After a drive of over four hours to go 200 kms from Badami to Hampi, we arrive at the Hampi Heritage Resort http://www.indoasia-hotels.com/heritage-resort-hampi/ mid-afternoon. It’s a veritable oasis in the countryside. A curry lunch, an ice cold Kingfisher beer, a swim, and a nap are all we can manage in the 35 degree heat. We’ll save the Hampi ruins for tomorrow.
Built by the Vijayangar people in the 14th & 15th centuries, Hampi was, for several centuries, one of the great world cities, rivalling Peking and Rome in size and importance. Spread over 33 square kms, it is a complex of temples, palaces, markets, houses and government buildings. Often referred to as the Indian Machu Picchu, it is one of the largest archeological sites on the planet.
The Mughals, Muslims who invaded India in the 17th century, sacked and looted Hampi, destroying much and driving out the inhabitants. Left abandoned, the jungle overtook the site and although it lived on in legend, Hampi lost its status and grandeur.
It was rediscovered in 1856 by British surveyors and became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1986. Lack of marketing and difficult access mean that it is not a well known travel destination. We see mostly Indian tourists and a handful of Europeans.
The Indian tourists are affable and friendly. We are greeted with big smiles and namastes and get offers to share food. They frequently ask to have their photos taken with us. I have no idea why … there is nothing exotic or attractive about the way we look.
The women in particular want us to take their photos and I think it is because they know how beautiful they are. Resplendent in their colourful saris, they are a dazzling sight. They ooh and aah when we show them the camera play-back and laugh when we say WOW!
Goudi, our guide for the day, says that Indian women can go without food, but not without silk and jewels. In the home they are like servants, but out in public they become princesses. Apt descriptions!
An early morning visit to Hampi ruins for sunrise has us at the top of a rocky promontory at 0700, after stumbling in the dark trying to find the trail and making a few wrong turns. We are halfway up the hill when the sun makes its glowing orange appearance over the palm trees. At the top we are rewarded with views of the temples silhouetted against a soft pink sky. It’s pretty magical.
An imam calling the Muslim faithful to prayer intones his chant, barely audible over the raucous music coming from the nearby Hindu temple. Birds sing and monkeys chatter. Then the horns start honking on the adjacent roadway and it’s less magical.
Welcome to India. Moments of pure transcendence and bliss followed by moments of sheer annoyance and irritation. So many contradictions! We get stopped on the road by police wanting money for no reason whatsoever, but when Craig is out for a solo walk one morning every oxcart passing on the road offers him a ride.
Later in the day we head to Hanuman’s Temple for sunset. As Hanuman is the monkey god, it is fitting that the temple is crawling with monkeys, as are all of the temples we’ve visited. In fact, monkeys are rivalling cows as photographic motifs. As are the colourful women!
An Indian family settles beside us on the rocks where we sit waiting for the sun to go down. Sisters, a brother, their auntie and one of the sister’s little boys, a cute three year old. They offer to share their food with us and want their photo taken with me. The women speak no English and the brother a bit, so its lots of smiles and hand gestures. In general we find the little English that is spoken is very difficult to understand. Here the local language is Kannada and many do not even speak Hindi. Lots of laughs when we tell people we are from Canada!
From atop the temple hill the views of the surrounding countryside are superb. The sun sets behind a frangipani tree. It’s a fitting end to our time in Hampi.
After three days at the site we still do not see all Hampi has to offer. The number of elaborately carved structures boggles the mind. I’ve tried not to overdo the photo gallery but, trust me, it was challenging and I’m not sure I succeeded.