Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hampi, Karnatika

Our next stop after leaving the beaches of Goa was Hampi, a once vibrant center of a southern Hindu dynasty from the 10th to the 16th century. It was at the center of the spice and Arabian horse trade, and was thought to be the land of the fabled Ramayana: a vedic story of Vishnu’s incarnation lord Rama and his consort Hanuman, the monkey god and so it is a sacred pilgrimage for Hindus. It sits in the southern state of Karnatika, and its strange landscape is dotted with piles of granite boulders that form teetering mounds out of which and on which were built enormous temples and fortressed cities. The muslims laid siege later sacked the kingdom in the 1500s and it has laid in ruins ever since. Today Hampi is a sacred Hindu site, especially for those who worship Shiva (one of the incarnations of God) and Hanuman, the monkey-god. The local people live in and amongst the ruins, some of them literally making their houses using the ancient structures and the town has been set up to accommodate tourists, both Indian pilgrims and western backpackers. It is a place where people can get stuck for weeks wandering through 100s of temples that dot the area. We walked off the train into a wall of 110 degree heat and entertained no thoughts of staying any longer than the 2 days we had allotted ourselves to see the place. Despite the heat (which was at least dry and made a world of difference, but still made even the walls of our shitty room bake like an oven all night long) we enjoyed Hampi and woke up at 6 am to tour the ruins before the heat became unbearable.

The town itself is centered on a bazaar with shops and a clasic temple. The Tunganhabra River runs through the town and the original inhabitants of Hampi set up a sophisticated irrigation system that is still in use today to water the never-ending Banana plantations. The river is holy, as are most rivers in India, and feeds giant pools in the temple complex called tanks that are used for sanctifying baths and to dip statues of gods once a year during religious festivals. The river, like all rivers in India, has steps that lead down called ghats, allowing people to bathe, wash their clothes and perform puja. We used the river to cool off one day and played with some village boys and watched the women wash their clothes using the Indian method of viciously slapping them against rocks to rid them of dirt.

The temples and buildings are covered with intricate carvings, mostly showing scenes of Vedic stories, Gods, and animals. We wandered through ruins and climbed a nearby hill to see a temple at the top and take in the early morning sun over the rest of the village. When the heat became unbearable, around 10 am we retreated to a shadowy nook or the river to stay cool while the rest of the town and animals slept the heat away. We watched and were watched by many Indian pilgrims coming to perform devotion rituals (puja) at the temples and got blessed by the resident elephant of the temple, Laxmi, who will bless your head with her trunk once she gets a shiny coin.

We finished up after 2 days and bused back to the town where the trains depart from, Hospet. There we spent a few hours at a fancy hotel pool with a group of French travelers who were doing the same thing. (The French guy was fed up with Indian food and lamenting the lack of wine or cheese or anything that doesn’t taste like curry.) We ate a roadside dinner of vegetable thali (lots of little bowls of curries and dals and a big heap of rice to eat it with) and boarded the overnight train for Bangalore, this time in general sleeper class (no AC). On board we befriended a generous family who insisted on feeding us our second dinner and offered us the two bunks separate from the others. We woke up at 4 am in Bangalore, part of a long travel leg that would eventually find us in Kolkata later that afternoon.

for more pics, click on this magic transport machine.

No comments:

Post a Comment