The best kept secret of South India…
Every Indian around me in their twenties / thirties has been to Hampi and mostly with friends. When you ask them “Have you been to Hampi?”, Most of them reply affirmative and the number is usually more than once. I have visited Hampi four times and as a matter of fact I am writing this article sitting in a beautiful cafe on the banks of the river Tungabhadra. This is the view I would like to share with you –
How to reach Hampi and what lies on the other side of the river?
Hampi maintains two contrasting cultures separated by the vast Tungabhadra River. In order to reach Hampi, you arrive first at Hospet (Karnataka) and from there an auto rickshaw or local bus can take you to Hampi in mere Rs 20-100. On the way to Hampi, the auto drivers will tell you about the Indian culture-side of Hampi and lure you with the amazing ruins and temples that you will see on this side of the river. But when asked on what lies on the other side? He would give you a glaring look and tell you how doomed the other side is with all the vices that you can think of.
So obviously we bid our farewell to the auto rickshaw driver and crossed the river to live on the other side. What we saw and experienced would be something that would stay with me forever. Life seemed like it took a pause on this side of the river. There were beautiful paddy fields, delicious fresh food and the comfortable seating of the restaurants overlooking the river and the gigantic Virupaksha temple defined the peaceful existence of Hampi for me.
Historical and mythological connections:
Hampi was known by many names in the history , One of them was Vijaynagara; which means ‘the city of victory’. It was also called pampakshetra of Kishkindha after the Kishkindha kingdom and its reference in Ramayana. It was a part of the Vijayanagara Empire (1336-1565) that extended from the Arabian Sea to the Bay of Bengal and from the Deccan Plateau to the tip of the Indian Peninsula.
Hampi has numerous links to Indian mythology. The name ‘Hampi’ is derived from the word ‘Pampa’ that was used for the river Tungabhadra. ‘Pampa’ was also the name of the daughter of Lord Bramha who is known as the creator of the world in Indian Mythology. Kishkindha also known as the monkey kingdom, is said to be the region around Hampi. Anjayaneya Hill (Sunset), is believed to be the birth place of Hanuman. You will still find troops of monkeys on the entire route to the top of the Anjenaya temple.
Lord Shiva, Hanuman, Bhima and Narasimha; many mythological characters are interlinked in the folklore associated with Hampi.
Evenings in Hampi:
The evenings are even better. There is a single street with restaurants, bakeries and stores selling souvenirs. All the restaurants offer a different entertainment to lure the tourists in. They offer treats like soothing music, jam sessions by local artists or some even showcasing some of the classic movies. An evening stroll along the lane and you can decide the type of entertainment you would prefer for your evening.
Considering it was my fourth visit to Hampi, by now I remember the different sides of the lane, different restaurants and in fact some of the waiters too. What stood out to me about each and every visit to Hampi was how each experience was refreshingly different and had new experiences to offer.
The first visit was more about knowing the amazing history of the place , unravelling the mystery of the Kishkindha kingdom which once Hampi used to be and to explore every nook and corner of the ruins and the country side on rented bicycles (Rs 100 per day). Whereas the second and third times were to experience the serenity and peaceful life at a pause, eat great food and do nothing but stare at the beautiful somehow bundled up rocks which together make the hills in Hampi. The flowing water of Tungabhadra right at the centre of the town adds to the beauty of the place by completing the picturesque.
What makes Hampi unique is the diverse set of things that you can do in such a tiny place. For religious practitioners – the Virupaksha temple and the Vittala offers a great pilgrim, history lovers and academicians find the ancient history of the place and its connections to Indian Mythology very intriguing. Nature lovers adore the beautiful aggregation of rocks with the river holding the civilization together from ages whereas people not unlike me who want to take a break from their mundane routine lives find Hampi as the perfect spot for relaxation and giving time a break.
Things to do in Hampi:
Overall, I would highly recommend Hampi to almost anyone who wishes to indulge in any of the above pleasures. Some of the place / thing which are a complete must see /do in Hampi are –
- The beautiful sunset from Anjaneya Hill
- The picturesque view of the entire Hampi town from Matunga Hill
- The ruins collection behind Virupaksha temple
- Bicycle ride to Anegundi
- The exquisite Ginger lemon tea at almost any restaurant
- Jam session at one of the restaurants by local Indian artists
- Laxmi the elephant from Virupaksha temple descending down the stairs of the ghat to take a bath in Tungabhadra river (around 8:30 AM in the morning)
- Paddle across the river in one of those round boats.