Uma & I went on a trip to Hampi recently. It’s an easy place to travel to if you’re based in Bangalore: we took an overnight train to Hospet (& then an auto ride on to Hampi), but you can go by road—take a car or a bus—or even a flight if you’d like.
This was one of the best trips I had in recent memory. Hampi in its heyday, as part of the Vijayanagara empire, must have been one of the most wonderful places in the world. The extent and immensity of the ruins, and the stories and legends behind each are simply mind-boggling. There are rock pillars that make sounds of musical instruments. There are huge street markets made of stone that used to sell diamonds.
The Vijaya Vittala temple is just a work of art. If you drive around the Hampi area, every 200 metres or so, you come to a random protected monument: it has no name, but it looks as sweet as any Roman ruin. If you think North India is teh shit, do visit Hampi: the ruins and the glam on display here puts to shame any North Indian monument.
We stayed at Shanthi guest house during the 3 days we spent at Hampi, and it’s a good enough place to stay. The ruins of Hampi are bisected by the river Tungabhadra, and touristy guest houses are on the north side of the river. The south side is where most of the important sights to see are, but staying on the north means that you can take a good break from all the walking around and just chill.
The first day we took a scooter (around ₹600 bucks a day + fuel), and traveled around the North side of the temple. We saw:
- Pamba Sarovar & Lakshmi temple, which you can safely skip. Pamba Sarovar sounds awesome, but it’s just a temple pond.
- Anegundi: Chinthamani temple, which is cool. This is apparently where Bali & Sugriva fought.
- Hanuman temple/Monkey temple. This is one of the those places that I struggled to climb up the 575 steps to the temple. Having asthma and long climbs is not a fun combo. My brain went into reptilian survival mode by the time I got up to the temple. It’s a good enough place if you just want to checklist it out.
There are good places on the north side of the river if you want to have food: a notable mention is German bakery, where they have low-floor seating and great desserts.
The next two days we spent south of the river, returning by 5.30PM when the last ferry starts. There’s a truckload of places to see here, so I would recommend at least 3 days for this part as we found it a bit rushed. Here’s some notable stuff we saw:
- Virupaksha temple is the main temple still functioning just on the banks of the river. It’s huge, with immense towers all around and has nooks and corners with a lot to explore.
- Kadalekalu Ganesha & the Monolithic bull are cut from single pieces of rocks. The figurines have deteriorated quite a bit, but it’s still an impressive sight.
- Hemakuta temple area south of the Virupaksha temple is a series of several temples and structures. It’s one of the first such places I’ve visited and you can spend a long time wandering around the area and taking photos of odd structures (which is what I did).
- Elephant stables are a cool structure just outside the Zanana enclosure. I kept picturing the huge place alive with Elephants and their trumpets.
- The black stone Pushkarni is also a good visit. You can’t climb down into its depths unfortunately, but I’ve always been fascinated with old Indian well constructions.
- Vithala temple was the best temple structure we saw. This is the place that has large complexes surrounding the main temple, a dance hall with instruments from stone, and a Konark ratham duplicate (that has a great backstory).
- Mathanga hill is the iconic Hampi sunset destination. It’s calm, quiet and peaceful, and the sun contrasted with the greenery and the mountains, and the temple structures leads to great shadows all around.
There’s a lot more that we saw, but the ruins start to blur into one another after a while. It’s a place where you can spend a week or more though, slowly enjoying the old structures.
I would love to learn more about the rise and fall of the Vijayanagara empire. And since I love to read historical fiction and alternate history, I would love to read about stories about the empire. It must have been a great place in time.