Hampi was on my radar for quite long time. I still remember, on the first day of the start of the millennia, I met a French National in Grenoble, France who had traveled extensively in India.
“Among all the places you travelled in India which one you liked the most”.
“Hampi”, he did not need to think hard.
It was for the first time I heard the name and I was under the impression that I know most of the tourist places in India.
After marriage, Jaishree also got infected with the travel-bug and became our tour planner. She was convinced that we need to visit Hampi and we tried to include it in our southern tours several times, but failed; As we were sure that we would not like to visit Hampi in a day or two. We definitely needed more time to soak in its atmosphere. Finally, this December end Jaishree finalized the trip to Hampi and kept full four days for it.
As it was to happen, just a month before our trip, Jaishree suffered from typhoid. After the illness she was determined not to eat outside food and risk a relapse. She decided to drop from the trip and asked me to go along with the kids. Something that I did not prefer, but was left with no option; train tickets were booked and even the hotel room was booked with advance payment. I guess kids were not as disappointed as me. They definitely felt that they will miss Mummy, but her absence also meant that there would not be much rules and restrictions. Papa is easy to manipulate.
On the night train from Bangalore to Hospet everything was fine. There was a large number of police personnel moving from one compartment to another. It generated curiosity; a fellow passenger explained that on a small stretch where the train crosses Andhra Pradesh, there were instances in past of armed robberies. In our case, it was a safe journey with no untoward incidents.
Our hotel, Clark’s-inn, is in Kamalapura around ten kilometers from Hospet in front of the Archaeological Museum. It is one of the decent properties in and around Hampi. The ruins of Hampi are scattered all along from Hampi to Kamalapura, so staying here do not take us far from the ruins; yes we are far from some, but at the same time we are near to some others.
The three of us decide to explore the place on foot and we walk towards the royal citadel. After walking just a few hundred meters, the first structure we come across, at a small distance from the main road, is a sixteenth century Shiva Temple – the ChandraSekhar temple. Its boundary walls are newly renovated. The entrance gate (Vimana) has mutilated stucco figures of a group of people, probably the family of the patron of the temple, always in attendance to the deity. This temple is constructed in Dvikuta style, typical of the Vijayanagara architecture; In this style, the temple complex has two shrines, the main shrine belonging to the main deity (Shiva in this case) and the Amman shrine, shrine dedicated to his consort, that is constructed slightly behind the main shrine. The message for common masses, I believe, even God is complete only with His spouse. The east facing main shrine has Dravida Vimana with circular Stupi, and the south facing Amman temple has Salashikhara. Shaiva dwarpals are etched on the entrance to the now empty gribhgrah, guarding and in constant presence to their adored God.
From the ChandraSekhar temple, we move towards a small temple towards its North, perched picturesquely on a boulder. A brief flight of stairs brings us to the top of this shrine. Though the temple is now named a Saraswati temple, an epigraph dated 1554 informs that it was originally a Lord Vishnu temple and Vishnu as Tiruvengalanantha was worshiped here. The motifs carved on the wall and pillars support the claim. This North facing temple has Gribhgrih, Antaralaya and Mahamandapa. The Mahamandapa has entrances on North, South and East sides. The cool morning breeze is flowing through this three side open temple, and the light entering from all three sides allow us to enjoy the bas-reliefs carved on the pillars of the temple. There are impressive carvings of child Krishna, Narsimha, dancing girls and Krishna stealing the clothes of gopis while they were taking bath. The temple is situated on a boulder, so it provides a vantage point to look around. Over the gribhgrih rises a two-tiered superstructure built of brick and mortar.
The area is surrounded by barren land; recent excavations have revealed the foundation of large palace complexes with other accessory structures. Unfortunately, the presence of the enormous palace complexes in Hampi can only be inferred looking at their foundation and the wall structures as most of the upper structure had been demolished.
From here we also see some other enigmatic structures with stone slabs arranged in a particular fashion.
The most interesting structure around this area is an octagonal colonnade surrounding a similar shaped pool with an island in the center. This open corridor, constructed in Indo-Saracenic style, once had a roof supported by plain-square pillars. The octagonal bath is around 80 inch in diameter. The overall design, arches, placement of the pillars, the island in the middle and the missing crowds of tourist creates a wonderful atmosphere. Was it used only for bathing, swimming or some other entertainment too like music concert or the dance performances in the middle of the pool? These questions are difficult to answer today.