Travel story contributor: Gayatri Sivakumar
I woke up from the scuffling sounds on the roof. It startled me immensely. Peeping through the window, I overlook the gushing Tungabhadra and a troop of monkeys jumping from roof to roof, all to the adjacent plantain garden. They had made the rumble, adding to the crass cacophony of the peacocks perched on the large wet rocks above the river. Not so far away, bells from the Virupaksha temple ring in unison; as the sun rises. A cuckoo calls from in between the trees.
In through the narrow lanes dotted with thatched roofs and colorful walls on either sides, ruminating cows and muddy paths with potholes are a regular sight. Hampi brings back the traditions and vintage in your conscience with such aura that only a great kingdom can exhuberate. The little sleepy town of Hampi that comes after Hospet is in ruins now. Nevertheless the stories of the kingdom and kings who lived a glorious life have stood the test of time. The Vitthala temple’s Ratha or chariot, carved on a single stone in such grandeur is the perfect example of why our forefathers had it better!
The pillars of the Vitthhala temple have magic in them both inside and out. The outside shows exquisite carvings by the artisans on stone, but the inside of them produce music that varies from pillar to pillar. Each pillar depicts an event or a deity and each has its own tune to go with it.
The town is an architectural paradise that exhibits some very fine examples of stone carving, columns, beams and ancient extensive architectural, civil engineering and scientific methodologies. Statues as high as 15 feet were carved out of a single rock at a time when there was no sight of technology, and makes us feel punier.
Hampi’s columns, temples, great baths, markets, performance areas and forts whisper a thousand stories of a once thriving Vjayanagara empire that was one of the richest cities. The city flourished on the banks of Tungabhadra in the 12th to the 13th centuries until the invasion by the Deccan Sultanates and Mughals who plundered it into the state it is now. History states the active hand of the Portuguese and Dutch in destroying the city during the wars. A part of the kingdom’s glory is visible now at Chitradurga Fort, still remaining intact. Throughout the town of Hampi, valour and virulent stories of the commoners that fought away the intruders do rounds, as much as that of Hampi’s most favourite king, Krishna Deva Raya.
The monolithic statues of Nandi and Narasimha are famously associated with Hampi. Rocks that were huge were cut by creasing them and adding grooves and the marks of it still stay.
Away from the civilian area of Vijayanagara kingdom, we find a sprawling of the administrative side of it; dotted with elephant stables, Lotus Mahal, enclosures, stepped tanks and watch towers. A fully conscious city that built its name through what it gave.
As the sun sets, I come across a varied sight; a pile of used plastic bottles, wasted near a heritage building site. The ode of an amazing city is disrespected by the current generation who spoil its grandeur unthinkingly. A few Romeos write down their names on the ancient rocks in black marker. The idea of enjoying 15 minutes of fame at the cost of exploiting an ancient site is totally beyond me and you and I share this sentiment.
To be proud of a heritage is one thing, but to salute the spirit of it every day is what we must try. In spite of the waste, the destruction and the callous attitude of the tourists and locals, Hampi still has the vitality and characteristics that no ancient city in India will ever have. A truly magical destination, where one wouldn’t mind getting transported centuries back! And, the Tungabhadra agrees, singing silently.