compelte the ensemble of the temple complex.
Having completed a comprehensive tour of the majestic and magnificent temple town, totally zonked-out though we were, we still headed over to the TB dam. Thanks to a spate of rains, the TungaBhadra was flowing in her full unabashed glory and the cascading dam-waters thrilled us. But we were in for a rude shock when we were told that vehicles wouldn’t be allowed to drive up to the dam. Tired and surly, we cursed and trudged uphill only to see tens of cars zipping past us. We were understandably furious and on enquiry found that they had “special” permission! Bah! Hiking up a kilometer and a half we were in for a ruder shock – no one was allowed to go near/ walk on the dam!! After all that exercise all we got was a slightly closer, but no better, look at the surging waters! 😦