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, 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 strucures remind you 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.
So this is my overall impression of Hampi. I really don’t have too many adjectives to express myself, the pictures will speak better for Hampi. So we reached Hampi, checked into our guesthouse, had breakfast a local joint(appes and dosa) and set out to explore Hampi with our guide. It seemed everything in Hampi is about Krishnadevraya, the most prominent Vijaynagar emperor. We passed the Bazaar, which has been cleared of it’s inhabitants by the ASI towards the Nandi Bull. We further moved on to the Achyutraya Temple passing through some great views of the Bazar area and Virupaksha Temple. We fell in love with the Achyutraya Temple, it was a little Indiana Jones-ish. We further moved onto the Vitthala Temple, which awed us with it’s chariot and it’s 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.
Woke up very early in the morning and headed for the Matanga Hill,famous for it’s 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, we couldn’t find a trail. Still we got some amazing views. We took an autorickshaw on the second day to explore the “Palace side” of Hampi. The Narsimha and Shivling carved from one stone(each) 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 which commands over vast views of Hampi’s surroundings.
Hampi is located on the banks of the Tungabhadra, there are quite a few interesting sites on the otherside of the river. A lot of people prefer staying there, but I wouldn’t suggest doing so, because the ferry guys gave us a tough time crossing ther,we had to wait for almost 30 minutes even at 9 AM. So we got an autorckshaw to show us around. The prime attraction was the Hanumanhalli/ Anjenayadri Hill. The hill if seen from a distance looks gorgeous, it has a very unique shape and it stands on the landscape like a big block, invincible. It’s also the birthplace of Hanuman. The climb ws over 550 baby steps. The views got better and better as we climbed. You see the river meandering, all the ruins of Hampi, green and yellow fields and ofcourse 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 site themselves weren’ very exciting, but the drive was great, 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, I gues its among the best locations in Hampi for doing coracle boat rides. Later we walked a little bit along the lake to see some really interesting rock formations.
Returned to Hampi, went to the Vitthala Temple,since light falls on the stone chariot between 3-5 PM,but the clouds and rains had other plans that day..so.. So all in all, 3 ays in Hampi were beautiful, the lowlights only being the food and the village itself. Rest everything was top notch. We moved 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 impresion,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 it’s name:badam-color). There’s a huge lake with red mountains surrounding it,and one of those mountains houses the caves. Now Badami is from a completely different age,if you compare with Hampi,Badami’s from the 5-6th century Chalukya age, while ampi’s from the 15-16th century Vijaynagar age.
All the 4 caves in Badami were excellent,they were big,and were significantly different from Buddhist caves you see everywhere else. We got a guide who showe us all the fine details among carvings,most notable were the Vishnu+Shiv avtar,or the Nataraja carvings. We then walke along the ghat to the other side of the lake exploring another set of temples, the best ones were the Bhootnath temples. We the sat by the lake with the view of both the sun and the lakeside temples, what an evening it was. I just wonder how amazing this place would have been in it’s heyday.
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. Aihole was like a “primary school” for temple architecture,so you get to see all kinds of temples, which probably were student projects. Pattadakkal was a gem..so many temples,and many of them big!! The details were far richer than Aihole, and the guide ws 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,2 different subzis(matki,cucumber,greens), loas of mirchi thecha(crushed mirchi) and dahi,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.
We had some more time back in Badami. We went up again to the lake,today the sun was even brighter,so everything looked even better than the previous day. We took a walk up the museum,and wow..what views and mini canyons. Top of the hill is a Tipu Sultan fort. The whole area gets a beauiful red color around evening, owing to the red stone.
Back to the hotel,had dinner at the same restaurant and left for the railway station. It ws pitch dark at 8.30 PM,and not a soul in sight. The train heading towars 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 ws a part of. So I would heartily recommend doing this trip. You can see some pointers and tips below:
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 directlyto Pune.
When to go? We went in end of October and doubt if there could be a better time. It’s best to go after the monsoons in the late September to mid novembor period. 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, otherwise Hampi with all its rocks 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 atleast 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 2 stalls, Hotel Sagar and a small place next to it where you get decent Gunapangalams and dosas. Badami was way 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 closeby 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(9448801852) in Hampi.Accommodation in Hampi isnt very inspiring(easy on the pocket),but I wouldn’t like staying anywhere else, definitely not Hospet and Viruppur Gadde. In Badami we stayed at the Anand Deluxe(9448559892), pretty decent,and their restaurant’s quite good too.
Local Transport : In Hampi we took an autorickshaw for the Palace side, we paid about Rs.500 or so. A full day rickshaw for the other side, Hanumanhalli, Sanapur cost Rs.800, you could take a bike too,but the roads aren’t really good. ampi to Badami cost us Rs.2500, but you could do Pattadakkal and Aihole along with it too,if you start early. A half day Aihole-Pattadakkal taxi was about Rs.1500 I guess. A rickshaw to the cave from the hotel costs Rs.50,but you could walk one way.
Guide We got a guide in Hampi for Rs.800,and in every other site: Aihole,Pattadakkal and Badami we paid Rs.250 each. Absolutely worth getting guide,get a guide for atleast 2 of these places.