Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Hampi: The Great Ruins

The place: Hampi, a village in Karnataka, 350 km north of Bangalore.

Why would one want to visit: 
Location of the ruins of the Vijayanagara empire, which was one of the most prominent kingdoms around 500 years ago. 

Hampi is a village located in Bellary district, Karnataka state, India. This is where a proper trip after almost two years took me in this June (two years ago, I quit my job and had been a student since then until a couple of months ago). The Vijayanagara empire ruins that it houses is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has more than 10 important attractions including remains of temples, idols, and forts. No wonder, it is the most searched historical place in Karnataka, on Google, the Wiki says.

A perfect weekend getaway, it offers plenty for anyone who is interested in history, architecture, and heritage. And shopping too! The coolest factor is, all these are possible on a low to moderate budget.

By road, Hampi is approximately 350 km from Bangalore, 380 km from Hyderabad, 560 km from Chennai, 900 km from Kochi, and 320 km from Goa. Hospet is the nearest railway station, which is approximately 13 km away from the ruins site. Hospet is well connected to the major railway stations. State buses run between the railway station and Hampi frequently, they charge around Rs 30 per person and take half an hour one way. For the traveler who seeks comfort, taxis and autos also are available at the railway station.
Coming to staying in Hampi, there are two sets of options to choose from. Either south of the Tungabhadra river or north of it. Here are the good and bad things about both the sides:
South of the river:
  • Closer to the ruins.
  • Only vegetarian food available.
  • No alcohol available.
  • To roam around, cycles and auto-rickshaws are available, not bikes/scooters.
  • More options for shopping.
North of the river:
  • Have to cross to river- small boats take passengers to the other side but one may have to wait for up to half an hour for a boat to be available.
  • Not many ruins.
  • Non-vegetarian food is available in plenty.
  • Alcohol available.
  • Bikes/scooters can be taken on rent.
Choose wisely!

I crossed the river and stayed at the Mowgli guesthouse on the north, which turned out to be an excellent choice. In June, as it was off season, they charged me only Rs 700 per night for a non-AC double bedroom. One doesn’t need AC in June, the climate is quite pleasant then. Cottages also are available at the same rate, but they seemed to be smaller. All kinds of food are available, veg and non-veg, including continental; mostly because Hampi receives a lot of foreign tourists.

Best thing to do on this side of the river (north) is to take a scooter/bike on rent and roam around. The Hanuman Temple, which is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Hanuman, is 5 km away. Sanapur lake, which offers beautiful views of the reservoir and the areas surrounding it, is around 12 km from the temple. Plush green fields and rocky-mountains can be seen all around. And in June, the climate was perfect for a refreshing bike ride.
To visit the ruins on the south of the river, one has to hire an auto-rickshaw, as most of the sites are a few kms away from each other. I hired one that charged me Rs 450 for 4 hours. The auto-rickshaw driver was a good enough guide too.  

Both sides of the river do offer some options for shopping, though the south has more. Look out for leather bags in the south and embroidery works in the north. 
I think two days are enough to cover the whole of Hampi comfortably, which means it's a perfect weekend getaway spot for those in Hyderabad, Bangalore, and Goa.    
Enjoy the pictures!

View from Hanuman Temple, which is north of river Tungabhadra (in the picture). The hills made of rocks are a common sight in this region.
The Hanuman Temple is on the top of a hill; one has to climb 600 steps to reach the summit. If you are healthy enough, I strongly insist that you should take this up, as the views gets more and more breathtaking as you climb up.
View from Hanuman Temple
The two-wheeler journey to the Sanapur lake and the reservoir, which are around 12 km from the Hanuman Temple, is charming. The road is well-maintained, and the dam premises are definitely worth spending an hour. 

Sanapur lake.

The following locations, except the guest house, are on the south side of the river, where the main ruins are.

Underground Siva Temple. This was beneath the ground level centuries ago.
The Virupaksha Temple, the main attraction among the ruins.
The Elephant Stable.
The Vittala Temple complex is around 10 km from the Virupaksha Temple. It is famous for its stone carvings.

Vittala Temple Complex.
Stone Chariot at the Vittala Temple complex.
Vittala Temple complex.
Vittala Temple complex.
Stepped Tank in the Royal Enclosure.
The Lotus Temple.
Watch Tower.
Mowgli guesthouse, where I stayed. North of the river.
Cottages at Mowgli.
Room at Mowgli. Decent and neat.
Premises of Mowgli. 
View from the room at Mowgli.
Please let me know if you need contact details of the manager of Mougli.