I first visited Hampi India 7 years back. When I had just started experimenting with my small but new digital camera, with a friend over a weekend from Bangalore. In my memory, it was one of the best trips I had. Hampi India with its majestic ruins stood out in my mental map of India. It had a vast serene environment with farms interspersed with royal palaces, beautiful temples, and long bazaars. Had an aura of perfect calmness amidst past glory. Stories of Tenali Ram played in my mind as I wandered through the place.
Last week on our way to the Western Ghats from Hyderabad, we stopped at Hampi. I again walked through this ruined city, which is now a world heritage site. I wanted to spend some time in that calmness that I had experienced then. And admire the rock structures as the sun goes down and when it comes up early morning. This time again I wanted to capture some of the city in my camera, for memories, and for sharing.
Hampi India – a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Alas! The place has changed so much. Last time I had gone on a weekend. This time on a weekday, the crowd was so much that I could see but not feel the place. People were jostling everywhere. There were long queues of school children who were being moved in queues through the monuments. And then made to stand for a group picture by the teachers. Open spaces were their playgrounds. I wonder if they were even told what the place is and what its significance is. I wonder if the teachers themselves knew anything about the importance of the place. They were all young women more worried about getting the right pose for their pictures.
Then there were buses full of tourists that came in the morning. As soon as they landed, drivers and conductors took out the huge cooking equipment and started cooking for the tourists. Making the whole place look like a huge picnic spot.
So many monuments had barricades erected around them. Last time there were no fences and no barricades. You could walk across any place. After all everything there is stone and what can people do to stones? But looking at the crowd on a weekday, I am sure the barricades were indeed required.
Vittala Temple & Stone Chariot
Vittala temple which has the signature stone chariot of Hampi can now be approached only on foot. Or you have to take a KM-long ride on the battery-operated golf carts. The ceiling of the Rang mandapa has fallen or is being restored, so you cannot enter it. The musical pillars have been acid-washed making them look freshly sculptured but devoid of the music that they emanate. I was told that no one is allowed to touch them now. While last time our guide actually played them for us. And even we with our untrained fingers tried to make some music out of them. Similarly, you have to stop way before the
Similarly, you have to stop way before the Virupaksha temple and then go further on the foot. The number of food stalls and pushcart vendors has also increased in proportion to the number of visitors. The surroundings of Virupaksha temple were filthy and you wonder why all this drama of not taking shoes inside the temple when right outside the temple there is so much filth. The guide fees have increased manifold. And literally, every monument had guide sellers, trying to tell you that visiting the place is useless without the guide.
We visited the stepwell and the festival platform early morning when the city was still waking up. I really enjoyed roaming around here. Finding various camera angles to capture the place and tried to imagine how this place would have looked on a festival day. There are lots of ruins around this area, where only the foundations of buildings remain. It made me think is that why they say the foundation of the building must be strong. The building may fall, but the foundations remain to tell the stories. The sheer symmetry of the stepwell makes it enchanting. You can look at it for a long time and not be bored because there is a design that holds your attention.
I do not remember seeing the fine paintings on the ceiling of the Virupaksha temple, which I admired this time. I also learned that Pampa Devi, an Avatar of Parvati is the local deity after whom the city was named. And it got distorted to its present name Hampi.
This time also I could not visit Anegundi but we drove through the road leading to it and it was a beautiful drive. There are stone hills on both sides of the road with finely balanced boulders. Which gives the impression that the stones could fall at any moment. But apparently, they have been hanging there forever. Small farms spread between these hills have big and small rocks scattered over them. The place gives a very artistic impression. As if the creator was playing with green and grey colors. On top of the hillocks here and there, you see small white temples and then from somewhere the steps lead to the temple.
Hampi India still had the serenity that I saw on my last trip. The unadulterated nature with no over-the-top modern buildings and billboards vying for your attention.
I wonder if one should revisit the most cherished places or not.
Recommend you to read the following travel blog on Tourist Places in Karnataka.