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.
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!
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.
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.
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 😉
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.