Hampi – Temples and Bouldering

About 200 miles away, still in the south, on a brown plateau of rock and gigantic boulders, are ruins of a capital city of what was once the great Hindu kingdom of Vijayanagara. Vijaya- Victory, nagar- city- was established in the 14th century; it was conquered, and totally destroyed, by an alliance of Moslem principalities in 1565. The city was then one of the greatest in the world, its walls 24 miles around- foreign visitors have left accounts of its organisation and magnificence- and the work of destruction took five months; some people say a year.

Today all the outer city is a peasant wilderness, with scattered remnants of stone or brick structures. Near the Tungabhadra river are the grander ruins: palaces and stables, a royal bath, a temple with clusters of musical stone columns that can still be played, a broken aqueduct, the leaning granite pillars of what must have been a bridge across the river. There is more beyond the river: a very long and very wide avenue, still partly facaded, with a giant statue of the bull of Shiva at one end and at the other end a miracle: a temple that for some reason was spared destruction four hundred years ago, is still whole, and is still used for worship.

It is for this that the pilgrims come, to make offerings and perform the rites of old magic. Some of the ruins of Vijayanagra have been declared national monuments by the Archaeological department; but to the pilgrims- and they are more numerous than the tourists- Vijayanagra is not its terrible history or its present encompassing desolation. Such history as is known has been reduced to the legend of a mighty ruler, a kingdom founded with gold that showered from the sky, a kingdom so rich that pearls and rubies were sold in the market place like grain.”

…V. S . Naipaul (India: A Wounded Civilization)

Hampi remains and its that quality of eternity that lures the traveller to its mystery and solitude.

Today during the winter months it is thronged by tourists who are on the typical South India trail resulting in a splattering of guest houses and cafe’s all over Hampi. The indiscriminately scattered boulders have created a rapidly growing Bouldering scene with climbers from across the world thronging .

Come November, the city becomes host to a festival of classical dance and music and the monuments become spectacular back drops for these performances. Beautifully lit up ruins lend to the atmosphere transforming the whole space as an ode to a legend.

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