Road Trip to Hampi: The Lost Empire of Vijaynagar

Dil Chalta Hai to Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (For the ignorant, these are blockbuster Bollywood movies) – road trips sound pretty cool! So what if we don’t have Spain in the nearby vicinity of Hyderabad?! 😛 (Again for the ignorant. Spain was the back drop of the movie ZNMD.) We chose Hampi to be our first.

A 400 KM drive of 7 hours took us through some amazing locales. Untouched by urbanization, the country side of India was at its best. Tarred roads ran along till the horizon with paddy fields on either side mile after mile interjected by small villages once in a while.

The route:

Hyderabad – 85Km ⇒ Jadchelra – 18km ⇒ Mehbubnagar – 105km ⇒ Raichur – 90km ⇒ Sindhanur – 50km ⇒ Gangawati – 6km ⇒ Kampli – 20km ⇒ Kamalapur – 4km ⇒ Hampi

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The Raichur Highway
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Incredibly Green!

As we entered the village of Anegundi, we were compelled to halt more than once to soak in the landscape. The water filled paddy fields, the signature boulder hills and the coconut trees were enthralling! Like they say, the journey is the destination!

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Entering the village of Anegundi
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In the lap of Mother Nature

We didn’t get a booking at any of the preferred hotels due to the rush of the 2nd October long weekend (Trivia for the ignorant again, October 2 is a National Holiday in India). But the wise have said that things happen for the best. The bamboo hut in the secluded Gowri Resort by the Sanapur Lake was just perfect. Waking up in the midst of Nature laden with lush green paddy fields framed by the boulder hills was unreal; not to forget the “sound of the night” that we seem to have forgotten living in the cities. With no TV or laptop or WiFi, infact no sound to disturb the mighty night, conversation ranged from “It’s actually pitch dark outside”, “Do you hear the crickets?”, “Is that someone talking outside our hut?”, “I saw something staring at me from the field”, “What was that sound? Was it some rat or a dragon or a dinosaur coming out of the paddy fields?”

Day two was all about getting lost in the ruins of the long lost Vijayanagar Empire that rose to fame during the reign of King Krishnadevaraya. It is believed that the Empire that came into being in the 13th century AD, was an attempt by the Deccan Plateau kings to ward off the Muslim invasions from the North. These kings reigned for over 400 years until their rule and splendor ended with the siege by the Deccan Sultanates.

As described by an ancient traveler, Hampi was as big, if not better than Rome and was at one point in time the second largest city in the world after Beijing. The astounding architecture dates back to the 15th century. It’s overwhelming to experience the craftsmanship of the era gone by, to realize that people from the past have actually walked these very paths that we stood on, camera in hand!

Anegundi and Hampi are located on the opposite banks of the river Tungabhadra. We began our day by crossing over to Hampi from Anegundi in a coracle (a bowl shaped boat). Having hired an auto rickshaw for the entire day, the rickshaw driver doubled up as a guide too. 🙂

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Coracle Ride across the river Tungabhadra

Our first stop was the monolithic figure of Lord Ganesh followed by the Hampi Bazaar or whatever remains of the ancient markets. The entire city is in ruins and has been declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The city houses a number of magnificent temples, of which the most famous ones are the Vitthala and the Virupaksha. The famous Stone Chariot and the 56 Musical Pillars in the Vitthala Temple complex will blow your mind (apart from the scorching sun 😛 ).

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The Musical Pillar Temple
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The Vitthala Temple complex with the Stone Chariot in the backdrop
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Oh so stoned!

The Virupaksha Temple stands tall and stands out with its nine-tiered eastern gateway.

Another interesting temple is the Hazaar Rama Temple that depicts one thousand frescoes and carvings of Lord Rama on its walls. The story of the epic Ramayana is illustrated in these inscriptions.

The Ganigitti Jain temple has a towering lamp post in its courtyard while the Under ground Siva temple is literally an excavated temple from the turf underneath. It wasn’t really under the ground back in the ages but with the times and layers of settling dust, the level of the ground has come up leaving the temple buried underneath.

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The Ganigitti Jain Temple

With the temples off our list, we proceeded to the Royal Enclosure that houses the even more dilapidated ruins of a palace that existed on these very grounds. The arches of the Lotus Mahal, the empty elephant stables, the fairy tale castle like guard tower, the exquisite and photogenic stair well, the long aqua-ducts crisscrossing the enclosure reminiscent of the sophisticated water supply back then and the royal Queen’s Bath are the stuff legends are made off.

Amazing how a thriving city five hundred years back has been reduced to just a spot of tourism. Goes a long way to illustrate the fickle, transient and ever changing quality of Life! “This too shall pass”!!! Vanity is in vain, after all 🙂 The Kings of yesterday have been wiped off and so will be the sorrows of today. Carpe Diem! Seize the day,my friend, seize the moment!

The panoramic view of the sunset from the top of the Hemkunth Hill with the many Jain temple remains and the Virupaksha Temple in the backdrop was an apt end to a tiresome day. Many hippies and backpack travelers sat in meditation on the rocks, alone, creating an unspoken synergy of calmness and peace!

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Atop the Hemkunth Hill
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The Jain temples on the Hemkunth Hill with the Virupaksha Temple in the backdrop

The next day we went even backwards in history, so backwards that it seizes to being recorded history and crosses over the boundary from history to mythology.

With folks acquainted with the Ramayana, the epic is divided into 7 books or Kaand(s) each depicting a significant phase in the life of Lord Rama. The fourth such book is titled “Kishkindha Kaand” after a place that Ram and his half-brother Lakshman visited on their way to Lanka in search of Ram’s abducted wife Sita.

And Anegundi is apparently that legendary Kishkindha, the monkey kingdom of the Ramayan fame! Kishkindha in the local language Kannada means a forest where monkeys live!

The unassuming picturesque village of Anegundi is believed to have witnessed many of the key happenings in the epic. Hampi in fact has derived its name from the Pampa Sarovar(Pampa became Pampi and Pampi became Hampi, believe it or not 😛 ), a lake where Shabari, an ardent devotee of Ram awaited his arrival. Upon hearing about Sita’s abduction, she directed them to seek the help of the monkey-god Hanuman.

Then occurred the divine meeting of the lord and the devoted when Ram and Lakshman came upon Hanuman who is believed to be Ram’s biggest disciple and a powerful ape himself. The kingdom of Kishkindha was ruled by the ape king Vali. Ram struck a deal with Sugriv, Vali’s younger brother and a banished pretender to the throne, that if he aided Sugriv to defeat Vali and regain his kingdom, Sugriv would offer his monkey army to Ram in his quest to look for Sita. This is where the controversial and the highly debatable incident manifested where Ram struck down Vali with an arrow from behind a tree while Vali was engaged in a combat with Sugriv. Having gained the throne, Sugriv kept his word and sent monkey chiefs around the world. While the others returned empty handed from the north, east and western corners of the earth, Hanuman learnt that Sita had been imprisoned in Lanka by the demon Ravana. And then commenced, Ram’s journey down south across the ocean to retrieve his wife.

The Chintamani Temple claims to have the original footprints of Ram who along with Lakshman met Sugriv for the first time. Sugriv was hidden in the caves beside where the temple is now. They ‘thought over’ (and hence the name ‘Chintamani’) the strategy to win back Sita from Ravan right here in these boulders on their way to Lanka.

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Durga Temple revered by the Vijaynagar Empire Kings

Anegundi is also home to the Anjanadri Hill, believed to be the birth place of Hanuman. Along with the Rishimukha hill, it is said to be one of the oldest plateaus on the planet, close to 3,000 million years old. A 570- step steep climb up the hill brings one to the Hanuman temple on the top. The view from here of the meadows of Anegundi with the ruins of Hampi in the backdrop across the Tungabhadra River is breathtaking!

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View of Anegundi from the top of the Anjanadri Hill
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Anegundi on the banks of the Tungabhadra river

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Some places give you that feeling of having arrived and the top of Anjanadri Hill is definitely one of them! A couple of quiet hours sitting on the boulders, admiring the magnanimity of the Nature around and enjoying the orange blob of Sun set, we spent the rest of the evening by the Sanapur Lake. Surrounded by boulder hills and tucked away eateries, this place is frequented by the hippies. A 100 rupee coracle ride in the lake was not a bad bargain after all!

And thus concluded our much looked forward to trip to Hampi and Anegundi. The place is blooming with temples, ruins and legends. From the days of Ramayan to the Ashoka Empire to the Chalukyas to the Vijayanagar Empire, this place has lived tons of history. A big thumbs up! Pack your bags and just leave (anytime between October to February)! Hampi will not disappoint you…

Thank you for taking the journey along with me! Please feel free to like and comment on WordPress. I am eager to know how you found the read.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. John Melvin says:

    Let alone your writing even the photography is amazing 😛 .. you can have a separate blog for photography …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks John. I want to learn photography, these are very amateurish. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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