Saturday, July 19, 2008

hampi photos

I took a few photos in Hampi. More then a few in fact. I am not a very photo-prone person and I reserve vast amounts of rage for those people who insist on taking photos of every single thing they see in a foreign country, down to cockroaches and latrines. I especially hate people who like taking photos of me first thing in the morning with no makeup and a hangover. You know who you are.

As a result of this prejudice, my photography skills are 1. underdeveloped and 2. underutilized. However, Hampi is such a magnificent, exotic spectacle that even I used my camera on something other then food. So here you go.

The Indiana Jonesesque Virupaksha Temple sits in the middle of Hampi Village, the rather basic settlement which hosts many dirty hippies and tourists. The town is built around and right up to the monuments, adding a rather vibrant and deeply unsanitary living element to the ruins. This is not history closed off and sanitized for your protection: people still live here and do their thing. The tower itself is part of a Hindu temple that is still very much in use and occupied by a vicious tribe of mugger monkeys: I saw a guy have his puja basket (Hindu offerings) unceremoniously jacked by a particularly brave specimen.

The stroll to Hampi's Royal Center is a quick walk from town, and leads past lots of interesting scenery. I have no idea what this is but I like how it's standing rather singularly on a patch of slick rock.

This interesting temple is almost the first thing you see as you wander out of town. It was completely empty the day I came (everyone was off celebrating Holi by throwing paint at each other) and I got to poke around in peace.

Here's another shot. I like how the platform supports look so delicate compared to the large structure balanced on top of them. The quality of rock-carving on display in Hampi is astonishing: Viyangar's artisans work deserves to be better known.

As you walk into the temple, you're greeted with this view. That could be Shiva on the stupa-like thing in the middle but I am not up on my Hindusim. Hint: there are many many gods and you will never, ever understand anything about them. Start with Ganesh.

This delicate yellow tree grows beside the trail into the Sacred Center. It was really an achingly beautiful scene: I wish my photo did it justice. These yellow trees are all over Hampi and shiver in a very poetic way whenever the wind picks up, blowing tiny cream-colored petals every which way. I am pleased to know that they exist.

This is a small bath. I do not really know what it was used for or what it looked like, but I entertain fantasies of the central island being a pleasant, flower covered refreshment spot, possibly serving mixed drinks Viyangar style. I anticipate an early swim-up bar. As is, it's fun to hop down the oversized stairs and clatter around in this now sadly empty swimming pool.

These rows of columns stand beside one of Hampi's many fabulously geometric tanks.I believe they were used to support a wooden or cloth structure around the perimeter that is now long gone.

I like the artful carvings on these pillars, which used to hold up the supports for various shops and food stalls in the old Hampi bazaar. These reminded me rather pleasantly of Pompeii.

Some more left over structures on the stoll over to the Sacred Center. One of the wonderful things about Hampi is how open it is. Beautiful, historic buildings like these would be regulated, closeted off, and overrun with tourists in many other places, but Hampi's relative isolation has presented this fate. Of course, it would probably be better if access to the ruins were more controlled, as insurance against vandalism or destruction But it sure is amazing to be able to poke around these amazing buildings with complete freedom and solitude.

Another not-so well preserved structure on the way to the Sacred Center. Big plump lizards, hawks, and electric green birds live in the nooks and crannies of Hampi's boulders, adding wildlife sightings to the area's appeal. On the walk up to this temple, I had the unsettling experience of nearly treading on a cobra: I heard a pissed off hiss and saw a big black (and distinctly hooded) snake slither out from under my feet. Yikes.

This is a view of Hampi's Sacred Center, a short walk from the main town in Hampi (you do not need to cross the river.) As evidenced by this photo, Hampi's landscape is a fascinating juxtaposition of imposing granite boulders and lush tropical vegetation: it is unlike anything I have seen before. The ruins span an immense amount of land and appear everywhere, tucked into rock nooks, crumbling quietly away in untouched spaces and corners. This is a lovely area and I spent a lot of time here, enjoying watching pumped up Holi revelers mill around. I climbed to the very top of a big boulder with a nice commanding view (where these photos were taken) and fell asleep in the extremely pleasant shade - a nice change from the already nasty morning heat.

Another shot from atop my boulder. To the left, beyond the palm tree stand, is the trail back to town. The extremely famous Vittala Temple (which I didn't photograph whoops) is to the far left as you follow the path. A drunk guy was lazing in the shade of the temple-like building in the right corner all day long, which was pretty amusing.

Here's another nice shot of the river. It's an absolutely classic Southern Asian scene once you get closer to the water: water buffalos working rice paddies, swaying palms, vibrant tropical birds and flowers.

A huge number of little buildings like this one are wedged into the rocky banks of the river. The river is still much in use by Hampi natives, who make their way across the strong currents using coracles, a kind of perfectly round wicker boat. In the morning, just about everyone hangs out at the river, doing laundry, swimming (while avoiding the Deadly Whirlpools the signs warn about) and generally shooting the shit. It's a lovely and eternal scene.

One more shot from the top of my trusty boulder. You're looking at the Vittala Temple from above: it's encompassed by walls and thus you can't see all that much of it from outside. (You have to pay a whopping 200 rupees to get in: about 5 bucks give or take. Scandalous. And more worth it then almost anywhere else I've been, with the possible exception of the Forbidden City.)

As I am blissfully clueless about Viyangar architecture, I have no clue what this is. As the morning wore on, vacationing families in gorgeous clothing filtered in from all over for Holi celebrations, parking their Land Rovers and motorbikes near the river and having alcohol-soaked barbecues while blasting Shah Rukh Khan's latest. It was very fun to watch: just India's version of the classic American Fourth of July celebration. I can't imagine that kind of thing happening in the remains of Rome's forum (and maybe it shouldn't), but it does add a lot of life to what could be a sad and lonely mausoleum. (If you read about Hampi's fall and the total destruction the population suffered at the hands of Deccan forces, you'll understand the melancholy that hangs about the area.)

This is the King's Balance, which was honest-to-God used to weigh Viyangar kings against gold and other valuables on holidays. The equivalent weight was then distributed to the populace, meaning the average citizen had a vested interest in keeping the ruler in junk food. I thought this sounded rather suspect, but then I found out that even the Mughal rulers performed this kind of ceremony. History is weird.

(Personally, I think I'd find it rather humiliating to be weighed in public against gold and jewelry with everyone watching intently. I don't weigh very much: would I be publicly censored for not eating enough Cheetohs? I guess in Viyangar times it would be kulfi and lamb shanks...)

This is Anjaneya Hill, which stands on the other side of the Sacred Center. The hill is known as the birthplace of Hanuman, the Hindu monkey king, who is remembered by a fetching white stupa at the very top. A challenging and twisty path leads to the top, and I hope to climb it someday: I didn't get a chance to this visit.

A Sacred Center structure with some young stud types bikes parked out front. I like this photo: it highlights Hampi's distinctive "alive" status, which made it more compelling to me then many other ruins I've visited. They were getting tanked on the riverside with their families and having a wonderful time but I was still a little bit too skittish about India at the time to join them. Now I totally would have.

Water buffalo are everywhere in Hampi, used for plowing rice paddies and other farming-related tasks. When not on the job, they wander around by the river and graze. They are also subjected to photography by annoying tourists.

And some more water buffalo. I love how their horns point downwards and look kind of like ears.

Next post: pictures from Hampi's royal center and the Best Restaurant Ever.


arunsubru said...

These are great images of hampi. The images you have captured have been shot in a unique angle. I haven't these type of photos of hampi ever before. Keep up the good work.

India is truly a great place with lots of diversity and a unique place in the world. I am person who is closely watching the trends and developments in India tourism and always enthusiastic to know more about India. You can follow my updates on @india_tourism in twitter.

TCP said...

You have a wonderful blog. Looking forward to more posts.

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workhard said...

From your pictures it is an evidence of a higly organized civilization ....very nice pixcs

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Sam Walker said...

This place is got ruined now but i can only guess in its building time it would be one of beautiful and aspiring place to watch. Book your
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