"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.
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.