Few things fascinate me as much as temple architecture and sculpture. I remember studying about Indian temples in history books back in school and that fascination has not abated at all even after all these years. So when I got the chance to spend my birthday and Diwali at Hampi, I knew it was going to be a good holiday!
Getting to Hampi was a breeze. Most of the road was nice, and the weather cooperated. But towards the end, a large stretch of broken road and huge trailers carrying windmills slowed me down, so when I got to the resort, it was dark. The resort was in Anegundi, the other side of the river from Hampi, in a god-forsaken corner of the place. Remind me not to book online again!
To get to Hampi by road the next day would have taken me well over an hour. The other alternative was crossing the river on a speed boat. The river was barely 300m wide at the crossing point, and there was a small wait for the boat.
On the other side, a number of autowallahs caught hold of me. I bargained and settled with one. He was going to charge me Rs. 1800 for two days, and on day one, would show me the attractions that didn’t have an entry fee.
So off we went, to our first stop: the Octagonal Bath. As the name indicates, it is an octagonal bathing pavilion, probably meant for the higher-ranked officials of the king’s army. But then this was told to me by the autowallah, so I wouldn’t be too sure.
From there, a short mud-trail led to the Saraswati temple. A short flight of stairs led to the cool interiors of the temple. It was dark and completely empty. But the pillars still had some beautiful bas relief sculptures. I sat here for a bit – there was a funnel of breeze that was very welcome on an otherwise sunny day at Hampi.
From here, we went to the Chandrasekhara Temple. It isn’t really part of the tourist circuit, so in spite of the Diwali crowds (and more for the upcoming Hampi festival), this was quite empty when I visited:
Again, this temple did not have any idol, but the bas relief sculptures were beautifully preserved:
Next up was the Queen’s Bath. This was, the autowallah mentioned, the first on the tourist trail on the Kamalapura-Hampi road. From the outside it looked pretty austere, but on the inside there was a central bathing area surrounded by balconies. The bath was probably fed by an aqueduct, and there was, from what I gather, a continuous flow of fresh water into the water as bath water was drained away.
In spite of the unassuming exterior, the inner domes of the Queen’s bath had some interesting sculptures, and each dome had a different one:
The Royal Enclosure was next on our agenda. The most imposing structure here was the Mahanavami Dibba or the Dussehra Platform.
It was probably built to commemorate the king’s conquest of Udayagiri (in present day Odisha). A flight of stairs leads to the top, and along all sides are magnificent sculptures of dancers and war scenes:
There was also a beautiful stepped well, much in the style of those you will see in Gujarat and Rajasthan:
The Hazara Rama Temple has numerous panels from the Ramayana. The exterior is a tad weather-beaten, and my guide-cum-autowallah said this used to be the private temple of the Vijayanagara royals.
The interior though has the sculptures in near-impeccable shape. And it wasn’t just the walls, the pillars themselves were magnificent:
I sat behind the temple for a while trying to capture the rear of the temple without tourists. Took me a while, but here it is:
The Underground Shiva Temple after this took me down a long flight of stairs and a general ramp design of the temple that kept going down over a small stream to the sanctum which then felt several feet underground. I believe in monsoon it is difficult to get to the sanctum because of the little stream (which was but a trickle now). The sanctum had a rock shivalingam:
On our way out, I stopped for a “goli soda” – a little marble stops the bottle of soda at the top and the guy making it makes the spiced lemon juice and then opens the bottle of soda by pushing down the marble with some flair!
The next two attractions for the day were monoliths. The Ugra Narasimha statue was huge, and looked something like a south eastern statue – with a fine wide chest too. The statue was mutilated to some degrees by the invading Mughals and the Laxmi idol was dislocated and taken away to the museum in Kamalapura. The statue has the face of a lion, and the body of a human – one of Vishnu’s avatars – the Narasimha.
Right next to it is the statue of Badavalinga – a massive monolith Shivalinga that is kept behind a grille. A plaque nearby said it was commissioned by a peasant woman (Badava means poor in the local language). The statue is built on a bed of water.
And the final attraction of the day was a Krishna temple. It was a huge complex, but again, not very crowded, thankfully. Inside, the sculptures on the pillars were stunning! But that’s a common thing to say about most Hampi temples I believe!
On the way back I was late, and the speed boats were not available. Saw a temple elephant bathing in the river, and then got a local to ferry me across the river in a coracle. Wish I could have taken a photo of me in the little boat!
There was more to come the next day, and it was a long night in wait for it. So far, I was loving Hampi! It was everything school textbooks had said – glorious, larger than life and plain breathtaking!