Sunday, April 3, 2016

Hampi : Karnataka's Pride and World's Heritage



The name 'Hampi' is literally a visual treat and a soothing music to the new species of human race called Photographers and Travelers. It was a blessed land which was once filled with wealth and glory, has now been turned to a cursed land with only ruins. 

This short visit to Hampi was special to me, as it was my first visit . Though I stayed in Bangalore for all these years, I had not visited Hampi before.


The plan was made in a hurry, and two of my colleagues (Venkatesh a.k.a. Venki & Kanheiya) agreed to join me. We then booked the Sugama sleeper bus, which was scheduled to depart at 10 PM on 3rd March, 2016. 

After the hustle-bustle of city's traffic, the bus finally hit the free road by 11.30 PM. 

Early in the morning, we were in for a surprise at Hospet bus stand. The crew member of Sugama told us to alight at Hospet and continue our onward journey to Hampi. After the discussion with him, we learnt only few KSRTC buses would ply to Hampi and the rest of them terminated at Hospet. 

We reached Hospet by 5.15 AM and was approached by many auto drivers who were willing to take us to Hampi . Since no small buses/tum-tums were available at that time, we decided to go by auto only. 

Hampi is around 12 kms from Hospet, and the ride in the darkness was quite exciting. We then checked into a small homestay which is very near to the Virupaksha temple. After refreshing, we then headed to Hemakuta hills to witness the sunrise. 


The team :


(The team : Kanheiya , Venki and Yours Faithfully)

Day 1 : 
(4th March , 2016)

Luckily, the sky was still dark and we were off to reach Hemakuta. None of us knew the way, and hence climbed small hillocks, jumped across compounds to reach Hemakuta.

Hemakuta hill :


This is not one of the tallest hills in Hampi. But this hilltop offers a splendid view of the sprawling ruins site.




Hemakuta Hill is one among the best places in Hampi to see the sunrise and sunset. It is very easy to reach the top compared to the Matanga Hill, which is boasted as the best location to watch sunrise and sunset in Hampi.





An easier and a quicker option to watch the sun's spectacle would be Hemakuta.


Sunrise on the Matanga hill
  Langur jumping on the Tenali Mantapa








This hill has many temples, mantapas , rock inscriptions and pavilions. After a small climb to the top (about 15 minutes climb) , it is almost a flat land and easy to walk around.



Accessing Hemakuta can be done through two main gateways : One is through Virupaksha temple entrance, and the other is from Sasivekalu and Kadalekalu Ganesha temples.



There are a number of temples in this area that are dedicated to Lord Shiva, the major one being the Virupaksha temple .
This place is packed with the large number of pre Vijayanagara temples. Atop there is Moola Virupaksha Temple with a pool infront, considered to be the original Virupaksha Temple.







According to folklore, sage Vidyaranya prayed god and it had rained gold coins in a cave on this hill, which helped Hakka and Bukka to establish the Vijayanagara empire. Hence the name 'Hemakuta', 'Hema'  means gold in Sanskrit.


The beautiful sunrise caused a gold cast spread over the entire complex, and it was a joy to photograph the spectacle. Myself and Venki were roaming around to try out different compositions and lighting, while Kanheiya was trying out timelapse.



Proceeding towards north from this place, takes you to the famous Virupaksha temple. 

Virupaksha Temple :


Believed to be functioning ever since its inception in the 7th century AD, Virupaksha temple is the oldest and the main temple in Hampi. 





This temple is located on the south bank of the river Tungabadra. The area in general has been an important pilgrimage centre for the worshipers of lord Shiva. Virupaksha temple is equally sought after by the tourists and pilgrims. The annual festivals attract huge crowds of both types of people.




This is one of the prime areas in Hampi, and is close to all the hotels, home stays , shops , bus station etc.,




It is fully intact among the surrounding ruins and is still used in worship. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, known as Virupaksha, and his consort goddess Pampa.







Currently, the Virupaksha Temple consists of an open pillared hall , three chambers and a sanctum.



The above image was created by stitching 6 individual images to form a panorama.



Virupaksha temple's main Gopura 
Picture courtesy : Venki

We then proceeded towards our home stay , refreshed , had a sumptuous breakfast and then headed towards the Royal Enclosure of Hampi.

Earlier motor bikes were rented for travelling around Hampi. This is stopped at present and bicycles are available for hire.

Our plan on Day 1 was to cover the monuments near the Royal Enclosure (on the way to Kamalapura) and witness the sunset from Hemakuta hills.

The initial excitement was very high, as most of us were riding a bicycle after a long time. After a small duration, the ascending roads of Hampi was a tough challenge for our stamina. The empty water bottles and the scorching sun were a good combination that overpowered us. The thrill was good nevertheless.


Many small photography-breaks rejuvenated and brought back life in us. We stopped at everything that looked interesting. 




Cycling through the streets of Hampi is quite amazing. You can see many temples , monuments of historical importance , mantapas , banana plantations etc.



After a 4km cycle ride, we stopped at the entrance of Queen's Bath. A glass of lime soda and buttermilk injected a strong dose of energy and enthusiasm in us.



Queen's bath :

The Queen’s Bath in Hampi is a huge bathing area that glorifies the architectural brilliance of the Vijayanagara Empire. It is located close to the entrance of the Royal Enclosure in Hampi.


The Queen’s Bath is an empty structure now. Its walls have lost their shine and the building has lost its glory. The building looks terribly weak with few visible cracks.



The floor of the bath has some empty sockets that were once used to support pillars. These pillars are believed to have been part of a canopy that was destroyed during the Sultan attacks on Hampi.



Some reports have suggested that the bath was not only meant to be for the Queens but was used by the King as well. As the bath is located at the outskirts of Hampi, it was said to be a center of royal pleasure for the King and his Queens.

The walls of this great monument has the inscribed names of silly tourists. This is very awful and disheartening.


Royal Enclosure :

This fortified area had been the seat of power of the fallen empire. Spread over many hundreds square meters, this area is sprinkled with a number of amazing relics.
On of the best classical structures in this area is the Mahanavami Dibba. 


1) Mahanavami Dibba :

It is also known as the Dussera dibba and is located in the Royal Enclosure. It consists of an elevated stone platform on which the Kings used to sit and watch the grand Dassera procession. 


This impressive structure just looks like a stack of stones from far, but the inscriptions that are carved on them can be witnessed only if we are closer.

A pair of Elephants inscribed on a stone -  Mahanavami Dibba

2) Stepped Tank :

Another huge attraction of the royal enclosure is the stepped tank, which is located very close to the Mahanavami Dibba. It is one of the finest examples of architectural brilliance. 

The symmetrical steps are jaw dropping.


It has five distinct tiers, each fitted with steps set in a pleasing pattern. 



The use of this structure is not known for sure, but history says that the stepped tank was used for religious purposes by the royal dynasty.




A small walk from this place takes us to the famous Hazararama temple. 

3) Hazararama temple:

The Hazararama temple is the only temple situated in the core zone of the Royal Enclosure between the residential and ceremonial enclosures.


Dedicated to Lord Rama, this 15th century temple is the finest example of the Dravida Vimana type of architecture. It has sanctum, pillared dance hall with an entrance porch. There is also a shrine for the goddess which is elegantly sculpted.



The temple is known for its sculptures depicting the Ramayana. It is because of this the temple is evidently called Hazara Rama temple. 



Apart from the scultptures depicting Ramayana, this temple also houses scultpures of Bhagavatha. It was undoubtedly the finest structure of the royal patronage.



After visiting the Hazararama temple, we then moved towards the Lotus Mahal.

Zenana Enclosure :

1) Lotus Mahal :

Lotus Mahal, also known as Kamal Mahal is situated in the Zenana Enclosure of the monuments.



It is a ticketed monument and a single ticket would let you into the Zenana Enclosure covering several monuments including Elephant Stables. The term Zenana to the Queens’ enclosure along with the servants’ quarters and private temples.



A ticket costs Rs.10/- for an Indian and Rs. 250/- for a Foreign national. This ticket is also valid to visit the Vijaya Vittala temple.


2) Elephant Stables :

A walk from the Lotus Mahal, leads you to the elephant stables. This is a beautiful symmetrical structure built in the Indo-Islamic style of architecture.



One among the few least destroyed structures in Hampi, Elephant Stable is a major tourist attraction. This rectangular building with a row of domed chambers was the shelter of royal elephants. There are 11 domed tall chambers and the center one is specially decorated and big.

The tender coconut and a glass of lime soda near the place was another lifer for us to beat the hot sun. We then walked back towards the Mahanavami Dibba to collect our parked cycles to go back to Hampi.

One the way back, we realized that none of us had much money left , and the nearest ATM was in Kamalapura (5 kms from Hampi). We then rode towards Kamalapura in search of an ATM. 


We then headed back to Hampi for lunch. Enroute, we visited another famous statue of Lord Ugra Narasimha.

Ugra Narasimha :

This beautiful statue is arguably one of the largest statue of Hampi, and is situated enroute Kamalapura.
The lord Narasimha is seen sitting on a seven headed serpent


One of the most affected statue during the Mughal invasion is the statue of Ugra Narasimha where one can see the chopped hand of the lord.






The most unique feature of the statue is the bulging eyes of Narasimha. The large round protruding eyes provides the statue with an exceptional look. Though the statue of Lakshmi is no longer sitting on the lap of Narasimha, one can imagine the beauty of the complete statue in its original undamaged form.

To give rest to the tired legs and fill the growling stomachs, we reached the bazaar area of Hampi for lunch. The lunch was pretty costly (might be because of the foreign tourists).

By then, evening had set in, and it was time for the sun to set. Many people were heading to Hemakuta hills to watch the sunset. We were no exceptions :)




Sunset through the pillars


Hanumantharaya swamy temple : The Hanuman temple on top of the Hemakuta hills is one of the best place to witness sunset and is a very popular subject for the photographs. This monument has been captured by innumerable photographers and is featured in many photography exhibitions and salons.


I also got a chance to meet Mr. Shivashankar Banagar, who is a famous photographer from Hospet. In the process, we got to learn more about Hampi and the lighting conditions of the area from him.


The beautiful array of clouds forming a set of golden stripes along the group of temples was a beautiful sight to watch.

Virupaksha temple at Night

We then visited the Virupaksha temple to have a divine darshan of Lord Virupaksha and Goddess Pampa. The temple was almost on the verge of closing and we made it in time. After having a holy darshan, we witnessed a mind blowing performance of fire dance by a foreign couple in the temple premises.

These couple perform the dangerous art to raise funds, and then use those funds for the betterment of under privileged children of the area.

One of the many shops in Hampi

 Picture courtesy : Venki

 Picture courtesy : Venki


Picture courtesy : Venki

The dinner was consumed in no time, and we hit the bed to earn a well deserving sleep after a very tiring but fruitful day.

Day 2 : 
(5th March , 2016)

Early in the morning, we set off to climb the Matanga hill. We had heard that this was one of the best places in Hampi to see the sunrise. A straight road from the Virupaksha temple leads to the Hampi police station. This is the gateway to Matanga hill, and one can see hill right opposite to the police station. We parked our bicycles in front of the police station and then started to climb the hill. The hill is a gradual ascent amidst rocks and small patches of shrub forests. 

It is a good 20-30 mins climb to the top of the hill, and is not that difficult. Since the area is home to few Bears and Leopards (as per the locals), it is wise to carry a powerful torch and go in groups.

Matanga Hill :

Probably Matunga Hill is the most talked about hill in Hampi. May be because of its central location or the sunset/sunrise view associated with it, this hill commands a special attraction.


The view from the top is mesmerizing, especially from the eastern side, you get to see the aerial view of the Achyuta Raya’s Temple complex; at south, the cart trail and Turthu Canal winding through the banana plantations; at north the chain of hills and the river that flows along it's ridges; at west the Hampi settlement with the tower of Virupaksha Temple dominating.



The rooftop of the Veerabhadra Temple at the summit is the ideal place to view the sunrise and sunset of Hampi. Avoid climbing the hill during the hot part of the day. However it doesnt matter if you have already used to the hot climate of Hampi.


 If you turn back, one can see the temple complexes of Krishna temple (above) and the Virupaksha temple (below) towards the West.


The view to the north of the hill offers a splendid view of the Tungabhadra river.


The descent was much easier than the ascent and also the time taken was less. Within no time, we were at the base of the hill and in the premises of the ancient Achyutaraya temple.

Achyutaraya temple :

Achyuta Raya Temple is one of the magnificent and major temples of Hampi. Built during the Vijayanagara kingdom, this temple stands as an exemplary example of Vijayanagara style of architecture. 


The temple is located between the Gandhamadana and Matanga hills. It is one of the last grand creations of the Vijayanagara dynasty before the fall of the great empire.


Pillars and Prakara 
Picture courtesy : Venki

We then moved towards the home stay, took bath , had a quick & delicious breakfast and then set off towards Vijaya Vittala temple.

A small road towards the left of the Hampi police station takes us to the river bank. Walking along the river bank takes us to Vijaya vittala temple. There are many temples enroute, among which the deities of Kodandarama swamy temple and the Yantrodharaka Hanuman temple are still worshipped.

 A small broken boat lying on the banks of the river

A circular shaped boat (called Coracle , in Kannada, Theppa) is used to cross the river. On an average a coracle takes about 6-8 people.
Coracle ride can be taken from Kodandarama temple.

Coracles at Tungabhadra
Picture courtesy : Venki

Priest at Kodandarama temple
Picture courtesy : Venki


On the way to the main temple, one can see many relics and ruins of the erstwhile Vijayanagara kingdom.


Stone Chariot :

Arguably this the most famous structure in the history of Karnataka. The replica of this epic structure has been featured in many travel expos across the globe. A sheer architectural excellence has given a grand product which has in turn become one of the most pride possession of the state.



The "Stone Chariot", as it is often referred is the flagship tourist attraction of Hampi. This is not a chariot ,as the name suggests, rather a shrine built like a chariot. This is located inside the Vittala Temple campus.


It is believed that the idea for the construction of the chariot dates back to the time when King Krishnadevaraya saw the famous stone chariot at the Konark Sun Temple in Odissa while waging war on the eastern state.


Vijaya Vittala temple :

As the epicenter of Hampi's attractions, Vittala Temple is the most extravagant architectural showpiece of Hampi. The temple is built in the form of a grand campus with compound wall and gateway towers. There are many halls, pavilions and temples located inside this campus.


The main attraction of this temple is 56 musical pillars when tapped gently on these pillars, they produce musical sounds.


These pillars are popularly known as Musical Pillars as the saptaswara of 'Sarigamapadani' can be heard. Though, now it is prohibited for the visitors to tap on them.


Each temple and mantapam has innumerable sculptures engraved on it.



The above temple is dedicated to Rani Chinnambika, who was one of the wives of Sri Krishnadevaraya.

 Picture courtsey : Venki

Picture courtesy : Venki


By the time we visited this place, the sun was on top of our heads. As a result, the lighting was a bit harsh. If you are a keen photographer, then visiting this place early in the morning must be in your to-do list.

Summer holidays
Picture courtesy : Venki

Enroute Hampi, we savoured ice-creams , tender coconut , lime sodas etc., to quench our thirst, but still the hot sun had an upper hand over us :)

After photographing the architectures, it was time for us to shoot the sunset again. We had an option to either visit Malyavantha or stick back to Hemakuta. Since time was short, we decided to stay back at Hemakuta.




I also met Mr. Pompayya Malemath, who is a very famous wildlife photographer , passionate birder and a conservationist.



We then packed our bags and set off to Hospet, to board the bus back to Bangalore.
After an amazing session of photography and a great travel with like minded people, our journey came to an end. 

The amazing architecture of Hampi will always be etched in the back of our minds. This reminds us the historical grandeur that our state had during the golden era of Vijayanagara kingdom.

It is a pity to watch the condition of the present day monuments , which makes us think how cruel the wars could be. The rich Vijayanagara kingdom which was once filled with Gold, Diamonds and Jewels is now nothing but a dusted town of only rocks and ruins. Currently, the rich glory has to be felt only in the historical books.

We should help in conserving the remaining monuments, and preserve the precious structures. They will always be a pride not only of of our state but also history of mankind, and sing the architectural glory of the Vijayanagara kingdom.

Photography gears : Nikon D7100 , Tokina 11-16, Nikon 18-105mm
I thank my uncle (H.Satish) for helping me out in planning the trip and tips on photography.

Tips for travelers / tourists

  1. Responsible tourism has to be cultivated in the mindset of people. Please do not write your names on the walls of the protected monument and litter the place .
  2. As I always say, refrain from throwing plastic.
  3. Carry plenty of water and fruits, as the hot sun dehydrates you. Summers are very hot.
  4. Most of the temples are not functional, so do not expect any pooja there.
  5. Plenty of home stays and restaurants are available near the Virupaksha temple at a nominal cost.
  6. The rental services of two-wheelers are stopped. Either you have to rent a bicycle or travel by the local autos or get your own private vehicle.
  7. Entry tickets are applicable at the Vijaya vittala temple and Lotus Mahal. It costs Rs. 10/- for an Indian and Rs. 250/- for a foriegn national (when we visited, it may be revised) 
  8. Vijaya vittala temple can be accessed by two ways :   
    1. Virupaksha temple : A 1km ride till the police station/hampi bazar and a 2km walk from there.
    2. Kamalapura : Kamalapura is around 5kms from Hampi, and the Vijaya vittala temple is further few kms from there. Bus/auto is available           
  9. There are no many direct buses from Bangalore to Hampi. Nearest place would be Hospet(12 kms from Hampi) which is well connected by trains also, and from there you can travel by either shared auto / local buses.
  10. For photographers : Minimum of 3 days are required based on lighting conditions. Tripods are not allowed in most of the places.
  11. Daroji bear sanctuary can also be a part of your tour itenary. It is around 20 kms from Hampi.

Hope you have enjoyed the virtual visit to the royal capital of the Vijayanagara kingdom.

Thank you




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