India 2012‎ > ‎

Hassan to Hampi

You never know what you are going to see, especially in rural India. Here, a man ploughs his fields with two oxen.
And another farmer moves what looks like hay or straw using his traditonal ox cart. The car behind just has to wait !
And a farmer crushes grain using a stone weight and two oxen

Belur and Halebidu (Feb 11 & 12)
After leaving Mysore, our first stop was the famous Jain pilgrim center at Sravanabelgola. The big attraction, quite literally, is a giant statue 57 feet tall. However, the only way to reach the statue is to climb the hill on which it stands. There are approximately 1000 steps to climb and you aren't allowed to wear shoes, although socks are tolerated - fortunately it was not a hot day. There are two sacred hills - the other hill can be seen in the picture below.
It's a long climb to the top
Just a few more (barefoot) steps.
However the 57 foot tall granite statue of the Jain Saint Lord Gomateshvara is very impressive.
It is considered to be the world's largest monolithic statue and dates to 973 - 987 AD
Inscriptions at the base of the statue praise the king who funded the effort and his General, Chaundaraya, who commissioned the statue
We stayed for two nights near Hassan at the pleasant but unremarkable Hoysala Village Resort.
Hoysala Village Resort
We spent some time by the pool, but the pool beds had no pads and were VERY uncomfortable 
On the second day, we took a tour of Belur and Halebidu, two small towns which were once at the center of The Hoysala Empire, which ruled this area between the 10th and 14th centuries. What remains are some remarkable temples which have wonderful carvings in the soft soapstone of which they are constructed, unlike the granite used in most other places.
The interior of the temple at Belur. The columns were turned on lathes pulled by elephants !
The main temple building at Belur.
The carvings go all around the buildings in layers - elephants at the bottom, then horses and so on. They portray all aspects of the life of men as well as the achievements of the Gods.
Here, a God holds up the earth
Men fight each other
And fight in pitched battles
Musicians play
Elephants parade in ceremonial decorations
Mythical Beasts roar
And men and women (and apparently dwarves ) do what THEY do !
Chickmagalur (Feb 13)
We spent one night at the Gateway Hotel near Chickmagalur, mostly because we had a problems with a hotel in Badami honoring our reservation and we needed to kill a night on our way there. The hotel was very pleasant and we spent the afternoon by the pool. 
The view from our room at the Gateway Hotel, Chickmagalur
Hampi (Feb 14 - 17)
It was a long drive from Chickmagalur to Hampi, or more accurately, to Hospet, where we stayed at the Krishna Palace Hotel.  There was nothing special about Hospet, but a few miles away was the village of Hampi. Hampi is surrounded by temples and palaces which date back to the 14th,  15th and 16th Century when it was the capital of the Hindu empire, Vijayanagara, who ruled South India during this period. The giant boulder strewn hills, the ruins and the river which runs through the center make this an interesting place. It reminded me a lot of the Temples of Cambodia at Angkor Wat, although the landscape here is different. What was very surprising is that some of the temples are completely empty of tourists and we would have a huge temple all to ourselves. 
Viru, our tour guide for three days, explains a point of history to Kris
The landscape is strewn with boulders, some of them huge.
The temples and palaces are built on and from the rock around them
Easy to see how rocks like this could be carved into statues
You can see the marks in the boulders where pieces of rock have been split off to make the small adjoining temple
Some of the temples were completely deserted
 Some areas looked like an empty film set - this is an abandoned market in front of a temple
While other temples - especially this one - still have a busy market in front of the temple
The Virupaska Temple
The Virupaska Temple is still active and is one of the most famous in Hampi
The temple tower with the market stretching out in front
Inside the Virupaska Temple
For a small fee, the temple elephant would give you a blessing.
Kris is blessed by the elephant
We took a coracle down the river from one temple to another and watched the locals fishing along the way.
Ready to sail away in our slightly leaky coracle - the oarsman joined us after we had pushed off
Not us in the coracle, but it gives a good sense of the scale  of the rocks
A kingfisher waits for a fish in front of a bull statue
And a young man fishes from his coracle 
At the next temple, which is no longer active, the highlight was a huge stone chariot.
Although it never moves, until recently the stone wheels could be turned
At our next stop, one of the many palaces, we saw a huge Elephant Stable
Luxury accomodations for ten elephants
Close by was a building which may have been a training center (like a Gymnasium) for athletes, but no one is really sure.
The central area may have been used as a training area
Next day, we continued our exploration. Our first stop was a now inactive temple to Ganesh, the Elephant God. The statue of Ganesh is the second biggest in India and was carved from the native rock and the temple was then built around it.
Ganesh Temple Exterior
The vandalized statue of Ganesh
Many of the temples have a chanber which surrounds the central statue, which allows the faithful to walk round the statue although they can't actually see it. One (now unused) temple we entered had a huge passageway, which was totally dark except for beams of sunlight which pierced the blackness like laser beams. Very theatrical !
Beams of light pierce a temple passageway 
And of course carvings were everywhere:
A female archer waits patiently as a thorn is pulled from her foot
The Badavilinga lingum (male & female symbols) carved from a single piece of stone, the largest in Hampi.
Note the three eyes at the top of the central column.
Vishnu as a lion
Every temple has a water tank, which is used for bathing and any other purpose for which water is required. This one is unusual because it is stepped and the stone from which it is made - black basalt - is not a local stone, so the tank was made somewhere else and then brought to this location. At the top is the aquaduct which would have been used to fill the tank.
The stepped tank 
Another unigue tank is known as The Queens Bath. This was an especially nice tank made just for the many wives ("Queens") of the King. No one knows exactly how it was named, but it is thought it was probably more of a royal pleasure palace for the king and his wives. Note the unusual balconies which extend over the water. Our guide said these were for the eunuchs who would be in charge of the bath, but I'm not sure if that's true. The bath which would have been filled with fragranced water and flowers is open to the sky.
The Queens Bath
A third unusual tank is the Octaganol Bath, which may not be a bath at all, but it appears that it was filled with water at one time, so it's assumed that it's a tank.
The Octagonal Bath

On our last day in Hampi, we asked Viru to take us to a school to meet the kids. We thought we would meet one class, but in the end, we saw almost all of them.
The kids sit quietly on the floor with their books
This is a public school so everything is provided free, but that means they have very little.
We caused a minor riot in the last class as we had brought everyone a pen, but they got a liitle excited and grabbed them from us. However, order was restored before we left. 

Our final "sight" in Hampi was the making of jaggery, a kind of fudge made from sugar cane juice.
Sugar juice is poured into a large cauldron.
The juice is boiled to remove water. 
Then the sticky mixture is poured into moulds - plastic bags laid in shallow depression in the ground
The mixture is stirred with paddles and allowed to cool before being bagged and shipped off
As we drove back to the hotel, we passed through a small village where 42 weddings had taken place in one day. Apparently this is an annual tradition at this village.  We caught one bride and groom as they walked to their first lunch as a married couple.
 He seems to be smiling - at least for now !

Our next stop will be Badami and then on to Goa !