Sunday, November 22, 2015

Exploring Hampi

Hampi, the once pride of Vijayanagara empire is now nothing but ruins. On one side you will admire the architectural beauty this place has to offer and at the same time you can’t help but feel bad thinking how awesome it would have been if it was not destroyed. And as most blogs have pointed out, Hampi is to be explored and not toured.
A collage of few of sculptures found in various places

You can get to Hampi through Hospete by bus or train. Once in Hampi, you could rent bikes for 300rps/day + petrol or negotiate a deal with autos to take you around. We had a car so didn’t face problems there. We did not take a guide, mainly because my friend Vikram was familiar with the place.

According to me, Hampi can be logically divided into 4 parts. First, the core parts of Hampi which is mainly temples. The second part consists of the various sections of the once kingdom/palace. I will call the third part as everything on the other side of the river. While the first 2 parts I mentioned are mostly ruins of Hampi, the third part has religious significance and has offbeat places. The final part is the internationally known yet locally unknown Hippie Island. I have tried to chart out these logical parts on the map below. 
Map of Hampi
Let me start with the first part. I would recommend the following walking trail (roughly 4kms maybe) with/without the guide. From the main parking lot walk towards the Hospet road to find the Badavi Linga and Ugra Narasimha which are monolithic rock structures.
Badavi Linga
Ugra Narasimha

From here walk towards the Virupaksha temple. The temple closes at 1pm so make sure you visit it by then. By this time you should have covered the left side of the temple (when you are facing the temple).
Virupaksha temple and surrounding temples
The left side of Virupaksha Temple

On the walls of Virupaksha temple

You can have lunch at the famous Mango Tree restaurant (it is expensive) or any other restaurants around the temple. Post lunch you can walk towards the Hampi Bazaar and climb the steps there to see the monolithic Nandi.
Rathabeedi - The temple street leading to monolithic Nandi
Monolithic Nandi

If you walk further up that path you can see Matunga hill and the path will lead you to the Vittala temple from the back side. When you exit the temple from the front, it will lead to a large yard which is the Soole Bazar.
The view from steps leading to Vittala Temple
Gopura of Vittala Temple

Soole Bazaar

You should be able to spot the river after sometime. You will find couple of temples on the way.
Some temples on the way to Vijaya Vittala Temple
Varaha temple

Follow the path by the river and you will arrive the Kings balance which will lead to the Vijaya Vittala temple. Here you will also find the stone chariot. Alternatively you can take your car/bike and take the route via Kamalapura to reach the stone chariot.
Stone Chariot
Vijaya Vittala Temple

Near Kings Balance

Start walking back in the same path by the river and exit through Purandara Dasara Mandapa. You should arrive back at the parking lot after this long exploratory walk.This should take you a full day to cover.
Purandara Mantapa

For the second part you might need a vehicle. You can start from the parking lot and go towards Hospet. To name a few places in this section - lotus mahal, queens bath, hajarirama temple, pushkarni, mahanavami dibba and elephant stable.
Mahanavami Dibba
Hajari Rama Temple


Elephant Stable

Lotus Mahal

I am not writing much about this part because all places are by the road and pretty much straight forward. Based on the time you have and the mode of transport you use, you can cover all the places mentioned in first and second part in 1-3 days.

The third part mentioned in the map is other side of the river. You could take the boat/ferry to reach the other side and take an auto to visit places. The major temple here is the Hanuman temple (Anjunadiri). This is the birth place of Lord Hanuman. You will need to climb the steps but it is totally worth it.
View point at Anjuana Parvatha

You can visit the Pampasarovara and Lakshmi temple, but if you are not religious then there is nothing to see here. You can go up the hill to reach Valli Guhe and further uphill to reach the view point.
View of Pampa Sarovara from near Wali Guha
The snake Hutthi on top of the hill

Other places on this side are Chintamani temple complex and Gagan Mahal. If you are a follower of Raghavendra Swami of Manthralaya then there is Nava Brundavana of his guruji’s in Anegundi which can be reached by ferry.
Gagan Mahal
Nava Brandavana

Sanapur Lake is scenic and a nice spot for some pictures. You could take a teppa ride here. Few blogs list that this is an ideal place for cliff dive/swim but due to some deaths that has been prohibited.
Tungabadra River at Sanapur
Sanapur Lake

There are cave paintings somewhere near Chikrampur. You must ask someone to guide you to this place.
Cave paintings
Last but not the least, the Hippi Island (Also called Hampi Island). To locate it on google maps, you can search for Virupapur Gaddi. There a lot of guest houses here with prices ranging from Rs 500 per room to Rs 2000 per cottage. Each one of these guest house has cafes which can be compared to the shacks in Goa. This side of Hampi has a lot of foreigners and the restaurants here serve a whole range of cuisines. Though beer is the only alcohol available here, you get hookahs in few places. You could chill out at this side after a tiring day at Hampi.
Ambiance of all cafes at Hampi Island
Additional information:
1) Best time/Peak season is Nov-Feb. If you are planning on staying in the Hampi Island, it is advisable to book rooms in advance. We stayed a night at Shanthi Guest House which was spacious but a cottage costed Rs 2000/-. That is recommended for family. Next night we stayed at Gauthami Guest House for Rs 600/- per room.
2) Laughing Buddha and Gopi's are good places for dinner/chill out. Heard Goan Corner is good too.
3) Taking Guide is advisable if you do not know the history. From what I overheard, the guides point you to a sculpture and tell the story behind it which would be basically from Ramayana or such epics.
4) Going by road from Hampi to the other side of the river is around 45kms so if you have taken own vehicle then you might need to plan accordingly. Enquire about the last ferry service if you are crossing the river for visiting/stay.
5) No place will offer you free drinking water. It might be sunny so make sure to carry/buy sufficient water to keep you hydrated. 

1) Tejovanth for providing us a starting point when planning the Hampi trip. Read his blogpost on Hampi - A weekend in Hampi
2)  Vikram for driving us around in his car. His family was kind enough to feed us with authentic North Karnataka food :)
You might also be interested to read: Fatehpur Sikri, Sringeri-Horanadu, Belur, Halebeedu

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