Travel

Hampi, Anegundi, Aihole, Pattadakal, Badami Part 2

Day 3

After an exhausting day in Hampi, we decided to take it easy the next day. This decided our destination for the day, which was Anegundi. Anegundi is nearby, @  20 km. from Hampi instead of another exhausting drive to Aihole, Pattadakal and Badami, which involved lot of travel.

Instead of breakfast in the resort itself, we opted for a light one outside. So the driver took us to the same garden restaurant where we had lunch the previous day. While my wife had a simple sada dosa, I had Mysore masala dosa which was totally different from the one available in Mumbai and so mouth-watering.

Once the breakfast was done, we were on the way to Anegundi. We passed through the very common landscape of Hampi and it’s surroundings, the boulder strewn countryside with small, green fields sprinkled in between. These are the rice plantations interspersed with the banana ones.

 

For those who don’t know, Anegundi or Anegondi is the Kishkindha of Ramayana. Kishkindha was the capital of Vali, the Monkey King and his brother Sugreeva, who helped locate Maa Sita for Shri Ram.

 

We reached our first destination, the  Anjanadri hill. A small, whitewashed temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman is perched on the summit. The Anjanadri hill is a hill of huge boulders piled on top of each other. The driver told us that there are more than 550 steps to the top which seemed to be a daunting task. But we decided to brave it and were on the way.

 

It’s a relief that most of the initial climb is under covers, as there is a roof constructed over the stairs. But once you have crossed 1/3rd of the way, you are climbing under the direct sunlight and the steps become steeper. It is not for those with bad knees. We were apprehensive on this point, but thankfully our knees held up.

 

As one climbs higher and higher, the view below gets more enchanting, a chequered vista of green and brown, green of the rice fields and brown of the boulders.

 

So we proceeded with regular halts to catch our breath. I noticed one thing. When there are many people doing the same thing; here, climbing and halting to catch their breath, an unknown bond is formed with the fellow climbers, smiles are exchanged, they tell each other, where they come from, their immediate travel plans, etc.

Just before the last few steps to the top, you have to bend more than half of your body height to pass underneath a huge boulder which almost bars you from proceeding further. It’s as if the penultimate bow before the Lord before you are welcomed into his presence.P_20200306_113744

We left our footwear with an aged person who seemed to be appointed for just that. Since the month of March is not in the usual tourist season, there was not much of a crowd. 

We were soon inside the Hanuman Mandir. We had darshan and sat inside, meditating before the Lord. It’s a small mandir and the space inside is enough for just a handful of devotees. 

After 15-20 minutes of silent contemplation, we emerged outside to have a look at the surrounding landscape. And were we zapped with the beauty of the fields below!

If that is not enough, tall coconut trees line the green fields and narrow canals and lazy roads meander through them.

 

After spending about an hour and a half on the top, we started our descent. During the descent, the topmost steps were comparatively difficult due to the step height. But once we reached the covered steps, the final descent was a breeze.

When we reached at the bottom, we were surprised to see a lady hawker of bananas talking to the monkeys who surrounded her. Though we didn’t understand the language, we were sure she was admonishing them for being boisterous and naughty.

Talking of being boisterous, we were certainly not, after the vigorous exercise of the last 3 hours. Our battery was down and our driver wanted us to climb another small hill to go to another temple. We declined politely, praying before the hill with folded hands.

Next, he took us to the Laxmi mandir located on the bank of Pampa Sarovar. Pampa Sarovar is a small lake which is considered to be one of the holy lakes in India. It attracts a large number of pilgrims as well as tourists throughout the year.

It finds a mention in the Ramayana too as Lord Ram and his brother, Laxmana had passed through during their quest for Sita. It is the same place where Shabari waited with the berries to meet Lord Ram. 

Though we didn’t witness it, Pampa Sarovar becomes very picturesque during the season of lotus bloom, with the whole lake being filled with lotus buds.

The priest of the Laxmi temple was a Maharashtrian from the holy place of Pandharpur and we were pleasantly surprised when he started talking to us in Marathi as soon as he saw us enter. I was surprised and asked him how he knew that we too were Maharashtrians. He just smiled mystically and proceeded with his prayers.

Once we left from there we were feeling hungry and tired. We had lunch at the garden restaurant and then decided to rest at the resort in the afternoon.

After the siesta, my wife was still feeling exhausted so I proceeded alone, this time to the Tungabhadra dam. 

The Karnataka Government has made excellent arrangements for the tourists. They arrange regular bus trips to the top of the hill, which flanks the dam and also to a beautiful garden.

Once I got off from the bus, the silvery rays of the setting Sun, reflecting from the dam waters welcomed me.

The panoramic view from above gives a bird’s eye view of the surrounding plains. One can see many water canals below, taking the water to far off places. After spending about 45 minutes on the hilltop, I made my way back. I skipped the garden as I was alone and then returned back to the resort.

 

Thus ended the day. The next day was another day of long car rides and walking.

Yatindra Tawde

 

Travel

A visit to Hampi, Anegundi, Aihole, Pattadakal, Badami – Part 1

Day 1

Our trip started on a bad footing, with us almost missing our flight. In fact, we were welcomed with ‘Gate closed’ sign at the boarding gate however a few fervent requests got us through. Bless their soul, Indigo.

We reached Hubli airport on time after a tiring, hopping flight and got into the pre-booked taxi towards Hospete immediately. The road from Hubli to Hospete was under repairs and we took almost 3.5 hours to reach our resort. Why Hospete? Well it’s the nearest town to Hampi having good hotels.

The first part of our journey from Hubli to Hospete was quite a chore, what with the bad road, the burning Sun and the treeless scenery. However as you near Hospete the scenery changes dramatically and takes on green hues, thanks to excellent water management by means of a dam and water canals. With rice fields on both sides and quite a few coconut trees, the scenery freshens one up.

Finally we reached our destination, our resort for the next 4 days. It was a long journey which started when we left our house at 6.45 am. and reached the resort @12 hours later. It was an early shut-eye as next day was long.

Day 2

Vitthal templeP_20200305_095958

After breakfast, we proceeded towards the first destination, The Vitthal temple in Hampi. When we reached there by taxi and got down, two persons selling various tourism booklets rushed towards us. Since the booklets were of good quality, I proceeded to buy one.P_20200305_094904

Another person approached us. This was the guide who was offering his services. After a bit of haggling, we finalized the deal and were on the way. Since the temple complex is quite far away from the car park, the ASI has kept a fleet of battery run vehicles. We paid for the tickets of the vehicle ride.

 

 

We were advised to buy tickets which would be accepted at other heritage places of Hampi, which we promptly did. The ticket for the heritage sites visit is quite economical for an Indian citizen.

We entered the temple complex which has the Vitthal temple, the stone chariot, the sabhamantapa, Rangamantapa with the world famous musical pillars, kalyanamantapa and utsavmantapa.

The complex is surrounded by high walls and has three towering gateways. The torrential rains of 2019 have had an unfortunate impact on the old structures. Most of the structures are now closed to the tourists and they are barred from entering the structures except one. I was so disappointed when I was told that I cannot tap on the musical pillars to hear the musical notes, which was one of my goals when the visit was decided. However the exquisite carvings all round, somewhat made up for that disappointment.

The incomparable stone chariot is a must-see in the complex and one cannot miss it as it is in the central section of the complex. It is one of the few remaining stone chariots in India, the other two being in Konark, Orissa and in Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu. The guide enlightened us that a massive sculpture of Garuda was seated atop the chariot in the olden days, but now it is in ruin. He also told us that the stone wheels were rotating once upon a time but concerned about the wear and tear, the government cemented them to avoid further damage.

 

The guide explained that when the Great King, Shri Krishna Deva Raya was in Orissa on a War mission, he was fascinated by the Konark Sun temple chariot and decided to get it constructed in his dominion.P_20200305_094924_1

Amazingly it looks as if constructed from a single piece of stone, but is actually made up of slabs of granite and the linkages are smartly hidden from the lay observer. Though now closed to the public from entering inside, a stone ladder is observed between two stone elephants flanking it.

The Ranga Mantapa is another attraction and has the renowned musical pillars. As per the guide there were or are, 56 pillars and the notes emanating from them when tapped gently, vary in sound quality. He explained that the British rulers were wonderstruck and curious about the secret of the sound source and they proceeded to cut two of them to check whether anything existed inside the pillars. They found nothing but stone!

The Maha Mantapa is a structure of immense beauty and consists of four smaller halls. Even the ceiling is richly designed.

The sanctum sanctorum of the main temple is devoid of any idol. But even today, the observer can imagine the grandeur of the temple. There is an interesting story attached to the temple and there is a close connection to the Vitthal Mandir in Pandharpur, Maharashtra.

Finally we dragged our feet, reluctantly away from this grand temple, as we had to visit many more sites.

Queen’s bath

It’s a colossal bath and is believed to have been constructed by King Achyuta Raya for the women of the royal family. It was their private bathing chamber.

The exterior structure is simple, however it has an ornate interior and is built in Indo-Islamic architectural design. It is a rectangular building and consists of a big sunken bath located centrally. The sunken bath is surrounded by beautiful arched corridors and projecting balconies with windows. Though these arched bays are covered from above, the bath itself is open to the sky. An aqueduct or aqueducts brought fresh water to the bath.

Archeological museum

After a quick lunch in a good, economical garden restaurant, we were at the archeological museum of Hampi, preferring not to go out into the burning sun immediately after lunch.

The museum has a great collection of exhibits and some of the sculptures are huge. I loved the replica of the overall Hampi topography which is in the centre of the museum.

The Royal Enclosure

The unimpressive entrance to the enclosure doesn’t prepare you for the grandeur inside.

Immediately on entering the enclosure, a great vista opens up before you and it’s as if you have entered a time machine, which has taken you into the past, albeit a ruined one. It’s an open air museum and showcases the architectural excellence of that era.

Mahanavami Dibba

This is a huge 8 meter high platform and it stands a solitary witness to the grand era of centuries ago. It is three tiered and has a flight of steps leading to the top. Each tier has intricate sculptures which depict the everyday life in those days. We climbed the steps and reached the top where a panoramic 360 degree view of the surrounding area greeted us. This platform was used during the Navami celebrations and one can see the remains of pillar bases which indicate that a huge pavilion once stood in the centre.

Stepped tank

This tank is a marvel of ancient engineering and is one of the better preserved structures inside the Royal Enclosure. It is a 5 tiered tank and one can only admire those ancient builders.

Excellent water distribution by means of stone aqueducts is the hallmark of the ancient ruins and and a large section of the aqueducts is well restored. Some sections deliver water even today. One can see a stone aqueduct directed towards the stepped tank, though there is no water now in this particular aqueduct and the water inside the stepped tank is stagnant, residual rainwater.P_20200305_114225

King’s Audience Hall

This was said to be 100 pillared but only the base remains now. Remnants of a stone staircase suggest another storey above believed to be made of wood.

Underground chamberP_20200305_115946

Though we didn’t venture inside, it lies between the King’s Audience Hall and the stepped tank where the rulers are believed to have held important discussions with their inner circle of trusted aides.

Hazara Rama temple

A temple dedicated to Lord Rama, it is the only temple in the Royal Enclosure. Relics on the walls depict the Ramayana and are comparatively better preserved in the entire Royal Enclosure.

There were other structures nearby which now lie in ruins. One can see ruins of a Shiva temple with a damaged Nandi facing it.

Though the Royal Enclosure may seem an empty area at first glance, it does reveal interesting details upon closer examination. It is possible that wood was extensively used in the construction due to which it was easier to destroy by the enemies. Just outside the Royal Enclosure, the horse stables are located where there is a large stone trough for holding drinking water for the horses.P_20200305_120301

Kamal Mahal

This building is within the so-called Zenana enclosure, a segregated area believed to be used by the royal women of the ruling dynasty. It is called so, due to its lotus like structure. It seems to have survived the brutal assault on the city when the rulers were defeated by their enemies. It can only be admired from the outside now as the arched windows and balconies are vulnerable to further damage.

Elephant stablesP_20200305_124338_SRES

This impressive structure used to provide shelter to the royal elephants and is located near the Kamal Mahal.

Behind the elephant stables, two temples are located, in totally dilapidated condition.

Lakshmi Narasimha statueP_20200305_151938

As you approach the statue from the road and near it, the huge monolith dwarfs you. It is the largest monolithic statue in Hampi, carved from a single boulder of granite. This statue too was commissioned by Krishna Deva Raya and is dedicated to the Narasimha Avatar of Lord Vishnu.

Narasimha wears a beautiful headgear and sits in a cross-legged position. The seven hoods of Adishesha the divine serpent, serve as a canopy over the head of Narasimha. The large, protruding eyes impart a fearsome look.

Badavilinga TempleP_20200305_152143

Located near the Narasimha statue, is the Badavilinga Temple having the largest monolithic Shiva Linga in Hampi and is made of black stone. It has a height of 3 meters. Interestingly, the temple doesn’t have a roof and the sunlight enters through the open ceiling and floods the Linga with light. Of course, the rain water still surrounded the Linga and a water channel flows through the shrine, hence the Linga stands on a bed of water.

Sasivekalu Ganesha temple

It is a huge statue of Lord Ganesha carved out of a single block of rock. It is about 8 feet tall.

This Ganesha is seated and has a snake tied around its stomach. It is said that Lord Ganesha consumed a lot of food, due to which he felt his stomach would burst. So to prevent it from bursting, he tied a snake around his stomach.

Kadalekalu Ganesha temple

This Ganesha is one of the largest in entire Southern India. This is also monolithic and we were able to observe the statue from the rear side of the temple. Even the back of the statue is well carved. But the image imprinted on my memory, are the beautiful fingers which appear so delicate on the huge monolith.

Virupaksha TempleP_20200305_154107

Dedicated to Lord Shiva, it is the holiest and still attracts large number of worshippers. It is a huge complex with a tall tower, reminiscent of all major South Indian temples. It has a large courtyard and we saw an elephant inside, feeding on grass.

The ceiling of the main temple has many paintings of Dashavatar, scenes from Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

An ancient bazaar is in front of the temple and the ancient ruins are still visible.P_20200305_170617

It is advisable to take a guide at the temple, preferably inside. Then you will be taken to an underground temple, which is small yet impressive.

Another attraction is a dark area on the side, which has only a small window. We didn’t know why the guide is taking us there and followed him halfheartedly. But once inside he asked us to see a wall, opposite to the small window. A pinhole camera effect! We could clearly see the inverted image of the main gopuram on the opposite wall.

By the time we came out of the temple complex, it was almost 5.30 in the evening and we were totally tired. The hemkunta hill is situated nearby and one should not miss it, but our tiredness did not allow us to climb up the hill and we returned to the resort to plan our next day.

Yatindra Tawde