Continues from previous blog, ‘Day 3, part I, A Walk In The Past’
I was out of the Queen’s Bath and was walking towards my bike. A book seller approached me and showed me some books. A book on the history of Hampi caught my eye. I purchased it and was about to move when I heard a call from behind. A dark skinned, plumpy guy wearing a shirt and trouser was walking in my direction. “Hello Sir, Do you need a guide? I can show you all the sites of Hampi and explain the historical significance of each site”, He said, finishing the sentence before stopping near me. Getting a guide along seemed like a good idea. It was also going to save lot of time that I was spending in finding routes. We settled the rates, and he took me back into the Queen’s bath to explain the history of the place. His name was Manjunath. He did not speak fluent Hindi but it was good enough for me to understand.
Manjunath and me were riding on our bike to our next site, ‘Royal Enclosure’. I told him about my story of Vitthala Temple visit. When I explained the structure of the temple, he told me, “Sir what you visited was not the Vitthala Temple. It was Gejjala Mandapa. The actual Vitthala Temple is behind the hill that was next to the Gejjala Mandapa. One has to take a ride in an EV (Electric Vehicle) to reach the Vitthala temple. Don’t worry, we are going to the Vitthala Temple at the end of our tour”. Finally my confusion came to an end. I understood the look of the tea vendor in the morning.
We were at the Royal Enclosure. This place was huge. I could sense the powerful history of the place. One by one Manjuanth took me to many monuments in this enclosure. He told me that this entire enclosure was spread in 95,000 square meter area. I observed elegantly decorated base of the palaces, water system designed to carry water to the entire facility, large halls, pillard shrines and water storage tanks. Manjuanth’s words were creating images in my head. He told me that most of the structures that we see here are only the base structures. In those times the architecture style was to have a base structure or the support structure made of stone and the entire palace or other structure made up of Sandal wood. During invasions, Muslim emperors burned down the sandal wood structures and destroyed the beautiful sculptures found in the vicinity.
I climbed up the tall steps to go on top of the sculptured terraced platform known as Mahanavami dibba. In those times many festive performances used to take place on this platform. One can observe beautiful sculptures on the walls of this platform which depicted the dance, sword fights and other types of art performances being performed there.
We visited the public bath facility, which was a simple rectangular structure. From there we went to a stepped water tank. This was a beautiful structure. It had series of tall square steps around a square open water tank. Each square step had series of smaller steps along it’s length, which were shaped in a tapering manner, making it look like small pyramids. One of these pyramid shaped steps had names of the four dynasties that ruled the Vijayanagara.
I noticed four square shaped tiles near a passage built to carry water. These tiles were thick, had a big circle carved in the center and another four round shapes carved on four corners. Manjunath told me that those were plates, Soldiers used have their meal in. Later in the day Manjunath showed me a site where these plates where arranged in two rows. Between these two rows a passage passed which carried running water. Whenever a soldier finished his meal, he would wash the plate with the running water for the next soldier.
We saw a broken sculpt of an elephant. Manjunath asked me to bring my ears closer to the sculpt, then knocked on the sculpture with his knuckles, a long ringing sound was audible from the sculpture. We visited a secret underground room of the palace where war tactics were discussed. Manjunath explained every aspect of the room’s design which had king’s security as a main priority. There was a secret passage from the same room just in case some one tried to break in.
We rode ahead to our next site, ‘The Lotus Mahal’. We bought our entry ticket and entered the premises and I realized why we were charged for the entry. This place was very well maintained. Everywhere I looked I could see lush green lawns, and the cleanliness was impeccable.
We were standing before the ‘Lotus Mahal’. It was a small but beautiful palace with number of dome like structured above. It is designed in Indo-Islamic architecture style. The palace was just 1 story high. Even from a distance, number of arches were visible inside the palace. Manjunath told me that this palace was reserved for royal ladies and was air-cooled. The last statement sounded little exaggerated. But then he explained what he meant. He took me closer to the palace and asked me to have a closer look on the inner wall of the dome. I could see arrangements made for the pipelines, and a broken piece of pipe was still visible. He then said that, in the morning, Queen’s servants would fill up the water reservoir on top of the dome. This water then would spiral down the pipeline. Evaporation of the water would cause the air in the dome to cool down and therefore become denser. This denser air would then move lower into the palace, and the void left behind by the cool air would then be filled up by the hot air that moved from bottom to the top in the ceiling. And this cycle would then continue. Another reason to marvel at the brilliance of architectural advancement in those times.
Very close to the ‘Lotus Mahal’ was another brilliant architectural site. We were at the ‘Elephant Stable’. This place was where the Royal elephants used to be parked. This structure was horizontal and had 11 huge domes. The central dome was of Hindu style while the remaining domes on either side were in Islamic style, a beautiful symbolic representation of the cultural and religious harmony of Vijayanagara.
After about 15-20 minutes ride we found ourselves at the underground Shiva temple. It is visible from the main road, yet it is called underground only because it is built at a lower height from the surrounding area. One has walk down series of steps to get to the sanctum. I entered the temple and could see the dark sanctum before me. Manjunath told me to walk ahead. We entered the sanctum. Shiva linga was hardly visible due to the low light. I could not walk further as the sanctum ground was below 6-7 inches of water. The statue of Nandi was deliberately moved aside so that visitors can get a good view of the ‘Shiva Linga’.
We followed a very narrow road. I had to take my bike off the road many times to make way for vehicles coming from opposite direction. Just on the corner of the road I saw a huge crowd and a big group of school kids with their teachers. We waited for the school kids to disperse after they were done taking their group photo. I had a small talk with the school teacher, she was from Pune. She told me how difficult it was to take responsibility of so many kids for the trip such as this one. No wonder, it is indeed one of the difficult tasks of a school teacher.
The place became quiet and peaceful after the school children left. I observed a square stone structure before me. It had a fence gate attached to one of the wall and the center gate of the fence was open. Manjunath and I walked near the gate. I could see a 3 meter tall ‘Shiva Linga’. The place was called ‘Badava Linga’. A canal like passage brings water to this structure from the Tungabhadra river and the ground of this place remains immersed in water throughout the year.
Next to the ‘Badava Linga’ was a magnificent sight. I saw a huge monolithic Lakshmi Narsimha sculpture. It was a 6.70 meter tall statue and was one of the most outstanding sculpture I saw in Hampi. Seeing this wheatish sculpture against a pure blue sky gave me chills. I could sense an invisible power in the air while just standing there and watching this magnificent piece of art. My mind leaped back into the the 15th century to look at the artists hammering out unwanted rock pieces of a boulder to see this hidden sculpt inside.
“Here Sir, this way”, Manjunath’s voice and a tap on my shoulder brought me back to the present world. He told me that we have to ride to the ‘Virupaksha Temple’.
As we came near the Virupaksha temple, the crowd grew bigger. I wondered, out of all the visitors coming to Hampi, how many of them come to enjoy the beauty of the nature and how many come there for pilgrimage. How many are god fearing and how many are nature loving. How many of them imagine their god resting in a rock statue and how many realize that the rock they are worshiping is a part of the Nature that is the God in the first place. And this God doesn’t expect any worship or prayers, because regardless of all the rituals, this God, the mother nature treats everyone alike. It showers its love and its wrath on everyone alike.
When I see someone praying before an idol, I see a school going kid praying before his teacher, and asks the teacher to give him good marks in exams, just because he is praying. The wise teacher never fulfills this wish and the teachers’ reply to the kids’ prayer would exactly be the same reply of the God to his worshiper, if there was a God in the idol in the first place. Behavior of a person is also called his/her ‘nature’. Is it a coincidence? I don’t really think so. The sight of a huge crowd I saw near Virupaksha Temple was answering many of my questions. I haven’t had seen such a huge crowd at any other place in Hampi.
On my left I could see the Virupaksha Temple and on the right I could see a beautiful hill, a big square shaped structure housing a big bull sculpture and series of similar but smaller and empty structures were spread on the rocky hill base. I naturally turned right, which hardly pulled any crowd, may be because the temple was in the opposite direction. I parked my bike near the big Bull statue and walked up take a closer look. The big structure with Nandi (Bull) was called ‘Eduru Basavanna’ which means a monolithic bull. The bull statue seemed incomplete as the details of eyes, ears, mouth were missing. The roof on top of the Nandi was supported by number of tall pillars. The hill behind it was called ‘Matanga Hill’. Sage Matanga was believed to have resided on this hill. Right from that spot I could see the Virupaksha on the opposite, west direction. I was having second thoughts about going to the temple. But the architecture of the temple was marvelous. Me and Manjunath climbed down and rode in the opposite direction, just to disappear in the crowd.
Neither me nor the guy on the ticket counter of the temple had exact change on us. So he allowed me a free entry into the temple. I walked through a huge entrance of the Virupaksha temple. The entrance and the temple was amazingly beautiful. The amount of detail work done on the carvings was incredible. I saw some foreigners offering fruits to monkeys and trying to take a photos with them. To me, they seemed more closer to the god than the people lined up at the temple to make offerings to the rock idols inside. Me and Manjuanth first took a walk around the temple. We went into a small room just behind the temple. Many people were coming out of the room. I wondered what was inside. I saw a dark room and on one of the wall, I could see a shadow of the temple’s upper pediment. A look on the opposite wall of the shadow revealed a small hole in the wall, looking through which I could see the upper pediment of the temple. It was a pin hole effect, which was a magic for many who entered the room when we were about to leave.
Virupaksha means ‘The One With Misformed Eye’. It symbolizes Shiva. Manjunath asked me if I would like to go into the sanctum. Seeing the huge line standing out of the sanctum, I instantly refused, though I wanted to see the paintings on the ceilings of the sanctum.
To Be Continued…