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Date: 8 Jan 2006

Hampi – the heritage city

 As an avid traveler, I am keen to discover new places and especially those which are off the beaten path. Since quite a few months, after having read about the ancient city of Hampi in a UNESCO article, I was looking forward to discover the place. For all these years South India meant a land of temples, temples and temples to me. So finding an ancient habitation in the form of a full fledged city was interesting.

 My mother and I started from Belguam at noon on the 08 th Sunday. We were told about a direct bus at 1230 to Hospet which is the closest city to Hampi at a distance of 13 kms. The direct journey would have taken 5 hours. But when we arrived at the bus depot at 1100, we were told by a bus conductor to go take the vus to Hubli from where there were many buses to Hospet. Now this is far from true in reality. We took the 1130 bus to save one hour and landed in Hubli after 87 kms of travel.

 Now at this point the trouble started. First of all there are hardy 5 buses in a day to Hospet from Hubli so we had to wait for more than an hour. In addition language was a major problem. My mother and I don’t speak a word in Kannada and no one speaks even decent Hindi.

 We finally boarded the bus for Hospet after n hour and a half and reached our destination at 1930. Let me not forget to mention that the Karnataka Road Transport Corporation buses are very good. They are clean and don’t make much noise as against their counterparts, S T in Maharashtra . The conductor always shouts out the destination name loudly many times as many people are illiterate and cannot read that’s written on the bus. I found that to be travel-friendly.

 Now once at Hospet we took a rickshaw for 120 rupees. We were cheated right there. It shouldn’t have cost us more than 90 or 100 but then we weren’t sure about the location. The KSTDC Mayura Bhuvaneshwari hotel is on the main road from Hospet but our rickshawalla tricked us and took us inside the city of Hampi so as to show the worth of those 120 rupees that we paid. The hotel has got very basic amenities and a non air condition rooms comes for 660 / night including taxes.

 And here, the real journey started. Friends, I am happy I was cheated by the rickshawalla as the scene of the ruins that I saw in the pitch darkness on night was simply breathtaking. You feel a little scared initially but then it’s just too beautiful. My advice however, do not venture into the ruins at after 1830 hours.

 The next day I told my mother to rest while I discovered just the outer-world of Hampi on a bicycle which I took from the hotel for Rs100 a day.

 The city of Hampi is divided mainly in two blocks, one which can be called a ceremonial and religious quarter and the other can be termed as the Royal quarter. The road to the ruins is covered with hamlets and banana plantations. Everywhere en route one can see temples or dormitories or tanks, ancient houses and gates. I actually had a feeling of being in the 15 th century when this magnificent city was at its glory. Everything around just comes alive as you move ahead through small dusty roads off the path. You find the most beautiful sites at places where you think you might find nothing.

Hampi I cannot be very precise with each site but then some places that you ought to visit are the Shivling and the Ugra Narasimha which are next to each other. Further into to the city Vithala temple is a must see. The courtyard of this temple is opulent and every Saturday and Sunday night a light show is oragnised. You feel mesmerized by the grandeur of the place which is on the banks of the Tungabhadra river.

 One must also visit the Krishna temple which is simple yet stately. Here too the architecture comes is distinct not really the one that could be expected in South India . When you are in proper village of Hampi , you can visit the Virupaksha temple. This temple is the only temple in Hampi now that is still used for religious ceremonies. However, I wasn’t happy with the cleanliness part of the structure.

 These places were discovered in detail the next day with my mother in an auto rickshaw. The rickshaw charges are rupees and there is room for bargain. Our rickshawalla was an honest and decent person who showed us around well. the hotel staff thought we needed a guide too which comes for rs700 for a day but believe me a guide isn’t required at all because the rickshawallas know everything and are generous in telling you about all you want to know.

 The other quarter i.e. the Royal quarter comprises of a beautiful water tank of Pushkarni. The stepped tank is serene in nature and one can sit on steps and enjoy the view. This tank is located on a ground full of ruined houses. The place is thought to be a busy area full of well-planned homes and government structures.

 We paid the rickshawalla Rs400 for his sincerity and for being very informative. On the 11 th morning we took the 0845 train from Hospet to Hubli and thereafter got into our Mumbai bound Chalukya express at Hampi at 1530 hrs. It’s a 24 hours journey one way.

 The city of Hampi is unique in the sense of architecture which is of the Vijayanagara Empire. The whole place itself seems to live in the past and takes you in an era which was full of prosperity in the form of wealth, art and daily life of it’s inhabitants. I can never put the experience precisely in words for it is something to feel than to just touch and come back.

 Sadly we Indians don’t seem to treasure these things much as I just saw two Indian tourists in the whole place, rest all were foreigners who were completely in awe of the splendour of the place. When I thought of coming to Hampi, people asked, “What’s there? Never ever heard? Going to spend for seeing ruins? Hardly anyone goes there.”

 If you like conventional holiday, Hampi isn’t for you. There is lot of walking, climbing and descending to see the expressive and be-witching structures. It is a place to lose yourself and be one with the past for sometime.

 So for the one’s who are already mesmerized, come discover the Heritage city of Hampi , another feather in this land’s glorious past.

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 Written By: Shrikant 

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