Exploring the ruins of Hampi – Day 1

I had arrived in Hampi the previous evening and got myself a small place to stay. I had 2-3 more days to wander around before heading back to Bangalore. I had plans of exploring not only Hampi but also the nearby places of Badami, Aihole and Pattadakal. But I soon realized that I would need a few more days to even get a proper glimpse of just Hampi. I had a rough list of places to visit and things to do in Hampi, and it would easily take me a week to do it all. I made up my mind that I’ll spend all the time in Hampi and kicked off the day with a Hampi style sunrise! Hampi is surrounded by hills of boulders and there could be hundreds of vantage points to spend the golden hour, viewing the sunrise and sunset. But in Hampi there are a couple special spots that have an open view to the east and provide an brilliant setting to watch the sunrise. I planned to visit one such places this morning. I got up quite early but I had to hurry to catch the right moment. I was heading to the hillock next to the Malyavanta Raghunatha temple. It took me a while to find the place and when I finally reached the spot, I knew the clock had ticked and the sun completely above the horizon. It was nevertheless a beautiful view and I sat on the hillock sock it in and to get warmed up after riding fast on a cold December morning.

Sunrise near Malyavanta Raghunatha temple
Sunrise near Malyavanta Raghunatha temple

The Malyavanta Raghnatha temple is, as the name tells, a temple for Rama. It is said that Rama with his brother Lakshmana lived for 6 months in this place waiting for Hanuman to return with the whereabouts of Sita.

Malyavanta Raghunatha Temple
Malyavanta Raghunatha Temple

After taking a look around the temple itself, I head back to the place where I was staying. The man who owned the place was eagerly waiting for me and he came up to me as I opened the lock. I was surprised when he asked when I was going to vacate the room. I had arrived the previous night and I was being asked to leave early the next morning. The lady of the place entered the scene while I was trying to convince him to let me stay for another day. Apparently it was the tourist season and international travelers pay a lot more than I would. She just made her point clear and left. I had no other option but to leave but not before a shower. I had a hard time finding a place that served a normal south Indian breakfast. Most of the places cater to the needs of international travelers, and almost every major cuisine is covered! Finally I found a stall in one of the narrower streets, selling dosas. I had a couple to keep me going for the first half of the day. I had a lot of walking to do and that in the hot sun. Just before I left the village to explore the ruins I was offered stay at a smallish but clean place for a rather small price. It was worth just to leave my bags for the day and to freshen up after a walk in the sun. So I took it and head out without my baggage. 🙂 Basically (as far as I know), there are five major temples in Hampi, and numerous smaller shrines around these centers. All of these major temple have bazaar streets, each was well known for certain goods. They are the, all too well know, Virupaksha Temple, the ornate Krishna temple, the Achyutharaya temple, the Hazara Rama temple and the Vijaya VIttala Temple. I planned to visit the Hazara Rama temple that day and rode there stopping at the underground Shiva temple on the way. I had imagined it to be a cave like structure, but is built below ground level by digging up the area for the temple. I next stopped at the Hazara Rama Temple, parked my bike near a sign that said Pan-Supari Bazaar. I later found out that it used to be a market where spices were traded.  The temple was private to the royal family and marks (one of) the entrances to the royal enclosure that housed the palaces, a mint, a kalyani (sacred pond) with a temple for a goddess, a huge platform (The Mahanavami Dibba) to host celebrations such as weddings and festivals, and many more structures than I could see in a day. The temple isn’t huge by Hampi’s standards but its importance is obvious from it’s location. The walls of the temple are carved with many episodes of the epic of Ramayana and hence the name. Below are some of the images I captured at the temple.

At the entrance of the Hazara Rama Temple, heads of sculptures chopped off
At the entrance of the Hazara Rama Temple, heads of sculptures chopped off
Hazara Rama Temple
Hazara Rama Temple

 

The images of the young and grown up Krishna together
The images of the young and grown up Krishna together
The Vimana of the hazara Rama Temple
The Vimana of the hazara Rama Temple

I could see huge fort walls from behind the temple and curiously walked out of the temple complex and into the royal enclosure. There were several tall and thick fort like walls surrounding the enclosure. They were crumbling at many places, may be they were brought down during or after the many wars. Of the many buildings that once stood within the area only their basements survive. Also the water ducts to supply fresh water to the palace and temples are visible. I walked through the palace figuring out where the doors would be and trying to imagine walls and roofs. There are places that were probably administrative offices and the royal court. There is a high platform from which the king would deliver speeches. I turned around from the temple complex and walked to the Kalyani, with small aqueducts leading to it. I got curious about the aqueducts and followed one of the many lines. It disappeared behind a big fort wall. I think the water was somehow lifted from the river into these canals. And that also led me towards the King’s bath, which looked like a modern day swimming pool, except it was deep throughout. Obviously the water supply system was connected to the pool too. In fact, there was an extensive network of aqueducts and canals of various sizes throughout Hampi. Some of them were even underground! They were used to supply water for irrigation , to the temples, ponds, palaces and may be even to the household.

The King's royal bath
The King’s royal bath

The last thing I saw in one part of the Royal enclosure was the Mahanavami Dibba. It is a huge platform with multiple levels that was used for celebrations and performances. It was built by Krishnadevaraya to commemorate his victory over the empire of Udayagiri (Orissa). It is said that the celebration of the 9 day festival of Navarathri and also royal marriages used to happen here.

There was another part of the royal enclosure that seems like it was mostly dedicated to the queen. It enclosed a small palace for the queen, of which only the basement is left. It also encloses two of the most popular monuments of Hampi, the grand Lotua Mahal and the huge elephant stables. The Lotus Mahal, built with a good mixture of Hindu and Islamic architecture, has open space at the ground level and is said to have been used by the queen for dancing and other performances, in private. It also has some space at the first level with ornate windows. Unfortunately it was locked up.

The Lotus Mahal
The Lotus Mahal

wpid-wp-1436074374053.jpg

The Lotus Mahal
The Lotus Mahal

The Queen’s enclosure has a tall watch tower with windows at multiple levels.
And this was locked up too. Only the pigeons enjoyed the view from the top!

A tall watch tower near the Queen's palace
A tall watch tower near the Queen’s palace

A gate near the tower leads to the well preserved elephant stables. It is huge, big enough to hold about a dozen elephants and their mahouts/guards. This too has a big Islamic influence in its style.

The huge elephant stables
The huge elephant stables

It was about time for lunch and I had enough walking around in the sun for the day. So I decided to hit one of the cafes on the other side of the river in Virupapura Gaddi. I took the motorboat across the river and head to Shesh-Besh and chilled out there till evening. The cafes of Hampi are perfect to relax after a tiring day. I couldn’t miss the last boat back to the Hampi side of the river and left the Gaddi. The sun was about to set as I was waiting for my boat.

Just before the sunset from across the river
Just before the sunset from across the river

On reaching the other side I hurried to the Hemakuta hill. This is a small hill right beside the Virupaksha temple. It is sprinkled with many temples, many of which are quite small, and matapas. The place is great for catching the sunset, and unfortunately I had missed it! But I hung around to soak in the beautiful colors.

One of small temples on Hemakuta Hill
One of small temples on Hemakuta Hill
Advertisements

Riding through the garden of Tamil Nadu!

I was on my way to Nagapattinam from Thanjavur the previous night and had to stop at Thiruvarur owing to some intermittent heavy showers and the fact that it was dark. (Read post here). Today would be the last day of the ride and I had to get back to Bangalore by night. But I wasn’t sure if I should ride to the coast (just 25 km to Nagapattinam on the coast!), ride north and possibly touching Pondicherry, then turn back home or, just take the shortest (well not really) route to Bangalore.

I had good distance to cover in little time, so I hesitantly decided that riding to the coast wouldn’t be worth it and it deserved an entire ride or two to explore. I started early in the morning, just before sunrise. I looked up the maps and plotted a route to Bangalore. I avoided going through Salem as I didn’t want to ride the shade free highways afternoon. So, I rode north parallel to the coast as long as I could and then turned towards Bangalore at Thiruvannamalai.

So, you must be wondering, “Garden of Tamil Nadu”!? Most of us have a picture of Tamil Nadu as the land where the sun shines unusually bright and the land is scorched by its heat. That may be true in the central part of the state, but the coastal plains south of Pondicherry and Chidambaram are as lush and green as you can imagine. Water is aplenty here, owing to the Kaveri river system and the double monsoon it gets. The Kaveri river splits in two to form the island of Srirangam and then fans out into multiple streams to form a delta system that is known as the Garden of Tamil Nadu. Although each of these streams get their own name, they are all distributaries of the Kaveri. A Cholan King, Karikala Chola, build a dam after the island of Srirangam to control the flow of water through these streams. That is considered as one of the oldest dams/water diversion systems in the world!

This was the route I took for the day. Look how green that corner on the left-bottom is! Zoom in and take a closer look.

It was cloudy and had rained all over the region the previous night.  The road from Thiruvarur to Kumbakonam is never straight for more than half a kilometer and the curves were smooth to ride on. It was the perfect setting and I’d count this as one of the best rides I have done recently.

Paddy and sugarcane fields are a common sight. It was so wet that there were ducks being reared on what looked like paddy fields!

Sort of a northern border to the garden is the Kollidam river, a branch off from the Kaveri, but bigger than the other stream which continues to carry the original name. I am yet to wrap my head around it and I consider all of the branches in this delta as the Kaveri herself. The river is now very near to the end of its journey across the Deccan plateau. It has carried a lot of sand and dumped it on the banks. The river is barely flowing and the sand banks are together with the river a kilometer across!

The view from a long bridge just north of Kumbakonam.

The greenery faded only a little before coming back to its lushness as I neared two more rivers, the Vellar and the Manimuthar.

Further, the roads are good, with only patches of gravel, still the greenery is good enough to make the ride pleasant. It was almost mid-day when I reached Thiruvannamalai and took a break for brunch at a nice looking restaurant that caught my eye. Lots of foreigners were hanging around and I overheard them talking about a certain “Ashram”.

Misery strikes after Thiruvannamalai! Turns out, the road is under construction all the way from there to Krishnagiri. I did not know this before and kept wishing for the agony to end soon. At many places I couldn’t even tell if I was still on the road or drifted away! The sun and the dust made it worse. After a couple hours of endurance came Krishnagiri and a smooth ride back home.

To my surprise I had reached a couple hours earlier than expected as I hadn’t taken many breaks. That made me think if I could have touched the coast and then returned. 🙂


 

Thanks for reading all the way! Hope you enjoyed it.
Leave a comment to give any feedback, if you liked or hated it. Do share your stories or something you know about these places, would love to hear from you.

Subscribe if you like and check the links page for more ways to keep in touch.

Ride to the huge temples of Srirangam and Thanjavur

This was part of a three day ride in Tamil Nadu during the Independence day weekend this year. This post is about the second day, so please give the previous post a quick read.

Early morning ride down the Kolli hills:

Riding down Kolli Hills. #travel #nature

A post shared by Shreyas Panduranga (@shreyasgoes) on

I rode down the Kolli hills where I stayed the previous night, and faced the decision of either riding on further or riding home to Mysore. I feared the intense heat that was to surely follow soon. The bit of rationality in the decision was that I was close enough to the other places I wanted to go and didn’t want to let this opportunity go unused. Of course, I decided to ride on.

Continue reading

Riding the Kolli Hills!

What better way to spend the Independence day (and the following weekend) than riding solo wherever I want to! At least I couldn’t think of anything else and went riding away from Bangalore into the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu! I had heard about a hill near Namakkal with a lot of hairpin curves and decided to ride there. I did not plan the next two days in detail, but I wanted to visit the temples of Srirangam and Tanjavur/Tanjore, continue towards the coast and ride along the coast till Pondicherry and return back to Bangalore. Pretty audacious.

I started a bit late than planned, I stayed up late the night before to finish this lettering piece 😀

Continue reading

Riding in Northern Kerala and Coorg – Days 2 and 3

This is the third entrance

Read about day 1 of the ride.

The morning in Vythiri was cold and misty and I couldn’t resist taking a walk around the home stay even before splashing water on my eyes. Since riding in the mist is even better I quickly got ready to leave and of course not without a cup of hot tea 🙂 The sun was just up as I made my way out of the town and down the Vythiri ghats. The view was quite nice and part of the valley was still under the shadows of the adjacent hills.

Descending the ghats after #vythiri #Kerala #travel

A post shared by Shreyas Panduranga (@shreyasgoes) on

I had been dreaming about riding along the Kerala coast and reaching Mangalore by the end of the day, and ride back home to Mysore the next day. But as it often happens, it was going to turn out differently and I would end up in Virajpet.

Continue reading