Haunting Hampi

Vijayanagara Samrajya

Hampi has been on my dream trip list for as long as I can remember. I grew up in the same state; ten years after leaving it is finally when I went to say hello. And what an overwhelming embrace I walked into! I had tried to read and watch as much as I could about this mystery, but nothing prepared me for what I saw over the course of two and a half days in the remnants of the mighty Vijayanagara Empire.

Spread over 25kms, Hampi is the empire’s erstwhile capital, circa 1500. Crumbling temples, decrepit royal enclosures and hauntingly empty market streets of the Vijayanagara people line the town. Hollow shells of mosques and Mohammadan watch towers of the Deccan Sultanate hold their own, a reminder of the clan that razed Hampi to the ground. And here and there, mighty Indo-Islamic arches and domes rule the horizon, symbolic of all that has been Indian for a thousand years now.

We wandered around from ruin to ruin, over little hills and long boulder strewn pathways and sometimes sharp brush, marveling at intricate sculptures that had survived the elements. The signage was minimal, and my imagination took charge. One moment I was a princess walking down a majestic pillared pathway with my subjects rejoicing, another I was a peasant trading my wares to a bustling public in the lap of a mighty Krishna temple. Then I was a court dancer bowing to tremendous applause atop a cultural pavilion now overgrown with brush on all sides. And then it was time for the royal bath, the queen and company and all, in an Arabic style bath with pretty balconies. Oh the possibilities were endless, and the joy immense!

It was off-season again, bang in the middle of a dry and hot summer. We adopted a tactic of very early morning and evening meandering, and were treated to exquisite sunrise and sunset vistas in the bargain. Score, for B’s photography expedition as well. As we put our feet up at dinner at Hampi’s most chilled out backpacker-friendly diner (yes, there were packs strewn around the diwans) on our last night there, we were already plotting our return. “So hey, the next time we’re here … “!

Shout-out to the little chai-boy catering to foreigners and Indians with different rates as we sat watching the sunset with a few other people over far flung boulders. This is, I’m learning, the enterprising spirit that pervades India and bootstraps her economic growth; much needed in these times of the great migration of her people from traditional villages to bursting cities. We live in interesting times.

Photo Courtesy: B, indeed the better half

View from the Hemakuta Hills
View from the Hemakuta Hills, Sacred Center
We christened this the "Lone Warrior". There were many such enticing little pavilions perched precariously atop boulders. We couldn't find a path to reach this one!
We christened this the “Lone Warrior”. There were many such enticing little pavilions perched precariously atop boulders. We couldn’t find a path to reach this one!
Sudden pretty green paddy fields, north of the Tungabhadra (Anegundi)
Sudden pretty green paddy fields, north of the Tungabhadra (Anegundi)
Mohammadan Watch Tower, Royal Center
Mohammadan Watch Tower, Royal Center
Sunrise, Day 3, Royal Center
Sunrise, Day 3, Royal Center

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