This travelogue is special. Writing about the place closest to my heart is always tough. It’s impossible to translate the feeling of pure frenzy I undergo every time I visit Hampi. In contrast, Hampi is also my place of peace. Located besides the Tungabhadra River, Hampi would be nothing but for its ruins, amazing boulders and the hippies that come looking for moments that are beyond the material world. During certain months the skyline is surreal with the boulders almost touching the clear clouds. Get on to the crazily balanced boulders and you can see the entire expanse of Hampi and no people even if they are there. Every boulder, but obviously, has its own unique view and you can look as far as you wish to look. It is that feeling of space and solace that comes when you want to shut out humanity in its truest form. And a special thanks to my friend Pranav for making my first trip to Hampi in 2010 totally worth it. For taking a detour on his way to Goa from Hyderabad and dropping by to meet me at Hampi. Ever since, I have “just not” stopped coming!
Hampi is a place of contrasts. It attracts the agnostic hippie as much as the pilgrim. The dry brown terrain is punctuated with green that consists of palm trees, banana plantations and paddy fields. Reiterating the fact that all of my best things in life have layers.
Hampi is divided into two main areas: the Sacred Centre, around Hampi Bazaar; and the Royal Centre, towards Kamalapuram. The river divides these two parts which is easily transportable with either a motor boat or the primitive coracle, a light, bowl-shaped boat with a grass and bamboo frame.
The Royal Centre is akin to a hippie colony with backpackers from across the world. Most guest houses have a common sitting area where you can see travellers sharing travel tales, listening to music on their pod or engrossed in a book. A lot of these travellers are on an average 6 months backpacking across India. The joy emitting from their travel tales is infectious and will almost make you send your boss the “I quit” SMS.
The other side of the river is where the Hampi World Heritage Site actually resides. Among them are beautiful temples, basements of palaces, remains of aquatic structures, ancient market streets, royal pavilions, bastions, royal platforms and treasury buildings. The winding roads might be narrow, but are well maintained and the expanse around will make up for the narrow roads.
Hampi is vast and cannot be covered in one go, so if you can trust my judgement here are a few things you can begin with:
- Hire a bike or a cycle and just ride around aimlessly. There is more than one ruin that will call out to you. Go ahead follow the voice and get ready to be enthralled
- Cross the river on a coracle
- Eat at the Mango Tree – Cool your heels at this restaurant overlooking the river, underneath mango trees. Must have the South Indian meals and the mango lassi.
- Walk through water in the cool & dark Shiva temple to pay your respects to the dilapidated idol.
- Sit on a rock and watch the sun go down.
- Escape the Vijaya Vittala temple through a small door in the backyard and say hello to the amazingly balanced boulders you have been envying from far. Sit and do nothing!
- The Zenana Enclosure will lead you to the Elephant Stables. Have coconut water and watch the throngs of people walk past you with cameras dangling by their necks.
- Vittala Temple has the famous ‘musical’ pillars which when tapped reverberate music. To protect the pillars from further damage, the Archaeological Society of India has banned tourists from touching the pillars. The ornate stone chariot in the temple courtyard is a piece of art.
- Shop at the Hampi bazaar for ethinic silver jewellery, leather bags and add to your hippie wardrobe.
- Sit with backpapers and talk. Trust me: your want to travel will only grow more stronger.
So go get lost at Hampi. Please do note in the past few months the Karnataka government has demolished many commercial establishments after UNESCO placed the heritage site on its endangered list. Please research before you go.