HAMPI: The bus from Bengaluru reached Hospet which was fourteen kilometres from Hampi, at 4am. With no local busses in sight, the only way to reach Hampi was a long auto ride. After deciding on a reasonable price, the auto driver asked not to sit too close to the window as the ride was bound to get chillier. And he was not joking about it. The temperature dropped as we rode closer to Hampi.
My body began to shiver and my teeth clattered. Soon, I felt my fingers and toes go numb and I half expected that frost bite would follow. As we got out of the city, there were no street lights as far as my eyes could see. The auto driver confidently drove on the narrow winding roads without using headlights. The only time he switched the lights on was when he sensed a sharp turn ahead. This familiarity of the road was a result of the numerous trips that he made from Hospet to Hampi and back every day.
After reaching Hampi, he made me aware that he was also a tour guide and offered to show me around Hampi for a nominal price. However, being the explorer I thought myself to be, I decided to explore the historical city on my own. As I waited for the first ferry to go to the other side of the river, I clicked pictures of the rising sun. People lined up as they too awaited their ride to the other side of the river. Now, when I say “the other side of the river” it does have significance to it. Popularly known as ‘Hippie Island’. This place is heaven for foreigners who travel to Hampi for a break from their busy lives back home.
Virupaksha Temple CREDITS – RESHMA
After reaching Hippie Island, I headed to the Laughing Buddha Café to freshen up and replenish my energy for the exciting day ahead.Eyes closed, I tried to drink it all in. The cool breeze ruffling my hair that was trying hard to caress my cheek, revamped version of a Sanskrit hymn playing in the background, with the aroma of coffee served in front of me. It was peaceful. I opened my eyes to the view of Tungabhadra River with rocks that resembled elephants taking a dip in it and the silhouette of the Virupaksha temple through the thin curtain of mist. Far off I could see villagers of Hampi bathing and washing their clothes in the river.
At the café, as I waited for my breakfast to be served, I struck a conversation with Sylvain a French man who was seated at the table next to mine. He visited India for the first time ten years ago has been visiting India ever since. Sylvain, has travelled all over South India and Hampi is one of his favourite destinations. I noticed the symbol ‘Om’ tattooed at the nape of his neck and asked him, what had prompted him to get the tattoo. To which he replied saying that he was fascinated by the presence of the symbol ‘Om’ all around him.
With a hot cup of coffee in my hand, I took a whiff of it like an addict before I sipped it. In front of me was a statue of a small Buddha that sat at the edge of the compound. At the Laughing Buddha café, I bathed in the warmth of morning sun, unknowingly letting my tensions flow away.
This was how I was swept off my feet by the historical wonders that had endured the test of time. I started my one day trip to Hampi with a nice English breakfast at the ambient Laughing Buddha Café. In spite of the good ambience and food, I felt unwelcomed in the café. Being an Indian, I did not expect the colour of my skin to affect the attitude of the “Indian” waiters towards me. To be treated like an outsider in my own country was a first. Though it was a little upsetting, I found it equally amusing. It made me wonder if Indians in a white land were treated the same way. After my breakfast, I bid adieu to Sylvain and continued my walk to the bank of the river, eagerly waiting to be awed by the ruins on the other side.
I crossed the river in a coracle to explore the ruins of Hampi. The entrance of Virupaksha Temple was busy with school children who had come for their excursion. Virupaksha Temple, located on the banks of the river, has the distinction of being on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The minute details of sculptures of gods and goddesses is the highlight of the temple built way back in tenth century AD.The carved sculptures were symmetrically pleasing to one’s eyes.
Inside the temple, a group of people surrounded Laxmi, the elephant. They fed her and took selfies with her. What was fascinating was that she interacted freely with people, unchained. Such was the confidence of her mahout in his training. The temple was not just home to Laxmi, but groups of langurs and macaques.
As you come out of the temple, on the right, a hill with a flight of steps carved into it will lead you to the Hemakunta group of temples. The short climb will unravel about thirty five temples scattered across a rocky and uneven terrain. This hill top will give you a view of the Tungabhadra valley.Sitting at the hill top and watching the sun set is probably the best place to unwind after a long day of sightseeing.
My trip would not have been complete if I dint visit the famed Hampi Bazar. The alleys of Hampi Bazar were filled with tourists trying to get the best price on things that caught their eyes. From intricately carved stone sculptures to wooden show pieces that were placed in fashion that was aimed to work as bait. Though overpriced, these articles managed to find their way out of Hampi with the tourists.