Mantralaya – Hampi (2 days) – June 2012 – Day I
Normally when my-in-laws visit, we try to incorporate a holiday during their stay. It the past it has always been a religious place. This time, we wanted a holiday. Not a religious place masquerading as a holiday, but an outright holiday of having fun.
Well, we didn’t really get that wish. What we got was a package tour from Karnataka Tourism (www.karnatakaholidays.net) which covered Mantralayam (Mantralaya) and Hampi. We wavered a bit, wondering if we should just plan a Hampi trip by ourselves. But we finally figured that the details of the tourist spot was already covered by the package tour. If we went by ourselves, we would have to look at making arrangement after reaching Hampi. Also none of us were overly keen on going to Mantralayam. But we finally justified it, saying we could treat it as just another place to visit, rather than a theerth yatra (which it wasn’t for us). So we finally booked the package tour.
We reached Badami House on Friday evening. The tour bus was a non-AC deluxe bus. The seats weren’t the most comfortable, but weren’t anything to complain about either. The bus left on time, 8pm. After a brief introduction by our tour guide, Shivraj, we settled down for the night. The driver started to play some Kannada movie. Since we didn’t really know the language, we just about managed to follow it through the actors’ histrionics. 🙂
At 9.30pm there was a stop at Kamat Upachar on NH-4 for dinner. It turned out that we were the only passengers who’d brought our dinner from hom. We completed it on the bus, before reaching the hotel. So we would up the night with hot cups of tea and coffee. 🙂
We reached Mantralayam at 5am. We were given rooms at Punnami Guest House (Ap Tourism Guest House). Since it was a temporary room, we shared a single room (1 room for 2 couples), and were told to be ready by 8am. The problem with the place was that it wasn’t maintained. Which meant everything was either stained, torn or simply stinky :(. We slept for an hour, and then spent the remaining hour getting ready. AT 8am we all gathered outside the Guest house. Once the guide joined us, we slowly made our way to the temple. Along the way Annapurna Dining Hall was pointed out. Free meals are provided at the hall from 11am to 3pm.
Once we left our footwear at the proper stand, we first took darshan of Manchalamma, the grama devata (village deity) of Mantralayam. After paying obeisance, we made our way for darshan of Guru Raghavendra Swami. The Guru is said to be inside the Vrindavan here. Vrindavan is basically a tomb of a Hindu Spiritual Guru or Saint. Guru Raghavendra Swami, a Madhva saint, was the head of the Sri Mutt at Kumbakonam and a great exponent of Madhvacharya’s Dvaita philosophy.
We took the VIP darshan. There are 3 types of darshan: free, VIP and VVIP. Free meant you stood at a distance of 10 ft from the Vrindavan; VIP was 5ft away; VVIP allowed you to enter the sanctum sanctorum of the Vrindavan temple. I do not know how much the tickets cost to enter, as it was a part of the package, and the tour guide simple led us to the entrance and told us to go in! While there is no dress code for women, men have to take off their shirts before entering for darshan.
By the time we came out, and took the requisite photos of the (very dry) Tungabhadra river, it was around 9am. We were told that MTR restaurant serves good coffee, so we slowly made our way there. It turned out that this MTR was in fact Mantralaya Tiffin Room, and not the original MTR restaurants. So we walked along and found another small restaurant that served us good hot coffee and breakfast. We slowly walked back to our room, and slept off our breakfast :). At around 11, we walked back for lunch. THis time we decided to try another restaurant, which was a very bad idea. The food was not up to par, and we regretted not having gone back to our previous choice. We hadn’t opted for Annapurna dining hall as we were going to be on road for the next few hours, and wanted just a light snack to keep us going.
Once we got back to the guest house, it was nearing 12. We packed up our bags and sat in the bus, and made our way towards Hampi. The one thing that stood out most about the trip was how dry the land way, and the sheer number of rocks!
Along the way we stopped at Bellary for evening snacks. Here the Bellary fort was pointed out for photos. The place we stopped was Pola Palms. We had coffee/tea and cutlets. The cutlets were nice to taste, even though they looked a bit burnt. After filling out our water bottles at the water cooler, we were back on the road.
The next stop was directly at Hampi. Along the way we saw spotted deer in the distance, drove over non-existent roads, and worse still, pot-holes along the highway. But the moment we neared Hampi we knew we’d reached. Just a few minutes back we were looking at dry land and stones, and then we were suddenly looking at lush greenery. In fact the crops that grew were cash crops: sugar cane, paddy and banana plantations were dominant.
We passed through Hampi and drove on towards Tungabhadra Dam (TB Dam). We were staying at Karnataka Holidays Mayura Vijayanagar Guest House at TB Dam. The rooms were really nice. Not glamorous, but very clean and comfortable. What more can one ask for a peaceful night? Dinner was a simple fare of aloo parathas for hubby and me, and parotas and dal fry for the in-laws. We completed the dinner with a nice glass of buttermilk, and settled down for the night.