Mantralaya & Hampi – Day II – Part 3

Mantralaya – Hampi (2 days) – June 2012 – Day II

After lunch we set off towards the famed Vitthala Temple. Since it was post-lunch we were all feeling a little drowsy. That, of course, went off when we reached the temple complex. To preserve the existing structures, you need to take an battery-operated cab ride. We had fun on this ride, as we piled up on the last seat facing the back of the cab! 🙂

The sky was over-cast, and light drizzle of rain peppered our trip to the temple complex. But the sight on an ancient market destroyed by invaders made our moods a bit mellow. A living city, destroyed in one stroke.

Ancient market ruins lining the street

Temple entrance with market to the side

The temple complex was constructed under the regime of King Krishnadevaraya II, and is dedicated to Lord Vitthala, the Krishna aspect/avatar of Lord Vishnu. It consists of a large central temple dedicated to Lord Vitthala, a Kalyana Mantapa (marriage hall), utsav Mantapa (festival hall), a Narasimha Mantapa where a pillar has the sculpture of Lord Narasimha, and the most beautiful structure of all: an ornate stone chariot built on the lines of a horse chariot.

The main temple is mostly destroyed, and what remains is the sabha mantapa or congregation hall. This has survived quite well, but it is cordoned off. This was especially sad. The reason given was that it needs to be preserved for future generations. SOmeone asked the security guard there, is it had ever been open, and if people had spoiled it.  The answer was no, it had never been open to public. But what if people flocked to see it? They might spoil what remains.

View of Vitthala Temple from front

View of the temple from the side.

The pillars of this hall were made from single granite block, and were shaped into slender multiple pillars joined as one. A musical instrument if sculpted at the base of the pillar, and when struck, the pillar would give the sound corresponding to the sculpted instrument. But this is part of the section cordoned off, so we didn’t get a chance to see it.

Musical pillars. See the man playing pipe instrument at the base.

But we did get to see other beauties such as this one (pics below). The single image doesn’t make sense. But cover one side, and the other becomes and elephant. Cover the elephant, and you have a bull with its head raised!

The place where the stone is most rubbed is where the image is! 🙂

The elephant!

and the bull!

Another was a monkey puzzle. A single corner was sculpted in such a manner that you could see 4 different images. They are: a monkey jumping, money feeding her baby, monkey lifting her baby, frog jumping down, and a cobra protecting a lingam. Amazing stuff! One can only imaging a sculptor making this to show off his riddle-making skills to the public!

Finally we come back to the front of the temple, to the Stone Chariot. In earlier times, horses were sculpted to show drawing the chariot. But since they were destroyed, elephants taken from another sculpture were placed here. The chariot is a shire to Lord Garuda, the celestial vessel of Lord Vishnu. This chariot could be moved from place to place at the time of processions, as the wheels are movable. But they have spoilt with time, and now the chariot has been locked into place to prevent further damage.

The Stone Chariot

After a lovely photo session with the chariot, we made our way back to the battery-operated cabs.

Finally we made our way to the Hampi museum. this was a bit of a damp squib, as there was no electricity at the time, and the museum had no generators/back-ups/inverters in place to light up the place. The only thing we could enjoy was a huge life-like mural (?) of the ruins of Hampi.

From here, we went back to our hotel. Since we’d already check out in the morning, the hotel gave us 4-5 rooms where we could freshen up before the trip back to Bangalore. Before that we decided to see the Tungabhadra Dam. After a long walk up, we could enjoy the (mostly empty) dam, and a lovely sunset view.

The Tungabhadra River and Dam

On the way down, we went across to the gardens since it was famed to have a musical fountain on par with the Mysore Brindavan Garden fountains. The tickets cost Rs. 10 per person, and we slowly walked across to the musical fountain.

The musical fountain

The show was supposed to start at 7pm, but it actually started about 7.10, and featured Hindi, Telugu and Kannada songs. It finally ended with a patriotic sound-track. While it is similar to the Mysore fountains, it would be unfair to say this one is on par. One can just call it similar, and leave it at that! 🙂

We finally made our way back to the hotel, and after a nice rest on the rooms provided, we had our dinner and set off for Bangalore.

This ended a very beautiful trip, filled with wonderful memories!

Categories: Andhra Pradesh, Hampi, Karnataka, Mantralayam | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mantralaya & Hampi – Day II – Part 2

Mantralaya – Hampi (2 days) – June 2012 – Day II

The next stop was the Zenana complex, or the women’s complex. It was a bit surprising initially to hear an essentially mohammedan name given to a complex belonging to Hindu rulers. But the main feature of this complex are Indo-Islamic in nature. Hence the name reflects this aspect.

On the way to the complex the Mohammedan Watch Tower, Mint, and Mosque were pointed out. It was a bit dicey to claim we actually saw it.  It was pointed out through the windows of a moving bus after all! 🙂

The first feature pointed out at the Zenana enclosure were the surrounding wall. The outstanding feature of the walls was that no mortar or limestone was used. It is literally a dry wall. The stones were selected to be of a certain size and weight, and placed in particular positions over each other with no gaps. Net result: walls that have lasted through centuries of neglect and destruction.

Dry wall section. note the sharp corners!

To enter one must buy tickets at the entry point. These tickets are valid right up to the Vitthala Temple. S one mustn’t throw them once bought, at least till the end of day! 🙂 The tickets are only Rs. 10 per person. One thing about the ticket is that it features images from other World Heritage Sites in India, giving their names and locations on the reverse of the ticket. Must say, it’s a decent attempt to drive tourism!

One entering, you can see a small museum on your far left along the wall. This was originally thought to the be the treasury, but now houses artifacts.  Nearby you can see a large platform. This plinth is all that is remaining today of the Queen’s palace. From the size it is evident that it would have been a huge, grand structure. The only possible reason for the the base to be saved, was that the base was made in stone, but the building itself was made of wood. On the opposite side of the walking lane is a wide tank, and  another palace base, though smaller, is placed within it. This was the palace of the younger queen.

The plinth of the Queen’s Palace

Base of younger Queen’s palace

Nearby was the famous Lotus Mahal, which was used for entertainment. A fine example of using natural resources to make life more pleasant. There was a moat all around this building to ensure that the water sent cool air into the building. Also there were pipes and passageways (now destroyed through neglect) to carry water to the upper floor and ensure an air-conditioning-like effect. The beauty lies in the fact that all this was constructed in our ancient past!

Lotus Mahal

Further on are the elephant stables. It’s a huge structure, and though a common need in those times, it’s a major attraction as we probably don’t see anything like it in use nowadays! What interested me was a nearby building. These were the rooms for the mahoots and other workers at the elephant stables. But the structure was build unusually high, compared to the other palaces on the grounds. Also the front on the building had a narrow platform along the length. This was to help the mahoots to climb onto the elephants directly, without having to use ladders!

Elephant Stables

On coming out, we found yet another vendor of yummy lemon soda. After guzzling down this cooler, we went back to our bus, and headed to the Hazara Rama Temple.

This was the temple meant for royal use. The placement of this structure in close to the ceremonial complex. So the idea was that the king/emperor would worship at the temple at then proceed to perform his duties for the day. The temple got its name for the sheer number of images of Lord Rama depicted within the temple complex. The temple is constructed with a light-colored stone, light granite I think. But in the interior of the temple, black Cuddupah stones are used for pillars in the mandapa. These were possibly brought over from present-day Andhra, as this type of stone is unavailable in this region. It certainly forms a beautiful contrast to the light stone all around.

The panels featuring Ramayana

The Kamba Ramayana on the walls

The mandapa of the main temple

The main feature of the temple is the story of the Ramayan depicted in 3 tiers all around the temple, and the story of Luv-Kush around the Devi’s shrine. Also along the inner wall to the right, the Kamba Ramayan is written in Tamil (?). The idea was that Lord Rama was the ideal king, and every leader should try to emulate him. But a king doesn’t have the time to read the story everyday. So the images were a way for the king to read the whole story everyday, without actually reading it, and is reminded of his goal (of becoming like Rama) everyday.

From here we walked across to the palace complex. We entered through the side entrance, close to the Hazara Rama temple. Here, everyone climbed up a large platform. Unfortunately, while climbing, my ma-in-law injured her leg. So we sat out the explanations, right upto the dining hall. What we saw on the way there was an underground room. The construction was quite interesting, but I’d missed the explanations.

View of the outlaying buildings and underground tanks within the palace complex

At the ‘dining hall’, large aqueducts lined the sides. Near these were large stone plates. These even had notches to separate out the curries and sweets from the rice (hopefully). After the meals were done, water from the aqueduct was used to wash the ‘plates’ making life really comfortable for the servants, given the sheer number of people who would have had meals here.

The Dinner Plates

The next stop was the step-well. This construction was done in Rajasthani style, and un-heard of in South India. A truly beautiful structure. Since we had gone during summer, the well was dry, letting us see the well in its entirety. The step-well was fed through a huge stone aqueduct. When the aqueduct was excavated, people found that one edge was pointing downwards. On digging where the duct lowered, this step-well was found.



Aqueduct angled towards step-well

2 important things stand out regarding this tank. One is the symmetry of the design. It can be viewed as a V or an inverted-V. It is perfectly balanced in this aspect. Secondly, each of the stones bears a mason’s mark or symbol, which means the well was pre-fabricated! And we thought pre-fabrication was a new concept!

The next stop was the Mahanavami Dibba. This was essentially an elevated platform for the king during ceremonial occasions, particularly during the navaratri celebrations of Dassera. hence the name Mahanavami Dibba.

None of us had the energy to climb up all the steps, esp me on an empty stomach! 😉 So we took all the requisite photo from down itself.

We came out of the complex from the main entrance. Outside are 2 huge stone doors lying on their side. in fact I’d ignored them until our guide brought them to our notice!

Next stop was the Queen’s Bath. Here I was running out of energy so I didn’t go in, just relied on the hubby’s review! 🙂

Queen’s Bath

Next stop was lunch at the Hotel Mayura Bhaveshwari. Lunch was a buffet affair. We were also given sealed 1/2ltr water bottles with the meal. Quite nice, and a simple fare.

From here we made our way to the famed Vitthala Temple.

Categories: Andhra Pradesh, Hampi, Karnataka, Mantralayam | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mantralayam & Hampi – Day II – Part 1

Mantralaya – Hampi (2 days) – June 2012 – Day II

Here is the account of Day II.. with a slight delay! 😉

The day started early, with someone knocking on the door at 6am to tell us breakfast was ready! 🙂 We eventually got ready by 8am. Afterall we had to be at the bus by 8.30am :D. After a quick breakfast of idlis and wadas, we handed over our room back to the hotel, and got into the bus. By 8.30 we were off through Hospet and Hampi to reach our first view of the day.

Tourist Map of Hampi

Hampi was the Capital of the Vijayanagara Empire. The name was derived from Pampa, which was the original name of the Tungabhadra river. The Vijayanagara Empire started around 1336 till 1565. It was started by 2 brothers: Bukka Raya and Harihara of the Sangama Dynasty. It reached its pinnacle under the rule of Krishnadevaraya of the Tuluva Dynasty, and reached its end under the reign of Tirumala Raya of the Araveedu Dynasty. It was one of the best examples of wealth, and religious tolerance (reflected in its architecture and in the history of its armies).The final defeat and subsequent plunder by the Deccan Sultanates left the city utterly devastated and left un-occupied in a ruinous state.

Hampi is also associated mythologically with Kishkinda, the birthplace of Lord Hanuman from The Ramayana.

After driving through scenic views of fields and rocks, we reached the Hemakuta group of temples. This location also features Kadalekalu Ganesha, Virupaksha Temple, and various Ganesh Temples.  We started with the Kadalekalu Ganesha temple.

This beautiful monolithic idol of Ganesha a beautiful to look at. It didn’t matter that the idol had been damaged, which made the temple a ruin rather than a living temple. At first glance one just can’t focus on the flaws. It was only when the guide pointed them out, could we focus on them. After a few photos, we were all directed out of the sanctum sanctorum to allow other visitors clear viewing. Outside Shivraj then explained the history of Vijayanagara Empire, its founders, builders and finally the reasons for disintegration.

KadaleKalu Ganesha

From here, we made our way to the Hemakuta Hill temples. After a brief history about the temples that were built on this hill. The largest, and only living temple here is the Virupaksha temple dedicated to Lord Siva. It is said that he came to this hill to do penance. But Kama, the God of love, distracted him and made him fall in love with Pampa, a local girl (and an avatar of Goddess Parvathi). Siva was angered by Kama’s actions and opened his Third Eye and destroyed Kama. Hence the name Virupaksha, or Angry Eye. Kama was eventually restored in spirit not form after his wife Goddess Rathi pleaded with Siva.

View of the Hemakuta Hill Complex

The remaining temples on the hill are smaller and were supposedly built by Brahmins or rich merchants to appease the Gods after mixing the ashes of their departed relatives in the Tungabhadra (or Pampa) River below. There are also mandapas built intermittently to help travellers rest under their shade. None of these temples survived after the fall of the Vijayanagara Empire.

After walking through some of these temples, we made our way to the Virupaksha Temple.  Situated on the northern bank of the Tungabhadra, the temple lies within the Hampi Bazaar. This bazaar was famous for the fact that diamonds, precious stones and other valuables were sold along the street like flowers and vegetables in today’s time.

We entered the temple through the eastern Gopuram, which is also the tallest. Walking straight up to the main mandapa or hall of the temple, we were explained the frescoes that featured on the ceiling. It was simply too beautiful to describe. The frescoes featured both Siva and Vishnu, showing the religious tolerance between sects of the time. To enter for darshan, we had to step out of this hall, and re-enter through the Southern entrance.

The Eastern Gate

faded frescos on the ceiling at Virupaksha temple

Tungabhadra River

The Virupaksha temple complex

After a quick darshan of the Sivalinga, as well of Ammavaru, we were directed to the back of the temple to see an “inverted temple”. Here, there is a beautiful feature of ancient science and architecture. In a small room primarily meant for the temple brahmins to stay, a small window was built into the wall for ventilation. The size of the window was such that it created an inverted shadow of the Eastern Gopuram on the far wall using the “pinhole camera” theory. after everyone finished jostling around for a photo-op of this beautiful feature, we all trooped out.

The North Entrance on our left led to the Tungabhadra river. We were directed to see this for ourselves, and return to the bus which would be in the Hampi Bazaar within the next 30 mins. Were were also warned not to go down to the river, and simply see it from up and return. However, I think my family was the only one that followed that particular directive and stayed up on the embankment.

After a nice photo session in the temple courtyard, we slowly made our way back to the bus. Obviously we were the first to reach there. The Bazaar road was going through a lot of renovations and road-widening building demolitions. SO there wasn’t anything to see there. Instead we spied a lemon soda stall. The lemon soda, mixed with additional lemon and salt,  was a welcome respite from the heat.

Once everyone got back to the bus, the remaining locations were pointed out while driving through. These were the Sasive Kalu Ganesha and Ganesh group temples, the Krishna Temple complex and the market area facing it. The next stop was the Lakshmi Narasimha temple and the Badavi Linga.

Lakshmi Narasimha Temple

The Idol of Lakshmi Narasimha is probably of the more famous images of Hampi. It was sculpted out of a single stone, but was broken up either by invaders or weather erosion. However, the Lakshmi statue is missing, and the only thing to show that the idol was there, is the hand encircling the statue’s waist. In fact for some time people thought it was a statue of Ugra Narasimha, or Angry Narasimha. Now slowly the Archeological Department is restoring the Idol.

Next to this statue is an ancient Sivalinga. During the Vijayanagar time, Siva and Vishnu temples were built near each other, to appease each of the sects. So if the Vishnu temple was grand, the Siva temple would be simple, and vise versa. This Sivalinga is called the Badavi Linga. It is the largest monolithic Linga in Hampi, and is within and open-to-sky chamber, and is surrounded with water. A canal is directed through this temple to ensure there is water all through the year. The main highlight of the Linga is an etching on the front depicting the 3 eyes of Siva.

Badavi Linga

From here we made our way to the Palace complex. Along the way we saw the Sister Stones. Legend goes that 2 sisters came to visit Hampi, and were sitting along the road and ridiculing the place. The goddess of the city was angered, and punished them by turning them into huge boulders formed like an archway. Recently one of the stones broke due to natural weather erosion.

The Sister Stones. The Right side stone broke recently.

The next stop was the Palace complex of the Vijayanagara Kings.

Categories: Andhra Pradesh, Hampi, Karnataka, Mantralayam | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment