Sunday, May 4, 2008

Hampi - Forgotton EMPIRE of Vijaynagar kingdom

Hampi was not on our radar, while traveling to Chitradurga Fort, we planned for just a weekend getaway from Bangalore by car. After finishing the trip to Kalline Kote, we instinctively decided why not rush to Hampi? It is just 150 kms away, from Chitradurga with small stretch of 18 kms of bad road. The total distance from Bangalore to Hampi is 360 kms, via NH4. The major town near Hampi happens to be Hospet, wherein plenty of Lodging and boarding arrangements are available. We stayed @ Shanbag towers in Hospet. There is a government guest house at TB dam location and KSTDC Mayura hotel at Kamalapur too. I heard there is a Shanti guest house across the tungabhadra river one has to travel by coracle. There are plenty of residents providing homestay arrangement too.

I happened to visit Hampi during 1978 along with my parents. In those time it was typical village with a rustic atmosphere. There was not much interest among localites nor tourist to visit this place, which was known as ruined city, without any guide we wandered clueless. Moreover we visited in the peak of summer to add to our discomfort. The only distinct memory was that of Inverted Image Gopuram of Virupakasha temple.

After a gap of nearly 30 years I find that a new civilization has emerged. Perhaps after Hampi being declared a world heritage site in 1987, a mind blowing transformation has taken place at Hampi. It is as if history is being re-written, with guides, autorikshaw doing round trip, bike guides, and professional tour operators unleashing knowledge on the FORGOTTON EMPIRE to the tourists.

There are exists lot of similarities between POMPEII & HAMPI.
The common features are :
1. Road Network 2. Water Management 3. Temple construction 4. Public functions 5. Common Bath 6. Cultural Festivity 7 Art & Architecture 8. Well defined markets 9. Brothel Areas. 10. Diamond Bazaar.

The world’s best diamonds were from India and it was openly traded in the bazaars along with other household articles. The royalty kept the best of the diamonds as their share for leasing the mines. Please refer to separate post on Hampi diamonds.

Trading activities were carried out between various parts of the world during both the periods. We find gems & jewellery being traded in the bazaars. All household articles such as pottery, grains, vegetables, fruits, beetlenut, flowers etc were being traded. Finest Arabian horses were sold to the nobles in exchange for Diamonds. Further brothel lanes were located in the bazaar for the visitors and artisans from outstation.

Our first point of visit was Virupaksha temple which was guided by a foreigner, because we ignored the offer to be guided @ Rs 400/- for a trip, which we thought was exhorbitant. We entered the Virupaksha temple without any entrance fee ( between 6.30 to 8 am it is free entry) The sheer grandeur started unraveling. At the entrance the temple tower is overpowering. On the left there is a sanctum which is occupied by tourists for changeover, which is really surprising. The main temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, who is supposed to have been captivated by the dedication of Pampadevi. Lord Shiva consented to marry Pampa in his avatar as Virupaksha, the presiding deity.

Behind the Virupaksha temple lies a room wherein we can view the inverted image of the main tower through a pin hole. It is application of Periscope principle.

The bazaar in front of the Virupakasha temple is proposed to be shifted to another place to maintain the heritage look. The proposed shopping centre will be the main reporting centre for Hampi excursion. An organized trip with eco friendly mode of transport will be arranged. Further a fixed guide charges would also be ideal depending on no of spots toured or time spent concept.

After Virupaksha temple visit we walked across a lane adjacent to the right, just on a blinder, towards Hemkunta hill. Here one is astounded by the skills of rock carving work station. It is like a canvas on which artist exhibits his painting. The granite was the main raw material for most types of monumental construction at the site – which was abundant in and around Hampi for over 200 kms. Traditionally, granite blocks were split by first cutting rows of closely spaced cubical holes into which wooden wedges were pounded. When wetted, the wedges expanded, thereby propagating deep cracks through the stone which split as per dimension required by the artisans.

We found almost four temples, one was literally filled with water on the entrance, and other not so prominent temples, maybe created for low strata people of the times, even the poojary of the temple just gave us some insight, for which he was suitably tipped. The overnight heavy rain had made the rocky surface quite slippery, it was an adventure to climb Hemkunta hillock. The entire Hampi area, is visible in all its panoramic beauty and serenity. There is an acropolis type of two storey edifice, maybe for the royalty to view. There is no description on this monument to my utter surprise. Probably because it is incomplete monument.

Once you start descending down the steps which is neatly chiseled on the rocks it is adventurers delight, a neat landscaped garden leads to Sasvikalu Ganesha. It is a monolithic exposure of Lord Ganesha which is barricaded to prevent vandalism. Hampi literally rocks .......the story is not complete friends

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Hampi heritage continued......

Hampi heritage

The history of Hampi during the Vijayanagar empire spans from 1335 upto 1365 for more than 230 years. Krishnadevaraya from the Tuluva dynasty reigned from 1509 upto 1529, during which time vijaynagar witnessed entered the golden era.

Krishna Temple :

The Krishna temple was built by Krishnadevaraya., it is one of the most beautiful monuments located close to Virupaksha temple. The gopuram is vandalized to a large the Sultans robbing its deities and ornaments. The entire royal family members were massacred in this temple. Blood flowed in the temple premise, women and children were set on fire. The burn marks are visible inside the temple. Luckily after looting the enemy soldiers diverted their attention to grab wealth from many other temples, and spared mass scale demolition. Free entry

Hazaar Rama Temple :

One gets to witness the epic of Ramayana depicted on the fa├žade of the temple. The outer boundary walls is filled with battle scenes displaying the royal army in its full splendour. The pillars inside the temple are beautifully finished. The temple has not suffered much of the destruction unleashed by the Sultans. Free entry

Mahanavami Dibba :

This place had been the public parade ground for the Dusherra festivity. The Kings had a beautiful stage on the Mahanavami Dibba to witness the procession and various acts enacted during the 10 days festivity, which replicated in the form of Hampi Utsav during Nov every year. During the ancient times puppet show, dance, drama, fireworks and fancy dress competition were enacted to enthrall the Royalty and commoners alike. Many of the monuments are demolished in this area. An underground meeting place for the king and the commanders is also built. Water duct is one the architectural wonder seen leading to the stepped tank. An amphitheatre seems to be destroyed too. Free entry

Vittala Temple :

Stone Chariots and musical pillars are the prime example of the perfection of the artisans during the Vijaynagar era. Many a films were shot in this premise in vernacular language as well as Bollywood. The famous Myth movie of Jackie chaan too has been shot over here. Unfortunately the musical pillar temple has collapsed and nobody is allowed inside this premise. The ASI is planning to resurrect this temple, which is a mammoth task.

Lotus Mahal :

Lotus Mahal is supposed to be queen’s palace during the summer. The entire momument is beautifully ventilated with privacy for the the women folk. This Mahal is having a Sacrcenic influence. The royal palace is demolished in front of the Lotus Mahal. This place needs tickets for visiting, which can be combined ticket with Vittala temple. Photography charges are separate.

Elephant Stable :

The royal herd of elephants were stationed in the elephant stables. It is a majestic structure which still survives in pristine condition.

Jain Temple’s

Behind the Lotus Mahal enclosure one finds small jain temple signifying that Jains too had influence in Hampi.

Sasvekallu and Doddakalu Ganesh :

The lord of knowledge Ganesh is adorning these temple, a portion of his stomach has been destroyed by soldiers of Sultan. The destruction seems to have halted in the midst for reasons unknown.

Urga Narashima and Badavi Linga :

Urga Narashima has been the symbol of Hoysalas and Vijaynagar empire. One can see a partially destroyed statue of Urga Narashima ( Lion headed Diety ) enroute to Hazaar Rama temple. The Shiva Linga seems to have built by a poor lady in honour of the King. This place is always immersed with water. Some people try to throw coin to perch on the linga for good luck and wishes to come true.

Underground Shiva Temple :

A marvelous archicteture with water channels routed to the temple, to keep the place cool. This temple is immersed with water, without a clue by the present archeologist, whether it was a faulty construction or breach of water channel. The entrance to the temple is beautifully landscaped. Free Entry

Zenana :

The bathing place for the queens of the sultans has been beautifully constructed near the Underground shiva temple. It is now a lovers den to have privacy. There is no water standing in this place, which is surprising. Free Entry

Anegundi :

This place was the first capital of the Vijaynagar empire and later transformed Hampi into their primal capital.

T.B. River :
Coracle ride is taken across to reach Anegondi by tourist, to explore the monuments and hilltop. One can see a temple Malliarjun being under resurrection.

Muesuem : Kamalapur has a beautiful museum of the left over monuments which have been destroyed by the Sultans. These monuments are only partially recovered majority of them seems to have been smuggled to Europe by the britishers. Entry ticket

Bear Park : Bear sanctuary is supposed to be 14 km away from Kamalapur. Honestly I was not interested in visiting this place for spending more time @ Hampi. Some foreigners stay months undertaking research or trying to feel the rustic atmosphere of Hampi.

T.B. Dam :

A beautiful dam is built across the river tungabhadra to harness the energy unleashed by the river. The dam has a beautiful garden and musical fountain is played during the night. Entry ticket for the gardens is charged.

Old Bridge : An old bridge across the T B river which was supposed to be replicated has been stopped by the World Heritage committee, if one wants to witness and get the feel one can notice the same enroute to Jaggan chakki falls.

Tips to travellers :

Guides are available at the Virupaksha premises. The charges range from Rs 150 to Rs 500/- per family. On guided KSTDC tour the charges are Rs 100/- per head for entire trip of 3 days. The temperature is extremely hot, visit during the rainy season or winter season is advised. In case one likes to travel during summer vacation it is better to carry an umbrella and sunscreen. Drink plenty of water since one skin can become dehydrated with loss of water. If one has the habit of sweating then it is between to consume salt and sugar added water to replenish loss. It is better to have mosquito lotion as a precaution. The river bed at Tungabhadra is extremely slippery, I was personal witness to another co-tourist having a toss into the river, luckily he escaped unhurt. Do not undertake coracle ride during rainy season it could be dangerous.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Mumbai Metro

Mumbai is the real commercial hub of India aptly referred to as Gateway of India. Travelling to mumbai can be a pleasure combined with challenge to overcome the crowded metro.

Currently Mumbai metro is on the revamp mode, with lot of developments on the infrastructure front, which may take another 3 years to really bear fruit. The bride across the sea face at Bandra is being linked, Sky bus from Andheri (w) to Ghatkopar is under-construction, Bridge near Thane station is underway, further the road widening and concreting in many places across the city is being developed.

The best way tourist can overcome hurdles and travel across Mumbai quickly is to board the Metro train with a tourist pass for 5 days costing Rs 105 second class or with a smart card. Smart card is accepted in both metro as well as BEST buses. Auto travel is recommended for short distance.

Recently I had a misfortune of being fined for crossing the Bandra bridge for ticketless travel, while I was using only the over head bridge for crossover, there is no public cross over bridge at all Bandra and many of the stations. The ticket checkers conviniently fine the tourist. All tourist should be careful by obtaining the 5 day pass or one can obtain 1 day pass which is charged @ Rs 50/-

Metro travel can be challenging, It is recommended to travel between 10.30 AM to to 5.00 pm on sub urban trains. The travelling discomfort is at peak between 8 AM TO 10.30 & between 5.30 pm to 9.30 pm. One will not be able to board the train at Dadar, Bandra, Andheri, Kurla and other crowded stations. If one does manage to board the train, he does with a risk to his life and does get exposed to pickpocketing. It is better one carries a pouch hanging to neckline to protect ones mobile, money and credit cards.

Mumbai boasts of number of restaurants, pubs, bars and eating joints. Majority of the eating joints are dominated by the shetties, who own and manage them beautifully. The recomended restaurants are Mahesh in S.Mumbai, Dragon for Chinese, Sachin for Seafood ( expensive ) Modern Lunch Home Sion, Saiba @ Bandra, Harish @ Vile Parle, Gomantak for Konkan food, Daras Dhabba at Dahisar & Lambas @ Chembur.

The most popular spots in Mumbai Metro are Juhu Beach, Gateway of India, Nehru Planetarium, National Park, Elephanta Caves and ESSELWORLD. For Religious people Mahalaxmi temple, Siddivinayak temple, Bandra Church, Haji Ali Darga, etc is recommended.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Cool Cool Wooden Palace @ Thucklay, T.N

Padmanabhapuram Palace :

It is located 55 kms south of Trivandrum in kulkulam taluk, Tamil Nadu near the NH 47highway junction of Thucklay. The fort and palace is situated in an area of 186 acres. Currently the fort ramparts are surrounded by houses and commercial hub. The palace is restricted to 6.5 acres. The Padmabha Palace consists of 14 palaces of which only 3 are accessible to the public due to the fear of crumbling edifice.

The palace is said to be rebuilt in 1744 AD, wherein an old mud Kalkulam palace was demolished. Over a period of 150 years the extension of the palace took place with subsequent rulers. Marthanda Varma dedicated the Sri Padmanabha temple @ travancore in 1750 paving way for shifting the capital from Kalkulam to Trivancore.

There seems to be some sort of curse after the palace was built fully in 1839 AD the ruler died at an young age of 34, just 9 months into the reign from the palace. The palace was shut for more than 150 years only reopened in 1991 for public viewing. The Vaastu of the palace seems to be wrong, ancient Hindu architectural guidelines for prosperity.

The palace is built with wooden pillars and supports, the ancient laterite stones with bricklime mortar is used along with red inclined tiles to reduce intensity of the rainfall. The palace consists of :

1. Mint
2. Dining Hall
3. Visitors chambers
4. Scholar’s Room
5. Queen’s chamber
6. King’s Bedroom
7. Mural Painting Room
8. Kitchen
9. Water Tank
10. Navarathri Mantapam or dancing chamber

The palace ramparts consists of a museum which is filled with artifacts, ancient coins, weapons of war, puppets, cutlery, throne, etc. This museum was finished in 1993 in line with the palace reopening.

Alas one cannot enjoy the videography, which is probhitively expensive @ Rs 1500/-. One has to be content with still photography. One should not miss this spectacular edifice on a trip to TN or Kerela. The itineary to Kerela or Kanyakumari should definitely include Padmanaba Palace.