Ruins. They were there everywhere you could extend your sight into. That was Hampi… once upon a time known as Vijayanagar, the capital of the greatest Hindu Kingdom in South India. Citadels, Royal Palaces, tombs, great baths, canals, aqueducts and all sorts of structures made of solid stone lying around a valley hugging the river Tungabhadra. Then, there was I… sitting on a hammock, swaying mildly, staring into the sandy banks of Tungabhadra. Gleaming rocks kept reflecting the evening sunlight and I kept going back to the history book on Hampi on regular intervals. Mythology and history intermingled with photographs of ruins on colourful pages… assumptions, facts and beliefs. Careful study of local myths and ballads, stories behind every stone recovered. Beyond the river lies a beautiful village with vast green paddy fields and small stone hills which had more or less one temple with an imposing deity overlooking the people. A bike ride through the roads that cut through the fields revealed an even more beautiful scene of the village life. Small temples, unmarked tombs, ancient trees that looked so imposing that authorities might have been terrorized from removing it to widen roads… everything seemed so much in its place that peace was pulsing everywhere in the form of an invisible shock wave. There were no fears or deadlines… finishing date for a paper or submitting a working committee report seemed too trivial and I was half-minded about cancelling my return ticket and settling here with the profits from my business!
Every climb up a hill was tiring. But whenever I did that the breathtaking view of the world from the top of the hill was equally refreshing. The deities, weather it was Durga or Shiva or Hanuman, I guess serve the same purpose here; humble us! I’m sure if there was a church with Jesus in it or a mosque on the top of a hill facing Mecca all of it would have served the same purpose; humble the humans. Make them realize in the most mesmerizing manner that all our belief systems lead us to the same place; love everything around you. Find yourself in everything.
More than the steep hills what hypnotized me were the ruins itself. Before coming here I was so excited about the whole idea of going through archeological manuals and maps of ancient empires. I didn’t really care how much that sickens the people around me… the whole mambo-jumbo about dates and names and who killed who. The excitement gave way to silence slowly once I started going around them and understanding them through books. Then, at some point of time it suddenly started intimidating me. I guess, that was when I readily agreed to S’s plan of calling it a day and beating the retreat to the cottage. While walking through the 800 year old road and crossing the ferry into the village, I kept thinking about what could possibly intimidate me in such a way. It took a cup of coffee and slices of hot garlic bread and a bit of Hummus to stimulate my brain cells to rewind a couple of thought-strings. The sheer brilliance of Vijayanagar architecture was the first answer that came into my mind. But it was something else, actually. The ruins talked. It seemed to tell me that they were here long ago and they had a life. The cloud of eternity still hangs around there. Millions like me have looked at them and millions will. The absolute insignificance of me as one of them struck me hard on the face. The fact that they existed long before me and the idea that they will exist long after me was the thought that intimidated me.
I wanted to get away. I wanted to see the ruins and there I was getting scared of an old city from the bygone days. I tried sharing what I thought. It seems to me that nobody really understood what I meant. In a way that makes me happy because that thought then would be mine… my own personal reflection of a past unearthed.
P.S:- I have made one mistake. I was a fool to believe that two and a half days would be good enough to see around Hampi. Now I realize that it should take at least one full week. I wasted a lot of time waiting for others, hanging around for careless people and all. There was only one promise when I was leaving the place… that I’d be back and I’d be alone when I do that.
S has already begun planning a motor cycle trip to Hampi and Northern Karnataka.
- Happy in Hampi! (ramaterraincognita.com)
- Hampi (overwatering.org)
- Hampi: Of a Great Empire and a Foolish King who really pissed off his enemies… (doakonsult.wordpress.com)
- Mantralaya & Hampi – Day II – Part 3 (weekendholidays.wordpress.com)
- Treasure hunters vandalise monument near Hampi (thehindu.com)
- Lost in Karnataka (smithiesshutter.wordpress.com)
- Bike bonhomie (thehindu.com)
- Hampi: A Pleasure-Dome. (catchingcards.wordpress.com)
- Flooded Temple (smithiesshutter.wordpress.com)