January 15, 2018

HAMPI HOLIDAYS

Words: Aatish Mishra

CERTAIN THAT #HAMPI WOULD HAVE SOME SPECTACULAR #SUNSETS, I WENT ABOUT PLANNING MY DRIVE THERE. ALSO, #WANDERLUST

HAMPI IS AN ANCIENT CITY THAT HAS A LITTLE BIT FOR EVERYONE, INCLUDING YOU MISERABLE MILLENNIALS

Instagram is great. Not because of the pretentious idiots on there who make for a good laugh, but because it occasionally throws up some interesting pictures that have led me to interesting places. I have friends who live in Bangalore, and nearly every single one of them has a photo of these grand landscapes with massive boulders scattered haphazardly everywhere for as far as the eye can see. And every single one of these pictures comes with #Hampi tagged on to them. So original. The place has always intrigued me. Some intense research (who am I kidding, it was just Google) about #Hampi told me that it wasn’t even famous because of the landscapes, but because it is the site of the ruins of a medieval metropolis. My line of work demands that I travel a lot, and sometimes, you can get away with checking things off your bucket list on the pretext of a story. And that is precisely what I did. I needed to take the Hyundai Elite i20 on a roadtrip, and the only prerequisite the destination needed to meet was that it should have beautiful sunsets. Courtesy Instagram, I was certain that #Hampi would have some spectacular #sunsets and went about elaborately planning my drive there. Also, #wanderlust. Sorry, #ImJustBeingPretentiousNow so I’m going to stop.

The only big city Hampi is really accessible from is Bangalore. It lies on the banks of the Tungabhadra river, right next to the industrial township of Hosapete in Karnataka. The ruins themselves are some 370km away by road — sounds like a lot, but you can get it dispatched quickly as the roads are rather good. You’ve got to drive north on NH4 (the highway that connects Bangalore to Mumbai) and turn off at Hiriyur, right before Chitradurga. Don’t make the mistake I did — of turning off at Chitradurga as I missed the turn off at Hiriyur — as the road I took was atrocious. They are rebuilding the entire highway and so there were a lot of rutted patches, dusty stretches and heavy truck traffic (this road passes by Hosapete). The Hiriyur road, which I took on the drive back, was far, far more enjoyable. Not only does it make for a picturesque drive, but you also cut down on travel time a fair bit. You can take a bus or a train if you’d like, but that would be boring and adding #roadtrip to your Instagram posts instantly makes you cooler, no?

If you want to stay properly inside Hampi, you’ve got to make do with basic guest houses and homestays. If you’re the kind who needs marble floored lobbies and buffet breakfasts to make your #wanderlust posts look more nauseating, you’re going to have to look in Hospet. There’s also this one Hyatt property near the Jindal’s steel plant, but it takes about an hour to get there from the ruins and you might choke on all the dust from the coal the plant brings in every day. If you’re not fussy kind, you’re better off staying at one of the guest houses and saving your money for the finer things in life like getting drunk or buying motorcycles.

Look, I’m not a history enthusiast and neither am I the type to go gaga over ruined architecture from half a millennium ago. That said, Hampi has got some cool structures that are worth taking a look at. Back in the 1336, Hampi was chosen to be the capital of the Vijayanagar empire by prince Harihararaya. It prospered for a few centuries and this city had over 5 lakh people residing there. Some say that it was the second biggest settlement in the world, after Beijing! It was a hub for trade with merchants from all over the world frequenting it, however this didn’t last forever. In the late 16th century, an alliance of the Deccan sultanate rulers ransacked the city and left it in ruins. No, I’m not fanning religious sentiments here, okay? Go read a history book. Facts are facts. There are plenty of temples scattered around the place including the famous Vittala temple and Virupaksha temple that are in close proximity to the main bazaar. But these are just the big ones and there’s also baths and all sorts of other medieval buildings.

Hampi is believed to be a part of the monkey kingdom mentioned in the Ramayana

What really drew me here was the landscapes, though. Not because I wanted to #Wanderlust the crap out of my Insta feed as well, but because the topography genuinely perplexed me. Every second enormous boulder looked like it simply shouldn’t be able to balance the way it did, and would fall if I simply prodded it. But there they all stood, like one collective middle finger to gravity. Obviously people refuse to agree on how this spectacle came to be. There are two possible explanations, one more believable than the other. Geologists believe that the rocks started out as one massive granite monolith and over the millennia, natural elements have eroded it in to smaller rocks that broke away from the original. It is nature’s chaos at its finest, which probably explains why it looks so outlandish. The second explanation is slighly more outlandish than the scenery itself. Hampi is believed to have been the monkey kingdom mentioned in the Ramayana. Apparently, the battle between the two princely brothers Vali and Sugreeva involved a lot of boulder throwing, which resulted in the place looking the way it is. Which story do you believe?

At the end of the day, Hampi has a little bit for everyone. It’s got more than enough for the nerds interested in their history. If you are a devout Hindu, there’s no dearth of temples here to go and pray at. It has the legend of the Ramayana woven in to its existence to keep the RSS happy. Even if you don’t care about history or politics, and you just want to take some pretty pictures to show people how exciting your life is, you won’t leave disappointed. Don’t forget to upload them to Instagram with every single hashtag you can think of. Yes, I will judge you but don’t let that stop you okay?

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