India is a land of rich culture. That Hampi, in the southern state of Karnataka, is a part of our collective heritage and consciousness, is a given. The village of Hampi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its plethora of magnificent monuments, sculptures, parks, massive royal structures, temples among others, is perhaps the last standing example of an Indian civilization which was all inclusive – embracing every religion, culture, difference it encountered over the passage of more than 2 centuries when it evolved. Hampi today is still a living and breathing space, beautiful, peaceful, clean and extremely well preserved. It is not difficult to imagine the people and their lives all those centuries ago. The city is well structured leaving no doubt about the order and genius of the kings, architects, and craftsmen of yore. It has beautiful gardens, well kept, smooth roads and huge monuments and sculptures: the welcoming Nandi, the ageless Narasimha, the portly Ganesh’s mustard and peanut (affectionately named by ASI) stand tall and beautiful, for over 600 years or more. Hampi is restful, enlightening of our civilization in ways unparalleled.
Hampi: A wealthy, well-ordered space
This was an advanced civilization with excellent drainage, ventilation systems, ordered rural and urban lives all demarcated through massive fortifications which encircled the agricultural fields. The city seems self-sufficient. When the kings were busy conquering faraway lands, the people were carrying on their trade through the beautiful market spaces. It is said that Vidyanagar, from which the name Vijaynagar is derived, had well-designated spaces for trade in spices, textiles and precious stones. On seeing the stone/ granite rows and columns of the markets, it is easy to visualize the bustling bazaar of yonder years, with crowds jostling and haggling over the wares. They are located near bigger temple areas – which attracted massive congregations of people for various purposes- be it worship, social calls, meetings, study etc. The temples would have lent a sense of serenity and fair play to the trade
Hampi Civilization: An ode to ‘Swachhta’
Hampi is beautifully preserved. The on-going works of ASI is a testimony to that. There is one thing that one cannot help but notice in Hampi – the lack of rubbish, dirt and foremost the lack of odor. Most old monuments and areas around them, that I have visited till date, are host to piles of rubbish thanks to tourism and packaged food industries. Empty packets of crisps, pan masala pouches, cigarette butts, paan stains, general random spitting, empty juice boxes, mineral water bottles, soda cans almost always litter these places. The worst sacrilege is the scratchings of couples on the walls of our heritage- “Pappu and Lovely” were surely there but do we need to know that? Shall we now take solace in the fact that this could perhaps reduce with the onset of social media, where such idiosyncrasies are captured instantly and images sent out to the unsuspecting public at large? But I digress. Debris, foul odor, rubbish is absent in Hampi. The lawns and gardens, beautifully preserved and maintained are a truly soothing sight for sore eyes. Guards and security officials are present and doing their jobs! A shock to our cynical mindset.
Hampi: A secular haven
Hampi, on the banks of Tungabhadra, is a symbol of amalgamation, inclusiveness, and secularism. The small compact Jain temples clustered near the splendid Virupaksha temple are a testimony to the secular minds of the rulers of the Vijaynagar empire. The elephant stables outside the Queen’s bath and the Lotus Mahal- the zenana, are a perfect example of the Indo-Islamic style of architecture. There are also Jain style domes on the striking structure on of the few which remain almost intact even after 500 years of construction. It is a fact that Vijayanagar was a Hindu kingdom. But its architectural diversity suggests that other religions were accepted and embraced. Though the urban spaces have been lost to the ravages of time, there is evidence of the presence of mosques in many residential quarters
Hampi is one of those few tourist sites in the country where cycling tours are successful because of the smooth roads and general cleanliness. Moving around in Hampi arouses your curiosity about the people who lived then- their lives, their thoughts, their talents, their rulers, their faiths, crafts, arts, interests. Due to the fact that the monuments are so well preserved and sculpture so detailed, it is easy to be transported to a time that has passed us by. Make Hampi your next time travel destination!