svetlana baghawan maverickbirdHampi’s ruins lie scattered on both sides of Tungabhadra and after initial spurt of laziness, I had dedicated 2 whole days to relic hopping. After the predictable 1st stop at Virupaksha Temple, I had wandered along the Tungabhadra River, where elaborately carved rock faces, shrines and stony walkways had been generously strewn. The path had meandered along the river and had connected the Hampi Bazaar with the famous Vittala Temple. Huge boulder piles had held obscure rock portals and half hidden rocky chambers had peeped at me from the other side of the river. Stone cut steps leading down from the hidden temples had cascaded down the boulders to the river and they had apparently been leopards and sloth bears favourite haunts.

The area had sloth bears and leopards prowling at nights and they too had used Vijaynagar ruins to their benefit. The Tungabhadra river too had been infested with dangerous crocodiles and ridiculously painted precautionary signboards had been staked along the path. Langurs had swooped underneath rocky passageways, striped squirrels had bounded over coracle boats and it had been as rustically wild as possible. Hampi’s boulders had been magnificent to watch and precariously balanced, they had been the Vijaynagar kingdoms mainstay. While most had been used in some integral part of construction of the city, a few smooth curving rocks had been used as canvases.

Very unpredictably, I had stumbled upon 1008 Shiva lingams engraved in a matrix like pattern on the boulders along the river and all along the way, beautiful Nandi bulls (Lord Shiva’s mount) had stared from every nook and corner. The serene Krishna Temple complex had started in a most surprising way and suddenly a big vista of planned ancient urban locality had spread in front of me. The entire Hindu celestial community had seemed to have earthly abodes there and temples, dedicated to endless gods and goddesses had stood in squares. While some had been remained well preserved, a few of them had been in most photogenically ruined condition.

It had been impossible to not be mesmerized by its dramatic setting and I had rested under one of its colonnaded portico, for some time, to take it all in. Neat rows of nearly ruined stone temples had been bordered by boulder piles and rocky portals had jutted out from top of them like watch towers. The Krishna temple which is famous for beautiful stone pools, had held preserved rocky structures in midst of their mirror like water and ruby red dragon flies had buzzed on its grainy stone surface. Rows of intricately carved half ruined structures had created a broad path between them, which had remained carpeted with soft green grass and jewel coloured slim snakes had slithered over engraved stone chariots, elephants and dancers. It had been a cloudy day when Krishna Temple complex had attracted me towards its poignant ruins and hiding underneath buildings from another era, I had watched rains lash the Vijaynagar past and present. Shepherds had materialized from nowhere, just as the downpour had started obliterating visibility and big hairy goats had scampered nimbly over the rock piles.

The Vittala temple had happened immediately after the rain had stopped and the complex had been truly mind blowing. Dedicated to Vittala, an avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu, it had been Hampi’s epicenter of glory. The magnificent Stone Chariot had stood in the middle of the sprawling complex and it had been an exquisite piece of art. Made from intricately carved and supposedly painted granite blocks, the Stone Chariot had been larger than life and as close to reality as possible. It had been very detailed with spokes, axles, seating area and 2 stone elephants had been positioned in front of it. Surrounded by colonnaded halls which had also been covered with detailed carvings, the chariots had remnants of 2 stone horses too, which had been positioned along with elephants. Lovely towers, pavilions, temples and halls had filled the complex and it had also been more spread out than I had imagined.

The gorgeous monolithic Musical Pillars on the elaborately detailed Maha Mandap platform had been stunning, even though I had not been able to produce notes from tapping them and exquisite carvings of musicians had covered every inch of them. Dancers, musicians and other royal entertainers had remained frozen on them for eternity, thus providing a glimpse of the city before its cruel destruction. The complex had branched out into several other halls and stone Narasimhans (half man and half lion figures), blooming lotuses and beautiful women had surrounded from all sides. It had been simply gorgeous and small patches of mirror like calm rainwater puddles had heightened the overall effect. They had reflected the glory of the ruins against a violet cloudy twilight sky and creamy frangipani blossoms, tossed about by the wet wind, had floated on their surface. A group of little Bharatnatyam (classical south Indian dance using elaborate costumes and gestures) dancers, who had been filming a show inside the complex had completed the already atmospheric picture and they had revived Vijaynagar’s unbelievable long lost magnificence in a very time travel like way.

Vijaynagar means “City of Victory” and it is believed to have been famous far and wide for its beauty, wealth and power. Foreign travelers like the Portuguese explorer Domingo Paez, who had visited the area after 1520 had been found chronicling Vijaynagar’s beauty in superb praises. He had been astonished by its size, glory and prosperity and had mentioned its markets full of silk and precious stones, bejeweled magnificent courtesans, ornate sandalwood palaces and lavish festivities. Although dead and gone, the expressive Hampi ruins had confirmed Paez’s story and the lovely dancers of Vittala had brought the glory back to life. With so much of beauty scattered like gems, leaving Vittala had been very hard. So I had stayed longer than expected, thus completely losing my way while trying to head back and had nearly gotten stranded among sloth bears, leopards and crocodiles of Hampi.

RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE

I had spent the next 2 days

I had spent the next 2 days

Exploring Hampi's

Exploring Hampi’s

Vijaynagar past

Vijaynagar past

Nestled by the

Nestled by the

Crocodile infested

Crocodile infested

Tungabhadra river

Tungabhadra river

It had been

It had been

A delightful mix

A delightful mix

Of modern Hampi

Of modern Hampi

Erstwhile glory

Erstwhile glory

And celestial real estate

And celestial real estate

Vittala Temple had

Vittala Temple had

Been magnificent

Been magnificent

And spread over a large area

And spread over a large area

Gods

Gods

Royal power

Royal power

Dancers

Dancers

And beauty

And nature

Had all come together

Had all come together

On that Hampi evening

On that evening

And made me bow down

And made me bow down

To the dream

To the dream

Called Hampi

Called Hampi