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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.

Contemplating A Road Trip To Hampi

“What are you doing about the daycare on Monday? Keeping Varun at home?” Shubhada asked me while I went to grab some tea in the pantry.

Me panicking – ” Why? Is Monday holiday? Is the daycare closed?”

Shubhada – ” Of course – didn’t you see the calendar and the text sent? ”

Slapping my forehead, but of course. We don’t get Christmas Eve as an official holiday at Microsoft but the school and the day care is closed.

So, now instead of staying at home with kids, Shubhada and I came up with ideas to do something together. Our kids are in the same class so they know each other. Our ideas range from spending an afternoon together to driving to a beach. Then we forgot all about it.

Till last night.

And we decided to drive to Hampi. A UNESCO World heritage site, and on banks of Tungabhadra river, Hampi was the last capital of the former Vijanagara empire teeming with grand palaces, monuments and temples. The city was pillaged under Muslim rule and now all we have are striking ruins of the once-magnificent monuments. Here is a Bing images link of what we hope to see.

Hampi is about 380 Kms from Hyderabad. It  takes about 6 – 7 hours to cover this distance. We haven’t done that long a road trip in India. But with Shubhada and Shantanu with us we can make it. So the plan is simple:

Saturday: Drive to Hampi. Stay in Hospet about 12 kms from Hampi.

Sunday: Siteseeing during the day. Chill in the swimming pool in the evening.

Monday: Siteseeing during the day. Chill in the resort in the evening.

Tuesday: Drive back to Hyderabad

Logistics are still being sorted out but hopefully we will find a place to stay soon. And we have to figure out the road : Hyderabad – Kurnool- Guntakal – Bellary- Hospet or Hyderabad – Mahbubnagar- Raichur – Hospet. Also, if restaurants and restrooms are available along the way. Excited!!

Looking forward to a roooad trip with friends 🙂

Snorkelling in Havelock Island

Sunrise at Havelock Island

Alluring Andamans

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