Ancient Hampi

The driver is ready and waiting and off we go. Guide no longer available so a new name to remember. He speaks good English clearly and is not just dates and places.

The countryside from Hospet was green and fertile so you can see how a great kingdom developed on the back of it. From the east coast to the west, down to Tamil Nadu, for over two hundred years. Rice, bananas, sugar cane in abundance. Pairs of bullocks hauling trailers of cane to roadside conversion plants. Huge stacks of stalk residue piled up that seem to go unused. Nothing in India goes unused. Though apparently cow dung is not dried for fuel as Modi has set up a programme of gas supply in the villages, piped or bottled.


There are stone buildings everywhere you look. Some small others impresively large for a culture which rejected the arch as being tainted by Islam. The granite meant they could use beams of a remarkable length without having to be massively thick.

A huge carving of Ganesha from a single rock allows of an introduction to some of the main characters in hindu mythology. Son of Parvati, he had his head cut off by a demon and then acquired the elephant head. Shades of Kipling. Over fond of sweets and ladoos he became enormously fat.

And Vishnu was a very naughty child constantly playing tricks. Stealing all the girls clothes when bathing, tied to a tree by his mother as punishment. A chubby boy.

This part of the site has various one- two- and three-shrine places for prayer, depending on how many gods you are involved with.

As we near the largest he points to the carvings at the corner which are of an erotic nature. His explanation is that they were used by parents as an education for their children without the embarrassment of doing the birdsandbees stuff.

I pay 25/- to join the fast track to go into the shrine. A policeman is controlling the point where the two rivers of supplicants meet. No-one would take any notice of a security guard! The shrine itself is bright with flowers and strongly lit. Curiously there is a large very modern safe in front to hold the offerings. CofE take note.

The colour of the building is down to the thick layer of pale yellow wash that gives it a Bath stone feel. Back to the car and on to the Royal Palace. Most of what you see is the stone lower floors. The upper stories were sandalwood for coolness and scent but they were destroyed by fire when the Islamic Alliance conquered.

An enormous stepped tank is now empty showing its full glory. Each of the black basalt stones was cut far away at source, marked and then put together on site, like a huge jigsaw. It is a remarkable piece of engineering.

The Queen had her own private bathing pool in the Lotus mahal away from prying eyes. When the British were there in 1850s they saw these private quarters and misnamed them zanana, referring back to the Islamic customs they saw at the Mughal Court.

Lotus mahal

Col Alexander Greenlaw took an extensive collection of photographs in 1856 that have allowed of reconstruction of the fallen stones in some places.

And of course as an all-powerful king you have your own fleet of elephants, suitably housed nearby. The stables housed eleven in all each in its own private stall.

The domes are alternating styles of Hindu and Islamic. It was a recurring theme of the guide that the two existed side by side. That is until 1565 when a confederation of five Islamic rulers dealt the death knell of a kingdom weakened and in political disarray.

The last section we visit is the Vittala temple slightly to the northeast. It is ornate in the style of the massive temple in Madurai but unpainted. And elements of deterioration leave the underlying brickwork exposed in a pleasing contrast to the granite.

Vittala temple

The twin peaks represent cow horns. In front of it stands a construction that has become the abiding image for Hampi, a large stone chariot.

There was a time when the wheels rotated but no longer. Everyone wants his picture taken in front of it. You see wooden versions in the villages. I am reminded of the huge symbolic catafalques used in Iran for muharram.

The guide is keen to point out what resembles an early version of Michael Jackson


Every building needs protection and the Yali covers most angles. A composite of seven creatures elegantly combined- elephant horse snake rabbit eagle- I lost track.

It has been a long hot day-more Kipling- and I’m quite glad by late afternoon to be heading back to the cool of the hotel and a shower. The guide has been excellent and no sign that he must have to go through the same script every day. I suppose different visitors mean variations in what he says and in the questions posed.

Later a short walk through chaotic helter-skelter traffic takes me to Naivedyam restaurant. A helpful head waiter steers me away from ordering too much, and a puri, mushroom masala and rice are enough. Not impossibly hot, though the (unnoticed) A/C salon would have been refreshing if I had seen it sooner. Apparently he asked the chef to tone it down. He is keen for reviews onT/A and gives me a card they have printed for him with his name on.

A small melon and black grapes will make pudding along with a couple of pieces of halwa.

Although tomorrow I can venture alone to the area north of the river with plenty to explore, Wednesday is suddenly looking to be a blank canvas as the bus doesn’t go till 18.15. So far the only possibility is the Sloth Bear sanctuary but it is afternoons only that make it to tight for catching the bus. Who knows? This is India don’t make too many plans.

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