Posts Tagged ‘Hampi’

HAMPI, May 17-18, 2009
As we reached the gates of Hampi, we were greeted by a sight straight out of the film ‘Sholay’. No Gabbar Singh or Viru here, but picture a small hamlet, if you can, surrounded by hills, rocky interludes and the Ruins, through which ran a solitary road. (See the picture at the beginning of the article). It was quaint, to say the least. But I’m getting ahead…
We left Bijapur at 7.30 am, and in a few minutes reached NH 13, which was just a km away. A right on to NH 13 and we were on our way to Hampi.
When we reached Almatti, we decided to stop for breakfast at an Udipi joint. The place had some pretty decent dosa and we also had filter coffee after ages. The roads were excellent, except near villages where we encountered multiple speed breakers. But, now that we knew what to expect we were careful! We drove on long stretches where ours was the only vehicle for miles. But for the fact that we were on a two-lane highway instead a four-lane NH 4, we didn’t really see much difference in the quality of the road we were driving on.
On the roadside we saw a lot of smaller cars, and even jeeps that looked like crushed pepsi cans. Some were even wrapped around trees. The rest of the journey was pretty uneventful till we reached the imposing Tungabhadra Dam. We drove in and spent about half an hour there before setting off for Hospete, the town where one can also park while visiting Hampi.
As we neared Hampi we came across some Ruins of this once prosperous kingdom. For a former history student, it was an awesome experience. As the road turned left we drove past some imposing structures that towered over us. There was an arch before we entered the village. All around us was history, hundreds of years old and we were stunned by what we saw there. I don’t think we had seen anything so exotic ever in our lives.
As soon as we got a room in one of the half-a-dozen guest houses, we asked for a guide and he materialized in no time. We were all tired after the drive, but I wasn’t going to miss a tour of the kingdom. A caution, don’t look for five-star comforts here. Just be happy with what you have! The day we reached Hampi was buffeted by a ferocious gale at night and it blew the power lines till the next morning. So leave alone AC, we didn’t even have a fan or light. Also, the eating places here are just dhabas. So don’t get too squeamish about the facilities. If you are the type, don’t go!
Our first stop was the Krishna Temple, which had some fascinating sculptures and engravings. Apart from the engravings, what interested us was the cash box cut from solid rock that was outside the temple! Even the lid of the box was solid rock. According to legend, it took an elephant to pull away the lid to open the box! Not surprising at all, that it was still there and hadn’t been carried away, by some adventurous crooks. (More)

Pic on top: The water supply system at Hampi
Pic above: The Vitthala Temple
The next stop was the Queen’s Bath. Hell, it could give a modern-day indoor air-conditioned swimming pool a run for its money. The royals sure knew how to look after their queens! Not only was there a pool, there were also water outlets through a rock carving that sprayed water on the ladies as they bathed. Once they had finished bathing, the water could be drained and the tank refilled with fresh water through the amazing water supply system. This wasn’t all. They had covered platforms where the ladies could get a massage. Peeping toms were kept away by women guards! What mystified me, however, was why the royal baths were so far away from the palace where the queens stayed. I guess, like it’s for some of people today, bathing was more a ritual than a necessity!
But I guess there were two places that completely fascinated us. The first was the Royal enclosure, which housed the Mahanavami Dibba, a pyramid-like structure with a huge platform atop which the kings conducted pujas during festivals, and the second was the Vitthala Temple. The first site was amazing, because there were rooms which had water supply units in each room, a drainage system, a royal bath, and even a secret underground chamber used by the Vijayanagram royals.
The second was the Vitthala temple which was nothing short of awesome. The sculptures, designs and the carvings gave us glimpses of a dynasty that really indulged in and understood art. The stone chariot is a magnificent structure and the intricate designs spoke of a very high level of artisanship. Although vandalized, it is still an architectural masterpiece. The guide told us that till the Archaelogical Survey of India stepped in and took over the entire 26 square kms of Hampi, people would either walk away with artifacts or would break off pieces to keep as souvenirs.
It would have taken us at least three days to cover Hampi, but since we had just 24 hours we had to cram in as much as we could. The next day at around 10.30 am after some more sightseeing, we decided to visit Anjaneya Hill on our way back. According to mythology, Anjaneya Hill, in the kingdom of the mythological Kishkinda, is the birthplace of Lord Hanuman. You have to walk up a few hundred steps to the top of the hill and since I wanted to preserve my energy for the drive to Hubli, I let the others take the climb. What was surprising was that I saw more foreigners trudging up the hill in the scorching heat, than Indians!
We set off for Dharwad soon after, at around 12.30 pm. The road conditions were not that great and deteriorated rapidly as we neared Hubli and as we reached the outskirts of Hubli we were travelling over gravel more than metal. Driving through Hubli and Dharwad slowed us down and we finally managed a hotel room in Dharwad, right off the road that would take us on the third leg of our journey, to the forests of Dandeli also known as Veerappan country.

1st Leg, May 16: Pune-Islampur-Sangli-Athni-Bijapur

2nd Leg: May 17: Bijapur-Hampi

3rd Leg: May 18: Hampi-Hubli (night halt)

4th Leg: May 19: Hubli-Dandeli

5th Leg: May 22: Dandeli-Kolhapur (night halt)

6th Leg: May 23: Kolhapur-Chiplun-Dapoli

7th Leg: May 24: Dapoli-Polladpur-Pune

Just playing with the headline from an old school joke, that’s all! We called it FRCS then…

This trip was much shorter than the one we did last year around the same time. That time we had travelled from Pune to Karwar and then drove down NH 17 to Kanyakumari. From KK we drove up to Chennai, then Bangalore and back to Pune over 21 days. But considering the fact that this summer is hotter than the last one, we knew it was going to be a tiring journey.

We left Pune (Katraj bypass) at 7.10 am. Having heard the horror stories about the Solapur Highway, we thought taking the Mumbai-Bangalore Highway (NH 4) would be a better idea, even if only till Islampur. In hindsight, I think it was a correct decision. The Swift had clocked 33769 kms at that point.

Like always, rather than stop at some eatery along the highway, we munched on sandwiches in the car itself. Since driving on NH 4 is always a pleasure so early in the morning, munching at a sandwich is an easy task! If you’ve had the misfortune of driving on NH 4 while returning to Pune on a Sunday evening (a bit like driving on a busy city road at 7 pm) from an outing, you’ll know why I said ‘pleasure’!

After driving on NH-4 till Islampur we took a left off NH-4 for Sangli town, where we encountered a pot-holed, bumpy stretch all the way from Islampur into Sangli town.

But I guess the scenic beauty of the countryside made up for the bumpy roads. The long green stretches of sugarcane fields were so soothing that I drove off the road, parked near one of the fields, opened the cars doors and let the breeze in! And there’s nothing like a cup of tea to add to that moment. We were off and away 15 minutes later.

The roads in Sangli town were equally bad and we were glad to get out of the place and head towards Miraj. Once we left Miraj behind, and went past Arag, we were on our way to Athni in Karnataka. It was only after we crossed into Karnataka that the roads improved dramatically.

This was one feature of the State Highways in Karnataka – all in pretty good shape, except when one reached a village, where we slammed into multiple speed humps. We barrelled over quite a few inadvertently and I was a bit worried about the tubeless tyres. Fortunately, it was nothing serious. 

Unlike State Highway 12, once we entered Bijapur town, the roads were an even bigger mess than the ones in Sangli. To add to the usual traffic snarls, were the potholed roads and confusing road signs. Even the auto guys gave us conflicting directions to Station Road, where we were told all the hotels were situated.

We reached Hotel Pearl on Station Road at 1.10 pm. It was a nondescript place where the rent was also not too steep. It was also just a km away from NH 13, which we would have to take the next day for our onward journey to Hampi. We had driven 371 kms (34140) in 4:45 hours (15-minute tea break not included).

After lunch and a quick nap, we set out for the Gol Gumbaz, which is the mausoleum of Mohammed Adil Shah. Fortunately, it was walking distance from the hotel. Apart from the size and height of the dome, the acoustics and air conditioning inside the Gol Gumbaz, would put most of our electronics and AC companies, respectively, to shame! Not for one moment did we perspire inside the mausoleum even after climbing the 200 odd steps to reach the dome, because there was a cool breeze that wafted through the monument.

When our guide whispered something from across the hall inside the mausoleum we heard it in stereophonic sound, loud and clear where we were, almost 90 feet away! Trust me, narrating it, isn’t half as exciting as it was experiencing it.

With the benefit of technology and hindsight we call ourselves an advanced and superior race. But exploring what’s left behind of this dynasty and later the one at Hampi, one realised that they had very little to work with and yet developed infrastructure that was very advanced, which not only withstood the test of time, but the elements as well. Would we say the same about the water pipelines that run under our city even 20 years later?

Next: visiting the awesome Hampi

Returning to insanity!

Posted: May 29, 2009 in Travelogues
Tags: , ,

It’s been a crazy ten odd days – driving from Pune to Bijapur to Hampi to Dandeli to Dapoli and back to Pune. And in that madness was bliss! It was an experience driving through the jungles and the ghats in Karnataka, once inhabited by the infamous Veerappan and lots of wild animals. The first is now dead and second is on its way to becoming extinct.

The story is that the bandit, is himself responsible for the paucity of the endangered species for whom the forests were home. A real pity because watching a tiger, leopard or an elephant in their natural surroundings would have been much more exciting than seeing them in cages. But we did spot a few other wild animals. The resort staff also caught a long and rather dangerous looking reptile, some distance away from our tent. The staff released in the wild. Not a very pleasant thought, if like me you shudder everytime you see something that slithers.

Spending three days in jungle resorts situated in the Dandeli forests was fun — if you like roughing it out. You have the company of mosquitoes, an assorted variety of insects, an occasional snake, jungle squirrel, peacock and lots of monkeys. The view was fantastic, the food was edible and the staff was friendly and always eager to please. The night we reached it poured. There was lightning, thunder and a strong gale threatened to rip the roof off our hut.

The rains followed us everywhere, except to Dapoli, where we needed it the most. Had it rained there, we might have been tempted to stay on for a few more days and sight a few more dolphins.

I’m preparing the travelogue. Hopefully, over the weekend we should have them ready, along with the pictures.