The temples across the river

Virupashka Temple

Virupashka Temple

Indian style

Locals enjoying the shade

Sweeping views over the walkway

Painting in a temple

The Tiruvengalanatha Temple complex

Locals walk by the Tiruvengalanatha Temple

The Tiruvengalanatha Temple

Photo opportunity with the locals

The Vitthala Temple before a rain storm

The Vitthala Temple

The elephant chariot

Locals walk past the Narasimha Temple

Walkway towards the boat dock

The Virupaksha Temple

Monkeys relaxing on the temple wall

The Anjana Temple

Locals crammed into an autorickshaw

Hampi, India

The Vijayanagar Empire

June 23, 2013


And so castles made of sand, melts into the sea eventually

- Jimi Hendrix

The bizarre boulder strewn scenery and the hills of Hampi were the site of the capital of the Vijayanagar Empire from around 1340 to 1565. At its peak the population was around 1.5 million with an inhabited area as large as 60 square kilometers. In 1565 the city was destroyed by a group of invading Muslims from northern India. What remains today is a vast collection of temples and residential buildings speaking to the past glory.

The north section of the site occupies the banks of the Tungabhadra River. Small boats ferry people across and up the river to reach some of the various sights. The two larger temple complexes, the Virupaksha and Vitthala Temples sit at opposite ends of the site. The large central tower of the Virupaksha Temple is visible from numerous vantage points throughout Hampi. On the pathways linking these two temples are numerous smaller temples. One of the more amazing views is of the Tiruvengalanatha Temple from atop the hill past the giant bull statue. In the emptiness of early afternoon it truly looked like a set from an Indiana Jones movie. After hiking down to the temple, single file lines of local people were transiting the temple courtyard in their brightly colored clothes, highlighting the otherwise bleak surroundings. Many of the temples feature exceptional stone work and decoration; the obviously cleaned and restored red front of the Vitthala Temple being a prime example of this.

For being such a notable historic site the ruins were not very crowded. Amidst the tourists, both Indian and foreign, there was a sizeable population of locals moving through the site as part of their daily lives. Many of these people were very excited to see foreigners and we were constantly bombarded by introductions and requests for photos. Many were thrilled to see their pictures on the displays of our digital cameras and enthusiastically snapped photos of us with their mobile phones. At times it seemed that there were just as many monkeys as there other tourists. Monkeys moved freely through the temples and ruins, regardless of the opening hours and admission fares. At the end of the day crafty monkeys would try to steal food and other items from anyone that wasn’t paying attention.

Around Hampi I was able to get a glimpse into village life. Auto rickshaws crammed with upwards of 15 people plied the narrow roads. Children and animals shared the roadsides as play areas. Sunday afternoon meant countless people lounging by the road in mid-day heat watching the traffic pass by. Back on the main road, a non-stop procession of transport trucks was shuttling goods all across India. Our driver weaved in and out of the slow moving trucks to keep us on pace and get us back to the Golden Quadrilateral (India’s version of the interstate highway). Food stops were at small roadside restaurants with no menus, however the fresh food made from scratch was a welcome break from the usual food on the Infosys Campus. All in all it was a great first trip and a very casual introduction to rest of India.