Sunday, December 26, 2010

Harvest of Success

See me there, In the fields of life,
Working hard, harvesting success,
with hard work and great toil,
with immense patience and lot of love

Rains have finally come,
Satiating the parched seeds that were sowed,
Little sprinkling have started to grow,
Turning the barren fields green with life.

I dont seek the fruits, all for myself,
It is for the lord that I toil here,
It is the lords field that I work upon,
Every success will be a flower that is kept at his feet.

Before the fragnance of the flower fades,
Another harvest of new flowers have to be ready,
Sharing the seeds that I sow, with others,
To increase the harvest for my lord.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The ruins of Hampi- Day 2

Figuring out where to have breakfast, lunch and dinner is essentially an exciting part of any trip as you always try to see whether your intuition of the kind of food that will be available has matched or not. Here in Hampi even though technically there are many spots according to books like lonely planet that serve decent food, we felt it the safest to have our breakfast at the Mayura KSTDC itself. At 7 in the morning we were all ready for one more day of ruin exploration. Unfortunately, breakfast was not yet ready, so we decided to do some ruin exploration to whet our appetite.
 On the way to Hampi from Kamlapura we took the first right turn which goes towards Chandrashekara temple. The chilly morning had resulted in a misty expanse over the landscape, Stone structures were scattered around the place, some in disuse and some were well maintained. The Chandrashekara temple was standing all alone without any neighboring structures, had an outside wall to the temple and the inside entrance was locked. A bird had made its nest at the top of the temple's Gopura and was making a screeching sound. Well it looked a very peculiar kind of bird, unfortunately could not get any good photographs of it. 
Unknown strange looking bird
Next we went to the Octagonal water pavilion. Probably this was used for the purpose of bathing by some of the powerful people in the Vijaynagar empire, the center of the bath has an octagonal shaped platform, A guy was busy studying for his exams sitting there and thus taking photos of the structure by not including him became a bit problematic finally I hid him behind one of the pillars.
The Octagonal Tank
 From here you can see another temple dedicated to goddess Saraswati, but it looked a bit small and didn't elicit enough interest from us after having seen some huge once, the day before.
We went back to the hotel to find out that the breakfast was still not ready and we were made to wait for a whole hour, to be served poori-baaji. We had totally lost our patience before the food finally arrived, a cat purred under our legs and we were forced to share our food with the poor thing that had already dined at a foreigners table some 10 minutes back. 
We were back on track and started with the Royal enclosure, the first structure that we encountered was again a royal bath. A guard was sweeping the place and he gave us a broken tooth smile in anticipation of a tip and started reeling the significance of the place. It seems both the queens of Krishnadevaraya used to come here for their daily baths, the place was pretty huge and the water was sourced from an upstream tank. Moreover the water had to be changed everyday. The architecture looked more moghul than south indian, The walls though basically built from stone were plastered with a limestone kind of solution. Each of the gombuz of the enclosure had a different design, but almost all of the work made on this lime kind of plaster has fallen apart. After paying a 10 Re tip for the sweeper for having elucidated us of the place we moved on towards the Mahanavami dibba. 
The Royal Bath

commoners inside the pool
 The Mahanavami dibba was constructed to celebrate the victory of Krishnadevaraya over Udayagiri which is now in Orissa. The huge platform is engraved with the victorious procession of the soldiers and also depicts the battle of orissa. Krishnadevaraya is said to have watched Dussera processions from this platform. 
View from the Dibba
Mahanavami Dibba

Carvings on the Dibba
The view from the top of the dibba is also very fantastic. It covers a wide expanse of the landscape and you can see ruins all over. The sight really overwhelms you, this was such a huge city throbbing with life and one day it was cut short due to the whims of some stupid conquerors. By this time we had found ourselves a self appointed guide, this guy just came to us and started reeling off the history. At first we didn't pay heed but whatever he said was pretty interesting so he joined our exploration troupe. He showed us an underground chamber whose roof had caved in, but the entrance to which is still through a tunnel. This was the room that was supposedly used by the Kings to discuss state secrets.
Path to the Underground chamber
We next visited the stepped tank, this is one of the tanks which shows off the builders knowledge of geometry. The symmetry maintained across the tank is simply phenomenal. The tank is supposedly 7 meters deep but was filled almost to the brim with water. This was a disappointment, the tank has an old stone structure through which water was channeled in in the olden days.
Stepped  Tank
We then moved on along with our guide to the Hazararama temple. The 1000 rama temple. The temple has engravings of lord Rama and his life, there is also engraving on Luv-Kusha stories. In some places engraving of some episodes of Krishna's story can also be found. An entrance of 4 big pillars invite you. 
Hazara Rama temple Entrance

Engravings on the walls of the temple

Pillar inside the main shrine
The main shrine has four pillars which are completely black in nature and seem to have been imported while making the temple. The sanctum sanctuary has three slots for the idols of Rama, Sita and Lakshmana. The idols are now said to be in a Chennai museum.

Sita, Rama and Lakshmana

Vaali Sugreeva fight

BalaKrishna with Kalinga Snake
After Hazara rama temple we visited the Zenana enclosure where the queens of the mighy kings resided. At the entrance you encounter two big platforms, one at the right and the other at the left. It seems these platforms were the foundations for the palaces of the two queens of Krishna devaraya. The palaces were build using Sandalwood and thus were burnt down during the raids.
Erstwhile Palace of One of Krishna devaraya's Queen
One structure that has managed to survive without any major damages is the Lotus mahal. It is considered to be a socializing area for the queens and other ladies who used to stay there. Huge watch towers surround the place and entrance to them have been barricaded, perhaps to preserve the structure.
The Lotus Mahal
Parakeets on the watch Tower

Watch tower for the Zenana enclosure
The famous elephant stables are just behind the Zenana enclosure and the speciality of the structure is that each of the elephant had the pleasure of enjoying a different architecture in terms of the outside doom and also  the internal decorations. A small opening in the wall probably helped the mahout to move from one cell to the other. After paying the guide 50 Rs for the services he rendered to us in improving our knowledge of the place, we went in search of the underground Virupaksha temple.
The Elephant Stables
 The temple is strictly not underground but is actually below the ground level. The inner shrine is flooded with water and it is possible to peer in only from the main shrines entrance. I'm not sure whether the water was intentioned to be there originally but since the temple is that of lord shiva, it is highly likely that the they intended to flood the place. But putting feet on moss filled water and that too on slippery stone is not easy and we didn't venture any further towards the main sanctum sanctuary. 
The underground shiva temple

The water filled main shrine
Laksmi Narasimha Statue
We were now almost coming to the end of checking out the famous spots in Hampi, the Lakshmi narasimha statue is simply majestic and it is supposed that a statue of Lakshmi was sitting on the lap of Narasimha, the hand which goes to the back of Narasimha proves that it is Lakshmi Narasimha and not  Ugra narasimha as it was first thought to be. The Badavalinga is right next to Lakshmi narasimha and has water flooded inside the shrine. An ayappa devotee, was taking bath in the water inside saying that it was holy water and it appeared to be pretty deep. Some devotees were throwing coins inside the water, so there must be a whole bunch of coins down there.
With this being a Monday, there was hardly any crowd in the places that we visited. The Krishna temple which is on the way to Hampi depicted the life of Lord Krishna on its walls. This temple is said to have been discovered only in the last decade. Excavation works seems to be going on all around Hampi. A playground which was situated next to our hotel and was being used by kids to play cricket on the first day of our visit had become a spot of frenzied activity on the next day as hundreds of workers had descended down and were busy digging up the spot. A guide said that the government is spending a lot of money in these excavation activities. 
Engraving on the Krishna temple

Krishna temple
The Sasive kaalu ganesha's statue is situated on a small hill lock and it is has been built out of a single stone. A trader is said to have built this in the memory of a king.
Saivekalu Ganesha
With loads of sight seeing already done, the only location that was still remaining on our list was the Museum, The museum situated at Kamplapura is a must visit. the place has a pretty big, to the scale model of the complete city. The bronze statues of Krishna Devaraya and his two queens at the entrance is also pretty imposing. The only problem is that no photography is allowed inside the museum. 
The Museum Entrance
After having seen and after having had our fill of the great empire, we went back with a feeling of sympathy and sadness to those souls who had strived to build such monuments but unfortunately their skills could not be displayed to the future generations in their full glory.
Taking the Bellary->Hiriyur->Tumkur-> Bangalore. From Bellary the roads are simply fantastic, we stopped at Bellary for lunch and then had our dinner at Kamat upachar on the outskirts of Nelamangala. It took close to 8.5 hours on our return journey which includes both the time taken for lunch, dinner and small breaks in between,

Friday, December 10, 2010

The ruins of Hampi- Day 1

"Man, it has become very boring to do the same things again and again, I don't understand why don't they give me better work, at least if not the inner walls of the temple, I should be allowed to carve the outer walls". This could have been one of the dialogue of a hypothetical stone sculptor during the times of the Vijayanagar kingdom some 500 years ago. Looking at the large scale construction of temples throughout the town, A sculptors job could at those times would have been the pick of the lot as far as job opportunities are concerned.
The ruins also tell a sad story and with it proves to be a living example of how impermanent this world is.  Littered over a huge area covering around 10km's in diameter it practically mesmerizes anyone who visits the place. 

My break from the MBA schedule has now become the official family holiday weekend and this time we decided to pay a visit to Mantralaya and Hampi over a period of 3 days. Starting off at around 6 on a cool breezy saturday morning, we headed towards NH 7 which is the Devanahalli airport road on our Maruti 800. Cruising at 110+ kmph the drive was really getting on to me and I pushed hard at the accelerator, until my brother pointed out that traffic police are usually lying in wait for speed breakers at this stretch, at least till the airport. So after the warning, I eased the car to more decent speeds of around 80. Once the airport was behind us, the traffic literally disappeared and it looked like the road was laid there just for us. Speed limits of 50 on a road like this was looking like nothing but a big joke and car went back to the three digits in terms of velocity pretty quickly. the drive was one of the best that I had experienced till now, empty highways, no speed brakers and the weather was almost perfect. We had our breakfast at Kamat Upchar which is on the highway itself and can be found at around 5-6 Km's after the Chikballapur bypass sign board is encountered. There is no need to enter Chikballapur city. For almost 300 Kms till Gooty we travelled along the NH 7. Then took a diversion towards Adoni, mind you the sign boards are almost non existent in these parts unlike Karnataka and it is always best to ask people for the right directions. The journey towards Adoni from Gooty was also pretty smooth as the roads were well maintained. Finally the last stretch from Adoni to Mantralaya was a bit bumpy here and there but still all standards the roads were decent. We managed to reach Mantralaya by 12:45 in the afternoon itself, thus we had the opportunity to have our lunch at the temple.
We stayed the rest of the day at Mantralaya and started out for Hampi early on Sunday morning. Taking the route Mantralaya->Adoni->Bellary->;Hampi. For most part of this journey, the roads were in pretty bad shape and the total distance of 200Kms took us almost 5 1/2 hours thereby reaching Hampi at around 12 noon. One major highlight of  this stretch were the big farms growing Sunflowers, The sight of endless rows of flowers was simply beautiful. We decided to straight away start with the exploration of the city without wasting much time in finding accommodation, so we took a diversion around 10Kms from Hospet which directly goes to Hampi. There is an arch and a sign board indicating this diversion. We started off with a visit to Virupaksha temple which is the only major temple which is still being used as a temple, the other temples have now remained just as a sight seeing places. One of the major grouses that my mother had was why such beautiful temples are being left empty :).
The temple can be seen from quite a distance with its majestic Gopuram, This temple is said to have predated the Vijayanagar empire and seems to be the only one of the large temples that has escaped from the devouring clutches of the Deccan confederacy the looted and destroyed the city for close to 6 months.
 The Gopuram seems to be made from bricks as is the case with the other temples at Hampi, With its exquisite carvings and many pillars the temple grabs the attention of even naive fellows towards architecture (like me). Many stories of the ramayana and Mahbharata abound the walls of this temple. Even the ceiling had some exquisite painting depicting Arjuna trying to hit the Fish eyes and the Krishna's battle with Kalinga.
 A huge holiday crowd had come in and literally it was a struggle to go in and out of some of the small doors of the place. After watching the pin hole camera and the adjoining Manmatha lake we were back in the open.  The main diety of the temple was out of bounds for us at that time. 
We then headed towards the Hampi bazzar, half of which is already encroached by squatters, only a small portion at the pillar structures at the end of the bazzar still retains the original look. It was said that these Bazaars were famous for their trade in precious stones and gems. 

From the Bazaar we headed towards the monlithic Nandi statue which is midway on the hillock of the Bazaar. The statue also looks pretty much untouched. With my parents deciding not to climb the hill any further, I and my brother continued on the path which headed towards Achutaraya temple and the Sule Bazaar.

The Achutaraya temple is said to be one of the most advanced in terms of the level of sculpting when compared to all of the temples in Hampi. This place is away from the prying eyes of the tourist with only a foreign couple hanging around. Probably this was the first time in my life, I had entered a temples Garbha guddi, the cielling was not there, the Garbha guddi was surrounded by two layers of walls, with a facility of doing parikrama of the god by going underground. 

Filled with bat smell, but otherwise pretty much well maintained the place is a must visit, given that fact that it is rarely visited by tourists due to the access difficulties in terms of climbing the hill and getting down.
Just in front of the temple is the Sule bazaar or the Courtesan's street. Here it is said that normal trade used to happen along with the red light activities, This was one huge street possibly extending to almost half a kilometer, indicating the amorous nature of the Vijaynagar people :).

Finally circling we headed back to the place where we had left our parents to relax, and then it was decided that it was high time that we had lunch, It was close to 2:30. Heading towards the car, we were surprised to see that one of the tyre had a puncher. This was the first time in our whole travelling experience that we had come across a flat tyre, so figuring out the basics took us some time, finally we managed to replace the tyre. After fixing the flat we headed towards Kamlapura in the hopes of finding a decent place to eat but to no avail, after some initial searches and consultions with lonely planet we decided to head towards Mayura KSTDC hotel. The hotel was serving a Vegetarian buffet lunch for 100Rs and it was a decent and fulfilling meal. We took a room at the same place for almost 2k and decided not to go to Hospet at night. The rooms were pretty decent and had AC as well, oh these creature comforts.
Fixing the flat tyre was of higher priority and so we headed out in search of a puncture wala, after a bit of asking around we came across one near the museum. The guy had put into use all his premordial instincts in shaping himself good tools and the flat tyre was fixed pretty quickly. 

Next stop on our iternary list was the famouse Vijaya Vitalla temple, which is around 2 Km's from the Hampi Bazaar but can also be accessed by a circutous route, we chose the later and arrived at around 4:15 at the monument. The temple was shimering with shades of orange and gold and the main structure with its dipilated Gopuram was shimmering pink. 
The famous stone chariot which is at the entrance of the temple is one of the star attractions. Crack/fissures are present on the rock structure and possibly it was not carved out of a single rock. 

This temple seems to be the one wherein the maximum amount of mutilation was inflicted, but still all the destruction couldn't hide the skills and craftsmanship of the artisans of those times. Intricately carved lions (Not sure about this) being ridden by men seems to be the favorite signature.
Finally after having a look at the inside of the temple we headed towards Kings Balance and towards the platform on the banks of Tunga bhadra river on which Purandharadasa is said to have composed his famous works. A small carving on the stone near the kings balance depicting 4 adults and a child welcoming people was also pretty attractive.
Finishing the day looking at the now fallen bridge of the bygone with a beautiful sunset in the background we headed back to out hotel room for a good nights sleep and an exciting day on the morrow.