Friday, 28 October 2016

Hampi; Lands of the ruins

Hampi ; Land of the Ruins & antecedent to East India Trip

I recently went for a short get-away to Hampi as a kind of test drive for my upcoming solo trip at the end of the year.

Hampi is pretty famous, a must visit destination in India, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is no longer the thriving hub of  activity as one of the most wealthiest & populated city as it used to be in the Vijayanagara Empire era.
 Reaching Hampi proved to be quite a challenge for me as last minute train tickets was on wait list and even though we are not supposed to board the train with a ticket on wait list, I did so as I didn't receive any intimation otherwise like it was cancelled etc, hoping to be able to arrange for a seat . .. however ended up on the floor. Well I was not one of those who slept soundly along the corridor in the Sleeper class, but.... quite close to it. yea I know, it was a pathetic scene that lasted till my arrival at Hospet bright  & early at 7am.
There is a local bus (red color) that goes from Hospet Train Station to Hampi directly at just Rs14-17 compared to an auto ride of Rs80-100. Upon reaching Hampi, I immediately proceeded to Virupakshi Temple. I was pretty groggy during the trip and ended up taking very few pics. A stroke of luck was that I got a bicycle tour right outside the temple. :) There are many guides around the area, otherwise ask for the hotel to arrange.
Had a quick breakfast of at Mango Tree, the top rated restaurant in Hampi. While the food was alright in terms of taste, with the cheapest Thali rate at Rs120, the service was almost non-existent and there seems to be a regular occurrence of less change being returned. PS: the momos are to be avoided.
the Bicycle tour covered quite a bit of the various places like the Lotus Temple, Elephant Stables, Mahanamavi Dibbi, Badavi Shivalinga, Lakshiminarasimba Temple, Zenana Enclosure, Queens Bath etc but does not include the two most famous landmark of Hampi- Virupakshi Temple, Vijaya Vittala Temple. Which is a little strange and little shortchanged especially since the bicycle tour costs rs450. While one could possibly just rent out a bicycle at Rs50 per day... the guide's explanation are helpful along with the gentle push to see the next monument because otherwise I think we might have seen 2 sights and returned back to laze around in the numerous restaurants.
Below are some of the sights...
Start of the journey, somewhere top of the Hemakuta hill near Ganesh Temple ..

 the box behind this couple was an actual donation box for the temple upkeep.

The partially submerged Shiva Linga is an active Temple compared to the ruins of the other monuments. The story behind this temple was, once a upon a time an old poor woman saved up all her money so that she could pay a stonemason to carve the statue. It's a 3meter monolithic statue and was only recently permanently submerged in water by opening out a channel into the structure as a natural deterrent against (nosy) tourists. Interestingly although the Lakshmi-Narashimha Temple was desecrated by the Moghul invaders, the BadaviShivaLinga was left alone.
Lakshmi-Narashimha as currently restored. The band around his legs was placed to reattached the legs to the main body. I don't there exist any images depicting the actual statues. Mayhap it might be similar to this..
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 There's an interesting story of Narashima, who is actually an avatar of Vishnu realized to kill a demon Lord who had been granted a boon in that he would not be a mortal, animal nor god, neither night nor day, not inside or outside, no weapons, neither in the sky nor in the ground could mortally wound him. Thus Narashima in a half lion-human form (neither god nor man), at the frame of the door (neither inside nor outside), placed the demon in his lap (neither up nor down), at twilight (neither day nor night) used his nails (not a weapon) and disemboweled him. Gory much?? More details found in Wikipedia.
 The Lotus Mahal with cooling architectural structure, apparently. While there is a narrow staircase to reach the upper floors, it is closed off. In fact one fellow traveler had climbed up for a picture, the caretakers hurriedly asked us to come down, mentioning that it was not allowed.

There were random pop of cravings along the wall, like the fighting scene above at the bottom corner.
Perhaps the masons got tired of cutting plain blocks of stones?

This picturesque water tank was special tank to store pure water to be used for religious purposes. In the olden days, fresh water from the lakes was piped into it.

 This platform is Mahanavami Dibbi, the King of Vijayanagar used to seat and view the festivals during the Navami. In fact the famous Dasara Festival Procession of Mysore started from here.
The elephant stables. An interesting antidote was that a foreigner couple chose not to pay Rs500 per person (entry ticket) and gawk at captive elephants only to be informed over lunch at actually it was just a place where the Kings' elephant were housed.

After a hearty veg Thali at The Mango Tree (again!), we crossed the river at Rs10 each to stay overnight. A fellow travelers' friend had recommended "Bobby" guesthouse & indeed it was a good place. Clean rooms with a view of the river. Paid round Rs700.
The alley seen at the right side is the only road leading from the river crossing, Bobby is right at the first intersection on 6:35hr direction.
Soft bedding and constant cool breeze. The only drawback of Bobby is the lack of room service. Tip- take the first floor rooms.

View from across the river.
Dinner was veg thali at Hema Bindu. The sabzi was spicy. Rooms at Hema Bindu seems to be cottage type with alfresco dinning & hammock outside each room.

As I was walking past Sasi River View Restaurant & Hotel, I noticed the lush garden in the courtyard.

Apparently across the river, at Sunset point there are music session in the evening arrange by the dude who runs the Gali's Music Shop - music store diagonally opposite Bobby's guesthouse.

Breakfast was at the Laughing Buddha with river-side views and funky murals. Food was ok, tea was bad, location superb. Their room rates start from Rs500 off-season, and it's a 5 mins walk inside from the main road so not really recommended for late dinners.

After a leisurely breakfast, it was time to across the river & finally head to the famous Vijaya Vittala Temple. Btw the tickets bought at Zarana Enclosure can be used to see this site as well on the same day.

Unfortunately there was some maintenance work on-going for the upcoming Hampi Festival on 2-5th November thus the main temple was closed.  Vijaya Vittala Temple is notably known for the musical pillars which are off limits & cordoned off. -____-

In front of the famous stone chariot with fellow solo traveler. :) The chariot is actually not a monolithic structure but consists of various blocks of stone, artfully joined, and the elephants were a later replacements for the original horse statues.
There numerous structures/platforms/temple within the Vijaya Vittala Temple compound. It's a good place to rest in the shade for some time. Walking amongst the ruins, I cant help but wonder what the use of all the materialist items we collect in our lifetime, be it cars, buildings, temples no matter how magnificent it is, when over time strangers would come in to obliterate all traces and history get re-written as per the whims of the victors?
A twisted gnarled tree that must have seen way too much in it's lifespan, nevertheless it continues to sprout new leaves after the old ones fall away..

Near the Vittala Temple is the Purandaradasa Mantapa, which is basically an elevated pavilion. It is said that the erwest poet Purandaradasa, sat here and sang songs in praise of Vittala (Vishnu), sogs which are still popular in Karnataka especially during his birthday. Although it is said to house a statue of the poet in reality it's empty.
Opposite the Purandaradasa Mandapa is the a bath/water feature...and I sat under the shade for close to 45 mins catching up on my reading only to notice which walking back towards the road...this.
WTF is this?? Animal? Human? Horse? And more or less fresh based on the blood

what an end to an otherwise normal slightly boring trip. Hampi is a place which I don't think I would ever re-visit since the place was devoid of impression. Neither good nor bad, quite forgettable.

Since the train out of Hampi leaves around 9:30 from Hospet, take the 6:30pm local bus from Hampi to Hospet (last bus at 7:30pm) and enjoy a quite dinner at Hampi International.


Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Non-Veg Diet

Currently in the amidst of creating a rough itinerary of my upcoming South East India tour and while checking out various restaurant in the sub-continent with good reviews, I realized that frequently it was the vegetarian fare that was recommended. . .  -__- Wea!??
While I do eat my share of vegetables, I tend to prefer my veggies not doused in masala as is common in South India veg dishes. I think there is only so much yellow/red/green masala beans/carrots/coconut one can consume in a meal for days on end and DEFINITELY not while travelling.

I demand NON_VEG DIETARY OPTION as one of the filter on the various peer review sites.

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