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I’m participating in the #AtoZBloggingChallenge 2016 with the theme – Pins on the Map of my Memory – which is about places that bear a special connection with me for reasons mostly personal!

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H for Hampi

In April 2015, a 7-hour drive from Bengaluru took us to a remote village in the Tungabhadra basin in Central Karnataka’s Bellary district, where a vast expanse of damaged structures lies across a 26 square meter area. Once the seat of the mighty Vijayanagar Empire, between the 13th and the 15th centuries, Hampi is now a village that lies in ruins, a place where each stone has a story to tell.

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Dravidian architecture flourished in Hampi during the early 13th century before the large impressive empire was attacked by the Deccan Muslim Confederacy in 1565. The most unfortunate fallout of this was the systematic destruction of the  beautiful architecture in Vijayanagar – the buildings, the temples, the forts, the riverside features, royal and sacred complexes, shrines, pillared halls, mandapas, memorial structures, gateways and stables – wiping out everything. The destruction and damage to the entire region was so severe that an Italian scholar who visited India in the 16th century is said to have noted how he found Hampi to be a tiger-infested area with not a single human in sight, forcing him to seek shelter in the ruins.

Although the place holds great attraction for history buffs, it is as much a destination for those seeking a unique holiday experience as for those who are interested in adventure and thrilling activities. To best explore the ruins an easy and interesting way is to hire bicycles or buggies (the latter, available  for only select points). Besides rock-climbing and trekking which are both popular activities in Hampi, quite a few people also opt for a coracle ride (A coracle is a circular shaped country boat that can carry about 6 to 8 people on a single trip across the river).

A key attraction of Hampi is the Hampi Utsav hosted every year during the first week of November. It is a visual delight and an absolutely wonderful opportunity for photography enthusiasts when all the monuments and the ruins are lit up at night followed with a cultural extravaganza of dance and music.

The best part of traveling to Hampi in summer was to find it less crowded and more manageable. Worth keeping in mind that since Hampi is generally very hot and dry all through the year, sunscreen, hat and parasol are absolute musts, anytime you visit.

Adjacent to the village of Hampi is the JSW township where we stayed. It was a charming place with bougainvillea-lined roads and gigantic industrial estates. There was also a man-made lake, where children feed the ducks, a museum exhibiting relics based on the life and work of the industrialist O.P. Jindal and a massive sculpture in the shape of a matka (a container used to hold water) sliced in half.

Kaladham – the Art Village, was also our favourite stop in the vicinity. It is a museum of the Hampi ruins, that showcases an outstanding Photo exhibition and 3D – 360-degree photographs, presented to give viewers an immersive experience of Hampi. After a half-hour show, I picked a souvenir or two from the craft shop next door. Thus ended our truly memorable and humbling experience at the ruins of Hampi, of the incredible sculptural work that remains the pinnacle of Vijayanagar art.

Bewitching, forlorn and yet spellbinding, in every sense of the word!

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