Monthly Archives: October 2013
Most students frown at the mention of history. Most of our educators too, view it as a subject to best fit as a medium to score better marks- and once that is achieved- they egg us to focus on the supposedly ‘more important’ subjects.
I vaguely remember reading about the Vijayanagar empire in my history text books in school. I did score my marks for remembering its capital city- Hampi. And then as the examinations were over, I was happy to forget about it.
Over the next few years, as I realised that travel spurs me- physically, mentally and emotionally, I came across this capital city once again. This time, in popular guide books, travel blogs and stories from my traveller friends. However, I got a chance to have my own stories about Hampi only recently.
The sleepy town of Hospet welcomes you, as you get off the train from Bangalore, and you feel like you are in any other town in South India. Dotted with local shops and buildings, this town didn’t quite provide the sight to my eyes waiting to ‘relive history’, as many travel writers claimed.
It took a ride of about 15 kms on bumpy roads in a crammed auto rikshaw to feel disoriented. Disoriented- because the sudden onset of boulders as high as the buildings you just saw back in Hospet, makes you believe that you may have been transported back in time- way back in time. Next to most of these boulders are signs to remind you that Hampi is UNESCO world heritage site. And you just begin to understand why.
The town of Hampi is quite small and one can cover most of the distance on a bicycle- depending on your fitness levels. Motorbikes are easily available as well- and among the motorbikes the old ‘Luna’ style bikes seem to top the popularity levels here. There are umpteen number of travel operators who will help you arrange transportation to the sites. Among the heritage sites, the most popular ones are Virupaksha Temple, Hampi Bazaar, Monolith Bull, Lakshmi Narasimha temple, Hemakuta Hill temples, Big Shivlinga, Vithala Temple, Hazara Rama Temple, Royal Enclosures, Queen’s Bath, Zanana Enclosure, Elephant Stables, Statue of Lakshmi Narasimha .
A little further away from the main Hampi town is the Matanga hill. It is said that Matanga hill provides a bird’s eye view of Hampi. The lazybum in me discouraged me to take that hike, something which I regret, but which increases my determination to go back to Hampi again.
But aside from the heritage sites, Hampi is a pretty town in itself. The Tungabhadra river had taken on a might avatar during the time I was there as it was the peak of the monsoon season. And it was a breathtaking to just sit next to the river, watching her display her force- evoking equal awe as the boulders that surround her. If you missed picking up something from the Goan flea markets, you can be rest assured you can shop for them in Hampi bazaar.
While it may be good to cover most of the sites, I personally liked to spend time at Hemakuta hill temples, Vithala temple and Hampi Bazaar to really soak in some ‘Hampiness’. If there is a photography enthusiast in you, you will get some excellent photo ops. But then again, the entire town of Hampi lays itself to be photographed beautifully!
Though I went to Hampi for the first time, I felt overwhelmed, in a strange kind of way. This sense of connect seems a little eerie at first, because Hampi isn’t like the other travel destinations. The sights are unique, the landscape can feel bizarre at first and life seems to stand still for those couple of days.
You maybe decked with the latest gadgets and would have basic material comforts around you, but there is a feeling of being stuck in a time warp and well, ‘relive history’. I can now understand why most travel writers are compelled to say this!
After spending a short 2 days visiting the sites or the ruins as they are popularly known, I have come to a conclusion. That I am not going to call them the Hampi ‘ruins’ any more.
Objectively speaking they maybe ruins. Over the centuries, most of the temples and architecture were attacked and ‘ruined’ by invaders. And hence if you look closely on the walls of the Virupaksha temple, you can see them carrying the marks of the wounds and scratches. There seem to be some pillars missing among the musical pillars in the Vithala temple complex. And perhaps, some buildings lie unfinished- as told by the group of boulders huddled together.
As I understand them now, they are not ruins, they are storytellers.
These ‘ruins’ do not really talk about getting ruined.
They display the depth of their foundation which prevented them from falling.
They tell a story about resilience. They tell a tale of strength. They tell a story of beauty. Of history.
They talk about gracefully overcoming those who tried to ‘ruin’ them, capturing me and countless others in rapt attention.
And these are the stories that need to be told to the students – not just of history- but of life!
So when are you planning your hear these anecdotes from the Hampi storytellers?!