Monthly Archives: December 2012

Sunsets of Hampi

Temples Temples Everywhere

Close up details of Raghunatha Temple

Taking a break from our explorations of royal ruins, we moved on to visiting three really unique temples in HampiHazar Rama temple, an Underground Shiva temple and Malyavanta Raghunatha temple. They are not the most famous hence we encountered fewer tourists and school children here but they are on the main tourists area.

Hazar Rama Temple

Hazar Rama Temple

Scens from Ramayana

Ramayan scenes

Pillars in temples

Ganesha carved on Rama temple pillars

Exterior wall of Rama temple

Leading corridors in Rama Temple

Carvings on temple roof

The temple is exquisite with its carvings depicting scenes from Ramayana. the guide walked around showing me scenes where Sita is abducted by Ravana while Lord Rama goes chasing the golden deer that she had so desired.

The temple is maintained very well. Varun was busy throwing little stones from the raised platform onto the ground below. Vipul was running behind Varun while I got a chance to walk around taking in the carved scenes on the stone. Epic frozen in time. Poetry in stone. Words fail to describe this. A must see in Hampi. I really loved this temple!

Underground Shiva Temple

Underground temple

Water flooded prayer hall

This temple was excavated about 10 years ago from under existing farm land. How exciting for the farmer! It was the most fascinating temple to visit mainly because it was underground and you had to walk down (instead of up) to see the temple hall. The inner sanctum of this temple was flooded so we did not go in. If you are strapped for time, you can easily skip this temple.

Malyavanta Raghunatha Temple

Malyavanta Raghunatha Temple

Another tower at Malyavanta Raghunatha Temple

Close up of Temple carvings

Parrot at the temple

We only went to the Raghunatha temple as it was next to the Sunset point. With monkeys, cows and parrots this temple was most loved by the kids.  Also, the pujaris here were reading out Bhagvad Gita. The chants of the priest, the typical temple scent of oil lamps, incense and flowers added to the magic of the dusk. Soon it was time for sunset and we left to climb up the rocks behind the temple to sit down and enjoy the sunset over Hampi.

…to be continued.

Psst: Missed earlier posts on Hampi trip? Read about our drive to Hampi from Hyderabad , Vithala Temple Complex  and Exploring The Royal Ruins of Hampi as part of the Hampi trip series.

Exploring The Royal Ruins of Hampi

After visiting the Vithala Temple Complex, we spent the better part of the day checking out the grand ruins of the lost Vijayanagar Empire. We had a list of key monuments that we wanted  to visit ( Queens Bath, Lotus Mahal, Elephant Stables) and there were others that the guide didn’t want us to miss ( Mahanavami dibba, Hazar Rama Temple, Sunset point, Museum). We reconciled and continued the guided tour with Queens bath.

Queen’s Bath

Queens Bath

As we approached the ordinary looking structure from outside, the guide asked us to imagine a teak and sandalwood palace on top of the remaining mortar square building. The wooden palace structure has been long burned and ransacked  after the fall of Vijayanagar Empire, but you get a sense of the grandeur by looking at the remains – the arched corridors, little windows to peek inside and detailed edges. The bath house is surrounded by a deep moat that had crocodiles to prevent any voyeurs. If found, the y were punished by pushing them into the moat. Talk about instant justice!

Swimming Pool

As we walked inside, we saw a central swimming pool about 8 feet deep flanked by deep corridors and staircases leading up to the dressing rooms and other areas of the now non-existent palace.

The water from the pool was brought over by stone aqua ducts from the lake about 7 – 10 kms away. The queens sure did enjoy a pampered life! As it was hot, I wished the pool was filled and we could just jump in the water and spend the afternoon in the cool water. But our guide had other plans for us.

Mahanavami Dibba

MD Front view 2

After passing through imposing stone gates and the giant stone walls, we saw a rectangular stone platform about 20 feet high. The guide hurried to explain that the platform used to form the base of a multi storied wood pavilion where the king used to oversee the Mahanavami celebrations. The platform is multi tiered , intricately carved with steep steps to the top and offer 360 views of the area.

Aerial view from Mahanavami Dibba

war and animal carvings

Carvings on Mahanavami dibba

Here we were accosted by school girls on field trip to take their pictures. And they were fascinated to see both Varun and Dhruv in strollers and used to peek down to get a view of them – as if they were an attraction. Oh, and they gave us kisses when I showed them the pictures. I quiet felt like a celebrity at that moment 😉

mahanavami dibba with kids

There were many interesting pieces around here – a rock carved dinner plate for common folks so they could have meals whenever there were celebrations in the royal family, hidden under ground chamber for secret meetings, public punishment poles so that others are deterred etc. Having a guide really helped else we would have been lost in the vast expanse or wouldn’t know what to focus on.

stone carved dinner plate

Stepped Tank

The kids were getting cranky, so we moved to the next part of this huge complex – a beautiful 4 tiered stepped tank. Again water was bought here from the lake via stone aqua ducts. The tank, was inviting in the mid day heat with its lyrical form and cool green water. I just wish we had planned the trip in low season so we could actually enjoy this peacefully. Anyways. Next we walked by Hazar Rama temple to go to the famous Lotus Mahal and Elephant stables in the Zenana Enclosure.

Stepped tank 2

Lotus Mahal

Lotus Mahal is a beautiful Indo-Islamic building which the queens used as summer rest house. With sprawling gardens on all sides, it was designed to be cool even in the peak summer with its deep corridors. Also, there is an arrangement to cool the structure using water channels through the walls. A cool breeze blew while we stood under the shade of the tree admiring the Mahal.

Lotus Mahal

carved corridors of lotus mahal

detail corridor carvings

Elephant Stables

Elephant Stables

Next we went over to the Elephant Stables – a row of 11 domed chambers to house the royal elephants. Mostly intact this is a beautiful example of Indo- Muslim and Jain architecture. The elephants were taken care of in those days – not a surprise given that it was the primary mode of transport.

Elephant Stables Close up

Over the course of the day, the kids played in mud, ran around and finally slept in their strollers. School kids were curious to see the strollers and swarmed around them. Luckily, the canopy of Varun’s stroller helped us give him some privacy as he napped.

Treasury complex and Watch Tower

The Lotus Mahal, Elephant Stables and Treasury along with some other smaller monuments temples and tanks  are guarded by a high stone wall. There are three watch towers in this complex for security.

Watch tower

This complex also houses a small museum with various stone carved figures, tools, coins etc excavated over the years. Its a small rectangular non descript building with small windows. There is a raised platform inside with arched corridors making it perfect as a storage room rather than as living space. Photos of sites before and after restorations are up for display in this museum.

By the time we finished visiting the treasury museum, the kids woke up. They had enough of ruins and temples and wanted to just run around. Our guide promised us quick tours of couple of temples before setting us free to enjoy the sunset. We bribed the kids with juice and potato chips and they in turn let us visit a couple more temples 🙂

…to be continued. 

Psst: Missed earlier posts on Hampi trip? Read about our drive to Hampi from Hyderabad and Vithala Temple Complex as part of the Hampi trip series.

Vithala Temple Complex

Hampi Heritage Site is basically made up of three major areas – Royal center, Sacred center and Anegundi on the other side of the Tunghabhadra river. The Royal center has the Kings Palace, Queens Zanana bath pools, Lotus Mahal, Elephant stables etc; the Sacred center has Virupaksha temple, Jain temple, Krishna temple, Hazar Rama temple, Ganesha temples etc; while Anegundi is the area where Hanuman was supposedly born and then met Lord Rama on his quest to find Sita as narrated in the Ramayana. The Royal center and Sacred center are well-connected by dirt road. Without kids you could possibly bike over ( bikes are available on rent) from Royal center to Sacred center if it’s not  too hot. Anegundi needs a boat ride across the river and then you can walk over to most destinations.

On our first morning in Hampi, we decided to go to Vithala Temple Complex – the most famous temple of Hampi in Sacred center with its iconic Stone Chariot. Our plan was to be there around 9:00 am but we managed to reach around 10:00 am. It was already hot by then.

Temple and coconut trees

The actual temple complex is about a kilometer walk from the parking lot and there are electric golf carts to ply visitors to the entrance. Of course you can walk and see more temples, monuments, bath tanks and marketplaces along the way. But as we had two toddlers who love nothing more than to play in the mud-dirt, we took the golf cart.

Vitthala Temple Complex entrance

We planned on hiring a guide for the day but there were none to be found. Without a guide, unless you are a history buff, the monuments don’t make much sense. Finally we managed to find one guide and we started the tour of the complex around 11:00 am.

Temple complex

Built in between 15th and 16th century, the temple complex is huge with the main temple and its attached pillared prayer hall in the center and surrounded by Kalyana mandapa, monolithic stone chariot and other smaller temples which I unfortunately didn’t catch the names of as I was busy chasing Varun. The beauty of the main temple’s prayer halls are its musical pillars which emit the key notes of Indian classical music. The pillars are made of single stones but can be used to play a harmony. Apparently, the British did not believe that the pillars are made of single stone, they tore down a few pillars to explore if the pillars didn’t hide a concealed instrument of any kind that was capable of playing such melodious tunes.

Famous musical pillars

Main entrance of Vitthala Temple Complex

The main monument was closed for restoration but the guide played us some music on pillars of surrounding monuments. We heard light and melodious tunes as we pressed our ears against the other pillars to hear them.

Temple on a temple

Carvings depicting the bangles design

The carvings on the monuments are exquisite.Elephants, frogs, lions, horses, chariots, various gods and goddess’es, dancing figures, poses from Khajuarho- you name it and you get to see them here. Smaller temples carved onto base of the main temple – sort of like a ‘temple on a temple’. The edges with various patterns depicting different designs typically seen on bangles. And they have holes and flutes to allow rain water to drain without damaging the monument.

Stone Chariot

The monolithic stone chariot is mesmerizing. I wish we had seen this place either at sunrise or sunset without the crowds.It would have simply blown me away. To our dismay, the place was overrun with tourists and school kids on the pre-Christmas weekend.

Carved pillars

We walked around the complex taking care that the kids don’t trip on the stone courtyard or fall off the edges of the raised platforms. We were probably there for couple of hours as the guide went over the details and history of the place. The complex also has ‘feet’ of Vithala and Rakumai idols which have been moved to Pandharpur in Maharashtra. So the temple is not a ‘operating religious temple’ anymore.

Temple and tree

Surrounding pillared walkway being restored

Vitthala temple comples

There is absolutely no shade around. I felt bad for the ladies who were weeding in the mid day sun. But they seemed to be content working in such exquisite location. There were other workers around working on re-paving the courtyard and adding support beams as necessary to other smaller monuments in the temple.

Ladies weeding

By then it was very hot. Kids were flushed and tired with all the running around and climbing the steps. We rested a bit in the Kalyana mandap hall before continuing on to Royal center.

Kalyana mandap hall

The detailed carvings, the enormous stone chariot, the hundred plus year old tree in the courtyard, the musical pillars were astounding. Most people end their day tour with Vithala Temple complex but we were glad that we started our date on such a high note.

Road Trip To Hampi

We are back from our  trip to Hampi. We managed to get last-minute hotel reservation at Vijayshree Heritage Village. With lodging sorted out, we decided to wing it and off we went on our first true road trip in India since our return to India. And it was fun, thanks to the wonderful company of Shubhada, Shantanu and Dhruv.

Hyderabad to Hampi

We planned to leave Hyderabad around 9:00 am which was ambitious given that we had two kids who sleep in till 8:00 am every day. Also, we planned to take lunch and snacks along with us as we were not sure how good the restaurants would be along the way. Eventually, we were packed and loaded by 10:00 am. I had told Varun about the long road trip with his friend Dhruv. He seemed excited  to just have Dhruv in the car although there were a lot of fights over toys.

Once we left Hyderabad, we went through usual dry shrubbery and boulders. After the first 80 kms or so, we were on undivided highway. The road was is decent condition except for the unmarked speed breakers which made it hard to drive. We shared the road with trucks and tractors filled with produce. Sugarcane, cotton, castor, rice. Harvest season is in full swing and I do hope the farmers get their due share after the sale of the crops.

Overloaded tractors

Trucks filled with Cotton

The sunflower fields were in bloom. The paddy fields took a golden hue in the winter sun.

Fields of Sunflowers 2

More fields

bajra fields

We saw herds of goats and sheep. We passed by the Raichur Thermal Power station. We saw traditional brick kilns.

Herds, power plants

Boy tending to goats

Brick kilns

Farmers continued with their daily activities as we drove by. Cattle rested in the shade of trees or grazed on.

Farmers working in the field

Bull resting

As we passed through towns, we loved the vegetables and fruit stalls with winter produce – cauliflowers, cabbages, carrots, guavas, custard apples, jujube berries and more.

Cart selling jujube berries

But, the most novel experience was the harvested rice being dried in the sun and filled in sacks to be taken to the numerous rice mills along the way. Kids loved these heaps of rice and almost immediately ran onto them. It was hard trying to get to stay out of it.

Raw rice being filled in sacks

Harvested rice ready for mills

Kids on rice heaps

As we neared Hampi, we started seeing boulders, banana plantations and coconut trees.
Fields boulders and temples

Banana plantations

We lost our way around Gangavati, but the locals guided us and we were back on track in no time. The kids loved watching so many cows, buffaloes,goats and sheep along the way. We were glad that we reached our destination before dark.

Vijasyshree kutia

The hotel check in was smooth. We got adjoining rooms. Kids were happy to be finally out of the car and to run around. They chased each other around the lawn and on the steps in front of the rooms while the parents rested.Sunset

Finally, after a long drive, we were in Hampi! We couldn’t wait for next day to start exploring the area.

Christmas Celebrations at Varun’s School


Varun’s school had Christmas party today.

All parents were invited with their kids for a morning of celebrations with cake, music and some dance dressed in the red and white theme. The school teachers had set up a Christmas tree ( obviously an artificial one in this tropical climate) and nativity scene to remind the kids for why we celebrate Christmas.

Decorated Christmas tree

As the parents gathered, teachers greeted them. Varun realized its  something different as parents and kids were standing around chatting. Few kids went and sat with the staff as instructed but others like Varun were simply running around.

Kids in red and white

Dressed up

Rathi and Aarvin

The party began when ‘Santa’ ( A teacher dressed in a red cap and a white beard)  arrived jingling a bell. They sprayed fake snow to get the feel of a real Christmas. Parents were invited on by one to sing carols, tell a story or even dance. Some kids sat and watched while others chased each other around.

Here comes Santa Claus

Sparying snow on the kids

Dhruv looking on

Varun wouldn’t leave my side and insisted I sit with him on the lawn beyond where he could play away from the celebrations. He doesn’t like large gatherings. Later he went onto play by himself in the sand pit.

Varun trying to run away

Playing in sand

Then the teachers cut the cake with all the kids and we all snacked on cake, wafers, biscuits and some sev. Rathi, a friend and fellow parent at the school had specially made a marble cake for the occasion and it was over in no time.

Santa then handed out mini toy cars and chocolate bars to all the kids as a gift. Kids were happy with the chocolate and most of them left the wafers and cake to munch on the chocolate bars.

By this time it was getting late for work, so we decided to leave the party.

Varun cried his heart out as he didn’t want to be left behind – his first in this daycare. I guess the sugar, the excitement of playing around , change in the routine and the large gathering left him overwhelmed. I am sure he must have calmed down once he was back in the daycare.

Its wonderful that the day care’s and schools celebrate all festivals here. Its fun for the kids, teachers and parents. I saw other kids whose names I have only seen in the register. I saw parents who held enthralling story time at the school. I saw teachers dressed up for the occasion. The laughter and happiness around was infectious and warming.

That’s what the holiday season anyways is all about – sharing joy and happiness.

On this weekend before Christmas, stay warm and enjoy the snow. Sip on some eggnog, have that plum cake and make merry!

From my family to yours – We wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.  Hope the seasons showers you with the very best!! Feliz Navidad!

Merry Christmas

Vipul and Varun

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