Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Medieval Times: Hampi – Part 1

Day 2 was visit to Hampi. A small town on the banks of Tungabhadra River with ruins from the past. We started out early around 7am. Quick road side south Indian breakfast of idli, vada, paniyaram and coffee and 15 mins drive from Hospet into Hampi! The drive is beautiful with large boulders formations, green farmlands. Reaching the park outside the ruins, we were surrounded by guides. At start we didn’t opt for it because they cost 800/- ($18); later we came up with a plan of coupling with another group and sharing the priceJ. We eventually settled for 400/-
Virupaksha Temple Gopuram
Again I shall try to remember and share as much information as possible. Hampi belongs to times of 9th century, 13th century invasions! Hampi is the latest modern name; before which it had 4 other names in chronological order – Pampashketra, Kishikinda, Vidyanagara, Vijayanagara and Hampi. The Brits could not say the word Pampa so they re-arranged it to Hampi. Pampadevi is none other than Goddess Parvati. Kishikinda is the mythical place in Indian mythology which belonged to the monkey kingdom of Monkey king Sugriva, younger brother of Vali. Lord Rama had helped Sugriva along with Lord Hanuman to fight the elder brother Vali. It is believed that Lord Hanuman was born in the mountains of Hampi on the Anjaneya Parvat.
Fine carvings inside the temple
Hampi had a series of kings, invasions and wars of different kingdoms and dynasties. The most significant one is the Vijayanagara kingdom which spread to far distances of south to Ceylon and east to Orrisa. It was one of the most successful and golden era of Hampi when the Vijayanagara dynasty ruled. Hampi consists of numerous temples; around 500 temples exist out of which only 5-10 are worshipped today. Reason being, most temples are looted, some have broken statues. And in Hindu traditions, we do not worship a broken/chipped/cracked idol of god.
Paintings on the ceiling colored with vegetable colors in 7-9th century! Display of Draupadi's Swayamvar
The first stop in the tour is to the Virupaksha temple – Virupaksha is the form of Shiva. This temple dates back to 7th century even before the Vijayanagara kingdom ruled here.  The temple is still worshipped today; there is a self-created lingam inside the temple. Many decorative parts around the temple are destroyed by the attackers in the past. There are different areas inside the temple for kitchen, meetings etc. The meeting halls consist of 100’s of pillars. Four pillars together are called a mantapa. Inside the temple there is a mysterious scientific phenomenon -The main gopuram of the temple outside is huge and the art carvings are partly broken.  Inside the main temple there is wall with a 6” long crevice from which the light penetrates in and mysteriously the shadow of the main gopuram out on the street is inverted. There is no lens of any kind. We have been trying to figure it out all through our trip and still haven’t come with a solution!
Inverted shadow of the Virupaksha Gopuram inside the temple
Aperture from where the sunlight falls in to form the above inverted shadow
There is a real elephant inside the temple and we got to see a magnificent show of its worship to the gods. The elephant is so well trained that it stops by each of the temples and bends down to bow to the gods. For the main temple entrance the elephant bent down on both its front knees, then rose up and raised itself up in the air standing on its two rear feet & raised its trunk in the air. I did the “get blessings from the elephant” act for the first time. If you drop a coin in its trunk, it gives it to his master & while you bow to it, it touches its trunk on your head, of course its mild touch is like a THUD in my head..but it was so much fun!

Elephant blessings

3-headed Nandi
There is a unique 3-headed Nandi (bull) in the temple. The guide says it’s one of a kind in the world and if anybody asked you what you saw in Hampi and if you didn’t mention the 3-headed Nandi then you haven’t seen Hampi yet! Ha ha! Well I saw it, so I have definitely visited Hampi. Yes!!!!
Replacement Nandi's - Nanda, Sunanda and Mahananda are the names :)
One of the bull faces is chipped so it is not worshipped and hence there are 3 individual bulls installed to replace the original statue.


  1. Hi,
    Explanation for the inverted shadow (image would be more precise) of the virupaksha temlpe gopuram :

    Its amazing isnt it ? :)
    Apparently,the city of Hampi shares its period of glory with Rome and was three times larger then Rome !!!!

    When will India learn ? We get alarmed and respect some Westerner who makes a discovery and make such a big fuss about it to the rest of the world.....while cities like Hampi and Cambodia and several others silently mock the present world with a nuance of " Oh we have already done that 2000 years before you ":)

    These Westerners are discovering and inventing ideas that have already been worked upon by our intelligent and intellectually rich ancestors....
    And we have no appreciation :(

    I have heard that one of sites in Hampi is a Shiva Temple , where , the architecture is such that , you can see the Solar Eclipse's progression in the form of a show on the Shiva Lingam in the temple ---- is it true ?

  2. I will let you know if I find out.
    You can keep in touch with me "".