In my previous posts, I have mentioned Hampi several times and every time, I wonder how I would be able to do justice to this huge treasure trove of heritage. There is just so much to see and soak in that one post is not going to do justice to this place. A UNESCO heritage site and a town that goes back to times of the Ramayana, Ashoka the Great and the Vijayanagara kingdom, this place has over 500 monuments including the famed Virupaksha temple, some of them still being excavated, some of them in ruins but all of them magnificent in their looks.
With this post, I will embark on a 3 trail series of Hampi. The trails that I mentioned can be found here. Of these, this post takes on trail number 1 or the Route one as the map suggests. There are 13 suggested sites along this trail and while we list them out in brief, this post highlights some key attractions on this trail.
Sasivekalu means mustard seeds and as you can guess, from the picture, why the name. This is a gigantic 8 foot tall, monolithic Ganesha, greeting you as you begin your trail. If you notice, there is a snake around the belly and as legend has it, Lord Ganesha was very fond of eating and his belly threatened burst one day. To prevent that, it is said that he tied a snake around his belly and that is what is depicted on this idol. The carving on the Ganesha is very beautifully done, some ravaged due to time.
This is is a Ganesha carved in stone, placed in a temple with huge pillars, each pillar carved with some intricate designs.
As you proceed along the trail towards the famed Virupaksha temple, you have to climb up the boulders. What unfolds is a landscape dotted by multiple temples with pyramid like roof. These are the Hemakuta temples. Some say that these are actually Jain temples, while some believe that they are dedicated to Lord Shiva. Legend has it that Lord Shiva wished to marry a local girl Pampa and ended up doing penance for it. To distract him, Lord Kama (God of Love) showed a rain of Gold (Hema). Lord Shiva got angry and reduced him to ashes by opening his third eye.
This place is surrounded by boulders all around and you can spot some beautiful, cool caves to explore.
The trek is not too difficult and the landscape breath-taking, especially at Sunset. One can spend some time just admiring the boulder-filled landscape. You may even spot different birds here, including loads of parrots.
Virupaksha temple is the main attraction of this trail. Almost a landmark in Hampi, this is an imposing temple, built along the Tungabhadra river. This is one of the oldest temples here and was built by several kings in succession. One approach to this temple is through the Hampi bazaar and the other is you descend down the Hemakuta hill along the trail that this post describes.
The temple is made of stone and is so beautiful that it almost has a different color at every time of the day. The entrance is grandiose with beautiful carvings. There is a lot of restoration being done and one can really admire the amazing work.
The temple has three different sanctums and various other buildings. All of these are lined by magnificent pillars.
The highlight of this place is the “inverted shadow” that is formed on one of the walls of the temple. A flight of stairs lead you to this area and once you enter this spot, you can see an inverted shadow of the highest gopuram (temple pillar) forming on the wall, all through a tiny hole.
In the Shiva temple, check out the murals on the walls and ceiling. Various scenes of the Mahabharata, including one of Draupadi’s Swayamwar and that of Shiva’s family. The paintings on the wall are made with vegetable ink and hence the same are quite visible
As you exit the Virupaksha temple, you will see a long line of mantapas, which served as the Hampi bazaar in the olden times.
After this, if you follow the trail suggested, you will be back to the same Sasivekalu Ganesha. After this, you need to trek up a hill to get to the Veerbhadra temple.
There are a series of steps that are the easiest to reach this temple and this can be a long climb. Along the way, there are a few carvings and stone sculptures. As you reach on the top, you can get a panoramic view of the entire Hampi – truly a beautiful sight.
Though this post, while I have highlighted the main attractions of this trail, don’t miss out on the others as well – Krishna bazaar and temple, Badavilinga temple, Lakshmi Narasimha temple, Chandikesvara temple, Sarawathi temoke and Manmatha Tank shrines.
Best time to visit Hampi is between October to February. Make a note of the Hampi festival in January.
Carry lots and lots of water – no matter what season.
Flat and comfortable shoes with comfortable cotton clothing will make the sight-seeing more comfortable.
There are plenty of good restaurants near the Hampi bazaar that serve some good food and variety of cuisines- including some good Israeli and middle-eastern food. Try out the Mango treefor some yummy food.
Hiring a guide would be advisable as Hampi has a lot to offer and sometimes, identifying these monuments and their secrets on your own may not, be very feasible. There are very few clear signages and hence, not every site is self-explanatory.
While hiring a guide, insist on the ones that have a Permit from the tourism board.
Hampi is best explored on foot and cycle. However, cars and autos are also, available.
One could opt for the small guest houses in Hampi. However, it is advisable to stay in Hospet, which has better options in terms of home stays and hotels.
There are overnight trains available from Bangalore to Hospet. Hampi is just 12 kms from Hospet and it is the best to stay at Hospet.
Buses from Bangalore and Goa are available on an everyday basis.
Travel by road is also, not a bad option as the roads to this place are quite well-developed and well-maintained.
Happy New Year everyone. Hope this year brings you tons of happiness and luck and of course, travel too. Let’s start by drawing some inspiration from my travels last year with my latest newsletter.If you like the same, subscribe in for more of these monthly inspirations.