The name Hampi has hovered in the peripheries of my consciousness for over a decade now. Many years ago, I was searching for heritage and off-beatholiday options Hampi popped up. Wanting to visit these remained a nascent plan which would not have materialised but for my opportunity to lead a trip there with Wegbond.
The beginning of December 2021 thus saw me heading off Karnataka-wards to visit World UNESCO Heritage Site Hampi- with Zeenat and Madhurani from Mumbai, Madhu and Meeta from NCR, Suchithra and Girija from Bengaluru and Harleen from Patiala.
To paraphrase innumerable quotes, travelling is as much about the destination as it is about the journey –unless of course it’s just “beam me up Scottie” and there you are. Even Harry Potter’s quicker forms of travel had a host of experiences-from getting splinched (ouch) to landing up in the wrong fireplace!
Though not involving lost body parts or destinations, our journey to Hampi and thereafter to other places, was enjoyable, comfortable and beautiful too. Fellow travellers contribute immensely to this of course and our group was fun loving, easy going and extremely sporting.Our unique energies gelled pretty well into a whole of great enjoyment and some madness!
Driving through India is never boring and the rides during this tripwere no exception. Fields of varied crops lined our way and the closest we got to a red carpet were red chilly fields. Cotton, rice and sugarcane were part of this amazing assortment and we had many stops for a closer look and to take photos. The sugarcane specially was unusual-it had flowered and looked delicately pink and pretty-most unlike say any we had seen up North. Languorous windmills waved us on and sheep caused traffic jams added their joy too.Some of the group were keen birders and ever so often, we had interesting avians pointed out to us.
The landscape as one nears Hampi becomes steadily rugged, adding an element of brawn to the picturesque beauty of the fields. Bouldering,huge, towering, some precariously placed and all of them spectacular. To realise eventually while at the sites-Hampi, Pattadakal, Aihole and Badami, that the temples and structures we see were carved out of that seemingly unrelenting rock, by hand , is awe inspiring and such an insight on how, throughout evolution, some human beings have added beauty to their lives, lovingly and painstakingly. As we walked, ascended, descended, helped each other through some parts and roamed the sites, respect for the rulers and builders of the time increased manifold. Our extremely well informed and humorous guides Ravi and Chandru brought the places alive for us.
Interestingly, while these sites were all deeply religious-specially the Virupaksha Temple-the only active shrine in the group of monuments called Hampi, stories from yore say that the rulers were secular and the populace had the freedom to practice their chosen religion. Even more, the influences of other cultures are reflected in the carvings and ever so often one sees a distinctly Oriental face or even, a European seeming gargoyle to say nothing of a two Mulla Nasruddins playing chess! Camels from Rajasthan have also found their way to the Kings Celebration platform.
While Aihole and Pattadakal are both temple complexes, the former has distinct Buddhist influences and the latter is syncretic in terms of the structures are built in styles both from North and South India.
In Badami, the caves are carved from sheer rock face- exquisite works of art. Shiva and Vishnu being worshipped and right on top, a Jain temple.
We stayed at lovely cottages in a village located on the banks of the Tungabhadra River. Set amidst lush greenery, it a clean and comfortable, eco-conscious property. We slept to the sound of crickets and woke up to an absolute choir of birds. Our welcome here was by a group of “langurs”! These and macaques are present in large numbers everywhere. Considered descendants of Hanuman, these are revered and not harmed or shooed away and have the run of the place. The carvings on the shrines and temples have monkeys too! Hampi was apparently where Ram first met the vaanar sena-Hanuman and his brothers. The rest is history, or rather, mythology.
The stay has extremely caring and willing staff members. They served us some terrific meals in addition to complying to our requests for ice, mixers and bhajias with smiling faces. As for other victuals, we ended up comparing masala papads across the various restaurants we ate at- you know-fried or roasted papad, topped with chopped tomatoes, onions and green chillies and some chaat masala. Fresh sugarcane juice was sheer joy as were the guavas sprinkled with masala and we sampled some really good namkeens from the local vendors.
While not roaming the sites, we found time to go for a coracle ride in SanapurLake. Coracles are cute, round boats and we did go round and round in them once for sheer fun. Anegundi village also houses an NGO-Kishkinda Trust, which trains women to use and weave banana fibre into mats, baskets and other items. We visited and shopped here too.
Hampi was our destination, but our journey there and back was about so much more-food, laughter, beauty, kindness, friendships and being connected.