Magnificent Ruins of Hampi
Updated: Dec 31, 2022
As I sat on the top of the Matanga Hill in evening, I looked around to the sight of boulders spread across the entire area. The grand Hampi Towers, the calm waters of Tungabhadra River, and the ruins of temples and structures, all were narrating a tale held within themselves about the life and history as it was during the Vijayanagar Empire. With a nomad playing the flute, and a woman reading her book, I sat there calmly admiring the historical and architectural wonder that lay in front of me. The Sun was on its way to set leaving Hampi in the quietness of the night - a sight which looks more beautiful in the moonlight.
My three days exploring Hampi was nothing short an adventure. There was a lot to explore at every nook and cranny. The Hampi Bazaar (market) is the main point filled with tourists, small entries, a mini market, and local tourist guides looking for customers. On one side of the bazaar are the Hampi Towers and the Vripaksha Temple boasting of the marvel of India architecture. This is probably one of the few monuments standing till date. On the other side is the foot of Matunga Hill and steps leading to a small hill. One can see the ruins of old structures besides the steps.
The sun was its best, but it didn't stop me from moving ahead. As I reached the other side of the hill, I came across the temple of Achyutaraya or what's left of it now. Interestingly, the remains of the structure still have the carvings all across them. The entrance of the temple had a long road ahead of it. I could imagine Royals marching on that road with their horses and elephants in the bygone era.
After spending some time at the temple, I decided to take the road leading to Tungabhadra River. However, I took a detour and found myself standing in front of the ruined structure of King's Balance. It is said that the Kings used to weigh themselves with gems and diamonds which were later distributed amongst the poor. My imagination started to make up scenes from the past on how the entire process would have been carried out in past. Sounds amusing, isn't it!
Well, I finally managed to reach the riverside convincing myself not to stop anywhere. The famous Hampi boulders covered both sides of the river making it a bit difficult to sit close to it. However, I found a good spot at one of the boulders. The calm waters, the faint noise of oar (chappu) from a boat rowing in the water, and the boulders made a perfect view to take a nice break. The river runs across the entire Hampi and goes beneath the Vripaksha Temple. One could also reach the other side of the river on the circular shaped handmade boats called coracle. They keep on turning round providing a good view of the entire area.
It would be a play day for any history and architect lover to spend time at Hampi as there were a uniqueness and a story behind every ruined structure.
To explore the other side of Hampi, one has to walk around 1.5 km. Making my way through an underground temple, I reached an open area which was earlier supposed to be some sort of courtyard but now reduced to ruins. In the middle was a stepped well, Pushkarani. Across the field was some sort for water system connecting to this well. Though not working, the structure of the water system was still standing strong, an engineering marvel in those times.
From whatever I saw so far, I could imagine that Hampi would have been a beautiful place in past with so much variety in terms of structures coupled with its location.
Next thing I encountered was something called Queen's Bath. It was, in fact, a royal bathroom only for the Queen. A big structure in the middle of a garden with a small canal running across it connecting with the main bathroom to supply water. The changing rooms, as I read, were destroyed and what was left was the main bathroom. This was a perfect example of the magnificence of the Kings and the Queens.
Next in line was Lotus Mahal and Elephant Stable. A visit to Lotus Mahal required an entry ticket with no charges for a camera. At the entrance was a beautifully maintained garden which was flooded with many people and children who were on a school trip. I walked across few structures which were closed for public visit. Exploring the area, I found myself standing across Lotus Mahal. It was a small structure but had beautiful carvings and designs all across. The beauty of the structure was hard to miss in the entire garden. Tucked away in a corner, it was a jewel of the place.
I then went inside towards huge stables meant for elephants. It was indeed a beyond imagination as to how big those stables were and I was lost imagining how people would have kept their elephants in these stables. There was a small museum at the side of the stable of different statues/idols kept in an open courtyard which was locked from outside.
As the day was coming to an end, and so my trip, I decided to visit Matanga Hill and watch the sunset from the top of the temple. On my way, I stumbled across two huge boulders leaning across each other known as Sister’s Stone. People can easily miss them on their way unless one has seen its picture before or read about it. While some say that these two boulders leaning on each other are nothing but the art of nature, there is a folklore behind it. There were two sisters in the past who were cursed to turn into boulders and hence the name. I do not know much of the details of the folklore but the sight of these huge rocks leaning against each other with no other support was amazing.
I finally found myself at the steps of the Matanga Hill. It was a task for me to climb up after so much walking but I somehow gathered the courage and went ahead. The climb up is not an easy task as there are no proper steps and one has to make its way through many boulders to reach the top. After some struggle, I finally managed to reach the top of the hill.
In spite of its ruins, Hampi is still rich in its culture and the history it holds with the boulders making the place all the more special. For those who love history, architecture, and unpaved exploration, Hampi is a must visit destination.