By Ashwin Bahulkar
Original post at Hampi and Badami
Hampi is undoubtedly the most gorgeous Indian destination I’ve been to, it beats everything else I’ve seen till date (Ladakh, Rajasthan..all of it). The landscape is very evocative and the ruins are still alive. It was home to the Kishkinda empire mentioned in Ramayan, and to the mighty Vijaynagar empire of south India. Yet, it has a low tourist factor (fortunately). It’s just about 10 hours from Pune (in West India), still I had never suspected it’s existence till about 2 yeas back. Hampi along with Badami, and Pattadakkal and Aihole make a great North Karnataka trip.
Hampi has had a very glorious past. Then one day it was sacked and looted by Muslim invaders. Nevertheless, the landscape is the same, the ruins are still magnificent and the whole area is very evocative of the past. The rocks are gorgeous, the architecture blends in perfectly with them and there’s a meandering river flowing through all of this. If you’re there during the rains, the green grass and red-brown stones make an awesome combination. The numerous hilltops, often with temples or watch-tower kind structures reminds you that this was once the capital of a mighty empire. The sunrise and sunset is supposed to be life changing, we weren’t so fortunate to see them, because of the rains and clouds, but the being at the vantage points at early hours is quite an experience.
[Hampi Landscape from the Hemakuta Hills]
So this is my overall impression of Hampi. I really don’t have too many adjectives to express myself, the pictures will speak better.
We reached Hampi, checked into our guesthouse, had breakfast at a local joint (appes and dosa) and set out to explore Hampi with our guide. It seemed everything there is about Krishnadevraya, the most prominent Vijaynagar emperor. We passed the Bazaar, which has been cleared of its inhabitants by the ASI towards the Nandi Bull. We further moved on to the Achyutraya Temple passing through some great views of the Bazaar area and Virupaksha Temple.
We fell in love with the Achyutraya Temple, it was a little Indiana Jones-ish. Moving on to the Vitthala Temple that awed us with its chariot and its musical pillars. The ghats over the river had good views over the other bank. After a decent south Indian lunch at Mango Tree Restaurant and a nap, we went over to the Hemakuta Hills. We got a gorgeous sunset with some good colors and skies, and the place had some really good view over the countryside.
Vitthala Mandir chariot
The Vitthala Temple, Hampi
The Goldsmith Bazar where people from far off lands came to trade
Virupaksha Temple, Hampi
Outside the Raghunth Malyawant Temple
The Palace Area, Hampi
Woke up very early in the morning and headed for the Matanga Hill, famous for its amazing views over Hampi. The hike wasn’t too difficult for us, although it was a little tricky at a few places. And we didn’t even make it to the top because of lack of finding a trail.
We took an autorickshaw on the second day to explore the “Palace side” of Hampi. The Narsimha and Shivling, each carved from one stone, were brilliant. The Hazari Rama Temple too was impressive, with Ramayana scenes carved on 1000 stone bricks. Rest of the palace complex did not excite us too much, except the pyramid like structure. The evening was spent at the Malyawant Raghunath Temple that commands over vast views of Hampi’s surroundings.
[View from the Matanga Hill]
Near the Hampi Palace
[View from the Malyawant Raghunath Temple]
[View from the Malyawant Raghunath Temple]
[The Matanga Hill]
[Inside Hazari Ram Temple]
Hampi is located on the banks of the Tungabhadra, and there are quite a few interesting sites on the other side of the river. A lot of people prefer staying there, but I wouldn’t suggest doing so, because the men who owned the ferry gave us a tough time crossing there, we had to wait for almost 30 minutes even at 9 AM. So we got an auto-rickshaw to show us around. The prime attraction was the Hanumanhalli/ Anjenayadri Hill.
If seen from a distance, the hill looks gorgeous because of its very unique shape and it stands on the landscape like a big block, invincible. It is also the birthplace of Lord Hanuman. The climb to the top of hill was over 550 easy steps. The views got better as we climbed.
You can see the river meandering, all the ruins of Hampi, green and yellow fields and of course the brilliant landscape. The temple itself was small, yet atmospheric. The next few stops were Pampa Sarovar, Anegudi village, Shabari’s place, Wali’s cave, all straight out of the Kishkinda empire of Ramayan.
The sites aren’t very exciting, but the drive was great, with typical tropical scenery, paddy fields, banana and coconut plantations. Another highlight of the “other side” was the Sanapur Lake. It’s actually a man-made lake nestling among boulder hills. The whole area was very picturesque. And there were coracle boat ride to be done, which make it amongst the best locations in Hampi for doing coracle boat rides.
[View from Anjneyadri Hill, Hanumanhalli, birthplace of Lord Hanuman]
[Hanuman Temple, birthplace of Hanman at Hanumanhalli]
[Landscape close to the Sanapur Lake]
[Ghats of Hampi]
After returning to Hampi, we went to the Vitthala Temple, to see the light fall on the stone chariot between 3-5 PM, but the clouds and rains had other plans that day! So all in all, 3 days in Hampi were beautiful, the low lights only being the food and the village itself. Rest everything was top notch.
We traveled to Badami the next day by car (the bus option takes too much of time). The highlight of the trip was the sunflower fields all around and a good south Indian breakfast at Hospet.
Badami itself was a dusty/muddy small town with bad traffic, so not a very good first impression, and a huge change from scenic Hampi. We checked in at the Hotel Anand Deluxe, had a good meal at their restaurant and set off to explore the caves.
The whole cave area was beautiful, the stone was red-red (thus giving Badami its name: badam-color. Badam in Hindi means Almond). There’s a huge lake with red mountains surrounding it, and one of those mountains houses the caves. Badami belongs to a completely different era as compared to Hampi, which is 5-6th century Chalukya age, while Hampi belongs to the 15-16th century Vijaynagar age.
All the 4 caves in Badami were excellent, big, and were significantly different from Buddhist caves you see everywhere else. We hired a guide who showed us all the fine details among carvings, most notable were the Vishnu-Shiv Avtar, or the Nataraja carvings.
We then walked along the ghat (downhill passage leading to a river or lake) to the other side of the lake exploring another set of temples, the best ones were the Bhootnath temples. Next up was sitting by the lake with the view of both, the sun and the lakeside temples. I just wonder how amazing this place would have been in its heyday.
Inside Badami caves
Inside Badami caves, necklace designs
Gorges of Badami,close to the caves
Badami Lake and Bhootnath Temple
Sunset over Badami lake
Next day, we set out to explore Pattadakkal and Aihole by hiring a car (with a driver) after a good breakfast. The road was bad for a large part, which explains the absence of tourism in this area despite such world class sites.
The first stop was Aihole which was like a “primary school” for temple architecture, so you get to see all kinds of temples, which probably were student projects. But Pattadakkal was a gem with a lot of temples, and many of them big!
The details were far richer than Aihole, and the tour guide was pretty good. The scenes from Ramayan, Mahabharat, Puranas were well preserved. Now comes the highlight meal of the trip. Just outside the Pattaakkal temple there were a lot of local women more than eager to sell their home cooked meals, wafer thin jowar rotis, two different sabzis (matki, cucumber, greens), lots of mirchi thecha (crushed chillies) and dahi (yogurt), all for just Rs.20. So with our tummies and tongues happy, with left for Banashankari Devi Temple, the “kunda” just outside the temple was beautiful.
Temple at Aihole, the parliament structure has been inspired from this
Pattadakal Purana carvings
Pattadakal Dravid style temple
Pattadakal north Indian style temple
Lunch at Pattdakkal, jowar roti
Wood chariot, Mahakoota
Kund outside Banashankari Temple
We had some more time back in Badami. We went up again to the lake, where the sun was brighter, so everything looked better than the previous day. We took a walk up the museum, and views of the mini canyons were awesome. Top of the hill is a Tipu Sultan fort. The whole area gets a beautiful red color in evening, because of the red stone.
Back to the hotel, had dinner at the same restaurant and left for the railway station. It was dark at 8.30 PM, and not a soul in sight. The train heading towards Pune arrived late, and we were the only ones to board the train. So ended the trip.
The whole trip was a good history lesson and a peek into the magnificent past this area once was a part of. So I would heartily recommend doing this trip.
How did we get there? We took a Meenakshi Travels bus from Pune to Hospet and then took a rickshaw till Hampi. While returning we took a train from Badami directly to Pune.
When to go? We went in end of October and I doubt if there could be a better time. It’s best to go after the monsoons in the late September to mid November timeframe. The rain washes up everything, there’s a lot of greenery. Although we didn’t get those golden sunrises or sunsets, we had the comfort of cloudy weather, so we could spend the entire day outside, else Hampi gets hot when the sun shines.
How many days? Now that’s a very common question, I’ve seen people spend just 1-2 days in Hampi, but that’s hardly enough. You need a minimum of 3 days to soak in the landscape, to enjoy sunrises and sunsets, climb up the view points, walk along the river, take boat rides. You need at least a whole evening for Badami, and another day (7-8 hours) for Pattadakkal, Aihole and Banashankari.
Which places are the best? Our favorite place was undoubtedly the Matanga Hill, the Anjaneya Hill comes a close second. The views from both these places are absolutely brilliant(Matanga more so). Raghunath Malyawant Temple too was fabulous, and the views from it. Achyutraya Temple was another gem. Vitthala Temple with it’s musical pillars was the star attraction, Virupaksha Temple too was great. Views from the Hemakuta Hill too were good. The Palace complex did not impress us a lot. In Badami, the caves, and the lake were splendid. The wadis or ravines too were brilliant. We like Pattadakkal more than Aihole, but you need to visit both.
Food: Not too much to write about, there really are no authentic south Indian places in Hampi. Mango Tree Restaurant is fair enough, they do a good thali (Rs.90) and good Tibetan food. There are two stalls, Hotel Sagar and a small place next to it where you get decent Gunapangalams and dosas. Badami was better, being a non touristy town. The usual south Indian thalis with a slight North Karnataka touch (dry chutney, spicy, jowar rotis) were great. The highlight meal was the food straight out of the farm just outside the Pattadakkal temple. Villagers (women) from nearby areas get you freshly cooked jowar rotis, chutneys, veggies for just Rs.20 a plate. I felt sorry for some other tourists who preferred their colas and chips over this.
Accommodation: We stayed at the Mayuram Guest House (+91-9448801852) in Hampi. Accommodation in Hampi isn’t very inspiring though easy on the pocket, but I wouldn’t recommend staying anywhere else, definitely not Hospet and Viruppur Gadde. In Badami we stayed at the Anand Deluxe (+91-9448559892), pretty decent, and their restaurant is quite good too.
Local Transport: In Hampi, we took an autorickshaw for the Palace side, we paid about Rs.500. A full day rickshaw for the other side, Hanumanhalli, Sanapur cost Rs.800, you could take a motorbike too, but the roads aren’t good. Hampi to Badami costs Rs.2,500, but you could do Pattadakkal and Aihole along with it too, if you start early. A half day Aihole-Pattadakkal taxi was about Rs.1,500 I guess. A rickshaw to the cave from the hotel costs Rs.50, but you could walk one way.
Tour Guide: We hired a local guide in Hampi for Rs.800, and in every other site: Aihole, Pattadakkal and Badami we paid Rs.250 each. It is absolutely worth getting guide.
Reposted with permission from Ashwin Bahulkar’s original post Hampi and Badami