Monday, 17 July 2017

Memories of Hampi - Virupaksha Temple

The Virupaksha Temple is located at the heart of the sacred centre in Hampi, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Southern India. The temple is said to be one of the oldest functioning temples since its conception in 7th Century AD. The temple sits majestically on the bank of the Tungabhadra river surrounded by ruins of the old empire; this is the perfect spot to start your Hampi adventure. 
Virupaksha Temple Hampi
The Striking Gopuram of  Virupaksha Temple
This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is a very important pilgrim site for Hindus. There is an annual festival here which attracts devotees from all over the country. The most striking feature of the temple is the gopuram (holy tower) at the entrance; at 160 ft it is the second tallest temple tower in the whole of India, second only to Meenakshi Temple in Madurai.
Virupaksha Temple Gopuram
Nandi Statue near the entrance  
Hampi travel Blog
View of temple from Matanga Hill
India Travel Blog
Old Pillars of  Hampi Bazaar 
Hampi was the last stronghold of the Hindu empire due to its strategic location with Tungabadra River on one side and mountains of all 3 other sides. However, the kingdom was overrun by the Islamic Deccan sultanates armies in 15 hundreds and the city was ransacked and raised to the ground.
Hampi Ruins Karnataka
Ancient Pillars of Hampi Bazaar 
Stone Carving in Virupaksha Temple
Beautiful Stone Carvings Inside the Temple  
 When the marauding armies attacked Hampi they destroyed everything, the only structure of significance that was spared was Virupaksha Temple. Why was the temple spared? It was considered as an icon of the Vijayanagara Empire. The answer lies in the Royal Symbol of Vijayanagara Empire.
Virupaksha Temple Hampi
Inner gate of the temple 
The Royal Emblem consisted of a Moon, Dagger, wild boar and the Sun; The boar was the symbol of Lord Varaha, reincarnation of Lord Vishu and this was there in the front of the temple and I was told that when the Muslim armies attacked they were scared away by the seal of the boar. To Musims the boar/pig is Haraam, something unholy and evil; this could be one of the reasons why the temple was spared. Again, this is what the locals told me, the truth of it I m not sure. 

Royal Seal - The Moon, Dagger, Boar and Sun

Inside Virupaksha Temple in Hampi
Small Gopuram with intricate stone work 
Hampi Landscape
Typical Hampi Landscape - Water, Boulders and Hills 
Another interest story I heard from the locals was about the big round boulders you find scattred all around the landscape. Some people believe that the round boulders were the play toys of the Monkey King Hanuman. But the scientific theory is that the round boulders were carved out by millions of years of strong winds of sand and rain in this area.
India Photo Blog
River Tungabadra 

Virupaksha Temple
Inside the Temple 
The temple is very much active and there are religious ceremonies happening every day so its important to respect the culture of the locals. Please make sure you dont disturb the devotes by taking selfies inside the temple and wear appropriate clothing. Photography is prohibited inside the holy sanctum area inside the temple and tripods are not allowed anywhere in the temple. 
Gray Langur Monkeys 
Tired after a  adventurous day of exploring Hampi 

Footnotes: All photos taken with Canon EOS 50D , Sigma 10-20mm F4 (not a very sharp lens) and Tamron 18-50 mm F2.8 VC 

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Memories of Hampi

Hampi was the Imperial capital of Vijayanagara, a powerful South Indian Empire. During the 14th century Hampi was one of the richest cities in the world. The empire collapsed in the 1500's after being at war with 5 other medieval kingdoms and the city was ransacked and completely destroyed. A few old temples and monuments stood the test of time and still remain scattered among the rocky landscape of Hampi. 
Hampi UNESCO site
Mystic Men - a happy sage I met at Hampi 
Hampi is located on the southern banks of the Tungabhadra River surrounded by Rocky Mountains and rough terrain. The closest city is Hospet which is 12 km from Hampi , this is where we stayed for 3 days. You get around Hampi via Autos, we found a really helpful guy who took us around and also served as a guide although some of his stories were hard to believe.
Hampi Karnataka
Ruins of Hampi Bazaar 
Our first destination in Hampi was the ruins of Hampi Bazaar which lies on the western exit of Virupaksha Temple Complex. The Bazaar is a street about a KM long starting at the temple and ending at the foot of Matanga Hill. Both sides of the street are lined with rock pillars that was once shops and homes of traders. I was told that were street vendors who had set up shops with handicrafts till about a few years back but were asked to clear out as it is an archaeological heritage site.
Hampi Bazaar Karnataka
Hampi Bazaar 
Hampi Trvel Blog
Pavilions of Hampi Bazaar 
At the end of the street facing Virupaksha Temple is a huge nandi (bull) statue housed inside a double storied pavilion build on an elevated platform. Nandi is the mount of Lord Shiva  to whom the virupaksha temple is dedicated to.
Nandi status Hampi
Monolithic Bull 
Hampi Market
Rocky Landscape of Hampi 

Hampi Travel blog
Pavilion with the Nandi (bull) inside 
 A small spec can been seen on top of the hill in the next picture, looking closer it was a silhouette of a man ; I got curious and I went up the hill .
matanga Hill Hampi
Way up to Matanga Hill 
At the top resting under a ancient entrance was a sage dressed in bright orange and a white fluffy beard. He seemed to be in a peaceful trance.
Hampi Travel Blog
Steps of Matanga Hill

I walked up to him and asked him if I could take a photo, he didn't say anything but gestured  me to sit down. I sat next to him on the stone floor and then he pointed to the temple at a distance and said "Imagine how this place would have been thousands of years ago". The view from up there was breathtaking!
Hampi Ruins
View of  Virupaksha Temple  from Matanga Hill 

The sage asked my name, where I was from, my religion etc. It was  a very interesting conversation. I asked him again if could take a pic of his and this time I seem to have earned his trust and he said sure and smiled happily for a few pictures. That's the story of the smiling sage I met on top of Matanga Hill.

Holy Man Hampi
The Holy Man 

By the end of day one I was so in love with Hampi that I couldnt wait to see more the next day. We also visited the Virupaksha Temple on the  same day, will upload those photos soon.