Friday, January 17, 2014

Sankranti at Hampi : Day 1

This Sankranthi, we planned to visit Hampi, a village in Karnataka and part of the erstwhile Vijayanagara Empire.  Hampi, the capital of the Vijayanaga Empire from 1336 to 1565 is a place that is known to every school kid through history books.  It is a place that abounded in beauty and wealth at its peak.  For Hindus, there is a mythological connection as Hampi is also related to the Kishkindha of Ramayana.  Yes, of King Vali and King Sugriva, of Lord Hanuman and the Vanara Sena.  One one side is the Tungabhadra and there are hills on the other side.  

From Coimbatore, we took the Lokmanya Tilak to Bangalore and then the Hampi Express.  We reached the next day around 7:30 a.m. at Hospet Junction (the nearest railway station) and took an auto rickshaw to Hampi, 13 kms away.  

However, due to the Hampi Utsav, we were dropped halfway and asked to take a bus provided by Karnataka Tourism (free of cost due to the festival) to Hampi.   Our hotel was across the Tungabhadra river, and we took the boat ride (motorised).  We met a family of four tourists like us making their way to the other side.  

Once on the other side, we introduced ourselves.  Ramesh and Kanaga were travelling along with her mother and their daughter, Mrinalini.  Three generations on a visit of Hampi.  Then, we found that we were staying at the same place which we both picked as we wanted to stay in Hampi and not Hospet.  From here, our paths merged and we decided to explore Hampi together.

By the time we checked in (everything is laid back in Hampi) and had our breakfast it was 12:00 noon.  We were advised to look around the part of Hampi on the other side of the river bank.  We hired three bikes and started off to explore Anegundi. 


Anegundi is on the northern bank of the Tungabhadra river.  It is believed that Kiskindha mentioned in the Ramayana is Anegundi.  It is the kingdom of the monkey prince, Sugriva.  I have loved this part of the Ramayana since childhood, listening to stories told by my mother.  Never thought I will visit his kingdom.  Sugriva, the friend whom Lord Rama trusted. 

The drive was nice because of the scenery, either paddy fields or rock formations.  

First stop was the Ranganatha temple.  Vishnu is in the form of Ananthasayanam.  He reminded me of his home at Srirangam Temple and Padmanabhaswamy Temple.  The idol is small here compared to the one at Trichy and Trivandrum.  To the right of the idol, there is a stone believed to be older showing Vishnu in the same form.  The temple is small, but there is a serenity to it.  We rested for sometime here under the Naval Pazham tree (Jamun or Indian black berry). 

The next stop was the Gagan Mahal.  Built in the 16th century, it was used by royal women to watch festivities.  It is a simple place but not maintained.  The windows maybe had jali work which can be seen on one. 

We went in search of the Aramane (palace).  The palace was a dilapidated building in the front.  The ruins have dense undergrowth which is eating away whatever remains.  There is a small house in the compound which they said is still being used by King Krishnadevaraya’s descendants.  So, we did not picture it out of respect.  However, the pillars of the Aramane can be seen and they are beautiful. 

At the entrance to the Aramane, we saw oxen going round and round.  A closer look revealed that mortar was being made the old way for construction and renovation.  The mortar used in old buildings in India contained among others ingredients like limestone, gud (jaggery), egg shells (or eggs) or sea shells.  The bulls were mixing it the old way.  We were told that renovation is being made of the Aramane by the current descendant of King Krishnadevaraya whose name is also Krishnadevaraya.  The main door of the building under construction is a piece of art.  Care has been taken to replicate old architecture as can be seen.

The next stop was the Durga Temple.  Again on the banks of the Tungabhadra, this temple is away from the hustle and bustle making it a quiet place.  The temple is situated at the base of a fort.  Walk up the steps and you will reach the outer walls of the fort.  This fort stretches a long way and on the way back by train, you can see the fort walls.  We wondered if the one we touched was part of it.

Walking further up, we came across stones piled one on top of the other.  Wondering what it is, we also tried our hand.  Later on, we got to know that this was a way to make wishes for a home. 

Atop the hill, we found a well or maybe a pond that stores water.  Walking further up, we heard chants and came across a Ganesha temple with a priest chanting inside a cave. 

With that, we decided to go back and spend sometime by the Tungabhadra and return back.

 Places we missed out :

Navabrindavanam - a small island on the Tungabhadra which has the Samadhis(tombs) of nine saints, who were followers of Madhavacharya and predecssors of Sri Raghavendra.  

Hanuman Temple - located on top of hill, said to be the birth place of Hanuman.

King Krishnadevaraya's tomb

The first two are a must see.  However, we couldn't add them to the half day trip. 

Maybe, it is a way for Hampi and its ruins to remind us that a visit is due soon.