Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Rocking Holiday!

Hey folks,just back from a weekend spent at Hampi- it was 'rocking' not so much for the unique rocky terrain as for the fact that it was my first experience of a historical city ruin. It was like an archeological exploration for the history student in me- quite thrilling and spine tingling and all that sort of thinging! As all the livable hotels and guest houses in Hampi and Hospet (the nearest railhead) were booked, we put up at the Irrigation Department guest house at Munirabad which was another 12 kms from Hospet, the Mr's colleague fixed it for us. There were two advantages of this, firstly we got a good view of the reservoir of the Tungabhadra river dam, which looks like a veritable sea. One of the travel accounts I had read on Hampi said that there is no water at the Dam, so now we know where all the water went.....behind the dam wall in the reservoir ofcouse! The second advantage was that we had to travel from Munirabad to Hospet and then from Hospet to Hampi by the local buses and back again at night the same way. Thus we know the area like the back of our hands (atleast I do, the Mr is known to forget the way that he has come in from, on his way back out, even if the visit lasted for fifteen minutes!). When we visit a place we like to really 'get into it' so to say- eat the local food, use the local transport, and really rough it out. So now we know that to get from Munirabad to Hospet we can avail of a fairly efficient bus service which will take you to Hospet bus stand in half and hour via a breath taking view of the TB (tungabhadra) dam. There is some water in front of the dam and it looks greenish on one side of the bridge and sparkling blue on the other. Actually I saw that from the auto rickshaw that got us from Hospet station to the Lake View Guest House. Once at Hospet, you just need to disembark and breeze into the Hampi bus that leaves next, these are also quite frequent and it will take you another half hour to reach the rocks! It will start with a few boulders strewn over the fields and then you'll see them- mountains of rocks piled over each other with temples and baths and ruined palaces at every nook and crany! The bus winds to a hault near the Virupaksha temple the gopuram is visible from a distance! Thereafter, the Mr indulges in a habit of his that has brought our marriage to the verge of divorce several times! Now, I like to attack the place that I have come to see at the earliest-specially if it is visible to the naked eye- as the temple was at this time, but the Mr will go on collecting literature and gathering information from people standing in front of the object of our visit without entering it! Thus the Mr tried to acquire a tourist guide of the ruins and began chatting up various autorickshaw men brandishing maps of the ruins in our faces. We almost parted ways then and there but as usual I had to give in and the Mr had a guide and had fixed an auto guy for the rest of the day before we entered the Virupaksha temple, there was an elephant in front of the main entrance who accepted bananas from the visitors but gave blessings only if coins were placed on its trunk instead of the fruit! We were deeply moved by the beauty of the temple it was grand and yet had an endearing simplicity about it. I believe that it was originally built by the hoysalas who pre date the Vijayanagara kingdom but later additions were made by the Vijayanagara kings. The temple is dedicated to Lord shiva known in these parts as Pampapati after a local princess/goddess he married. This area was known as Pampa kshetra at one time which was later corrupted to hampi. There is a spot in the temple from where an inverted image of the main tower can be seen due to a pin hole camera effect, don't know whether it is a modern addition!
After visiting the temple we were at the mercy of the auto wallah who took us to visit a huge Ganapati murti in one of the temples near the Virupaksha temple. Thereafter we visited the Lotus Mahal complex that also housed the elephant stables. We also visited the queen's bath-which is treated as a picnic spot by local sightseers. The most dramatic of the monuments according to me was the nearly a kilometer long 'paan supari' bazaar in front of the Vithala temple which is the other main temple complex in the ruins. The Hampi bazaar is a functional market in front of the virupaksha temple it is built on the ruins of an earlier bazaar, you can spot the bars of stone behind the hut ments of the banjara population that has encamped in that spot, clearly, temples were the hub of commercial activity in Vijayanagara times. We sat for some time our feet immersed in a tank at the back of this 'paan supari' market pondering the scale of the trade that existed so many years ago ( for the uninitiated that would be the 16th century AD, which is 50 years before the start of the commercial activity of the Dutch, French and British- the British east India company was founded in 1600 if I am not mistaken and that is the next century! After being overwhelmed by the bazaar we approached the temple which was also overwhelming! I guess it was made later than the Virupaksha and spoke of greater grandeur in its carved pillars and the ornamental chariot in the middle of its courtyard. The temple had a quiet view of the Tungabhadra from its back wall. I asked one of the auntie jis who had just been peering over the wall "is the Tungabhadra visible?" "no, nothing is there" said she- the next minute I found the river quietly flowing by over the very wall from which the said auntie was looking! Auntie, you need specs, wisen up!
Our last stop was the 'Sister Stones' two huge boulders placed in such a way that they look as if they are posing with their heads together!After this we felt totally drained, after all we had arrived only in the morning- it seemed as if we had been there for an age. We had had a brunch at the Udipi restaurent opposite Hospet bus stop in the afternoon which was by now digested and done with. We asked the same auto driver to drop us at Hospet. We had some coffee and idli and took another auto to Munirabad only to find that dinner had not been cooked for us because we had not informed the guest house! In the morning too, our train had been late and we reached after 10 so we had not got breakfast! By the way the auto rides from Hampi to Hospet and from Hospet to Munirabad cost 100Rs each and the bus ticket is Rs15! In the evenings the auto rides are very uncomfortable because it suddenly gets chilly in the evenings while the mornings are warm. The poor Mr had to go out again to fetch dinner from a roadside shack. We turned in early and woke up to what was going to be the most exciting day of our trip!
in the morning the Mr and I took turns to visit the reservoir before the kids got up armed with our cameras. The first dramatic thing that occured was that the Mr discovered a huge scorpion under one of our bags that was kept in the bottom shelf of a wooden wadrobe in our room.

I panicked and showed the dead animal to all the staff of the guest house who simply nodded solemnly, the Mr was also quite calm so I put it down to a 'gender gap ' which like the generation gap exist between the understanding of the two genders and not generations. I think living with a scorpio for more than 10 years might have also lulled the senses of the Mr to the inherent lethalness of this insect. Anyhow it was a thrill, the Mr recalled that the villain of the piece had tried to get rid of our favourite fictitious detective Feluda by leaving just such a lethal beast in his room in 'Shonar Kella' the first of the Feluda novels by Satyajit Ray! Hey, we had something in common with Feluda, wait a minute, are you sure the attendant does not want to get rid of us because we made him change the sheets on one of the beds although he didn't want to?
We set off bright and early after a hearty breakfast and got the buses at the right time and reached Hampi by 11. We decided to negotiate the Matunga Hill while we still have the energy. The problem was that we did not find the stairs and inadvertently set off from the rocky side of the mountain face that was the most difficult to climb. It starts with stairs but slowly there was only a pile of rocks! There were a group of boys who warned us that it would be difficult but we carried on. Three foreigners joined us. When we reached the precariously placed rocks, the Mr and the Brat wanted to turn back but something possessed me I chided them on. We got help from a group of local boys who pulled us and the foreigners up. That sort of sealed our fate for there was no way in which we could climb back down those rocks! We had reached a rocky ledge with a pavillion, the foreigners-2 men and a woman, rested with us and then moved on. When we followed we found a huge boulder that formed a ledge like bridge to the next part of the mountain. The Mr at this point put his foot down! He has a fear of heights and a special fear of ledges, the brat too started bawling like her father. At this very moment came a couple, calm cool and collected walking lithely over the boulder. They saw the highly charged scene in progress and stopped in wonder. I asked them to help and the portion that they had crossed so effortlessly was crossed by us on our hands and knees slithering like snakes! The mite was the only cool one calmly licking his lollypop throughout the episode, he wailed only twice, once when a piece chipped off from his lollypop when his father picked him up in a hurry and second time when our helper friend picked him up and diposited him on the steps of the temple on Matunga hill......we had at last arrived! It was a deserted temple up there the roof of which afforded a grand view of the Vijayanagara city complex with the Tungabhadra flowing behind it- it was serene calm and beautiful. The city carved out of the rocks of the surroundings blending into them not defacing them-marvellous, we have a lot to learn from these guys, we the defacers of environments destroyers of the ozone layer, polluters and plastic waste creators- we appear to be pretty small before the sophistication and superiorness of this historic kingdom. The foreigner lady was glad to hear that there were steps on the other side of the hill that would afford a less perillous descent. We discovered an elderly foreigner couple in the basement of the temple lying down with a book each enjoying the peace and quiet. When I asked them where the steps were the lady hurried to find her dictionary to see what steps meant- must have been Israelites or Italian for french people would know the meaning of steps I guessed. We searched on, asking her not to bother. The foreigners who had come up with us had vanished. At last we found a flight of stone steps and clambered down, we later came to know that there were three such steps and we had chosen the one farthest from the main road we had to walk a lot through banana fields past roaring canals of gushing water before we reached the road near the Ugra Narasimha statue which we were too tired to visit. We had lost our water bottle and the children were thirsty, there was a shack on the road where farmers were having lunch on banana leaves one of them let the children drink from a glass meant for him! It was a kind gesture, the Mr was apprehensive of the quality of the water but the kids were so thirsty that I let them have it. We had let them drink the hotel water so what is the harm in letting them drink water offered in such a kind manner. We took an auto to 'Mango Tree' a famous restaurent on the shores of the Tungabhadra. We had to wait for 20mins for everyone heads for this place. Our foreigner fellow climbers were there too. One of the men asked "Have you recovered from the climb?" I said " You can say we survived, there is no question of recovery" or something to that effect. The Mango tree boasts of French, Italian, Chinese, Israeli and ofcourse South Indian food- revealling the nationality of the most frequent foreign visitors at Hampi. They have little slabs of stone for tables and straw mats for seating and they cook a mean cheese pasta! We had egg curry chapati and chole chapati tomato soup and pasta washed down by mango shake all wonderful. The river flowing benignly gives an edge to the atmosphere. After having this balm of a meal we walked along the river bank and found a motor boat ferry by which we crossed the river and arrived at Kishkinda the birthplace of Hanuman. on this side of the river was a veritable foreigner settlement with small hotels boasting of English, French and even German breakfasts and film shows at night showing 'The Dark Knight' , the place was teeming with foreigners of every description. We got an auto ride to the hanuman birthplace temple atop a hill that had 500+ stairs which we negotiated without a hitch the mite singing ' Chalo chalo dil chalo chalo dil chalo chalo dil chalo' his self created song that has two lines the other being 'dha dha dha dha chalo chalo dil, dha dha dha dha chalo' and the other way round ie the chalo fist and dha later! The temple is full of frolicking monkeys, naturally and had a great view. The Virupaksha temple also had monkeys and one of the frisky kind had grabbed a pack of bananas meant for the elephant! So we kept the packet of chips hidden well inside and clambered down the stairs! Thereafter we tried to take a coracle ride which has been spoken of in one of the travel books which is near the new bridge that is being constructed. The coracles were huge and were being used as ferry boats for the locals who took even motorcycles with them! The brat refused to share a boat with a motorcycle! We took a separate boat but it had water in it and was large and unwieldy and not what we were looking forward to. On the other side we had reached near the Kings Balance but did not have the strength to visit it. We called it a day took an auto till Kamalapur a biggish stop between Hospet and Hampi and got a bus to Hospet where we filled ourselves with coffee and vadas and then pushed off to Munirabad. We were welcomed by a second scorpion which was spotted by the brat just inside our door. I confronted the 'manager' with the evidence of the second attempt on our lives in the same day. He offered non-chalantly that these chaps were found all the time around there and had not 'done anything'! We remained alert well into the night before sleep claimed us. The next morning was our last day at Hampi, we packed and left the guest house with the luggage and deposited it at the Hospet bus stand from where we would board the KSRTC bus for Bangalore that night. Once at Hampi we hired an auto to see the spots that we had missed. We started with the 'Ugra Narasimha" the figure of Vishnu in his Narasimha avatar showing his anger-an awe inspiring image! Right next to it was the huge shiva lingam. Then we went to the Pushkarni which also had the platform from which the kings watched the processions during festivals. The number of tanks and baths reminds one of the ancient civilization of the Indus Valley. This culture is very similar. Even the ruins in front of the Platform looked like the ruins of the harappan civilisation except that it was made of stones while the Harappan buildings were made of mud bricks. The stone beams were cut in such a manner that they fitted into each other tightly to form doorlike frames stretching one after another... the geometrical patterned pushkarni or a public tank was most striking as was the procession of elephants horses and camels depicted on the walls of the royal platform. Next we headed off to the king's balance which was the place where the kings measured themselves against wealth which they then distributed amongst the poor. This place is right behind the Vithala temple which we had visited the day before so we had another glimpse of the paan supari bazar and marvelled at it. There is a walkable dust road that leads from the king's balance to the Virupaksha temple and Humpi bazar which is two km long but we opted for the longer auto ride. We arrived for lunch at the Hampi bazar and entered a shack which promised Italian, Chinese, Israeli etc food the chap at the shack was conversing in French with a group of foreigners who were having lunch there. When the guy spoke in English it seemed like French he was speaking in Kanada with his helpers in a French accent, so much so that it was difficult to make out for a few moments what language he was speaking! The thali was ready so we had one. They took some time to make the chowmein and chopsuey but it was worth the wait. Thereafter the Mr set off to find a cycle for himself and the Brat. They came back with a cycle which was too big for the brat and too small for the Mr but they both seemed happy. We set off for the Lashmi Narayan temple from near the end of the Hampi Bazar. This was the road that would lead to the king's balance but we only wanted to go till the Achutaraya temple and Sule bazar area in front of it. We set off on the rocky trail first was the lakshmi narayan temple which houses a black stone statue of Ram Lakshman and Sita with hanuman. Behind this is the Achutaraya temple and Sule bazar complex which also has a pushkarni or tank. This complex of Tank-Temple- Bazar is a set model in Vijayanagara. The brat alighted the cycle after a lot of coaxing- her father convinced her to try the ride from one end of the bazar line to the other. The temple is at the foot of the Matunga hill and there were some steps leading up- so this is the face of the hill which we should have climbed! Ah well we would not have had the near death experience then! May be this is our last chance to get such a thrill! The Achutaraya temple was captivating-it is quite deserted but has some arresting carvings and is a good place to ly around in. On our way back we even got our wish of a coracle ride granted. At the river side near the Lakshmi narayan temple we met Umesh who was giving the foreigners a tour of the river that stretched into the rocky hills before us. He took us on a leisurely twirl on his coracle past meditation centres of ancient monks, past remains of temples destroyed by Khilji conquerors and into a demolished lakhmi temple over the broken stone remains to view the 101 and 1001 shiva lingas built into the rocky floor of the temple that may be destroyed but is still sacred, all the images had haldi and kum kum on them. We might put Him in temples but God is actually free and we are for ever in His embrace ! We saw a foreigner lady walk boldly into the heaps of stone, our boatman offered her a ride "no thanks" she said "I like to walk" ! This ride soothed us like nothing before. None of the travel documents mention this ride, but it is the thing! In August this part of the rocks are submerged for the duration of two months or so therefore if you want the ride don't visit during monsoons! We trudged back with the cycle, we stopped for coconut water and what do we see- the walking lady breezing past us. It took her almost the same time to come to this side of the rocks as us. Great feat! The Mr returned the cycle and we had some sandwiches and did some shoping at Hampi bazar before moving to Hospet. The bus ride home was uncomfortable but we made it and are spending the days reliving our rocking adventure. The Mr and I have done some brilliant photography which I will give a sampling of next time. so long folks and do tell me what you think of our trip!


~nm said...

Seems like a lot of fun. Post some pics as well if you can.

~nm said...

Great pictures!

One suggestion. Why don't you post them in a post instead of on the sidebar? Sidebar you may keep changing and may lose these pics but a post stays..always :)

diya said...

Yes, please give suggestions like this. I thought the side bar will move along with the post if I keep adding pics! Is there a chance of losing the pics? Thanks for help.

Anonymous said...

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Leena Bansal said...

Wow Such a lovely trip!!!