Saturday, April 23, 2011

Hampi - Vijayanagara Marvel ! Part II

Hope you enjoyed the Part I of our Journey ….lets continue our unravelling of Hampi with Part II
We continued our unraveling of Hampi with the visit to the Royal center which was the area used by Royals of the Vijayanagara Empire.

Royal Enclosure

Basement of the wooden palace inside the royal enclosure

First monument we visited in the Royal enclosure was the Zenana (in Persian : “area seculed for women”). Its a rectangular fortified area surrounded by watch towers two of which are remaining at this point in time. Once you enter you can see the basement of the two palaces on either side beloging to the Queens Tirumala Devi and Chinna Devi. A huge wooden structure used to be above this basement which was destroyed during conquest of Hampi. In comparison to other huge palaces in India these palaces seems very small and very basic idea behind such move was probably to have a better connect of the royals with the people. Even Krishnadevaraaya’s palace which we visited later was not so huge as we would imagine of palce of a king such stature.

Lotus Mahal

Remants of a watch tower and note the high rise wall as well

Once you proceed further, comes the Lotus Mahal which was used as a place to rest during the summer by royals. The lotus Mahal and the watch towers present a fusion of Indo – Islamic architecture. The lotus Mahal has arrangements for the water to stored inside the structure. Water is slowly sprinkled inside the building structure thereby bringing down the temperature. There is also a exit pipe avaialbe to drain the excess water.

Elephant Stable

Stable for the royal elephants

Behind the Lotus Mahal are the elephant stables, the 11 royal elepahants of Krishna Deva Raya were housed here. The structure of the stables is so designed that elephants above 32 years can’t enter the structure. It is said that elephants are the most productive during their 19-32 years of age this was a sort of Poka-Yoke(For the IT junta – It means fool proofing). The dome of the stables are built to reflect Hindu, Islamic and Jain beliefs. This was bascially done to preserve the relegious fabric as there were good amount of Muslim soldiers in the army.
On the left side of the elephants stables is the structure used to house mahouts.

Hazara Rama Temple

Inside the Hazara Rama temple


Scenes from Ramayana on the inner walls of the temple

Scenes from Ramayana

Outer wall of the temple

Five tiered depiction of scenes

Next we proceeded to the Hazara Rama Temple used as a private temple by the Royals. This temple doesnt have a bazaar unlike the temples in the Sacred Center and is centrally placed inside the Royal center which conveys the impotance this temple. Hazara means a enclosure and should not be confused for the number 1000. This temple is dedicated to Lord Rama was built in the 15th Century by Deva Raya. The Exernal wall of the temple has five tiers of base reliefs carrying depiction of procession of Elephants, Horses, his infantry men and best of dancers performing the art.
The interior of the temple carries incidents from Rayamayna thought the temple. Incidents in the story like Dasaratha performing a sacrifice to beget sons, the birth of Rama, his exile into the forest, the abduction of Sita and the ultimate fight between Rama and Ravana are all carved in a vivid manner. The walls also carry the events from Bhagavath Gita.
The mandap before the sanctum has four pillars of black stone and are believed to be the only ones of this nature present in India. The depictions on the interior and exterior walls leaves you spell bound and you need hours together putting them together recalling each of the instances of the great epic Ramayana. A sprawling garden is maintained across the temple and carved walls and the green landscape are a treat to the eyes.

Stone doors

Further proceeding inside the Royal enclosure, this peculiar things caught our eyes – as set of huge stone doors with pivots and door bolts made to perfection. If a door was to be built with so much toil , think of the main structure that could have accomodated it. Many a times throught our journey Hampi kept amazing me with its grandeour and if ruins can take to such levels i cant even imagine the experience visiting Hampi during its glorius years under Krishnadevaraya.

Mahanavami dibba

Mahanavami dibba - huge stage structure

Carvings at the base structure of the stage

Next big structure awaiting to amaze us was the Mahanavami dibba, its huge multilayered stone stage structure used by Krishnadevaray to view the processions during the Navarathri celebrations which according to our guide were on a very grand scale and bigger than the Mysore Navarathri celebrations. This structure also known as the House of Victory was built to commemrate the victory over the kingdom of Orissa. During the Navarathri celebrations King used to witness the parade of Dancers and performers of various art forms, cavalcade of horses, royal animals etc. Depiction of the scenes from the parade is found on all sides of the structure. On close observation keen eyes can even catch the depcition of people from foreign land who used to participate being depicted along with parade of animals and hunting scenes on the periphery of the structure.

Aquactic structures

Acqua ducst to bring water from teh kamalapura tank

Next in the Royal enclosure is a series of aquactic structures which served various purposes. As you enter the area you can see a series of acquducts which brought water from the Kamalapura tank. One thing to be noted at this stage is that river Tungabadhra’s water was not used for drinking purposes due to its high iron ore content and the Huge tank at Kamalapura was built to serve this purpose. The location of these tanks which were fed by the tank is such that water from tank can flow down due to law of gravity itself.

Stepped Tank

The stepped tank which is one of masterpieces among the aquactic structures stands a towering example of the engineering skill of the masons of the ersthwhile empire. The tank is made of black schist stones perfectly put together and was used to perform relegious ceremonies. One more interesting info provided by our guide was the the discovery of this tank was made by chance on observing the position of aquaducts in this are ending at the place.

The Royal swimming pool

The next aquatic strucute which was the Royal swimming pool 70 m in length and some 20 m wide was proving to be no big surprise as by the end of the day we had got accustomed to the surprises Hampi had to offer in plenty.
It was evening and having borne the peak summer heat in Hampi for the whole day, it was time to put curtains on day 1.
At the end of our first day i would describe this place as a marvel beyond any words and offering the curious brains a plethora of sights, information and imagination which resonate in your mind every time you hear the word "Hampi".

Day 2 ....

We stayed at Hospet for the night started of at 8:15 AM towards Hampi to cover as much as possible that we could as we had planned to leave after lunch by 1 PM. Our guide chose the locations accordingly and the first monument of visit was the Kadlekalu Ganesha made of a single stone 15 feet tall and got the name due to the stomach of Ganesh in this strucute resemlbing the bengal gram called Kadalekalu in the local language.

Kadlekalu Ganesha

Our next planned palce of visit was the Anjana Parvath I(Hill Temple) believed to be the birth place of Lord Hanuman. We took a boat to cross Tungabadhra to reach the other side of the river called Virupapur Gadde area. There are no bridges available across the river in this areas as this being a UNESCO world heritage site, restrictions have been imposed by the organization on building structures which would enable rampant growth of tourism supporting infrastructure like Five start hotels on the other side of the river which would put to danger the eco system sorrounding the historical site.Virupapur area has lot of cottages and hotels which offer accomodation at prices lower than the Hampi area and the area is very quiet in comparison to the hustle in the area sorrounding the Virupaksha temple.After crossing the river we walked for a Km to reach the main road and caught a share auto for the next 5 Kms of our journey.

Anajana Parvath

View from the Anjana Parvath of the Hampi area

This temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman was built before the dynastic rule started in Hampi by the Kakatiya rulers and a we saw lot of people from the Northern Part of India who had come all the way to visit the birth place of the Maruthi.The temple situated on the top of the hill is accesible through a flight of 45o stairs and is infested by the army of Maruthi sevaks also called as Monkeys. Our guide got us a stick to safeguard ourselves in case if we were disturbed by the Hanuman sevaks. Hill being steep it took us good 30 mins and 2 small breaks to reach shrine. We had our darshan and the view from the hill of Hampi was amazing. We started to identify the monuments that were visible like the Vittala temple, the virupaksha temple and the sprwwling bazaars which we had seen the day before. This view gave us a good idea of the overall topography of hampi which was seculed by river on one side and the might mountains on the other making it a perfect capital. The landscape as well is very varied with the green fields filling the are between the heap of boulders which the mountain look like. We descended quickly took the boat back and this time accompanied by two wheelers and crossed on to the Hampi side of the river.

Sasivekalu Vinayaka

Rear side of the statue, you can see Parvathi holding Vinayaka from behind

Our next visit was to the Sasivekalu (Mustard) Ganesha measuring about 8 feet made out of a single stone. This statue was installed by a Mustard merchant which lead to the addition of the word "Musturd" to our beloved Ganesh statue. One very peculiar thing about this statue is that, on the rear side its carved to potray Parvathi holding Ganesh and you can identify it easily with the arrangement tied hair typical of female. Out of box from a sculptor again and being the second day it was no big surprise !!

Hemakuta hill

Our last spot for the day and the trip was the Hemakuta hill which has a series of temples with a beautiful pyramid like roof structure resembling Jain architecture are wrongly understood to be Jain temples. In fact the temples date back to the Vijayanagara empire and are dedicated to Lord Shiva. From this hill the Virupaksha temple tower is visible and are also visible are the Krishna temple and Sasivekalu Ganesha temple.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Hampi - Vijayanagara Marvel ! Part I

A trip to Hampi had been going around in my mind for quiet a long time but i missed it by a whisker two years back due to unforeseen instances.This time around when the trip plan came up, i just wanted to make it though the duration planned was just a day and a half. Any informed tourist would dread to do Hampi in the summer but we four were game for it....

DAY - 1 :

We started off on Saturday at around 3:15 AM from Bangalore and took the NH4 towards Chitradurga. Hampi is about 364 Kms from Bangalore and is slightly off the NH13. The 200 Km run on the NH4 is a breeze provided you start early as the 25 Km stretch till Nelamangala is prone to traffic bottlenecks throught the day. Reached Chitradurga by about 7:00 AM, settled for an early breakfast at Aishwarya fort restaurant. At Chitradurga you need to take a right a diversion from NH4 taking a right towards NH13 which will leads to Hospet. This road to our astonishment was not in that good shape and good amount commercial vehicle traffic was taking this road to the northern states. Beware of the Humps on this road as they are too many and usually catch you unaware. We managed to reach Hospet by 10 AM. Hospet town resembles any busy and messy Indian town of its stature. Hampi is around 10 km from there and we reached there by about 10:15 AM.

Boulders precariously heaped – ready to fall any time, this is what greets you when you enter the erstwhile Vijayanagara Empire – Hampi. The temperature was around 40C and humidity was too high. At the entrance of the town few guides swarmed around us but we had decided to check out the KSTDC office. Being a lean season, tourist crowd was very less with just very few foreigners on the streets of Hampi. Just to give you an idea, in the peak season about 1000 foreigners pour in every day and during the lean season it trickles down to 100 and below.

The KSTDC office at Hampi is least equipped to handle a visitor to a world heritage monument. People out there fortunately at least helped us in hiring a guide one Mr.Narayana Swami .. conversant with Five languages and in the profession for the last 16 years.

Before jumping into our guided trip, a brief history of hampi:
Two chieftsman who were banished from the present Andhra region migrated to the present Hampi region starting a reformed life. Vidyaranya a guru of Sringeri wanted the creation of a strong kingdom to safeguard the hindu interests in the subcontinent which were often threatened by the invading armies of the Mohamediens from the lands across the Indus. Under the guidance of the Guru, Hakka and Bukka established their capital at Hampi and it was called Vidyaranya Nagara. The seed of an empire was sown . Over the next 200 plus years (1336 AD – 1565 AD) four dynasties ruled Vijayanagara.

King Krishnadeva Raya (1509-1529 AD) of the Tuluva Dynasty stands tall among the rest. The name and fame of the kingdom reached its zenith during his period. The kingdom was extended from the Arabian Sea to the Bay of Bengal and from the Deccan Plateau to the tip of the southern peninsula.The warring Deccan Sultanates finally join together to defeat the Vijayanagara army at Talikota, a place north of Hampi. Vijayanagar army suffered heavy losses. The capital city was plundered, its population massacred. Treasure hunters ransacked its palaces and temples for months.

UNESCO’s World Heritage Site was conferred to Hampi in 1986 and the ruins of Hampi are spread over an area of 30 Sq. Km resembling a open air museum. Topography of Hampi is flanked by the Mountains, the Tungabhadra calmly cutting across the rocky terrain and the lush green plantain and sugarcane fields dotting the valley. The area of Hampi is broadly classified into the Sacred center and the Royal Center.

Virupaksha Temple

We started off with the Sacred Center first …first place to visit was the Virupaksha temple, which is one of few functioning temples in Hampi and doesn’t come under the control of ASI. This temple is believed to have been functioning from the 7th century AD and is dedicated to Lord Virupaksha (Shiva) and his concert Pampapati. The temple complex expanded over the years and a major renovation was performed by Krishnadevaraya in the 16th Century.

Virupaksha Temple

Emblem of Vijayanagar Empire

Inside the temple complex

The one big highlight of this temple is the usage of Pin hole camera technique to enable the shadow of the temple tower to fall upside down. 16 holes are available on the temple tower and between morning and noon when sun’s rays falling on the tower are redirected to fall on a beam which inverts it…a marvel !

Lakshmi Narasimha

Lakshmi Narasimha

Next monument of our visit was the Lakshmi Narasimha statue which is the largest one in Hampi. Being warriors they
revered Lord Narasimha and this monolith big statue is the testimony to it. Original statue had his consort Lakshmi sitting on his lap, if you closely observe you can still see the hand of the Godess lakshmi on the left side of the statue.

Badavi Linga

Badavi Linga

Badavi linga is a single monolith structure surrounded by water. Myth goes that it was built by an old women with contributions from the people. Badavi means “Poor women” in Kannada. Water is always filled in the sanctum with the help of water ways that run through.

Vittala Temple

Next monument was the Vittala Temple … The showpiece of Vijayanagara architecture. As you approach the temple you are greeted by the remnants of what was a huge-bustling bazaar on either side till you reach the entrance of the temple. We were told by our guide that rubies and emaralds were traded in these bazaars surrounding Hampi. In total there were four Bazaars in the landscape of Hampi. They were the Virupaksha Bazaar opposite Virupaksha temple, Courtesan Bazaar opposite Tikruvengalanatha Temple, Krishna Bazaar opposite Krishna Temple and the Vittala Bazaar opposite the Vittala Temple.
Krishnadevaraya was not only an efficient King but a shrewd business man as well. He used to trade the spices and gems available in India for the Horses from Arabia which were the best bet in any war. His army had 1 million soldiers, 800 elephants and 8000 horses.

Gopura of the Vittala temple

The Iconic Stone Charriot

After the win over the Kingdom of Orrisa, Krishnadevaraya was impressed with the stone charriot at the temple of Konark. On his way back to hampi he visited Panadaripuram and was mesmerised with the beauty of Pandurangaswamy and made one “statue” to be installed at the Vittala temple. The temple chariot was also his contribution to the temple and Vishnu’s vimana Garuda was housed in the Chariot. On close observation one can find the leg of a horse which used to adore the front portion of the chariot, presently two elephants are placed in the front of the Chariot.
Once you cross the Chariot comes the Maha Mantap which has richly carved monolithic pillars and outer most pillars 56 in number produce musical tones when tapped.The roof of the mantap has provisions for velvet cloth to be draped around the hall for better acoustics during performances. The next Maha mantapa is the kalayana manatapa for mahotsavams. Being a Vittala temple there is a Bhajan mantap as well.

Musical Pillars at the entrance of the temple

Inside of the temple complex

Maha Mantapa

Inside the temple complex

Vittala Bazaar 250m long on either side

Arabian traders bringing horses

King’s Balance

King's Balance

Outside the temple is seen a huge weighing structure, on the birthday of Krishna Deva Raya the kingdoms under his protection used to offer gold coins equal to his weight. Another version of history is that King used to give Gold and valuables to his weight to the priests and the nobles.

Extreme summer heat had taken its and it was time for refuelling…. Guide suggested the Mango tree restaurant by the banks of Tugabadhra. The approach to this place is via a plantain farm and the atmosphere is very soothing and the food excellent at nominal price !.

Way to Mango Tree Restaurant

Yummy food along the Tungabadhra

After the sumptuous lunch our next monument was the Prasanna Virupaksha temple also known as the Underground shiva temple. A small water canals runs around the sanctum which the devotees used to wash their feet before entering. As this temple is below the ground level, it has five entrances. Due to fields nearby the there is high seepage of water in to temple because of which Garbhagraha is surrounded by water and not accesible.Efforts are on by the ASI to acquire the fields surrounding the temple to avoid the flooding of this temple.

Underground Shiva temple

Filled with water due to sorrounding fields

The wonder that Hampi is evident when you can't stop words pouring in when you start writing a blog ....let us continue our jounrey in Part II of this blog. Stay tuned...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Badami - Aihole - Pattadakal Explored. Part II


Badami has lot to offer a tourist who believes in exploration. Structures dating back to the 6th century are spread across the town and you stumble upon small caves and temples structures on the periphery of the Agasthya lake.

Badami formerly known as Vatapi was the regal capital of the Badami Chalukyas from 540 to 757 AD. The Early Chalukyas chose the finely-grained and horizontally-stratified sandstone cliffs of Badami, for rock excavations, which facilitated excavation of comparatively large cave-temples and the execution of fine sculptures and intricate carvings in them.

Structures in the Badami circuit can be classified into the following:
• Stone temples
• Cave temples
• Water tanks
• Fortifications

We started our exploration with the visit to the Badami ASI museum which is located at the bottom of the cliff opposite to the hill bearing the caves. Just like any other ASI site museum, it provided a good glimpse of the site and even on the pre-historical importance of Badami area in the evolution of mankind.

Badami Caves as seen from the other side of the lake

Boothanatha Temple

Inside one of the small caves along side the lake

Sculptures on the rocks

Site map in museum gave us a good idea of the topography and we moved to the Boothanatha temple complex located at the far end of the lake. The temple complex resembled the temples at Aihole/Pattadakal and one thing that comes to your mind is how Maniratnam missed this temple for his song shoots. The temple by the lake side with its gentle image on the placid waters is a visual treat to the eyes.
Proceeding further we stumbled upon one of the many small caves which dotted the area with carvings of Ananthasyanam posture of Vishnu and a small temple structure on the top of huge boulder, not sure how they got on to it to build it. This question of how did they do it in the first place rings in your ears repeatedly when you explore the monuments of badami.
We slowly made our way along the lake to reach the Badami cave complex. You can see huge fortification walls on the both the hills flanking the lake and Tippu Sultan was one of the rulers who strengthened them.

There are 4 cave temples, Cave1 is dedicated to Shiva, Cave2 and Cave3 are dedicated to Vishnu and Cave4 is dedicated to Jain thirthankara’s. After the fall of the dynasties ruling this region these cave temples lost their glory and people started using them as shelter. In few caves you can see the effect of human habitation in terms of provisions made on the floor of caves to make rice dove paste with stone crusher and marks of local games on the floor of the caves.

The cave architecture of the Chalukya’s brings to memory the monolithic structures of Mahabalipuram of the Pallava’s which were put up in the same time period. Monolithic structures and cave temples are very hard to build as here it’s the process of material removal and any mistake will lead to abandoning of the entire complex. In the caves of Badami, work was started from top to bottom, i.e. you can see lot of carvings on the roof of the caves and the level of works comes down as you move down towards the floor of the cave.

Cave 1

This cave is dedicated to Lord Shiva as evident from the shiva sculptures on both sides of the cave. On the right is the Dancing shiva with 18 arms displaying 81 dancing positions. The sculptor who created this work must have been a trained dancer and has put his knowledge of two art forms creating a masterpiece. Inside the cave, one can Shiva and Parvati and besides them stands a person with just bones, he is Bringi Rishi who was a ardent devotee of Shiva . Parvati took the bone and flesh out him in anger and finally understanding the devotion of the rishi restored back his body.

Cave 1

Shiva with 18arms - 81 dancing positions

Shiva, Parvathi and Bringi rishi in the background


Inside the Cave temple

Richly carved ceiling


This cave belongs to the 6th century and is dedicated to Vishnu. This is is the only cave which has a protrution of the strcuture in the form of a sun/rain shade towards the front.


Carvings on the roof of the cave

Varaha Avtar retrieves Bhoomi Devi

Vamana Avtar of Vishnu


The biggest and the most beautiful cave in Badami , as per our guide this cave temple is the most beautiful one in India and even exceeds the ones at Ajanta and Ellora in its beauty. One can even see the reamins of the natural dye paintings on the roof of this cave. Built in 578AD and dedicated to Vishnu, this cave took 12 years to build. This cave contains a very rare sculptor of Vishnu in sitting position on the seshanaga called the Ananthasena. The roof of this cave is richly carved and one is made to wonder how a sculptor could have done it in lying position beneath the roof and not getting his eyes filled with stone dust. There came the answer from the guide, there is a white color transparent leaf found in this area which according to him might have been used as a eye shield when working on the roof the caves. This cave is so beutiful that at times you feel like you are inside a stone built temple rather than a cave temple.


Natural dye color paintings on the roof of the cave

Inside of the cave

Vishnu sitting on the Adisesha, in this posture he is called Ananthasena

Vijaya Narasimha, he has attained the highest state which is indicated by the lotus which has bloomed on the top of this head

Beutiful HariHara

Vamana Avatara

Inspiration of Belur sculptures


Richly Carved Pillars


This cave dedicated to the thirthankara’s of Jainism was the last one to be built. Generally the Jain temples are built away from any habitation near the water bodies. As per the guide there should have been a series of steps leading to the agasthya lake from the top of this cave.



Continuous walk and climb throught the day had made our bodies tired and we decided to settle for a quick lunch before heading for Mahakoota which was the last destination of the day. Time again for Jolaga rotis for lunch.

Mahakoota has a small pond which is fed by a spring. Guys made merry in pond and visited the underground Shiva temple which was brought to their notice by a regular visitor.

Finally it was curtains for a trip to explore the architecture of the Chalukyans, and was nothing short of a memorable trip filled with gyan and fun.

Details for a Visitor to Badami – Aihole and Pattadakal

Badami is the best location if you are planning to stay overnight as Aihole and Pattadakal are just small villages with no worthwhile tourist infrastructure. Don't expect Badami to be well organized like tourist towns of Hospet (for Hampi) or Hassan (for Belur/Halebidu) which have better facilities in place.

How to reach:
Badami is about 450kms by road and 589kms by rail from Bengaluru.

By Train: Badami has a rail head and is served by trains from Bangalore.
By Bus: Private operators like VRL and SRS have daily services to Badami from Bengaluru.
By Air: Hubli is the nearest Airport

Trains form Bengaluru take a good 12 hour as they go via Hubli, buses take the shortest route and make the journey in 10 hours.

Local trasnportation in Badami - Aihole - Pattadakal area:

Bus services to Aihole from Badami are less frequent and Pattadakal is bit ok on that front. If you are in a group its better to hire vehicle which will save lot of time. Monuments of Badami are situated at walking distance from the bus station. Mahakoota and Banashankari are a 30min drive from Badami.

Boarding and Lodging:
For food i would recommend, Hotel Shri Laxmi Vilas(08357-220077), they have a lodging facility as well which was full during our visit and we had settle for another one which was not a good experience. Food and Lodging facilities are very average in Badami.

It better to hire a guide in all the three locations as the information provided by ASI is very minimal and without explanation or details, the monuments are just group of similar looking stone structures.

Thanks for the patient reading and if you are curious to see more pics, check out @