The first group of temples to visit are the Ganesha, Hemakuta and Virupaksha temple.
1. SASIVEKALU & KADALEKALU GANESHA
Lord Ganesha believed to remove all the obstacles is the first shrine that we should be visiting in any temple. There are two monolithic Ganesha temples here. The Sasivekalu Ganesha has a snake tied around His tummy and is found sitting on the lap of Goddess Parvathi. This unique sitting posture can be observed only from behind the statue. The Kadalekalu Ganesha is named so because His tummy is like a big Kadale (bengal gram). This Ganesha was huge, like hugeee! Nearly three times average human size. They both are in adjacent complexes.
2. HEMAKUTA HILLS
Hemakuta hills is a series of small temples just adjacent to the Ganesha temple on a hillock. Balancing ourselves through the gentle slops, we explored this cluster which reminded me of the shore temple of Mahabalipuram. From there we descended the hillock into the Virupaksha temple.
2. VIRUPAKSHA TEMPLE
Virupaksha temple is one of the significant Shiva temple which is still functioning. To start our morning walk through this big complex was the best thing. Either side of the street is lined up with ruined bazaar which is now pillars and rooms made of stones. At the one end of the bazaar is the big monolithic Nandi. It is customary to have Nandi at the entrance of Shiva temples. Though now the bazaar, temple and Nandi are marked as three different ruins to visit, the olden times should have had it as one huge complex!
Entering the Virupaksha temple opens up to two praharams. Like many temples of that age the pillars have great sculptures, daily accessories are carved out of stones and a huge water reservoir made of stone stands at one side. The roof of the first mandapam has colorful paintings on the ceiling depicting different stories from mythology. The notable architectural beauty in this temple is that, the shadow of main gopuram falls as an inverted image on the wall. A match box size opening on the wall is designed such that when the rays pass through them creates an inverted image of the gopuram.
4. KRISHNA TEMPLE
A little away from the Virupaksha temple is the Krishna temple. This temple as well has a big bazaar in the front and a temple tank. History says each bazaar pertained to one particular trade. I couldn’t remember which was which though. The temple gopuram is in bad ruined form and restoration work is under progress. It was absolutely calm and we were walking hearing to our own foot steps, just beautiful. Inside the temple there are various sculptures, inscriptions. Most of the sculptures you can understand if you know mythology as they will be depicting story of Krishna or will be incarnations of Lord Vishnu.
5. BADAVLINGA & NARASIMHA
A five minute drive from the Krishna temple leads to the Badavlinga temple. This is a monolithic Linga and there is always water at the base of the Linga. There are three openings on the roof through which sun rays play over the Linga. Legend says a poor woman constructed the temple with all the little savings she had and hence the name.
The Lakshmi Narasimha temple is adjacent to the Badavlinga temple. The Lakshmi statue is no longer there. One can see the broken hand of Lakshmi passing through the hip of Lord Narasimha. This is again a huge statue almost twice or thrice of average human size. And the beauty is both the statues are among lush green trees.
6. SARASWATI TEMPLE & UDDANA VEERABHADRA TEMPLE.
Down the road of Badavalinga temple is Saraswati temple. It is completely in ruins. Veerabhadra temple is a functioning temple and a must visit. The Lord is huge and is like a warrior with sword and shield. It is a small temple on the way and it can be easily missed out. Keep an eye for the temple and get the Lord’s blessings.
The drive from Veerabadra temple leads to the watch tower. Watch tower is a small flight of staircase from where the ruins of the Hampi city can be seen. It was like our own Machu Pichu, a ruined city and just the foundations of the walls present. To the left of the watch tower was the Muslim enclosure. It includes a fort and a mosque. The walk through the place is good as there is seldom any crowd. Walk upto the building at the end and take left to proceed to hazara raama temple
8. HAZARA RAMA TEMPLE
Adjacent to the mosque is the Hazara Rama temple. This is a beautiful temple. The wall of the compound surrounding the temple is fully sculptured with big horses and elephants. Inside the temple the walls are sculpted with stories from Ramayana which includes Lava Kusha story as well. Also are the stories of Lord Krishna. There are 1000 such sculptures of Rama and hence the name Hazara Rama. The inner sanctum has black finished polished granite pillars with images of Rama and Krishna sculpted. These pillars add more beauty to the temple. Must visit place.
9. UNDERGROUND SHIVA TEMPLE
The underground Shiva temple is called so because the temple is below the ground level. A flight of stairs leads to the Shiva temple. Two people told two different stories for the temple and hence God knows which is the true one. One said the temple has underground passage to queen palace and she visits the temple through the same. There is always water in this temple. Not just the sanctum sanctorum but the entire temple is under water. The guy maintaining the temple told us there is an inlet and outlet for the water and it is Thungabadra river flowing. When the dam water is released or during rainy seasons water level rises. One can walk through the cold chill water till the sanctum sanctorum. It is a little dark with bats and you will not know where there is a step and where there is none. So better to have torch or someone who knows the place to take you along.
10. QUEEN’S BATH
After a quick lunch we stopped at the Queen’s Bath. Man aren’t they rich people! I looked at that bath and I was wondering what did they fill it up with? Water and aromatic oils or milk or rose water or what? It is a huge swimming pool will steps leading in, a pipe like inlet that pours in water, an outlet that can be plugged in and surrounded by walkway with windows! Imagine all the ladies chilling at the pool. Sigh!!!
11. LOTUS MAHAL & ELEPHANT’S STABLE
The next complex includes the Lotus Mahal and the Elephant’s stable. By the side of Lotus Mahal there is one more stage like enclosure which if I remember is Queen’s palace. Check out the carvings on top of the Lotus Mahal. And then walking further is the massive elephant’s stable! Imagine those huge giants standing in that stables. Comfortable huge stable and each dome is of different shape and inside each dome are different carvings. There is a small way between each room in the stable, must have been used by pachyderms to move in and out of them. We walked behind the elephant’s stable and there were many more ruined temples. Restoration work is under progress. But they were terribly ruined.
12. KRISHNADEVARAYA PALACE
Next is the Krishnadevaraya’s palace. Needless to say it is a huge complex. The moment we enter, we see a huge stage. To me it looked like they were in the process of constructing a pyramid. But it seems that is where the dancers and musicians used to perform! So high? Where were the Kings and Queens seated then! Just like how Dussehra procession is famous in Mysore, in those days Dussera procession was famous in Hampi as well and during the festival they used to perform on this stage. From there we proceed towards the stepped tank. Garden is well maintained on both the sides. Note while you walk towards the stepped tank, there will be a line of stone pipes passing through which you will easily miss thinking some barricade. This series of pipes made of stone are strategically placed to form the water ways for the entire kingdom! Interesting is it not! They have carved the stones to carry water! And then if you see it you will realize it is not one straight line! They are placed at angles to keep free flow of water!! So cool. The step tank is beautiful. You cannot step in.
13. VITTALA TEMPLE
Once we were done with the palace we headed straight to the Vittala temple. We really had no energy to stop by Bhima’s gate. We saw from a distance and proceeded to Vittala temple. Vittala temple is major attraction and hence the most crowded. If you have a bicycle you can drive till the temple. If you have energy you can walk down the one and half kilometer stretch. We did not have both so we stood in line for the buggy.
If you walk down there are small ruined shrines on the way, a bazaar and a temple tank. If you take buggy you go direct to the temple. Take a guide for there are plenty of stories here. Once you enter the main gopuram we get to see the famous Hampi Stone Chariot. Since this is a Vishnu Temple, inside the chariot is Lord Garuda. It is said that the stone wheels were movable but now to avoid the wheels from getting damaged they are cemented. If you look under the wheels or under the top of chariot we can see it is colored using natural dyes. So once upon a time the whole chariot must have been in brilliant colors which has worn out with weather. The chariot was originally pulled by horses which seem missing now.
Moving to the main mantapa is the marvelous musical pillars. Blessed are those who must have heard the sounds of the pillar. Now restoration work is going on so you cannot even climb atop. It is unimaginable to think, both the musician and the sculptor went around looking for the right rocks that make the perfect sound and then they made pillars with varied size, depth and thickness to produce music. There was one ordinary pillar that the guide just struck to show the difference in sound. More than what people of this age and technology can even think of. The main sanctum sanctorum is just rubble.
Another interesting thing the guide told us was that Chinese did horse trading here. They came all the way here to do horse trading? There are sculptures running along the bottom of the musical pillars mantap which shows Chinese men bringing in the horses and our men examining it. Hmm. Even the roof of the temple has a touch of Chinese pagoda style.
There is a kalyana mantapa, musician’s court and a hundred pillar hall. I don’t remember which one, I think it is the marriage hall, it has a huge full bloom lotus sculpted in the roof. If you walk from outer most entrance of hall to the center, it is carvings of lotus blooming at various stages! Lovely. Behind the temple is the king’s balance. We then rushed to catch the buggy and head to sunset point.
14. MALYAVANTHA HILL/ SUNSET POINT
Malyavantha hill has the religiously important Rama temple called Raghunatha temple. In this temple Rama and Lakshamana are seen in sitting posture and They are like saints with curled up hair and beaded garland. There is also a Sita devi standing by the side. The significance of this temple is that this is the place where Rama is worried that He is not able to trace Sita and found in a sitting/meditating posture. Meanwhile lord Anjaneya is in front of lord showing Him the jewels that were thrown down by Sita Devi. Pooja is done in North Indian style. Don’t know why! Behind the temple is boulders after boulders. Find one, lay your back, enjoy the panaromic view of Hampi, feel the breeze and watch the sunset. We were not very lucky to see a good sunset. Also it is not a very peaceful place as crowd starts to gather here to watch sunset and gets noisy.
15. ACHUTARAYA TEMPLE
Achutaraya Temple complex is located along the Thungabadra river. This place can be reached only by walk from Virupaksha to Vittala temple complex. On the way to the temple is Kodanda Rama temple, yanthrodara Anjaneya, Ranganthar temple. In front of the Achutaraya temple complex is the huge bazaar like in front of any big temple complex and there is a dried up temple tank. The temple has two praharams and the gopurams are almost ruined. Since this place is approachable only by walk, it is less crowded and peaceful. Must visit place for lovely photographs. Through the doors of the temple you can see at distant the beautiful Anjanadri and river flowing before it.
The Anegudi side is covered in coming series. The rest of the temple in the walk able stretch is also covered in the coming series. Most of the places take a minimal fee of 10Rs. Vittala temple needs guide, rest you can manage. Monkey menace is there in Virupaksha temple and Malyavantha hills.
This brought us to the end of day 1 at Hampi.
Hampi for the religious – Hampi Series III – For the Religious