The neighing horses showed agitation. The clashing swords depicted brutality. The
narrowing eyes of the Deccan sultans and the sword-bearing raised fists of the
Vijaynagara kings emanated a sense of rivalry.
I painted a complete war scene in the canvas of my mind on seeing the majestic battle ground in the capital of the victory city of Vijaynagara. Lasting for three centuries before succumbing to the Deccan sultanate, this metropolis in Karnataka lies on the southern banks of the mighty and garrulous Tungabhadra.
Regarded as the second Rome, Hampi is built around the temple of the presiding deity, Virupaksha, an incarnation of Lord Siva. It was pleasant November morning as I started my day by visiting the Virupaksha temple. A small beautiful stream of the Tungabhadra flowed along the temple’s terrace and then descended to the temple-kitchen and out through the outer court. Dedicated to Lord Siva, this sacred temple has inscriptions referring to Shiva dating back to the 9th and 10th centuries. It started as tiny shrine but grew out to become a big and striking temple under the reign of the Vijaynagara rulers.
While on my way to the next temple, I saw numerous Siva lingas made out of small boulders. I had made friends with a small squirrel who had followed me along the way. The temple of Lord Vishnu, Vithalla temple is the most well known temple at Hampi. The pillared halls and the impressively carved stone chariot of this UNESCO recognized World Heritage Site simply took my breath away. Its stone wheels, each shaped in the form of a lotus, were capable of revolving and in front of the chariot were two elephants, carved and positioned as if pulling the chariot. It was amazing to hear distinct musical noted from each of the pillars. Intricate sculpturing and ornate pillars depicting war scenes, wedding scenes and diverse dance mudras reflected the culture and prosperity of the city while representing the radiant creativity of the artists of the 15th century. A bare-branched old spooky tree at the back of the temple provided a quaint flavour to the premise.
Close to the Vithalla temple was the Tula Bhara or the King’s Balance which I was very excited to see. Here the king used to weigh himself with gold, gems, silver and precious stones and distribute to the priests. From far this balance seemed like an archway. But on close observation I saw three loops at the top from which balance was actually hung. I managed to spend the later half of the day at the Lotus Mahal and the big elephant stables. The Lotus Mahal was the palace of the queen which had pretty arched gateways and elements of Islamic architecture.
The sun was about to set and I quickly headed out to the nearby Hemkutha hill to witness the sundown. As hues of orange turned purple, an enterprising chaiwallah who had carried his tea-making-gear all the way up to the hill-top offered to make me some tea. After a steaming cup of tea I walked unhurriedly downhill savouring the beauty of the river and the rocky terrain surrounding it. I noticed during the descent that it was an excellent place for bird watching. I spotted doves, some magpie robins, plenty of parakeets and many mynahs. After watching skies turn crimson after the sun disappeared beyond the distant hills, I walked down to see a Ganesha statue lit up nicely between an assembly of pillars.
Witnessing a fascinating blend of Siva, Vishnu and Rama temples, a tradesmen bazaar, horse and elephant stables, open air theatre, water tanks, step wells, soldier barracks and small and big palaces, I was sure that walled city of Hampi was truly one of the most majestic cities of the times.