After departing Goa we drove to Hampi in the heart of Karnataka. The terrain around Hampi is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. There are hills covered in huge boulders that appear to have been recently dropped into random spots. The cream coloured hills are surrounded by incredibly lush rice plantations and bright green palm groves.
From a religious perspective, Hampi is one of the holiest cities in India–it is said to be the birthplace of Hanuman, the monkey god. It is mentioned in the Hindu epic Ramayana as a place by the name of Kishkinda that was said to to be the realm of the monkey gods.
Historically, the city located at Hampi was founded in 1336 by the Telgu prince Harihararaya. The prince made the city the capital of the kingdom, calling it Vijayanagar. Over the next 200 years the kingdom expanded into one of the largest empires in Hindu history; at the city’s peak it boasted over 500,000 inhabitants and a vital scene of international commerce. However in 1565 an allied force of sultanates invaded the city and burned it to the ground. In the process the invaders purposefully destroyed and defaced a number of religious sites (hence you cannot see any elephant sculptures with intact tusks in the entire city).
Some photos of the amazing landscape surrounding Hampi:
We set off bright and early the following morning to explore the major religious sites of Hampi. Our hotel was across from the river (where unlike in all of Hampi, the sale of alcohol is permitted), which we had to cross via small boats that charge a token amount to take you across. However, after 6:00 pm the little ferries stop running so you have to negotiate a water taxi for the brief crossing at a considerably higher price.
The river area:
Once across the river we boarded tuk tuks for a 15 minute ride to our first stop, the Vittala Temple. The temple is particularly impressive considering that it was never actually completed. The records are unclear but it is thought that construction began during the reign of Krishnadevaraya, so sometime between 1509 and 1529. Since it was never completed prior to the sacking of the city, it was also never consecrated and as such it has never housed an active site of worship.
A photo of the magnificent entrance and a second photo showing a close-up of some of the ornate friezes on the structure:
The centrepiece of the courtyard is the stone chariot (picture of this later) but for my money the area just behind the structure, housing the musical pillars, takes it. Our guide explained that because the iron content in the stone used to carve out the temples is so high, the columns produce a sound when struck. Each set of the outer columns that you can see below with a set of four smaller columns therein was designed to replicate a different instrument. A small carving on each of the columns shows the sound that the particular column is supposed to replicate. Our guide said that 56 columns could be played at one point, my Lonely Planet book puts the number at 81. However, after the sacking of the city only eight continue to work. Essentially the building was designed so its columns could be played like an orchestra to produce an intricate musical arrangement:
One of the decorative columns that can’t be played:
One of the musical columns. To produce sound, musicians would strike the smaller columns with a piece of wood or metal:
A close-up of the carvings showing what instrument the particular column’s sound was intended to replicate:
To prevent damage to the columns, no one is allowed to walk around those columns and play them any longer, but there is a smaller temple to the side with some musical columns that people are allowed to play. Our guide played the column below for us:
Here is a recording of our guide playing the columns. It was the highlight of my time in Hampi so I would highly recommend that you take the time to listen to the track:
A photo of some of the carvings in the original temple with the musical columns:
The famous stone chariot that was intended to be the showpiece of the compound. In the 16th century the stone wheels were capable of turning:
An enormous bathing area right outside the temple’s compound:
We hopped onto the tuk tuks again and headed off to the Queen’s Bath nearby which also dates back to the 16th century. The building looks faily modest from the outside but the interior and the surrounding infrastructure are impressive. There used to be an aqueduct that supplied water directly into the bath from a lake some 4 km away. The water was then scented with rose petals and lotus flowers.
The arches inside are a blend of Hindu and Islamic architecutre and every dome along the ceiling was different in design. Unfortunately all the domes are extremely damaged so I didn’t bother to include photos of the domes.
After the bath we proceeded to the Zana enclosure. The centrepiece of the enclosure is the Lotus Mahal pictured below. It was recreational mansion for the two queens. The building has 24 hollow columns that would be filled with water in order to cool the structure.
The Lotus Mahal:
Since the enclosure held not only the quarters for the two queens, but also the homes of the king’s various concumbines, it was essentially a harem. Only women and enouchs were allowed inside the enclosure and it was guarded with the aid of a number of guard towers such as the one featured below:
The enclosure looks over the stables for the eleven royal elephants. There is one domed enclosure for each of the elephants and each elephant had two guardians or “mahuts.”
Next, we proceeded to the monolithic Lakshimi Narasmiha. The bug-eyed sculpture is a sculputure of Vishnu with a hood of seven snakes hovering over him like a crown:
Our tour ended with the Ganesh temple, which is also a monolithic temple. Our guide pointed out that when you look at the statue from the rear, Ganesh is sitting on his mother’s lap:
A photo of a cow posing in front of theVirupaksha temple at the heart of the Hampi Bazar. That is the only working temple remaining in the city so pictures are prohibited inside:
Some photos of our lunch at the Mango Tree are shown below. The place was incredibly cheap with excellent food that is served on big bannana leaves:
Some photos on our walk back to the hotel:
That’s where the little ferries dock to take you to the other side of the river. They cram in upwards 15 people somehow and can also fit full sized motorcycles on board. Rather than have someone tie the boat in when you get to the other side, they just gun the engine to keep the boat from moving from shore while you disembark and embark.
The river is also used by the locals to bathe and wash their clothes, so they just lay out their laundry on the grass to dry:
We arrived back at the hotel in the afternoon and I decided to do some photo editing in the restaurant of a nearby guesthouse. The place is phenomenally relaxing, as you can see in the photo below, guests are free to have a nap on their plump cushions.
The place has a killer view of neighbouring rice fields:
I stayed for dinner. I’m not sure what the dish immediately below is, because I did not order it, but the dish below was my kofta dinner:
I’ll finish with some pictures of people in Hampi. The locals love taking photos of western folk (not so much of myself because I look Indian). The photo below is of Laura participating in a selfie-stick assisted photo:
When we visited the Zenana enclosure we encountered a group of kids who were in town to perform in a dance festival. I took the photo while they were in the process of getting ready for the shot. Can you spot the little girl that is 100% ready for a shot and has a killer attitude?
As our guide was explaining various things about the enclosure, I sat down to take notes. When I looked up I was surrounded by a group of friendly kids (who albeit do not look that friendly in the first picture) who were curious as to what I was writing:
Some workers tending to the gardens of the enclosure:
Lastly, a photo of someone walking off in the distance, next to the elephant stables: