Route 2 – Exploring the architectural gems along the riverside at Hampi
I am a self proclaimed historic buff, so there was never a doubt in my mind that I would enjoy Hampi. Imagine my amazement when I see my children share the same enthusiasm in these magnificent ruins. In spite of the hot sun (even though it was a December visit) and my plan to not leave any boulder unexplored – I was surprised by the energy and drive in them to walk, climb boulders and explore the place. I believe Hampi spoke to them in their language to keep them engaged !
We started the day early as I was looking forward to a very special visit, one that involved climbing boulders before it became really hot !
A walk along the stepped rock riverbank of the Tungabhadra river, this path took us to a cave like rock formation.
It was interesting to see this Sadhu sitting near this carving on the rock.
I requested for a few clicks and he obliged ! Can you see the heavens sending their blessing our way ? I knew it would be a beautiful day today.
The cave like formation opened to this beautiful open place near the historic Kodandarama Temple.
1) Kodandarama Temple
This temple has deep religious significance. It stands at the place where Rama crowned Sugreeva king of Kishkinda. The ancient pavilion next to this temple have been used by the pilgrims as a place to rest for many centuries!
In the sanctum, you can see three very tall statues of Ram, Sita and Lakshman carved on a huge boulder by the hillside. During peak monsoon season the river-water sometimes reaches up to the temple courtyard !
Interestingly, there were lot of monkeys in this temple when we visited, but then hey – we were invading their space !
2) Yantrodharaka Anjaneya Temple
This is a functioning shrine located just behind the Kodandarama Temple. This Hanuman temple is only next in importance to the whitewashed shrine birthplace of Hanuman on top of the Anjeyanadri Hill.
This temple contains the image of a sitting Hanuman positioned inside an amulet (locally called Yantra). If the legend is to be believed, Hanuman used to visit a particular sage when the sage was alone, in spite of repeated request to make a more public appearance. The sage apparently trapped Hanuman in this amulet , so he could never leave and be available to the common people for worship too ! The image of Hanuman here in unique and he appears in a meditative or prayer position.
On these ghats, our guide informed us, that the discussion of Lord Shiva and local girl Pampa’s wedding discussions take place. The locals celebrate the wedding, but prior to that negotiations on the alliance is done here in an annual ceremony. The entire Hampi is divided into the girl and boy side for these negotiations 🙂
3) Riverside Ruins
I had heard that the riverside gorge near the Kodandarama Temple has amazing clusters of ruins, especially the Shiva Lingas carved on the rock surface. This was my special visit which involved a coracle ride (my first) to reach these lesser seen ruins of Hampi. There were interesting carvings on the rock surface while getting down to the coracle point
With a really enjoyable and soothing ride, climbing some rocks and boulders, we reached the lingas carved on a flat rock surface. We got a view of an array of 108 Lingas and another fabulous array of 1008 lingas.
In this gorge you can find innumerable treasure while boulder hopping. Scuttling over boulders, which was fun and exciting, we found many carvings and relics.
Given that this is not one of the most frequented spots, we loved the calm it provided before we ventured into the more touristy areas!
4) Purandaradasa Mantapa
Our coracle ride ended near an open pillared pavilion dedicated to the legendary poet Purandaradasa. Located by the river shore with the backdrop of Anjeyanadri hill, this probably was the ideal place for the poet to draw inspiration for his 75,000 devotional and classical compositions.
A small sculpture of Purandaradasa with tambura is also seen at the pavilion.
A classical music concert, attended by international artists too, is held here to celebrate the birth anniversary of this poet.
5) Ancient Bridge
From the Purandaradasa Mantapa, one gets a glimpse of traces of an ancient bridge. Only the pillars of the bridge remain, so it is really easy to miss.
To build the pillars on the rocky bed of a torrential river, apparently the flow of that branch of the river was stopped ! This clearly shows the advanced technology that were employed for these constructions.
6) Kings Balance
This 16 feet structure was used by the king used to weigh himself in precious stones like gold, gems, silver and distributed to the priests on special occasions.
An interesting titbit – when an occasion approached, the king was fed his favorite food and allowed to move as little as possible, resulting in a few extra kilos and some additional wealth for the priests !
At the base of the left pillar stones, you can spot the king’s image carved along with his 2 queens.
This probably was on the entry path to Hampi city. The huge structure behind it is akin to an entry gate.
7) Sugreeva’s Cave
After about 10 minutes walk from the King’s balance, you will find this cave almost on the river shore. It is a naturally formed alcove between huge boulders and is believed to be the place where the mythical monkey warrior, Sugreeva lived. It is said that while being abducted by Ravana, Sita dropped her jewels wrapped in a piece of her sari. Hanuman found these jewels and took them to Sugreeva. These white lines seen on the rocks’ surface are said to be made by the ends of Sita’s sari as Hanuman fetched the dropped jewels to Sugreeva !
As we entered the cave, there is a distinct drop in temperature. Though there is nothing much to see inside, we are humbled to be in such a historic place and the coolness of the cave is welcoming.
8) Courtesan’s Street
As per our guide, this was the handiwork of a jealous king, who wanted to be more popular than Krishnadevaraya and believed that any publicity is good publicity ! So he went ahead and established the Courtesan’s street.
This was apparently, the liveliest of all the temple streets in Hampi. As you enter this street you can see pavilions of finely carved pillars in varied state of ruin, on either side of the street. You can also spot some unfinished blocks of pillars.
Another theory is that the women / so-called-courtesans on this street were probably female spies working for the king. Guess we will never know.
A large stepped–tank called Pushkarni is also seen here. One can walk through the remains of a pillared pavilion around the Pushkarani. The small rectangular monument in the center of the tank was apparently used to keep images of God and Goddess during the annual boat festival of the temple.
9) Varaha Temple
As per our guide, this is the only Shiva temple among the many Vishnu temples in this vicinity. The majestic entrance tower immediately catches your attention. This is not a functioning temple and the sanctum is located in the middle of the compound.
Link to other Hampi article in the series (in case you missed these)
Route 1 – Exploring Sacred Center
Route 3 – Exploring the Royal Center
Things you may want to know before the travel (Travel tips)
- Getting here and other tips from my first blog
- Carry food and water with you. There is only a very basic stall near Purandaradasa Mantapa serving light snacks and tea
- Carry enough water, sunscreen, sun hats and wear comfortable walking shoes
- Admission and photography is free in all the monuments on this route (except inside functioning temples)
- This route should take you about 3 hours
- Kodandarama Temple and Yantrodharaka Anjaneya Temple are active shrines and remain open during the morning & evening hours
- Tourists should observe basic rules of visiting a temple in India – No sleeveless tops / shorts / shoes inside. Keep a shawl handy to cover yourself up
- Plan the coracle ride and exploring the boulders in the morning. It is best explored barefoot for better grip and the rocks can get hotter as the day progresses
- You can haggle on the cost of coracle ride (we paid 250/- per person) but is highly recommended. There are no life jackets but I was assured that there has not been any mishap till date
- This route cannot be done by car. Walking is the best option. Cycles will work for part stretches only
- You can visit the Achuta Raya temple at the end of the Courtesan’s street, comment and tell me about what I missed !