One of the greatest pleasures that the denizens of Karthi indulge in is envisioning our next long trip. This time we were going somewhere special, a place that had always captured my imagination and that caught my family's attention when the movie Anandam came out. I for one, went into full research mode, reading up on all I could about the Vijayanagara empire's history and even buying a coffee table book off Amazon - Hampi - Discover the Splendours of Vijayanagar by Subhadra Sen Gupta and photographs by Clare Arni.
Six months ago we booked tickets on the Hampi Express from Bengaluru leaving on the Durgashtami day. We got confirmed tickets, so were placid seeing the crowds on the platform as our train chugged in. We managed to find our seats and settled down despite there being several people standing around. Confident that the ticket examiner would chase away those without reservations, we went to sleep. When a call of nature woke me up at 2 pm, I reached for my sandals beneath my berth only to find 4 people lying on their sides on the floor between the lower berths. I hurriedly put on my glasses to see that the main corridor too was similarly filled by crouching and curled up humanity. I summoned all the Spartan spirit in my being that I could and lay back in my berth.
That is when I saw a bridge-like construction between the middle berths above me. An inspection revealed that there was a lady curled up into a question mark in the space left on our 9-year-old's berth and a gentleman was lying down on the opposite berth with his torso there, legs spanning the aisle and feet almost on the lady's face. The last vestiges of my Spartan spirit fled around 4 am and I decided to brave the crush to use the toilet, using the night lights and the edges of the upper bunks to navigate, planting my feet as far apart as possible to inflict least damage on the protruding appendages of the people under me. My brain brought back fleeting images of a Kathakali performance in which Duryodhana tries to navigate the illusory ponds in the Indraprastha palace.
Fortunately there was no one sleeping IN the toilet. On the way to and from the toilet I heard a lot of vituperative language despite my care. Luckily for me the insults were in provincial Kannada and garbled by sleep, so I didn't understand a word!
All that was forgotten on our ride from Hospet to the ruined city of Hampi that was once the capital of a prosperous empire that ruled all of Southern India in its heyday. The gentle morning sun fell on fallen granite pillars and leaning structures that sometimes had markers, but more often seemed to efface themselves to blend in with their background. As we climbed the Hemakuta hill and then made a winding descent, the Virupaksha temple with the Tungabhadra in the background became visible.
All of the monuments of Hampi are situated South of the Tungabhadra spread out among the hills and valleys. The main things not to miss are the Virupaksha temple and the Hampi bazaar in front of it that stretches to the foot of the Matanga hill, the Krishna temple, the Vitthala temple, the two "minuscule" monolithic Ganapathis, the Narasimha, the Royal enclosure, Zenana quarters and the Queen's bath. From now on, I will let the pictures speak...
The Sasivekalu (mustard seed) Ganesha
This is his brother, Kadlegalu (bengal gram) Ganesha. Don't you love the ancients' sense of humour?
ONE relief sculpture on the LOWER end of ONE pillar of the mandapa in front of Kadlegalu Ganesha. Minimalism was definitely not a designing trend in Vijayanagara!
The Dasavathara carvings at the entrance to the Krishna temple built by the great Krishna Deva Raya himself. My next ambition is to see the Balagopal icon that graced this temple, which is currently in the Government Museum in Chennai.
Ladies, ladies, green is a very unattractive color for your complexion, dontcha think???
The Narasimha. Now this guy has stared down at us from social studies text books for years on end, hasn't he? Along with the ends of his appendages, the Lakshmi Devi in his lap too has vanished, leaving just part of her arm seen near his left armpit.
No, you can't take out this nifty chariot for a junket around the parikrama path. The iconic stone chariot in the Vitthala temple.
You feel, "Oh, what a beautiful shrine!" Wait...wait...
Now you see its teeny tiny place in the overall structure! Can you help believing the local legend that Lord Vitthala refused to be stationed in such an ornate structure and instead preferred to go back to his original, simpler home?
A daredevil vyali rider!
A gnarled living tree in the Vitthala temple courtyard seemingly carved out of and growing out of stone!
Can you imagine the number of chisel taps and the measuring and remeasuring it took to produce these perfect geometrical patterns? Such dedication!
At the end of a day of walking around and the architectural overwhelm, there is no better place to relax than the steps at the side of the Matanga hill looking down the Hampi bazaar street to the gopuram of the Virupaksha temple.
Next time I will take you to the royal glories of Hampi... Ciao!