25 September 2009

Lotus Mahal (Palace)

A search on 'Lotus Mahal, Hampi' will give you these details and more a) Speculations that this used to be the queen's summer palace. b) Give you details of the materials of construction (mortar etc). c) The architecture is a curious mix of Hindu and Islamic styles. d) This is perhaps the most photographed structures in Hampi etc etc. To me, the structure was, like most ancient structures I don't fully understand, plain beautiful. But what i found more endearing than the building itself was the old woman who was the proud guardian of the pretty palace. At first she seemed surprised that a tourist was taking more interest in her than in the building. Then she graciously returned the tourist's smile. Forgot to shoo away a few other tourists who were trying to get past the restricted area. Seemed surprised that this tourist was listening to what she had to say. Was flattered when she was asked to pose for a few shots. And finally, scooped down to pull her new found friend's cheeks. " Come back anytime... I will take you inside the palace... You can click hundreds of pictures.. Come back sometime.. " I heard her calling out in broken English and Hindi as I was walking away. In a distance, a few tourists were trying to take pictures of the Lotus Mahal...

21 September 2009

Virupaksha Hair Cutting Saloon

Note : The vignetting effect has been applied in post production.

20 September 2009

The Man

18 September 2009

The Hampi Experience : Useful Info

Some useful info for the backpackers headed to Hampi.
After a lot of research about the various hotels/ guest houses in Hampi, I finally settled on Shanthi Guesthouse. Do not expect anything fancy out there. The huts are crude, but comfortable. The hut in which we stayed didn't have hot water and the bathroom door just wouldn't close. Every room will have a mosquito net (thanks to the swarms of mosquitoes buzzing overhead) and electricity could be gone for 12 hours at a stretch. BUT, when you wake up to the sound of sparrows inside your hut and step out to see the green paddy field and the Tungabadra river yonder, you wouldn't be able to help forgiving everything else. The view is simply lovely. The best way to make a booking at the guest house is to send them an email, although booking is quite unnecessary. See their site here for detailed info. The only downside to staying at Shanthi Guesthouse is that, you will have to be back by 6pm at the river bank to be on time to catch the boat back to the guest house. At least I had no regrets... There is only one boat available, and it shuttles between either side of the river every half hour. For Rs.10/- per person. It might seem a little too adventurous for some. But i personally feel that one shouldn't miss the experience of crossing the river in the rain... Not very surprisingly, almost all the restaurants in Hampi serve only English, French, Italian or Israeli breakfast. But if you are in Hampi you CANNOT miss the 'Mango Tree' restaurant by the river bank. I do not have pictures of the place. I was just too busy eating :) I was quite intimidated by the quantity of food. I had order the Israeli breakfast, the waiter told me that the bread 'Pita' was yet to come :/ A good place to hang out on the other side of the river bank is the 'Laughing Buddha'. The place is normally filled with European backpackers. But the food is good and i loved the ambiance. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- PS : You might find these numbers useful. Give them a call if you want to be taken around for sight seeing. But do make sure you bargain well. In Hampi, they shouldn't charge you more than Rs.200/- and on the other side of the river bank, it should cost you less than Rs.400/- to be taken around Anegudi, Anganeya Temple etc. Auto Driver in Hampi : Janpasha - +91 9743451213 Auto Driver on the other side of the river bank : Veeresh - +91 9449557902 Also, I found this site (here) very detailed and accurate.

10 September 2009

The Birth of a Divine Monkey

On the other side of the river Tungabadra is the village of Anegudi and a few scattered temples and sacred sites all of which claim lineage to the Ramyana in some way or the other.
Here I was, on top of the Anganeya Hill.. the place of birth of Lord Hanuman himself. My mother and I were the only devotees who were present. And we found the priest gazing out at the vast landscape around him; perhaps in anticipation of some divine revelation..
It took me a moment to realise that the blue painted walls were in fact part of a stone cave adjascent to the Anjaneya temple. The Baba has been sitting there, chanting lessons from Ramayana for years now. He welcomed us as though we were his family, and gestured towards the carpet on the floor to sit and meditate with him. Is it possible to be in the Kingdom of Kishkinda and not find its subjects lurking on top of trees around you?? They were everywhere.. playful and sometimes notorious. They would very readily snatch any plastic bag that you might have with you. But couldnt care less about my ugly black camera :) We had to climb 580 steps to reach on top of the hill. We met this little boy on the way. While I was struggling with whatever broken Hindi i know, he cut me short in perfectly framed English sentences and told me that I should not leave without having breakfast at the temple. We did take breaks in between and found some enormous boulders and 'secret' caves on the way.
As I mentioned above, there are sadhus who lived in the caves near the temple.
Their lives seem to be uncomplicated.. simple. The low hum of their prayers resonating against the stone walls of the cave.. The priest lived inside the temple. Completely at home with the poster gods and an almost broken down radio for company. We could have stayed on there for hours together gazing at the hills, listening to the low rumble of the clouds of the above. But our auto driver was waiting at the foot of the hill and we were soon rattling off to our next destination.

06 September 2009

Along the Tungabadra River

The Tungabadra river (also known as Pampa in the epic Ramayana) winds along the banks of Hampi replenishing the land with its sacred waters.. sometimes rewarding.. sometimes punishing.. The authorities do not allow swimming in its waters, but the devotees still flock to its banks for their morning abulation. At Hampi, life on either sides of the river still depended on a small ferry which took people to either banks of the river. The days of my stay in Hampi were overcast with low rumbling dark clouds. And to me, it seemed like the river and the sky had a secret deal backed up by the Gods who lived on the land.. to exert their presence on a whim... to make sure that men were humbled by the powers of nature..

02 September 2009

The Vittala Temple

Although I must have seen hundreds of pictures of Hampi before I ever visited, when we made our excursion to the Vittala Temple, I wasn't quite sure of what to expect. We were there without a tour guide and all that I could remember from what i had read about the place was that 'Vittala' meant Lord Krishna (the 10th incarnation of Lord Vishnu), and that the musical pillars of this famous temple campus could not be missed. Well, we (my mother and I) hope that we didn't miss anything as we weaved past the musical stone pillars, the stone chariot, the ancient tree or the long rows of the vegetable stalls which was once alive outside the walls of the temple... Almost all the temples I visited in Hampi faced the East. So you invariably have beautiful light streaming in during dawn and dusk. You would find tour guides tapping these pillars to impress the idea of music creation on the tourists. The pillars were musical for sure, you could hear the distinct ring of all the seven notes ( sa re ga ma pa dha nee ) of classical Indian music with each tap. But like everybody else out there, I was left spell bound by the genius that built those very pillars. The slanting rays of the sun compliments the stone carvings in a way only the best of partners compliment each other. One highlighting the best of what's in the other... taking care to mar those jagged imperfections in the shadows.. I have always thought that the architects of these magnificent structures always seem to have made the best out of the available light. May be because in those days, the sole source of light was the Sun itself, unlike the artificial lamps we have today. So this stone chariot is one of the most photographed/famous element of the Vittala Temple. It weighs a few tons. But they say that this chariot used to be pulled around for the temple festivities under the King's rule. And finally, our little transport. A rare combination of Johnny Dep and the Taj Mahal :) We had to reach the river bank (of Thungabadra) by 6pm. We had to hurry...