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Trip Report Hampi- The Lost Empire of Vijaynagar ( Badami, Aihole, Pattadakal)

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We desperately needed a family trip, as last two years had been hectic due to kids’ crucial years in their educational career. The road trip to North Karnataka couldn't have come at a better time than this Diwali Holiday.
Our dedicated teacher of “Indian History of Architecture” late Shri. Baba Narwekar had evoked enough interest and curiosity about History and Architecture in Hampi and surrounding area; in Me and DW Poonam while studying in Architecture College. We had made quite a few trips outside India and now, wanted to experience our own country by road and explore its rich culture and heritage. This was also a photography tour to explore my new camera.

Total Distance: 1600 km Mumbai-Hampi_Mumbai

Featuring: Me (47) Poonam (46) our 2 teenage daughters of 18 and 16 years.
Our Car- Toyota Etios with Dual fuel Petrol and CNG.
Luggage we carried: 2nos of 24”strolleys and 2 small shoulder bags and a camera bag

Camera equipement: Nikon D7000 DSLR, Tamron 17 to 50mm f 2.8 as a walk around lens/ Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 Lens for close-ups and zoom photography/ Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 lens for wide angle landscapes/ Laptop for transferring photos.

Books and references: Eicher Map Book of India, Google Map route printouts, prints from website downloads.

Our schematic Itinerary:

Day 1: Mumbai to Badami via Pune-Kolhapur-Nipani- Sankheshwar (on 4 lane Mumbai-Bangalore NH4 higway) with photo-stop at Gokak falls- A distance of about 610 km. which we covered in 13.30 hours- Overnight at Badami
Day 2: Explore ancient temples and ruins at Aihole, Pattadakal and Badami- Overnight at Badami
Day 3- Badami- to Hampi- 130 km/ 2.30 hours Explore Hampi- Overnight Hampi
Day-4- Explore Hampi at leasure- Overnight Hospet
Day 5- Hospet to Mumbai- approx 730 km which we covered in 15 hours in one day
We had kept one spare 3rd day in Hampi but we thought we had seen everything nicely in 2 full days.

Climate: from 15th to 20th November 2012- Pleasant- the Day temperature was around 26 degree centigrade and night temp. was comfortable at 18-20 degree centigrade. Didn't need a sweater. It was bright and sunny but we never felt that it was very hot even during the full day of sightseeing.

MOST IMPORTANT TRAVEL TIP: ADJUST YOUR WATCHES AND BODY CLOCK 2-3 HOURS AHEAD OF INDIA TIME. Start early. See all the sunrises and sunsets. They are magical here and can change your perspective of the area. Sleep early. Get full 8 hours of sleep. Rest in the afternoons either back in the hotel or in some good restaurants.This helps in 3 ways.
a. You beat the heat, as even during winter the sun can be harsh in the afternoon hours.
b. You beat the tourist rush at most places by reaching early.
c. You get best light for photography. Just know and plan in advance, where you should be at those times.
CARRY AND CONSUME A LOT OF WATER to save yourself from dehydration.

Some parts may sound a bit more in detail, but they are merely for us to get the joy of re-visiting the place and enjoying those moments again when we read it after a few years.

Some details are added to help the road enthusiasts to plan a trip, as most travelogues depicted a journey to Hampi from Bangalore, when i did my research.
I am not trying to write much about the beautiful sites and history, as it is already available on several websites. I have tried to include details about the road conditions, points where we had a break for break-fast and meals, Petrol/ gas stations, specific site seeing routes and time required there. I have also tried to include details required from photography point of view, which I didn't get earlier.

I am posting the report in phases as I write it. Hope this helps some of you........


Day 1: Mumbai to Badami (via Gokak Falls) -----Thursday, 15th November 2012

We Got up at 4.45 am and left at 6 pm by our Toyota Etios for Badami.
1st halt was at 8.30 am at Sai Service CNG Pump, Just 2km after Mumbai Pune Express-way on the right side. 136 km in 2.30 hours. We had to take a U turn on the NH4 and go to the pump. 25 minutes wait though there were only 4 cars ahead of us but the gas was over. The pump has clean toilets, restaurant and a cold drinks shop. CNG at 41.40 Rs/km. I got 26.50 km/ kg average for this stretch.
2nd halt was at 346 km from Mumbai at 12.30 pm on NH4 at Hotel Sai international 30 km before Kolhapur. 30 minutes break. Had lunch and left at 1 pm. We entered Kolhapur and spent 20 minutes in searching for CNG pump, only to find out that there are no CNG Pumps after Pune. They have only one LPG Pump.
We crossed Nipani in Karnataka on NH4 and took a left turn at Sankheshwar for Gokak. My CNG almost lasted till Nipani and gave me an average of 29.50 km/ kg on this stretch at an average speed of 100 km/ hr.

Road from Sankheshwar to Gokak was a 2 lane road without a divider but very good quality without much traffic.we could travel at a speed of 70-80 km/ hr. We reached Gokak at 3.55 pm. Went inside and spent some time in finding the right way. There are 2 parallel roads along the river. The road across the river was very bad so we decided to see it from the north bank. The view from there was better, There is a very nice view point. There wasn't much water in the falls, but one can still imagine the grandeur when it would be in its full glory.
For best light for photography, it would be ideal to see it early morning, at least before 11 am; as the fall is from west to east and the Sun is on the opposite side during the 2nd half of the day.
The road from Gokak falls back to the main road was very bad and narrow and passed through the village. One should actually come back to the highway by the same road that one comes in by. We spent almost an hour for this detour.

The road further till Nargund became slightly narrower and our speed reduced to 50-60km/ hr. We had a choice of taking a shorter and narrower road from Yeragatti, via Ramdurg to Kulgeri; but we stuck to the main road. It became dark at 6pm before Nargund and driving became slightly difficult. We took a left turn towards Bagalkot and took a right turn on a narrow road to Badami. We had clocked 612.50 km on Day 1.

Reached Hotel Mayura Chalukya at 7.30 pm after a 13.30 hours of journey. The gr+ 1 hotel is nice with large parking area and garden around. We had a large AC double room with 2 extra beds. The toilets were large, newly made and had hot water and jet spray. We had shower and dinner at 8.30 pm and slept at 9.30pm


Day 2: Aihole, Pattadakal, Badami -----Friday, 16th November 2012

We got up at 5.15 am and left at 6.45 am for Aihole. We decided to go first to the last destination of our day’s itinerary. 33 km took us 1.30 min. The initial 11 km road was good and scenic with lots of sunflower fields around. After a right turn at main road, the road became really bad and went through some villages.

We reached Aihole at 8.30 am. Took tickets and hired a guide. The site was empty early in the morning. The complex is very well maintained and has a famous horse shoe plan temple which appears in most tour guides and sites. There were many more small and big temples. This was an architectural school that dates back to 7th century where as many as 600 students were studying at one time.

We had very nice breakfast of local vegetarian cuisine Upma, Idli, Sheeraa; in a small shanty restaurant just outside the temple, bought some water and cold drinks and proceeded to Pattadakal at 10.30am.

The 13 km road to Pattadakal was narrow but well sign posted and in a good condition. Bought entrance and camera tickets, hired a guide and went in. This comples is much larger and more grand than Aihole. It has several temples in fairly good condition. One can see a mixture of various architectural styles. Most interesting was a half ruined temple which actually shows a cross sectional view of the structure. We spent around 2 hours there.

On our way back from Pattadakal, we went to Mahakoot group of temples. This 14 km road was narrow but well maintained. This is called Kaashi of the south. Has a Shiva temple.
From Mahakoot, we went to Banashankari Temple at 11 km. It is an ancient temple with a very large water tank in front. This temple was rebuilt in 16th century after it was demolished several times in the past.

We headed back to our hotel at badami 6km for lunch at 2.45pm. Had lunch, rested for some time and left for Badami sites. The caves are just 1 km from the hotel. Parked the car in the parking lot, bought tickets and started looking for guide. There was no guide available for us, so requested a couple with a guide to let us join them. The evening light on this caves and the mountain was very good. There are 4 caves; 3 hindu and one last Jain with a total of well maintained and easy to climb.200 steps. There are great views of Badami town and Bhootnath Temple from cave 3 and 4. We finished seeing the caves in detail by 5 pm. From there we went to Bhootnath temple by car. The narrow road goes through the village. We could park right inside the coplex. The Archeological museum was closed on Friday. Bhootnath temple has one of the most magnificent setting with the temple protruding into a large water tank with steps around and a panoramic background of rocky hill. It looked orange in the evening sunlight. We waited on its steps for the sunset across the lake till 6pm. It was a perfect setting. It was magical. I clicked a lot of pictures and we left at 6.30 for the hotel. Bought water and cold drinks on the way to reach hotel at 6.45pm. Had dinner at 7.45 and slept at 9 pm.
We had planned to leave at 6 am the next morning for Hampi, supposed to be the most enchanting part of our our journey. I have been dreaming about this day since quite a few years. Did it really live upto the expectations?

Tips for sightseeing:
Aihole/ Pattadakal/ Badami- Should be done necessarily in that order, as Aihole group of temples are the oldest (700 AD) and one can see the evolution of architecture along with changing time and culture. If one has a vehicle, this can easily be done in 1 day by starting early. The monuments open at 6 am. You can beat the heat this way.
Badami-Aihole travel- 6.30- 7.45 am (Via mahakoot)
Aihole- 7.45 to 9.15 am ( Best seen in early hours- if one can be there by sunrise
Pattadakal- 9.30 am to 11.30 am
Mahakkot- 12.00-12.15 pm
Banashankari- 12.30 to 1.00pm
Badami- Luch Break- 1 to 3.30 pm
Badami Caves- 3.30 to 5.0 pm
Badami- Bhootnath temple- 5.30 to 6.30 for sunset

If one has to divide the time at Badami, the caves can be seen any time in the day.
Separate Guides are a must for Aihole/Pattadakal/ Badami Caves only. The government certified guides are knowledgable and have a union and follow a rotation policy. They quoted 250 Rs for 1 hour but didn’t come below 200 Rs.

Tips for Photography
Aihole/ Pattadakal- Best seen in early hours before 10 or after 4 pm. Most temples get 1st ray of morning sunlight on the deity. The famous Durg temple at Aihole gets sunlight on its unusual semi-circular part in the evening and its most photos in the books are clicked from this back side in the evenings. But morning shots are also very beautiful there.

Badami- Cave should be seen in the evening as they are facing the west. One gets lovely panoramic view of the lake, Bhhotnath temple and Badami town. 1 hour before sunset, one must be on the steps of the lake facing the Bhootnath temple. It is a west facing temple. The setting is majestic with Hill in the background and lake in the foreground. Evening light makes it magical. Sunset can be viewed from the temple itself, with a silhoute of the hill on left side and the setting sun reflecting in the lake. There is a small elevated garden behind Bhootnath temple (where I couldn’t reach) from where one should get a silhouette of the temple shikhara against the setting sun and its reflection in the lake.

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    So interesting, love the detail. Wonderful to read about "new" area. We need more people from India writing on this board. You have given fresh point of view. Many thanks!

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    Enjoying reading this report. Hope you will continue soon and also add any special food you ate during this trip. What kind of handicrafts are available in this area.
    Thanks for sharing.

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    Thanks Elainee... I am glad that you liked the details.. Though the nuances can be a bit boring for some.
    I have been on forum for quite some years and my travelling style and outlook towards the places have changed because of Fodors forum, people like you all, who have helped me a lot in planning my numerous Europe and Turkey trips. I used to get so busy after the trip, to make up for the lost time in work, that I wouldn't get time to write a report. I also was skeptical if people would like to read on places about which so much has been written already. But finally, each one has their own view point. If my report helps a few to plan their trip, I would really feel happy. I owe a lot to Fodors forum, to you all. Thanks again.

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    Thanks ileen.. It is my pleasure that you are enjoying the trip report. I am in the process of writing the rest of my trip report and am thankful for the encouragement and appreciation from fellow fodorites.. I shall try and incorporate a few details about food and handicrafts.

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    Thanks Crosscheck, I agree with you totally. A road trip is great for family bonding. We have several fond memories of our road trip in Scotland and Turkey. I hope to do some more in India. We probably have only a few years with us as a family, till my daughters get married and go away. But these memories will stay with us forever :)

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    Day 3: Hampi-------Saturday, 17th November 2012.

    I had waited for this day in my life and was so excited about it, that I got up at 4.45; about 30 minutes before the alarm time. I was fresh and hyper active. I had got my family with me for an unusual and historical, edutainment expedition. I thought this was a bit rugged tour with a lot of walking and climbing the boulder hills. Unlike some of our relaxing holidays, we wanted to witness all the sunset and sunrises. That meant that we would have to burn the candle from both ends. I was also a bit nervous about whether Hampi would really live upto my expectations.

    Instead of waking up everyone, I thought of brushing up a bit about Hampi’s History and background from my notes, before we actually got there. I had read this a few times earlier while I was preparing myself for this day.

    Hampi is not just a historical site. It was a huge and magnificent metropolis, the largest of its golden era for 200 plus years (1336 AD – 1565 AD) four dynasties ruled Vijayanagar; before the entire civilization got wiped off from the map and history.

    History of Vijayanagar had been a saga of resistance against the northern Sultanates as well as building of its spectacular capital in Hampi.

    The capital was one major trading center in the world. Anything from horses to gold, diamonds, gems, silk, ivory was traded in Hampi. Art and architecture found its special place in Hampi. The rulers were great patrons of art and religion. Most of the kings associated names of their favorite gods with their names. Some of the kings were renowned for their ambitious projects. King Krishnadeva Raya (1509-1529 AD) of the Tuluva Dynasty stands tall among the rest. During his regime the empire saw its peak. By this time Vijayanagara Empire covered the whole of south India and beyond.

    This kingdom had defeated the Sultans several times in the past, only to to grow stronger and bigger. The warring five Deccan Bahamani Sultanates could finally join together to defeat the Vijayanagara army at Talarikota, a place north of Hampi.

    When the two enemy armies stood in front of each other, Vijaynagar Kingdom had 140,000 foot soldiers, with another 10,000 on horseback. The armies also had large numbers of war elephants against the Muslim Sultans’ army which was less than half in number, but they had advanced long range canons from the Portuguese and artillery had skilled gunners from Turkey.

    On that fatal day in 1565 AD, what did them in was treachery and betrayal from within the family. One of the queens of Ram Raya was a Muslim, related to Adil Shah; who acted as a spy. His own son from her led the siege along with two muslim commanders Gilani brothers from within and handed the king to the enemy. Nizam Shah slit the Rama Raya's throat and his severed head was then fixed to a pole and waved before the Hindu troops. The Hindus panicked at the death of their commander and chaos broke out in their midst.

    This decisive battle was fiercely fought. Fighting in a rocky terrain,Several 100,000s of troops were slain. The battle ended in a complete victory for the Sultanates, with the Raja being beheaded and put on display as a trophy. Vijayanagar army suffered heavy losses.

    The battle spelt the death knell for the largest Hindu kingdoms in India, and it also ended the last great southern empire in India. This battle changed course of history in India.

    What followed was pillage and the plunder of Vijayanagara.. The capital city was plundered, its population massacred. Treasure hunters ransacked its palaces and temples for months. The invading army along with hordes of robbers and jungle dwellers falling upon the great city, looting, robbing, murdering and pillaging the residents with axes, crowbars, fire and sword. The muslim armies, for more than 6 months, went painstakingly and ruthlessly about the task of bringing to rubble, the city of Vijayanagar which never recovered from the onslaught. Sultans took away the treasure on 1500 Elephants.

    Kings lost, capital fallen, population fled, Hampi turned into a ghost city. For centuries Hampi remained as a neglected place. This erstwhile metropolitan with more than half a million population slowly turned into a jungle where wild animals roamed freely........

    I came out of the trance, when the alarm rang at 5.15. We quickly got ready, had hot tea and left Hotel Mayura Chalukya, Badami at 6.15 am for Hampi.

    (to be continued)

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    Great report! It's interesting to read a report from an Indian. Your knowledge of the history is so extensive.

    Do you think the defeat ofbthe Hindu kings made India more vulnerable to the British?

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    Yes indianapearl, You are right...I feel, had the Vijaynagar kingdom won the battle, the history would have been different. The Sultans would have been wiped off and Vijaynagar empire would have reached till Orissa again and would have been stronger. They had trade links with the Portuguese, French, British, but never let them rule.
    Battle of Talarikota in 1565 and Panipat battle between the great Marathas and the Duranis and alies from afganistan; were the battles that changed the history of Hindustan and the world too.
    But it is their own deeds and their large heart that forgave their own enemies; that defeated the Hindu kings. They never killed the defeated kings and let them off, only to come back with vengeance. You must have heard the story of Alladin Khilji, the Turko-Afgan invader. He was defeated by King Hamir Chauhan, a descendant of Prithviraj Chauhan; 13 times and was left alive. The 14th time when Khilji won the battle, he killed the king Hamir Chauhan and his entire family.
    Those who forget history, are forced to re-live it...

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    Day 3: Hampi-------Saturday, 17th November 2012 ( continued from where I left)

    We left Hotel Mayura Chalukya, Badami at 6.15 am for Hampi.
    We went via Ron (30 km) to Kustagi (51 km) on a 2 lane good road with almost no traffic. This 81 km stretch took us 1 hr 45 min. We were pleasantly surprised after reaching NH 63 at Kustagi. This Bijapur- Hospet highway is an excellent 4 lane road (Much better than Pune-Bangalore NH4). We could cruise at 100 km/ hr speed and cover the 66 km distance to Hospet in 45 minutes, by 8.45am. This travel was to change one decision for us in future.

    Hospet to Hampi, a distance of 13 km took us 30 minutes. Good narrow but well sign posted road. We could see the Karnataka Tourism board road signs in yellow and brown clearly showing the way. We paid a 1 day entry tax 0f 20 rs. And a One day parking charge of 10 Rs. At Hampi. Our car was surrounded by a few guides, touts and auto Rickshaw drivers.

    This was our first glimpse of the Historical place. We entered from Hemkuta Hill at a higher level. We could see several stone pavilions and temples around. The winding road down from here to Hampi bazaar street had huge granite boulders in strange formations on both sides and everywhere. The very well maintained ruins and their surroundings said that it was an official “World heritage site”

    The first impression of Hampi is a bit overwhelming. The scale of everything was larger than life. From Monolithic Statues, temples and colonnades, everything was huge. The atmosphere was somewhat like Goa. Relaxed, chilled out place, but much cheaper. It had more of foreign national tourists (70%) than Indian tourists(30%), though it wasn't really the peak of the peak tourist season.

    We parked the car in the designated parking lot near the Bazaar street at 9.15am. (801 km from Home) Had breakfast of Dosa and Tea on a road side cart. It was tasty and inexpensive. We had an option of visiting some terrace restaurants near the market, but we were eager to finish the break-fast and start our site seeing tour.

    We went to a shanty like, ill equipped official tourist office next to Virupaksh temple entrance. They had no maps or leaflets on Hampi. We met our guide Chandru S. there who quoted Rs. 1500/- for a full day guide services upto Sunset. . We learnt later that he was a local guy and his parents were fishermen. We met and asked another couple from Mumbai to join us and the price came down to 1000 Rs/ per family. After Virupaksha Temple, another foreigner couple joined our group and the guide gladly reduced the price per family to Rs. 800/- An Auto driver offered the local transport for the day and his information services for 800 Rs. The first couple with us hired a 2 wheeler for 150/-Rs a day. The foreigner couple travelled by auto rickshaw. We started the guided tour at 10.30.

    Hampi layout: Hampi is wide spread (27 square kilometers) but not very difficult to see in one day, if you have a vehicle. You enter Hampi site at Ganesh temple, Hemkuta Hill, where you are surrounded by touts and guides. Ignore them and drive the winding road downhill to the main parking lot. This is right next to the Ancient Bazaar street. The approach from the parking lot to the Bazaar street is in the centre. On your left is the Virupaksh Temple and on your right is the Monolithic Bull in a “Mantapa” (which is a pavilion, a rectangular structure with 4 columns on corners, 4 beams connecting them and a stone slab on top.. You will see umpteen number of these kiosks all over hampi) The ancient bazaar street is very wide and long (about 1 km) flanked by 2 storied shop structures on both sides.
    1. Virupaksha Temple: This Gopuram is the tallest structure in Hampi. This temple has a Shiva Linga and is still worshiped, so is in a fairly good condition. We fed bananas to the elephant inside the temple. The temple complex premise has a high wall and colonnade around with a large centre court where the main temple stands. The Shiva linga is Swayambhu (Naturally evolved) and is one of the oldest. The guide showed and explained us many details. Most fascinating was to see the Sunlight light falling through a small opening that casts a shadow of an inverted image of the Gopuram on the rear wall of the temple. This occurs usually when the light passes through a lens or a prism. There is no glass or prism here. This is one miracle in physics that me and Priyanka pondered upon for the rest of the day. We spent an hour inside Virupaksh.

    2. We walked to the parking lot and proceeded our tour in our car, with the Chandru travelling with us. Our 2nd site was Kadaledu Ganesha on Hemkuta Hill. This is the tallest monolithic Ganesh statue.

    3. A few hundred meters drive was Krishna Temple (Inside tour)and Krishna bazaar in front with a Pushkarani Water tank (view from top only)

    4. A few hundred meters drive was Narasimha temple at 12.45 pm. It has a very large Idol of Lord Narsimha in an open temple. This should be ideally visited before 11 am in the morning for the best lighting on its face, for photography.

    5. Right next to Narasimha temple is a Shiva temple with one of the largest Shiva Linga standing in water. The light falling in from top roof window creates an interesting play of light and shade. Had sugarcane juice and came back to the car.

    The Next part of sight-seeing was about 4 km away.
    6. Drove to Underground Shiva temple. This is at a lower level and has about 6” high water allover inside. It had a small moat filled with water around it.

    7. We drove down to the royal Enclave, which is a residential quarter for the Kings. High walled enclosure houses a Zanana, Lotus mahal dating to 16th Century. It has 2 large plinths that suggest that there were 2 temples there. There is a nice small museum in one of the rooms along the high fortified walls. It has a display of vessels and objects found during the excavations. It also has a display of photos showing each monument when it was discovered by British Archeologist John Fritz in 1968 and in its current renovated form. The difference is phenomenal. He and his wife stayed in a room next to this museum for 25 years till 1993.

    8. A small gate from here through the high boundary wall leads to a huge structure that housed 11 elephants and a large structure for the Mahuts’ residence. All these structures are in Mughal architectural style and have hence survived the onslaught of Mughul army. Left at 1.45 pm.

    We drove back to the main site till Ganesh temple and took a left for Mango tree restaurant. The narrow road had cars parked on one side, by people who had gone to the restaurant for lunch. We tried getting in but found that there is a lot of waiting. Our guide took us thro’ a road along the river, from behind Virupaksh temple through Hampi Village. Vehicles are officially prohibited on this road. We reached a very nice and cosy restaurant riverside called "Garden Paradise" by 2.40 pm. Restaurant served sumptuous Italian food in very large quantities at very low rates. We had 2 large veg Pizzas, 2 pastas, garlic bread etc. The river view was awesome. We sat on low ht. Indian style sitting.

    When we came out, it was 3.40 pm. We had spent 1 hour in finding a restaurant and 1 hour for lunch.

    9. We drove back 4 km to Hazaar Ram Temple, which has scenes from Ramayana depicted all over in granite.

    10. King’s palace at 4.30 pm. This place has only a few plinth platforms left, as the plinth was in stone and the palace was made in wood, which got burnt. The plinth is high and huge. The complex also has a few water tanks, temple platforms etc.

    11. Continuing our tour further, Vithala Temple at 5 pm. We parked our car in the parking lot and were driven in a battery operated vehicle through another long street which housed the largest horse market on both sides. We reached an hour late for the ideal sunlight on the famous stone chariot, which is the icon on most posters of Karnataka tourism. This is the most magnificent and awe inspiring complex in Hampi. It has musical stone columns which emit different notes when you strike them with a stick. One can only see them now and can’t really hear them as this part is cordoned off now to save from wear and tear. Temple also has a majestic setting with a mile long colonnade of horse market on one the entrance side and Tungabhadra river on the other side. We should have reached an hour earlier for the best light for photography.
    It would be worthwhile to walk 2 km to this temple from the Hampi market, behind the monolithic bull.

    12. When we left Vithala temple, it was 5.40 pm and we were about to miss the famous sunset at Hampi. Poonam drove fast for 10 km to reach Hemakuta Hill, but the sun had already set at 5.50pm. I could get good pictures with silhouettes of the temples and pavilions against the mauve sky and the moon in the sky.

    We had decided to stay overnight at Hampi, instead of of Hospet as per our earlier plan. (We had a provisional booking at hotel Malligi, Hospet) The main reason for staying here was that we wanted to see the sunrise at Hampi and it would have been difficult to reach here from Hospet, before 6 am the next morning. We filled 20 litres of petrol on the way to KSTDC Hotel Mayura Bhuvaneshwari at 6.45pm. We had no booking but still got 2 rooms, in an almost full Hotel. It is ground storied and spread out. Has a good layout and frescoes on bedroom walls. But it needs maintenance. Toilets are dated. We had early dinner in their restaurant. We had set an alarm for 5.15 am the next morning for the sunrise and slept at 10 pm.

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    Wow---Excellent reading, tons of historic facts I have never coe across before this report. Keep up the good writing and make us knowledgeable.
    Wondering are you driving yourself or have a driver?
    It seems this whole area is still a secret place as one does not read much about this in the various tour books and guides. Maybe I missed it completely.
    Waiting for more to come soon.

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    Thanks ileen... I was driving myself. My wife drives too.. So we took turns after every 1.30 or 2 hours... My elder daughter has just learnt driving but we didn't want her to try her hand here... It was fun driving, as the roadscape was so beautiful and awesome. .. Hills with huge boulders in a strange formation, as if some has arranged the on top of each other.. Acres of Sunflower fields, lush green landscape.. rivers. A drive through the real rural India.. This part is quite prosperous..

    And yes, most people in India too don't know much about this place and don't show much interest. But it is a big hit with people from all over the world. This is much bigger than Angakor Wat at Cambodia. Has more history than any other place. The structure are ruins, but not because of aging. They were deliberately destroyed. But they are so strongly made, in granite that they still retain the grandeur. Granite is the hardest stone on earth and the most difficult to carve out.

    To put it in modest words, it is overwhelming. And if one has a bit of interest in history and has a bit of imagination; one can actually feel the structures come alive and talk to you. Each rock in Hampi has a story to tell.

    I am trying to narrate some of the history in whatever way I can.. But no words can explain the beauty, grandeur and history of Hampi.. It has to be experienced..

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    Thanks Kathie... I hope you that you will enjoy it till the end.. and this will inspire you to visit exotic places in India.
    Let me know if I can be of any help in planning...

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    Thanks Elainee, This is a lesser known Gem. Ever since it has been declared a "Unesco World Heritage site", more and more people are coming here every year.. Very soon, it will come in a must see destinations like Taj, Rajasthan..

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    We usually do our annual Asia trip in November. So I am looking at Oct/Nov/Dec time frame next year. Hampi is a place that has been on my list. There was a recent article about it in some periodical I read, now this report. Time to do more research.

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    Hi Cathie and indianapearl, October is hot in some parts of India. November and Jan/ upto 15th Feb. The climate is good and relatively less tourists. December has similar climate but more tourists. You can decide depending on your convenient time.
    You may combine Goa with Hampi as they are close by. If you need any help besides what Fodorites will give you, I shall be glad to do so.
    Indianapearl, Hampi is surely awe inspiring.. I will surely be going there again for photography, may be on a full moon night in some October :) shall be posting my last part of travelogue very soon :)

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    We were in India from mid-November through early December and the weather was perfect and it was relatively uncrowded. However, we were in the northwest. I'll do some checking on temperatures to see what works best.

    Thanks!

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    Day 4: Hampi-------- Sunday, 18th November 2012

    We were eager to see the much talked about sunrise at Hampi. We got up at 5.15, had hot tea made from our ready-made tea-bags in our electric kettle, poured boiling water in Maggie Cuppa Noodles and left hotel at 5.50 am. We put our bags in the boot, so we could check out remotely in case we took more time in sight-seeing beyond 12 noon check out time.

    We were contemplating about visiting Matanga Hill or Malayvant hill for Sunrise. We finally decided to go to Malayvant Raghunath temple, 4 km from our hotel, as it doesn't involve any uphill climbing. (This proved to be a wise decision. This was as per our guide Chandru’s tip) From the main road, we took a left turn, onto a narrow uphill winding road for about half a km. to the temple. Parked outside the temple gate and went into the courtyard complex. Went through a small gate on the rear side of the temple on the hill which had huge boulders. There was only one tourist from Mumbai there with his camera. I thought this place wasn't very well known or popular as a sunrise point, mainly because it was at 7 km. from Hampi Bazaar. We reached at 6.15 and had enough time to set up the camera tripod and patiently wait for the sun to come up finally at 6.33 am from behind a distant hill. It was slowly revealing itself and the orange ball came up within minutes. We could see a flock of birds flying against the sun. This sun rise was ethereal. Clicked several photos for 30 minutes. The formations of boulders and the ranges of hills looked really amazing. I remembered volcanic formations on our Cappadocia trip in Turkey. This is undoubtedly one of the best sun-rises I have seen and will remember for life. Just magical.

    This place is also important in terms of mythical history from Ramayana’s time. Hampi was known as the kingdom of “Kishkindha”, the capital of the the monkey king Vaali. This is the birth place of Lord Hanuman. It is said that lord Rama and Lakshmana , reached Hampi in search of Rama”s lost wife Sita. They struck a deal with Sugreev to help him dethrone his brother Vaali in exchange of military help from Sugreev against the Raavan, the king of Lanka. Rama killed Vali, the rebellious brother of Sugreeva, and installed Sugreeva as the undisputed king of the monkey kingdom.
    Hanuman, the leader of the army, offered for help to fly to Lanka. He returned with the news that Sita was indeed in the custody of Ravana. Hanuman offered Rama the help of his monkey army to make a bridge across and attack Lanka. Rain played the spoil spot and the plan got postponed till the rains are over. Rama and Lakshmana took refuge during the rainy season at this very place on Malyavanta Hill where we were standing. The epic went on till saving Sita from Lanka and further.

    We went inside the Rama temple for darshan. Outside the temple entrance on the right hand side, we could see one narrow way to a 1 storied mantapa atop a small hillock. Me and Poonam went up the narrow steps while the kids had their Maggie Noodles breakfast in the car. The way up was a bit risky, but some people who had come to see the sunrise, found a better and safer way back on the rear side of the mantapa. The view from top was good, but our earlier place was probably the best to watch sunrise in Hampi. We left that place at 8 am.

    We went to and fro to hotel in search my lost sunglasses, in vein. Finally, we reached the parking lot near Hampi Bazaar Street. On the way, we took a photo stop at Hemkuta Hill to click some great rock formations and aerial view of the Bazaar street, Virupaksha mandir and surroundings.

    We parked the car and did some clothes shopping for kids. The temporary shop owner Nabi showed us the photos of his earlier shop that his parents had set long back in the ancient colonnade of Hampi Bazaar. Archaeological society of India has demolished all the illegal encroachments after putting up barricades around the site and has cleaned up the long lines of shops on both sides of the bazaar street. Though I am for the conservation, I really felt bad for poor Nabi, who lost his shop and will have to buy a new one in a new designated market place.

    We went to the river bank behind Virupaksh temple, to the Jetty to cross the river at 10.30 am. This road had several guys selling handicrafts, Indian drums etc. We waited for the boat for 15 min. The 3 minutes ferry for Rs. 20/- each, had only the boat owner besides us as Indian Citizen. The rest of the 15 passengers were foreigners.

    Across the river, we went to O’Lala café, which served excellent variety of international breakfast. We had a cheese double Omelette, Hash brown Potato and fresh Orange Juice; merely for 90 INR. A bright open air café had a cheap hotel attached that rented basic rooms for 300 Rs. / night. All other tables were occupied by its resident young foreign backpackers. The bright and cheerful open air café was run by an equally cheerful, young Nepali cook called LuvKush. He is a graduate from Kathmandu, Nepal. After completing his education, he used to teach in a school, when the political unrest gave him only one choice between the Maoists and the ruling government. He chose to leave the country and fled to Ladakh, where he worked hard and learnt culinary skills. Now he, along with 5 of his relatives, migrates to Hampi from November to March and to Ladakh between June to September every year. The rest of the time, he spends with his family in Kathmandu. We were really touched by his story.

    After coming out at 12 noon, we decided to abandon our plan of Visiting some sites like Pampa Sarovar and some temples. Climbing up 500 steps of Anjanadri hill; the birth place of Lord Hanuman, at noon was out of question. Crossing the river early in the morning to see sunrise is not possible, as the boat service starts at 8 am. If one stays in hampi for 3 or more days, it would be worthwhile to climb up at sunset for an awesome view and religious belief.

    We took the boat back and drove back 11 km to Hotel malligi, Hospet and checked in at 1.30 pm. This is an excellent 3 star hotel, the best so far in our trip. We shifted for one night to Hospet, so that the kids can enjoy a nice hotel and we save half an hour of our travelling time on the next day.

    We slept for 2 hours and left the hotel at 4pm to watch Hampi Sunset. We reached Hampi at 4.20 pm. Parked the car, bought coke and walked along the Bazaar street. We were late for a re-visit to the grand Vithala temple. I wanted to click photos of the stone chariot in the golden sunlight.
    Exactly opposite the Virupaksha temple across the length of Bazaar street, is the big monolithic bull in a mantapa. This would be the 3rd most photographed site in Hampi after the Chariot and the giant Narasimha. We started climbing up the big granite steps of Matanga Hills, to the right of the bull, at 5 am. Half way through we lost our way and went on the wrong side, but not too far. We came back to a jain Daharamshala and asked for directions. From here inwards, the climb becomes slightly risky. The steps are broken and there are some slopes. The last 20% of the climb is extremely dangerous and has only some slots, as steps, on rounded huge boulder. If one slips from here, he will get an instant death. To add to this, there are lots of monkeys, waiting to snatch anything edible from your hands. Had there not been a local guide Shekhar on top, even climbing down in the twilight would have been a frightening experience. Out of 12 tourists, we 4 and the guide were the only Indians. We got some awesome sunset photos from Matanga hill, with the Gopuram of Virupaksha temple dominating the landscape and the Sun setting on the left hand side of the temple at 5.45 pm. The view was awesome.

    We came down in next 10 minutes, escorted by efficient guide Shekhar. He is from Bijapur, the only educated person among the 5 siblings. He works as a guide during the tourist season and travels to big cities to learn different languages in off season. He already can speak Japanese, Russian, German, French and English besides 3 Indian languages. He wants to earn more money so that he can buy some more land besides the 10 acres that the family already owns. On our way back, we chatted with a young German couple, who were on a 3 months holiday to India and want to stay for another 3 months. The girl has a sabbatical from her teaching profession and the guy has left his IT job so that they can travel with her. Wasn't that exciting? Meeting various people from diverse backgrounds and each with a different view of life; is one of the most interesting things about travelling on our own.

    This day was much more relaxed than the earlier 3 days. Our only agenda was to see the Sunrise and Sunset and just wander around unhurriedly. I always feel, it is that one extra day after you have seen and done all touristy things at a destination, that gives you the best insight about the place and people and makes your experience more complete and leaves a lasting impression. You can actually do the things that the locals do. I never expected that we will not miss a single sunrise and sunset. We had done that to perfection as planned.
    We walked the market street till Virupaksha temple. The street had become lively with foreign and Indian tourists. We had some mouth watering Mirchi Pakoda and bought some fruits for the next day’s travel. We said good bye to Hampi and drove to our Hospet hotel at 6.45 pm.

    Reached hotel by 7.15. Had an excellent dinner in the Blue restaurant at our hotel. We had some spicy starters, Sabji and rotis. Poonam preferred to stay light with a Masala Dosa. The chocolate milk shake with ice cream was yummy and at an unbelievably low price. We strolled a bit on the lawns. Kids loved the free wi-fi at the hotel. We went to sleep by 9 pm. We had decided to cut short our stay at Hampi by 1 day, as we wanted a spare day on our way back, if we felt tired. We had seen most of the places, but fell in love with the mystic place and have a wish to come back for another memorable holiday.

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    Day 5: Hospet- Bijapur- Mumbai ______ Monday, 19th November 2012


    We had a long day ahead with 700 km + of driving in about 15 hours. We had put an alarm of 5.15 and had decided to leave by 6.45 am after having a complimentary breakfast. I got up at 3.45 am with good 7 hours of sleep and requested everyone to leave by 5 am. Luckily all agreed and we left Hotel Malligi, Hospet at 5.05 am. We filled petrol tank to full and left from the petrol pump at 5.15 am. Our plan was to travel via Gadag, and onto Pune- Bangalore NH-4 highway via Hubli, Belgaum for 740 km, as this was a known road and I had travelled from Hubli/ Belgaum to Mumbai several times earlier.

    We went on the NH-63 Hospet-Bijapur highway and were to take turn after 13 km for Hubli. The road till Bijapur is so good, and had a report that the road from Bijapur to Karad on decent. We thought, we could have tried a new route for us. On the spot we changed our route plan and decided to go via Bijapur. This spontaneity is what we love the most about travelling on our own at our own will and pace. Kids were asleep on the back seat. The 200 km road was excellent till Bijapur and we could cruise at 100 km+/ hour speed. There were numerous sunflower fields extending till horizon, on both sides of this highway. Very scenic. We also witnessed the last sunrise of our trip against the boulder hills en route.
    We reached Bijapur at 8 am. We had decided that if we reach early we would see the famous Gol Gumbaj, the tomb of Ali Adil Shah. As we reached Bijapur, the road became narrow. We turned left and could see the gigantic building of Gol Gumbaj from a long distance. Luckily it was on our way to Karad. We stopped there for 1 hour. The entrance was free as it was a world heritage week. This one is the 2nd largest unsupported dome in the world. We had seen the largest at Santa Sophia, on our last trip to Istanbul. We hired a guide and went in, climbed 115 steps that are 1’ tall, till the top gallery on 7th floor. At 8 am, we were the only tourist there. The acoustical feature of the dome is fantastic. We could clearly hear a matchstick from a distance of 150 feet. Amazing monument of indo-Islamic architecture. We spent one hour there.
    We came out, and drove 6 km on the same route to see Ibrahim Rouza. Saw the structure from outside, bought some cold drinks and water and left at 9.20 am. The 22 km road till Tikota was good and we could travel at 60 km/ hr. We took a rt turn at a Y- Junction there towards Jeth. The next 25 km road was really bad and too almost 1 hour at a speed of 30 km/ hour. Just as we were thinking if we took a wrong decision of travelling this route; the road became a bit better and then very good after crossing Maharashtra border. There were very few vehicles and we could travel at a speed between 60 and 80 km/ hr. This road was scenic. It had hundreds of gigantic Windmills by Suzlon.

    After travelling for around 180 km from Bijapur; we reached Karad at 1.30pm. Had a lunch break at Hotel Trupti for 1 hour. Left Karad at 2.30pm on to NH-4. The road was good, but we encountered a lot of traffic from 60 km before Pune and slowed our speed drastically. We reached Pune Sai service CNG Pump at 5.30 pm. we had completed 12 hours of travel including 2 breaks totaling to 2.20 hours and were visibly tired by now. We used the 30 minutes time at the petrol pump to freshen up,(this petrol station has very clean toilets) had tea and left at 6 pm. We filled petrol tank to full on expressway, then took a 20 minutes halt at Khopoli and finally reached home after 695 km and 15 hours of travel. We had traveled 1650 kilometers and 1300 years in 5 Days….

    Everything went perfectly as per our plan. We thanked god for that. We even had a few pleasant surprises. The time we all spent together as a family was priceless. The kids had studied hard for 2 years and had excelled in their exams beyond our expectations. We as parents also had some anxious moments and stressful schedule. This holiday was de-stressing for all of us. We fondly remembered the hard-work, the good times we had on our past family trips abroad. We had seen exotic and cultural places in more than 30 countries around the world, but realized again after this trip, that India has so much culture, religion, architecture and variety of experiences to offer to its natives and tourists, that no other country has.
    When one travels, there are pleasure tours and there are experience trips that can be a bit tough. This one is one tour that roles in both the types together, without being tough. I was worried that my wife and kids may not like the early morning schedule, walks in the ruins, a dose of history and culture. Contrary to my thinking, they all loved this trip so much, that we all are already looking forward to some more road trips like this one.

    Undoubtedly, this is one of the most memorable times of our life and Hampi has left an imprint on our minds and hearts.

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    Sightseeing tips for Hampi:

    Hampi is spread over 27 square kilometers and distances between 2 sites can be vast. But it can be easily covered in one day with the help of a guide. Your own vehicle is handy. Other options are auto-rickshaw for 800 Rs for about 6-7 hours or a scooter for 150 Rs per day. A guide is a must who charges 800 Rs for half a day and 1200 for full day upto sunset.
    Ideally one should start as early as possible.

    Hampi- Religious circuit- 9 am to 12.30 pm
    Lunch – 12.30 to 2.30 pm
    Royal enclave- 2.30 to 5.15 pm
    Sunset point at Hemkuta Hills- 5.30 to 6.30 pm

    On day 2- One can cross the river to Anegudi in the morning and see some religious sites like Pampa sarovar, some temples and a 500 steps climb to Anjanadri hill, birth place of Lord Hanuman.
    Return back to Hampi in the afternoon for Lunch and sunset view.
    Malyavant Hill is the best Sunrise point, where a car can reach.

    Hemakunta hill, near Ganesh temple is a very good sunset point where the car can reach. The temple complex gate closes at 6 pm but the railing is cut opened at one place where one can easily come out at 6.30 after the sunset.

    Matanga Hill is a good but over rated place for sunset, but it is very risky to climb the upper 50% of the hill. The last 20% of the climb is very very risky. To see the sunrise from here, one has to reach the top summit, as the sun rises on the opposite side of the hill from where you climb from Hampi bazaar. It takes almost 30 to 45 minutes to climb just the 80% of the hill. So going there for a sunrise is almost impossible. Leave immediately after the sunset, as it becomes very difficult to come back in the dark.

    If one has more days at Hampi, one can explore the banks of the river along the monuments and explore hidden gems. There are 350 temples in Hampi. Tungabhadra Dam at 4 km from Hospet is a good place to visit.

    PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS for HAMPI:

    Missing sun rises and sunsets in Hampi is criminal.
    Best Sunrise point is malyavant hill. Behind the Raghunath temple. Reachable by car. It is actually at Kamalapur on the outskirts of hampi at 6.7 km from hampi Bazar. Cross KSTDC Hotel Mayura Bhuvaneshwari and travel 2.1 km ahead towards west. The view of the hills is awesome. One can get the temple Gopuram in the silhouette in the frame with the rising sun. This spot is in between the rising sun and Hampi town. This can also be a good place for sunset. It is very easy to reach and one can easily carry and set up a tripod here.

    The Giant narsimha and Ganesha near Hemkunta hills are best photographed in the early morning sun before 10 am.
    For sunset, Matanga Hill is good a but risky and difficult to reach. To get the Gopram against the setting sun, one probably has to be on the small hillock next to the Giant Nandi.
    Market and Nandi are best clicked after 4 pm.

    The most famous icon of Hampi, the chariot at Vithala temple is best clicked in the evening between 3.30 and 5pm. It is facing the west. All the best images of it are clicked in the evening light. But after 5 pm, it gets a shadow of the temple boundary wall and only the gopuram gets the golden light.

    Best season to visit Hampi- From comfort point of view, November to February is the best season But the sky is clear and flat. From photography point of view, it would be best to visit in the last week of September or early October. One gets fantastic cloud formations just when the monsoon is getting over. The river has fair amount of water. The trees are lush green. Hampi is yet to wake up to the busy tourist season. So there are fewer tourists cluttering the photo at a crucial time. If one can go there around a full moon night, it would be a treat for the photographer and to the people who would see the pics. Most of the times, the moon is visible just around or after the sunset and it is the ideal time for a slow shutter photography on tripod.

    An extra wide lens is handy at sunrise and sunset points and so is a super zoom lens to click amazing rock formations against the sun.

    Unfortunately, I couldn't find this information during my research on any of the websites before, the trip. I had to depend on the map study and assumed direction of sunlight.

    The timings mentioned are for a period from 15th November and 20th November. The sunsets and sunrise timings may vary with season and the time of the year.

    Hampi is a photographer’s delight,drenched in turbulent History that leaves you restless.

    Its sheer scale is like a magnum opus sculpted in granite.

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    Absolutely great report. So love the details! I'm not done reading it all yet, but just had to comment! Hampi is on our list to visit when we go back to India next year (hopefully!)

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    Thanks Indiapearl...
    Thanks Rahulm.. I am glad that you loved the details...
    I am sure you will love Hampi.. The scale is so big that you get overwhelmed by it... somewhat similar to what I got when I visited Ephesus, Turkey..

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