I was determined not to miss a sunrise or a sunset for all the days I was at Hampi. Just like the day before I got up early, may be a bit sooner than needed to make sure I don’t miss the sunrise. So I wandered about in the village in the darkness for a while until a tea/coffee shop opened for the day. It was pretty cold that December morning as a sipped my hot coffee.
The plan was to hike up the Matanga Parvatha to witness the sunrise among the hills and the rocks. I rode up to the police station that is located right at the base of the hill and parked there. It was still dark when I started walking up the steps of the hill. But it wasn’t difficult to find my way as the sky was turning lighter slowly. After about 20 to 30 minutes of walking, I reached the top of the hill to find a few people calmly waiting for the sun to rise. Almost all of them were foreigners!
I found myself a nice spot to sit at the edge of rock. I was delighted to see a big temple on the other side down the hill. As I would find out a little later, it was the Achyutaraya Temple. One of the big temples around Hampi.
The hill had a small ruined temple at its peak and there was a way to get to the top of the temple too. The view from there was even better! It has one of the best views in Hampi. Three of the bigger temples of Hampi are visible from there, the Virupaksha, the Achyutaraya and the Krishna temples. The Tungabadhra river can be seen snaking it’s way through the rocky valley.
After the sun had risen, people started making their way down. I still hung around soaking in the views!
The Virupaksha Temple, it’s bazaar street and the river behind it are visible.
Even the Krishna temple and it’s bazaar street are visible. But now, it’s bazaar street seems to have a dead end.
After a little time I started walking down on the other side of the hill, hoping it would lead me to the Achyutaraya Temple. It did, after walking along some banana plantations and water canals.
The sun was now high enough to light up the half broken gopuras of the temple. There was absolutely no one around. All I could hear while walking on the grass wet from the morning dew, was the chirping of the birds.
The temple has a lot of space inside the tall outer walls, with pillared mantapas lining them from the inside.
The temple, like other big temples in Hampi, has a wide bazaar street with rows of mantapas lining it on either side. This bazaar is also known as the Soolai Bazaar. The reason I heard for this was that women would be available here to serve, take care of and entertain traders visiting from far off places.
At the entrance to the bazaar street there is a kalyani/pond.
At this point I was already planning my day ahead. The Vittala Temple was another 20 minutes walk down the same trail but I decided to get back the room to freshen up and leave for the day. So, I turned towards the village and met the river again at another location, a bit more serene and a lot more peaceful! No wonder a priest of the nearby temple choose this location for his morning Sandhyavandana.
And I was treated to this view, just as peaceful as the river here!
This marked the end of my early morning walk to Matanga and the Achyutaraya temple. I returned back to my small stay back in the village to freshen up and soon leave to walk along the Tungabadhra river to see the Vittala temple that houses the world famous Stone chariot! Watch out for the next post on that!
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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 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.
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.
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.
If you want to be moved by an imperial medieval city, that was once the capital of the entire Indian peninsula, you must visit Hampi. But be sure to bring all the imagination you can muster, because the city is in ruins. You will need to soak in all that is left of this once majestic city, all the stories of the kingdom of Vijayanagara, the mythology of the surrounding area and build a picture using your imagination. And I can bet, you will be left wishing that you were alive there at the height of it’s glory.
I had little idea of what to expect of Hampi when I started riding there one morning from Bangalore. I had seen pictures and heard stories, but I didn’t carry that baggage with me. I wasn’t even sure of going when I went to bed the previous night! But leave, I did, on my humble little motorcycle. It was the familiar road till Chitradurga and I had to leave the comfort of the four-lane highway and turn towards Hospet. I had read horror stories of this road and had still went anyway. The road isn’t very bad, it is worn out in patches but the huge trucks were more difficult to tackle as the road has just two lanes.
I reached the town of Hospet in the evening and just before entering I was amazed at the huge Tungabadhra reservoir and the sun hanging just over the water line.
After sitting to this view with the silhouette of the gopura of the Virupaksha temple for a while, that is where I head next. Virupaksha is the most popular temple in Hampi. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, known here as Virupaksheshwara, it is believed to be the oldest here and the deity is worshiped everyday. It is one of the most sacred temples in India. Hampi is also known as “Dakshina Kaashi”, the Kaashi of the south. Like Kaashi (Varanasi), it sits by a sacred river, the Tungabadhra. The river was known by the name of Pampa in the epic of Ramayana and must have been it’s earlier name. Pampa is also the name of Parvathi the consort of Lord Shiva.
Even with lots of people walking in, the temple maintained a calm atmosphere. I walked past the temple elephant, Lakshmi, as she was blessing people with her trunk and entered the shrine. Fortunately I didn’t have to wait in a line quickly got to see the linga. I hung around for a while listening to a guide talking about the paintings on the ceiling of the mantapa and left to find a place for the night.
After failing in my attempts to book a place in Hampi before getting there, I went around the village looking out for the names of guesthouses I remembered. When I actually got there, I was surprised to see that almost every house was converted into a guest house with a cafe on the roof. I did find a simple room for a nominal price. It too had a cafe on the roof, with free WiFi! 🙂 I had my dinner there, walked around the streets to get a feel of the place and finally hit the sack hoping for a good 2 – 3 days of exploring Hampi.
Sorry for not sharing many pictures in this post, I cannot wait till I share all the (pretty) pictures I shot on a new camera I got last month. So, watch out for the next few post that will soon follow!
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.
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.
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I had arrived in the coastal town of Kundapura the previous evening. I spent a little time at the estuaries and spent some time at the beach after sunset, found myself a place to stay.
I was totally psyched about all the beaches on my way north along the coast today! I hadn’t planned on how far to go, but I had Gokarna in mind and even Karwar popped up sometime. Anyway, the plan was to stop wherever I wanted to and not rush to a destination.
After a quick breakfast in the town, I left. My first stop, just outside Kundapura, was the Maravanthe beach. I had heard about it but it wasn’t enough to make me spend a lot of time there. The nice thing about the place is that on one side of the highway is the Marvanthe beach and on the other is the Souparnika river. I stopped at the beach for a while, it was pretty empty at the time.
I shot a quick video while riding and moved on.
A short distance from Maravanthe is the town of Baindoor. Here, a river named Sumna flows very close and parallel to the coast line for almost 2 kilometers. Like many rivers here, that are about to reach the sea, it seems to refuse the end of its journey for just a bit longer. Unfortunately I didn’t make it to that place but was able to see it from an elevated area just ahead of it.
I really took my time there, looking at the open sea, the rocks protruding into the water and the eagles whizzing around.
Driven by hunger, I continued on leaving this pretty sight behind. I quickly rode past Bhatkala and noticed a sign about scuba diving. I was exited that finally something eventful was happening on the ride that day (or even the entire trip!). I called them up and found out it was too late for me to dive that day.