Tuesday, November 24, 2015

HAMPI TRIP PART 1: Empire of Apes

We have been planning this trip for years. Finally after six months of planning we were ready to head towards Hampi, Karnataka. We could have never anticipated that the ‘green-tax’ imposed by Delhi government was going to jeopardise our entire trip. The new tax that was suddenly collected from mid-night led to chaos and a seven-hour long traffic jam starting from Gurgaon-to-Delhi MCD toll booths. Luckily, we were quick to realise it and took a u-turn before getting stuck in the traffic. To catch the flight we had only one option - drive in Gurgaon like a Gurgaoite. Which means driving the wrong way on the highway. Thanks to the efficiency of Delhi police, after breaking almost all the traffic rules we managed to reach Delhi airport without getting caught. Check-in and security went smooth and we boarded the flight on time. The captain announced that the Jet airways flight was going to start before its schedule as per their no-delay policy. The announcement was the only thing they did before schedule. Suddenly, out of nowhere, fogs engulfed the airport. The fog was here before winter as if to see us off. The flight finally took off after a delay of more than an hour. Despite the unexpected start, our much-anticipated journey has begun.

Hyderabad Airport

Our flight reached Hyderabad at around 10:30 AM. It was our first visit to the newly created state of Telangana. We took a cab to Kacheguda Railway station, from where we were supposed to take the train to Hospet. The train was scheduled for departure at 9:00 PM. We checked in a hotel near the railway station. There are plenty of options for short stay near the station. We had half a day to roam around Hyderabad. Since we were short of time we fixed our priorities. Right on the top in the list was Hyderabadi-Dum-Biriyani. We headed straight to Paradise Food Court. The mutton-dum-biriyani was good, but we did feel that the place was over-hyped. Later, we tried Shadab [https://www.zomato.com/hyderabad/hotel-shadab-ghansi-bazaar] which we liked better. Next in our list was the Golconda Fort. Originally a mud citadel of Kakatiyas, it was rebuild in 16-17th century by Qutub Shahi kings. Mohammad Quli Qutub Shah was a king and a poet. Much to the dislike of his father, he fell in love with a Hindu courtesan named Bhagmati. Against all odds he married her and gave her the Muslim name ‘Hyder-Mahal’. The king later built a new city outside Golconda Fort. The city was named Bhagnagar after his queen’s original name. Later the city was renamed to Hyderabad after her Muslim name. Charminar, the icon of Hyderabad, was built by him in the city that he made his new capital. Another interesting tale from Golconda is that of the Taramati Mosque. The amazing fact is that it is a mosque named after a woman, and what is even more surprising is that she is a Hindu courtesan. Abdullah Qutb Shah must have fallen for the two beautiful dancing sisters Taramati and Premamati. Though the sisters were not lucky enough to become a queen like Bhagmati, they made sure that their name got written in history. The king was so pleased with their performance that he declared in public that he is going to grant any wish that they want. Instead of money the sisters asked for fame, they asked for a mosque to be built inside Golconda for women that will bear their name. The king had to agree. The legends of Golconda will bring a smile on your face even after the long walk around the fort.

Map of Hyderabad

Golconda Fort entrance

Inside Golconda

Bhagmati Mosque

Seesham tree trunks were used as pillars to built the fort

Internal pipelines to supply water from the tank on the top of the fort to the rest of the fort.

Ruins of Golconda...Most of the fort was destroyed during Aurangzeb's raid. 


From Golconda we went to see Charminar and Mecca Mosque. We strolled around Hussain Sagar lake in the evening, and then headed straight to the railway station. We took the 17603 KCG YPR EXP to Hospet. Our car was already waiting at the station. We pre-booked a car for entire 8 days. 
The car was booked through Mr. Doddamani and we had a wonderful experience. Following is his contact details.

EMAIL ID kartourinfo.doddamani@gmail.com
MOB: number *8884007796 *9845342325 *9481736812  *8147210882

Prashant, our driver, was very quiet and gentle. Being used to the cab service of Haryana, his punctuality and humbleness was striking; and at times irritating.  When he was talking in his phone Prashant kept saying ‘sorry sir’ after all the sentences. Only later did I realise that ‘sari’ in Kannada meant ‘correct’, and he wasn’t being apologetic. My first lessons in Kannada. We went straight to our hotel KSTDC Mayura Bhuvaneshwari. The hotel is in a great location, very close to Hampi attractions. Food is good, and they have both veg and  non-veg options along with kingfisher beer. There's a green lawn and plenty of trees inside the hotel complex. Rooms, however, are not great. Beware of the guides roaming around the hotel claiming to be government recognised, they are mostly fraud. For genuine guides go to the tourist information center in Virupaksha Temple. 

Tasting the Thunder

Hampi is a place filled with mythological events. The place takes its name from the original name of Tungabhadra River, Pampa. Pampa, Brahma’s daughter, was a devotee of Shiva. Impressed with her devotion, Shiva asked her for a wish. All she wanted was to marry him, and Shiva agreed. During their marriage gods showered golds, from which was formed Hemakuta Hills. Hemakuta literally means a ‘heap of god’. One can trek up the hill to see the sunset. 
After having lunch in the nice little restaurant called “Mango Tree” [http://www.tripadvisor.in/Restaurant_Review-g319725-d1194465-Reviews-Mango_Tree-Hampi_Karnataka.html],  near Virupaksha temple, we took a ferry and went on the other side of Tungabhadra River. This place, Kishkinda, was once the abode of monkey gods. Walk the road for few minutes and you will reach the auto-stand. Hire an auto that will take you to the important places. The nearest spot to visit is Anjaneya Hill, the birth-place of Hanuman. The first thing that is going to catch your eye in Kishkinda is it’s breathtaking landscape. The large boulders scattered around, similar but grander than Alabama, is going to make you wonder what happened here? Legend has it that the boulders made their way here because of the war between Bali and Sugreeva, fighting for the throne of the Empire of Apes. During the fight they threw boulders at each other that got piled up all around. The boring truth, however, is that the unusual landscape formed by millions of years of (spheroidal) erosion of the granites, solidified acidic magma, that formed billions of years ago below the surface of Hampi. Even if for a moment you ignore the mythologies and the rich history of this place, just the scenic beauty of the landscape is going to make you visit it again.
Ancient Bridge

Tungabhadra River

Ignored sculptures near the ferry point

Bounders of Kishkinda

The whole trip on the other side of Tungabhadra river is going to take 3-4 hours. You would like to visit the following places: 
  • Ancient Bridge
  • Anjaneya Hills
  • Laxmi Temple
  • Pampa Sarovar (we did not go there)
  • Durga Temple
  • Ranganatha Temple
  • Tungabhadra left canal on reservoir road.

Map of important locations

Don’t forget to hop on to the coracles. These are circular boats, locally called Teppa or Harigolu, is made of cane and leather, and has been used by the local people for centuries. Domingos Paesa, a Portuguese traveller, described these boats 500 years ago. Nothing has changed over the years. If you have guts ask the boatman to spin the boat. It is an awesome experience. 

A Coracle
By the time we returned back to Virupaksha temple it was 4:30 pm. We booked our guide for the next day from the tourist center. The guide costed us 900 INR for a duration from 10am to 2 pm. Rest of the evening we walked around the ruins just by ourselves. The main part of our trip had just begun....

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