The ancient legacy of Vijayanagara

I started the day with masala dosa, which is a big salty crepe like thing full of subji and some curd on the side. At 20 Ruppee each, a bit less than 50cents, it was to be the first of many. We jump on an east bound train and left the Arabian Sea for Hampi, a village within the remains of an ancient empire’s stronghold.  IMG_2017 IMG_2026 IMG_2053 IMG_2027 IMG_2036 did an outrageous thing upon arriving in Hampi – I trusted the taxi driver. This guy, on the right: IMG_2066 Well I didn’t trust him per se, but I didn’t see the harm in rolling with his hustle seeing as there was a swathe of other hustlers waiting for us at the other end. He totally pulled through. We needed accomodation, and we needed transport across the entire Southern Indian Subcontinent. A cellphone is required to book hard to pin down buses, trains took full days waiting in line at the stations with no gaurantee of success.  Not that any of this mattered seeing as Hampi didn’t have a bus or a train station anyway. What it did have were breathtaking rock formations among which a city had been built.IMG_2090 IMG_2316 I could describe it, but… IMG_2396 IMG_2149 IMG_2089 The Vijayanagara people had used Hampi as a base in Southern India for only 200ish years before the Mughal’s rolled them in 1565. I was beginning to understand why Indians really don’t like Pakistan. The first thing that struck me was that the inhabitants of the ancient city are descendants of the very same people who built it. I try and avoid the trap of comparing places like this to other sites we’ve seen around the world, but in this respect Hampi is really unique. Unlike the uninhabited Machu Picchu or Angkor Wat which have seen nations come and go, the Indian people still carry out the same pujas and practices their ancestors did thousands of years ago.

This is Hampi, see what I mean?IMG_2093 To further demonstrate, the black tower on wheels in the middle ^ is a contemporary version of the one below, being used in the same ceremonies today.IMG_2440 Often the knowledge of these ancient sites is pure guesswork. However each building or monument in Hampi is a snapshot of that moment in time and there are many living descedants there to accurately interpret them. Contrary to my assumptions, the Indian inclination towards paper trails and beauracracy cannot be attributed to the colonial English because every notable social, military or royal detail is carved into the buildings or monuments. From the emperor right down to the peasants, the history of Hampi is, well, set in stone.

This awesome temple had an epic basement with underground streams running through it. IMG_2164 I might see if Tara can join the three following photos together. We had the whole place to ourselves so I meditated at the the waters edge and really got to connect with the site. This was where the high priests of the city lived so I can imagine it must have some rad energy. IMG_2199 IMG_2197  IMG_2201 This temple was the very place Lord Rama stayed at on his way to rescue Sita. This is a BIG DEAL for Hindus. The sound of kirtan could be heard from all over as dudes chanted mantras day in and day out. IMG_2364 For the equivalent of $2.50, we hired a scooter and sifted around the ruins. Found this chap, who’d lost his hand…IMG_2225 This underwater templeIMG_2307 At one point we ran out of gas and got passed by these guysIMG_2234 IMG_2191 IMG_2258 We passed through this ^ insanely intricate wall into the royal residence.  Word is this entire building is an instrument. It was designed to play music in certain winds during certain times of year for certain ceremonies. I can’t confirm it but holy shit thats cool. IMG_2414 IMG_2166 IMG_2412 Within the palace grounds was the gorgeous lotus temple   IMG_2275 IMG_2282 And out the back were the royal stables FOR ELEPHANTS!!!IMG_2304 Some parts of Hampi are gorgeous, in others the infrastructure is pretty derelict and the place needs cleaning up. Powerlines desect views and with a hodgepodge concrete town smack bang in the middle, the toll of human presence is heavy. Having said that, the Indian government just forcibly leveled a nearby shantytown in the name of gentrification and are planning to hike the prices of entry. Not really sure what I’m trying to endorse haha, these people obviously deserve to live in the same places as their ancestors. However I definitely wouldn’t mind paying more in order to clean up the rubbish and preserve the site for future generations. The town isn’t all ugly, everyday the women draw designs like this outside the doors of their houses to welcome people inside.IMG_2147 The Indian summer is pretty damn hot so a swim with the river rats was a good break in the afternoon. IMG_2320 IMG_2335 IMG_2339

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One response to “The ancient legacy of Vijayanagara

  1. Hi Leo loving the blogs, our new email is tsfowler@xtra.co.nz Thanks Mum xx

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