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Sunday, 31 May 2009

Poetry on Stones: Hampi, the Forgotten Empire - Page 2

Written by Navneet Sidhu
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Hampi, the former capital of the Vijayanagar Empire (1336-1565 AD) in India, is a city set in the bygone era of medieval history. Positioned on the banks of the Tungabhadra River, the village of Hampi is as captivating as it is old. Each boulder of the ruins has a story to tell. Some represent the beauty of the architectural creations. Others show the brutality of destruction at the hands of the Deccan Kings. My trip to this ancient city would soon open my eyes to both sides of this historical landmark.

After taking in these awe inspiring monuments and temples, I was in for a surprise with a few Royal Enclosures known as the “Lotus Mahal” and “Elephant Stables”. These structures had a distinct blend of Islamic and Hindu sensibilities. The “Lotus Mahal,” a palace for the queen, was a two-storied pavilion with delicate lattice carvings. Set amidst bright green, manicured lawns, the construction was simply breathtaking. The “Elephant Stables” housed the ceremonial elephants of the royal household. This overwhelming structure attests to the pride and respect these animals commanded at the time.

After the elephant stables, I toured a few more Royal Enclosures including the underground royal mint and the bathing well. It was also hard to miss the Mahanavami Dibba, easily the tallest structure in this area. This platform was where the Mighty Krishnadeva Raya watched the sacrifices and processions during the nine-day navani festivity. What I found to be very unusual were the carvings of camels in the panels of the platform. Perhaps this indicated the widespread trading and travelers’ account of the Vijayanagar people.

Poetry on Stones – Hampi, the Forgotten Empire, Hampi ruins, Royal Enclosures, Lotus Mahal, Elephant Stables, Badavilinga Shiva temple, Vithala Temple, Anjanaye Hills, Navneet SidhuMy final destination of the day was the “Vithala Temple” with its fifty-six musical pillars. These pillars reverberated when tapped making the structure itself a giant working instrument. The magnificent ornate stone chariot in the temple courtyard was as beautiful as it was large. The sheer creativity, ingenuity and originality of the Hampi people were astounding. It was not surprising that the monument had been declared a world heritage site in 1986 and is presently undergoing restoration for future generations. Sitting on the stairs for a moment I was lost in the scene. The statuette of Garuda commanding the chariot towards the temple. The jingling of the dancing girls’ bells to the music created on stone pillars. The legendary Rayas in their sheer finery and the divine celestial beings descending to gorge on the enchantment created on earth. It was all so beautiful.

After losing myself in the history of Hampi, I decided to pursue the magic of mythology the next day. I drove opposite the Anjanaye Hills, where after a steep 532 step climb, I reached the place where the saint, Hanuman, was born. Poetry on Stones – Hampi, the Forgotten Empire, Hampi ruins, Royal Enclosures, Lotus Mahal, Elephant Stables, Badavilinga Shiva temple, Vithala Temple, Anjanaye Hills, Navneet SidhuA young pujari (priest) was more than willing to narrate the heroic tales from the Ramayana (an ancient Sanskrit epic) and point out various sites to visit from the mythological Kishkinda. For me it was a spiritual journey to follow the footsteps of Lord Rama during his stay at Kishkinda.

Driving past the longest dam in Southern India, the Tungabhadra Dam (590 meters long and 49 meters high) I returned to Hampi to tour the colossal stone sculptures “Hazar Rama”, “Pattabhirama” and the “Achuta Raya’s” temples.

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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