Mary Ann Issac
A detailed guide to Heritage Hampi & Hippie Hampi!
The village of Hampi in the state of Karnataka is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is home to the ruins of the Vijayanagara empire, and is said to have been the second wealthiest city in the world after Beijing in the 1500s.
Walking through the ancient city probably was the same then as it is now, as it is uninhabited, and is bustling with activity during day time when the ruins are open to the public.
Hampi is mesmerising even in the sweltering heat, as the archaeological prowess of artisans from the 14th century will take your breath away!
Though Hampi is warm all year round, March to May is the hottest, and I visited in March-and just as expected, the heat was unbearable! But, I powered through. I got a guide from outside the Sacred centre, which is the area to the south of the Tungabhadra river that has the largest temple complexes, numerous smaller temples, & sculptures.
I would highly recommend getting a guide for Hampi, because he did an excellent job of explaining the history of the temples, the inscriptions, & sculptures. My favourite part of his tour was when he demonstrated the use of the musical pillars of the Vijaya Vittala temple- something that I would never have known if I didn’t have the guide with me. He asked me to place my ear on one of the pillars as he tapped on the pillars nearby with his fingers- to my surprise, I could hear musical notes corresponding to the way he tapped his fingers!
This feature of the Vijaya Vittala temple has baffled many over the centuries, so much so that invaders broke many of the pillars to find the secret that could be hidden within. To their dismay, the secret was in the architectural prowess of the artisans who built the temple- it was in the precise measurement & method of cutting the pillars, and nothing else.
1. Virupaksha Temple
This is arguably the most majestic site in Hampi. The intricately carved gopuram (tower) of the temple towers above the city, and can be seen from afar. The temple elephant Lakshmi is present all day long to bless devotees, after taking a fee of course! The elephant is trained to take money from visitors, and then to bless them with their trunk. I was a bit apprehensive at first, but obliged and was thoroughly excited!
Wear socks when you visit the temple, as you have to leave your footwear outside. On most days Hampi is scorching hot, which makes the stone floors of the courtyard burning hot-though there are wet carpets that create a makeshift path for all visitors, there are certain parts of the temple that are not covered by the carpet, and that is like walking on hot coal! (though I haven’t walked on hot coal, I would imagine it is as bad! :P)
2. Vijaya Vittala Temple
Famed for its stone chariot & musical pillars, Vijaya Vittala temple is an architectural marvel, where a guide is of utmost importance! There are 56 musical pillars inside the temple, which are played by gently tapping them.
3. Lotus Mahal
It seems to have been a socialising spot for the royal women. The architecture of the building is different from the rest of ruins of Hampi- the arches of the Lotus Mahal are in Islamic style. Since the area is covered in a well maintained lawn, you will see more people relaxing here with an ice cream from the many street sellers near the enclosure, or even napping under the trees!
4. Elephant’s Stables
This is yet another beautiful building- long, stretching across the grassy courtyard, and with domed chambers that were home to the royal elephants.
5. Badavilinga Temple
It is known for the large (3m in height) monolithic Shiva Lingam that is perpetually submerged in water.
5. Underground Shiva temple(Prasanna Virupaksha Temple)
The roof of the temple is at ground level, and was unearthed in the 1980’s. The temple remains submerged in water throughout the year. During the rains, access is restricted as it isn’t possible to enter, but after the rains, and during the summers, when the water recedes, it is possible to wade through ankle deep water to explore the interiors of the temple.
6. Queen’s Bath
Within the royal enclosure, this building is supposed to have been the swimming/bathing area for both male & female members of the royal family. The pool is open air, and is believed to have been filled with flowers & perfumed water. The building is surrounded by a moat, which was most likely built to stop people from entering while the royals bathed.
7. Catch the sunrise from Matanga Hill
Grab your torches, and a light jacket and hike up Matanga Hill for a glorious sunrise overlooking the entire city of Hampi! There are a few different routes that you can take to get up to the hill. The routes that start at Kadalu Kale Ganesha temple & Hampi Bazaar are most popular. It is a moderately difficult climb, but is rewarded with stunning views. The sunset from here is beautiful as well, but it is crowded at this time.
TheVeerabhadra temple is located atop Matanga hill. You can climb to the terrace of the temple for an even better view!
It is better to go to the hilltop with company versus solo, especially if you are heading here for sunrise, as it will be deserted. But it is likely that there will be a few other tourists doing the hike at the same time, so make your decision accordingly.
8. Hampi Bazaar
The ruins of the once bustling bazaar are located outside the Virupaksha temple. Though most of the pavilions remain empty, there are some locally set up souvenir shops towards one end of the Bazaar.
9. Take a coracle ride
To cross over to the Hippie island of Hampi, take a coracle ride across the Tungabhadra river. It is faster and more scenic than driving there, which will take about 45mins.
You could also take the motor boat which leaves at regular intervals- last motorboat is at 5.30PM.
10. Explore the Hippie side of Hampi
The village of Virupapura Gadde is known as the Hippie Island.
11. Catch the sunset from Anjeneya Hill
Hanuman Temple on Anjeneya HIll- it is a 572 step climb, and believed to be the birthplace of Hanuman. It is a popular spot for sunset, and it will most likely be crowded.
There are many restaurants & cafes on this side of Hampi.
Best way to travel here is by hiring a moped, from either side of the river.
12. Go bouldering!
Bouldering is extremely popular on this side of the river, and the gear for it is easily available. Check at your hotel or guesthouse for help regarding the same. Else there are a few bouldering centres in town.
13. Explore the village
Hire a moped or a cycle and explore the quaint village of Anegundi. It is lush green due to paddy & vegetable harvests. Anegundi is also part of the UNESCO World heritage site.
14. Shop Local
There are craft centres selling handmade bans fibre products, which make a great souvenir, and will directly help the people of the village.
15. Sunset hill point
Best time to visit
October to March when all the restaurants on Hippie Island will be functioning.
How to get here
It is a 6 hour drive from Bangalore
It is a 8 hour drive from Goa