Planning for a quick weekend getaway can be easier, but deciding the place can be quite a task in itself. Especially if the group of friends is big, then the choice of place to visit becomes quiet a confusing one as each of them would have a different place in mind to consider. This time, somehow, the plan was on without any hassle. And the place we all mutually decided to visit was- Hampi!
Hampi is a small Indian village recognised as UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is located at the northern part of Karnataka. This place being capital of erstwhile Vijayanagara Empire consists of many architectural ruins from that era. It was earlier also known as Pampa-Kshetra (Pampa being the ancient name of the current Tungabhadra River, on whose banks, this place is located).
So, it was decided for 29th July, we booked the buses for our journey through the night. We availed SRE Travels bus services (sleeper coach-like in the image below). An advance bus booking for a return ticket (one week prior to travel date) cost us Rs.1,400/- per head. They provided light snacks and water bottles for the journey. We however, managed to finish our dinner before we started the journey.
It was a mad rush finishing our office work on a Friday evening and then, rushing to the stop to catch the bus was quite a challenge given the traffic on roads on a weekday and unavailability of cabs/auto-rickshaws to take us till the bus stop. Our buses however, had arrived on time and the journey thereafter was smooth and comfortable. With no stops on the way anywhere, we managed to reach Hospet Bus Stand at 7:30am sharp on Saturday morning.
There on, we thought it’s a better idea to walk 2 mins towards right from SRE last stop, to the common bus stop and take public bus from Hospet to Hampi. The ticket from there cost us just Rs. 16/- per head. One can avail auto-rickshaws too as an alternative to buses, which would cost you approx Rs.200/- per auto-ride.
Once we reached Hampi, our next task was to search for a good accommodation. Out of experience from previous trip, our friends suggested to make the room booking on spot instead of booking online in advance. The advantage being, you can negotiate some discounts when booked on spot, which mostly may not be the case in online booking. From the bus stop, as you go about walking, you will find a lot of helpful local people offering to guide you through in finding accommodations. Most of them offering help are tourist guides who will market themselves and try to fix a price, a pick up time, etc. to take you through Hampi. One such person we found was- Mr. Paul (contact: 9448678729) who offered to provide us 2 auto-rickshaws for just Rs.500/- each and for 5 hours. We found this to be a good bet and hence fixed the deal with him for the second day. You will be required to cross the river to reach Hippie Island. You can take the boat ride for just Rs.10/- per head or if you can dare to, just swim across to the other side 😉
As we had pre-planned that this is where we would book our accommodation and spend a day absorbing ourselves into this new place and experience, we denied any guide’s service on the first day. We wanted to experience village life, so we preferred choosing Sunny House accommodations in Hippie Island who offered rooms made of bamboo (to resemble huts as shown in the image below). These rooms were well equipped with working plug points, double bed with mosquito net, 2 chairs, coffee table, shoe/bag rack, florescent bulbs, fan, 24 hours water supply in attached toilet (western)+bathroom (with shower).
This place is like a small village within a village. It has an inbuilt hotel which serves delicious European- Asian kind of food. My personal favourite was set breakfast and ginger-lemon-honey Tea. For those of you booze fans, this place does not serve alcohol, but if you wish to, you could walk a few steps towards left from Sunny house to avail from any of the neighbouring restaurants.
Day 1 :
We checked in around 9:30am and headed towards Hanuman Temple in Anjaneyadri Betta (Anjaneya Hills) at 11:30am post break fast. You can reach this place on Moped bikes. You can speak to Sunny House manager to provide you with the bikes with sufficient fuel for some deposit you’ll be required to make upfront (approx. Rs.300/- to Rs.400/-). The experience riding on these free, open roads with wide spread of paddy fields on either sides and that cool and fresh pollution free air brushing through your face is a mind-blowing dreamy experience to proudly carry with you in your box of sweet memories.
We reached the temple gates and the actual fun begins here, i.e. in order to reach the idol which is placed on top most part of the hill, you’ll have to climb approx. 500 stairs. Climbing through the twists and turns in the narrow passage carved through the massive rock, making your way up to the temple, will give a good exercise to your legs and feet. Ensure to carry good amount of water with you as you can really get tired and dehydrated, especially if you were to visit this place around noon time, like we did. Some spots on the way up have shades from the trees where you can stop by and relax for a while and then get going again.
You could also taste from the anna daana(free meal) being served to the visitors near the temple. However, we had plans to visit other nearby places and also noticed the dark clouds covering the sky, so we decided to leave soon and gather in any nearby hotel meanwhile, for lunch and shelter. And that’s when we found this little Home Cafe called “Benjamin’s Music Cafe”.
Mrs. Benjamin cooks and serves the food loaded with affection, herself. While Mr. Benjamin (who also claims to have worked with prominent music artists like AR Rahman in popular movies like Bombay) entertains his guests with his musical talent. They serve finger licking delicious Andhra meals (Veg and Non Veg) and a few other dishes including Fried fish.
Nature was being very kind to us to have made the experience so much more delightful by showering rain down while we sat down to have our meal listening to the melodies Mr. Benjamin sang for us.
With our tummies full and souls satisfied, once the rain seemed to have stopped for a while, we headed towards Sanapur Lake on our bikes next. The serene view of the lake surrounded by rocks was a treat to the eyes.
We decided to stay there till the sun had set. But it began to pour again and so, we ran up on the rocks to find a shelter, only to realise that ours was the only little group of people up there and no other living being to be seen around, except us. We stood under a huge rock for a while but in no time we found ourselves dancing in the rain like silly little kids on an empty street, until we were completely drenched in the rain. We then, rode back to our rooms fighting the rain and slush on the way, shivering out of cold all along- truly a moment worth reliving!
Now that we were back in our huts, like birds in theirs nests, the night sky upon us so dark and so full of silence that a frog’s croaking from a distance could be heard. But this wasn’t something we wanted, so we decided to blast our speakers with some crazy dance music, breaking the silence and playing games non-stop, till our tummies began to growl again, crying for some dinner.
The fun continued till late in the night and somewhere amidst this, we fell asleep one by one and woke up to the sound of chirping birds next morning.
Day 2 :
We packed our bags and vacated our rooms. As we were only touring over the weekend, we needed accommodation just for a night. We then crossed the river to come back near the Bus stop to get picked up on time in Mr. Paul’s auto-rickshaws as agreed and booked earlier. Today we wanted to explore the ruins and famous tourist spots in Hampi and that’s what we communicated to the drivers as well.
1. Akka Tangi Betta:
We first stopped near “Akka Tangi Betta” which translates to “Sister Rocks” for the way they stand. That’s not it, it’s got an interesting story behind it too. The driver went about narrating the story to us and it goes like this- Many centuries ago, two sisters were visiting Hampi. Wandering all around in the heat, tired and exhausted, they sat down by the side of the road complaining. The saint who sat meditating close by, was disturbed by their ill-talks about Hampi and casted a curse upon them, post which, they turned into rocks. However, due to extreme weather conditions and the vibrations from the vehicular traffic, the rocks have developed crack and have split into two. So now, they’re identified as “broken sisters”.
2. Lakshmi Narasimha Statue:
The next place we stopped at, was “Lakshmi Narasimha Statue”.
This is one of the most imposing sculptures found in the ruined town of Hampi. The speciality of the sculpture is that it is the largest monolith statue in Hampi. The statue is located on the southern side of the Hemakuta group of temples that stand on the Hemakuta Hill. This gigantic stone structure is considered to be among the most important monuments found in Hampi. It is a major tourist attraction and is visited by a large number of people throughout the year.
3. Sasivekalu Ganapati:
This is situated on the south eastern slopes of the Hemakuta Hillock, this monolithic Ganesha is four armed and is referred to as Sasivekalu (Mustard seed) Ganesha. This was built in 1506 AD by a trader beloging to Chandragiri (near Tirupathi, Andhra Pradesh) in memory of Narasimha II (1491- 1505 AD) of the Saluva Dynasty.
4. Vitthal Temple:
You will be offered a drop in multi-seater open vehicle driven by women (who strangely, for some reason, mostly keep mum and barely respond to any question you ask them) from the gate to the entrance of Vitthal temple.
Vitthal temple is a an ideal example of the typical Vijayanagara empire style of art and architecture. Vitthala is the Krishna aspect of Lord Vishnu. The Hundred pillared Mantapa (pavilion) to the southwest of main temple and the eastern and northern gateways carved with depictions of Vishnu and his forms, are attributed to Krishnadeveraya and his queens.
5. Ratha or The Stone Chariot:
The Stone Chariot, placed at the entrance of the Vitthal Temple, is the reproduction of a very professional wooden chariot. It houses an image of Garuda (Eagle), the vehicle of Lord Vishnu.
6. The Musical Pillars:
The Ranga mantapa has 56 musical pillars(also known as SaReGaMaPa pillars) are constructed in a way that when one gently taps on the pillars, can hear the musical notes- SaReGaMaPa.
A glimpse of few other beautiful architectural remains in the Vitthal complex…
After finishing our sight seeing in Vitthal Temple complex, we headed to have lunch at Tamarind Restaurant where we ordered simple South Indian meals.
Post lunch, we jumped back into our rickshaws and headed towards Queen’s Bath.
7. Queen’s Bath:
Queen’s bath is an ornate structure- an Indo-Islamic architectural marvel which continues to impress the visitors even today, centuries after it was built during the time of Vijanagara empire.
It is believed to have been constructed by Achyuta Raya for the women of the royal family of Vijayanagara. Though named as the Queen’s Bath, it was in all probability used as the private bathing chamber of the king and his queens. It is also believed that the lavish bath was a royal pleasure complex. This belief is due to the location of the bath, which is outside the Royal Enclosure.
After this, we were supposed to visit the Lotus Temple, but unfortunately due to rains, we had to wind up our sight seeing for the day. We got dropped last at Virupaksha Temple. As this was under re-construction due to time related damages caused to the structure, we couldn’t do much here or even capture the image of the temple.
However, close to the temple is a little Bazaar (market) selling colourful clothing, accessories, incense, etc. to name a few. One of our personal favourites was “Gora accessories Store”.
We shopped a little in this street and once our feet got tired, we decided to find some rest at Mango Tree Restaurant while munching on some snacks and sipping the aromatic lemon-mint tea till it was time for us to board the bus from Hampi to Hospet and then back home from Hospet to start the busy week all over, once again….