Glorious Hampi – Anegondi, Virupaksha & Hemkuta

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We’d been to Hampi in Sept 2010. It does not rain a lot in Hampi, so the weather was perfect for photography! We had refered a book called ‘Lets Go’ – India & Nepal to know about, food, accommodation & transportation. Very similar to Lonely Planet, It helped us a lot. For history and other details and maps of Hampi, is a very good source. We generally took a lot more time than given in the books and websites, since being history/archaeology/mythology buffs we read almost each and every carved panel and and tried several photo angles at all the places 🙂 Joining us were good friends and photographers Mihir Chhatre & Jayram Krishnamurthy.

Armed with books, maps and photography gear among everything else we set out by the 11pm semi-sleeper coach to Hospet. Several operators ply on this route, and we’d chosen VRL to drive us to Hospet.

Cave Paintings near Anegondi, Hampi

Cave Paintings near Anegondi, Hampi

Day 1: We reached the Hospet bus stand around 7:30. After bargaining and settling for Rs. 120 with an auto driver, all 4 of us were on the road to Hampi in a single auto 🙂 There are also several buses running every half an hour and ticket is not more than Rs. 15 As usual.. English works better in South India than Hindi, and I was soon extracting all I could from the auto driver, since I was sharing the driver’s seat with him.

Even before you reach Hampi, you are already amazed with ruins you see on the way. Resisting stopping at these, we chose to head straight to the actual stuff. Just before you enter the city gates you are greeted by a splendid view of the entire city, with the Virupaksha temple forming the highlight of the entire scape. Upon reaching, we had breakfast at the Mango Tree restaurant near Virupaksha Temple. As always, we had not booked accommodation, but had read good reviews for ‘Shanthi Guest House’ which is on the other side of the Tungabhadra river. Hampi is divided into two by this river. Most of the stone monuments are on the Virupaksha side, while the other side is more of a haven for rock climbers who especially come for bouldering – the entire area around is scattered with boulders of varying sizes. Some as tall as a 3 storeyed building. Ferries and coracles are the means by which you can cross over. After wading through knee-deep water we hopped on to a ferry and were on the other side in 15 mins.

We had to walk almost 1 km to reach Shanthi Guest House. Autos are also available but slightly expensive, however in our case we spent the money we saved on some cool drinks on the way to Shanthi. The Guest House was really good, 8/10 marks to restaurant ambience and food, and rooms were clean and tidy. Such guest houses normally don’t come with all other amenities like TV and cupboardor an air conditioner. However you will get a choice to stay in River view or garden view room. Each of the rooms is an independent cottage with attached clean toilet, and a small porch sporting a swing, where I chose to spend the next half an hour. Later I shifted to the bed inside, and after taking rest for a few hours we had lunch at the same place. Food is good every where at Hampi. You can get can taste very good local food i.e. South Indian and of course there is North Indian, Continental, Italian, Israeli and Chinese food. Most of these cuisines have been taught to locals by foreigners who stay for months and quickly get bored of eating Indian food 🙂

Dining @ Shanthi Guest House

Dining @ Shanthi Guest House

After lunch, we hired mopeds – TVS Super XL and went to visit the neighboring village of Anegondi. On the way, we came across a broken bridge which upon closer inspection turned out to be a huge aqueduct, possibly the primary source of clean water for this side of Hampi. Next we came across Pampapathi Sarovar is on the way to Anegondi. Nothing much to exciting to watch here, except for a few mythological references. You can observe that the entire Hampi area is fortified by a long wall running across the hills on both sides. Hanuman definitely looked worth visiting. However we weren’t in the mood to climb so planned to come back another time. At Hampi most of the roads go through big stone entrances, and the entrance to Anegondi was no different. Though Anegondi has several places to visit, we did not find any of them very spectacular. We visited a few old temples, a palace and big old Chariot right at the main square. One of the few interesting places were the entrance of Anegondi Fort and old bridge ruins which come from the other side of the river Tungabhadra. Only the old piers of this once standing bridge remain as of today.

On the way back, instead of heading back to Shanthi directly, we decided to take the opposite road. We had read about cave paintings on the this road, although not many books or websites talk about it. At next ‘T’ junction we started inquiring. We tried our best to speak their brand of Hindi or English, but none of the locals had any clue about the paintings. We were also told to go to the Hampi market area and buy paintings there! After 2-3 wrong turns and a few ‘U’ turns we reached what seemed to be the right place. An ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) man was there, almost planning to call it a day. But he was more than happy to take us around the place. With out his help it would be impossible to locate the paintings. The paintings and the site itself was really good. The cave paintings here resemble those of Bhimbetka – similar strokes, colours and objects. Elementary objects like stick figures of people, animals and hunting scenes have been very well represented with strokes of red. Wonder how this paint has stood all the weathering for centuries.. when the paint in peoples’ houses starts peeling off within a decade! After the paintings, we too decided to call it a day. Happy about having seen one of the less visited places in Hampi, we returned to Shanthi guest house and enjoyed a nice dinner in their excellent dining area – with rain in the backdrop.

Day 2: We woke up early to avoid the harsh afternoon sun. However the ferries to take us across would start only at 8am. So we spent about half an hour photographing the towering Virupaksha temple from this side of the river. This side is more popular with the rock climbing crowd who come here to scale the boulders of varied sizes and shapes. Most of the ruins are on the other side of the river. The boat came a little after 8 and we crossed the river and hurried to a breakfast joint. Food is quite cheap in Hampi and even more at the bazar in front of the temple. By the time we finished our breakfast at 9.30 it was already quite sunny. Day times are quite dehydrating so try and have lots of coconut water.

Virupaksha temple from Hemkuta hill

Virupaksha temple from Hemkuta hill

The first monument on our list was the imposing Virupaksha. The main deity of this temple is Shiva, since Virupaksha, consort of Pampa, is an incarnation of Shiva. I have been to hundreds of temples in India but this is the only temple where one has to pay an entry fee of Rs 2/- and this temple is still actively used for worship. We spent some time watching the temple elephant getting decorated and then almost an hour looking through the and trying to understand each and every illustration panel on and around the roof of Sabha Mandapa. Armed with Lord Shiva’s blessings we then moved on to the Hemkuta Hill that houses several other temples and ruins.

One enters the Hemkuta hill through the three storeyed archway – the face of most of the Hampi pamphlets. Jayaram & Mihir spotted a 5-6 ft long cobra, but sadly we could not get any photos. We were warned that spotting such creepy-crawlies in Hampi is normal, but the guys were quite scared on coming face to face with the little guy! Next, we visited the Kadalekalu Ganesh Temple and Sasivekalu Ganesh Temples, both named after the shape of the idols. One of them sports a belly like a mustard seed and the other, like a gram. Was almost 1.30pm by then so we decided to head back for some lunch. After lunch, we hopped onto our trusty mopeds and went visiting the huge Lakshminarsinha and big Shivlinga. The Lakshminarsimha sculpture exudes almost lifelike expressions, in spite of being in stone! It is said that there was another sculpture of goddess Lakshmi sitting on Narsimha’s lap, but Narsimha sits alone today. Another interesting piece of rock is a huge shivling next to the Lakshminarsimha which is surrounded by almost waist deep water. A lot of people had gotten their blessings from this shivling – we saw thousands of rupees in the form of 1 rupee coins lying at the bottom of the water. A few more photos later, we decided to move on.

While coming back we went to Krishna Temple. We were able to spot the ten avatars (incarnations) of Vishnu at this temple. The entrance has a few nice specimens of Vyal/Yali sculptures. One of the towers of the temple has an excellent war scene depiction. Just across the road leading to this temple is the ‘bazar’ accompanied by a serene pond (pushkarni), with a small shrine in the middle. All of us were tired and thirstly so this place provided some rest to our exhausted. It was a treat for photography as well, with Mihir clicking one of his best panoramas, and stitching it a few weeks later 🙂 Finishing up the last bits of photography we decided it was time to return and went back to the Hampi bazar area. While walking down towards the far end of the bazar we realised that all of the small shops and offices are just modern converts of the once bustling stone bazar. The far end also houses a gigantic Nandi. Jayaram and Mihir went for a stroll on the hill behind the Nandi, while we lazed on the grass. Around 5.30 we decided it was time to cross the river and started towards the ferry point. Once on the other side, we took a short trail that led to the bouldering spot and trid our hand (and legs) to scale a couple of the rocks. After several failed attempts later we unanimously decided it was time for a refill and headed to Shathi’s dining area. Over Dinner we decided to move our camp on the main side of Hampi as we were missing good photos and hikes to few best places at Hampi.

Thanks for reading till the end of part one. If you are still interested, part 2 – the rest of our travel, is coming soon.