15th December, 2015, Tuesday
I got ready and arrived at the restaurant area by 7:30 in the morning. Sheikh had helped me with the day’s sightseeing plan and was also going to accompany me. But he had to go to a nearby village for the Guest house’s work, so he couldn’t come along. But before leaving he explained me the route and the places to visit. Mostly the places of interest around Rangapur were some temples and the Annegundi palace. I was not very much interested to visit temples but was interested to witness the archaeological and artistic glamour of the place.
After having my breakfast, I left on my bike for Annegundi palace. Anegundi was a small village just like Rangapur at a distance of about 7 kms from my guest house. The route was beautiful. It snaked through many small beautiful villages. On my left were beautiful hills with farms at the base, and the right side was covered with huge boulders most of the time. I was enjoying my journey with fresh morning sun, beautiful natural landscapes, unwinding road cutting through farms and small ponds, and was singing my favorite ‘Lucky Ali’ songs.
My bike’s odometer reading indicated that I had crossed nearly 7 kms, and I saw no signs of any village named Annegundi. I made an attempt to ask for directions to a local villager but due to language problem he could not help me. Two young boys told me to take a right turn after about a half a kilometer. As soon as I took the turn I saw a beautiful entry gate of the village. Passing through the gate revealed the hustle-bustle of the daily life in the village. Saw a big, dark and beautiful chariot with huge wooden wheels, standing near a road junction. In front of the chariot was a small structure that looked like a fountain. It was like a four oval disks kept on top of each other. I asked for Annegundi palace and three index fingers pointed in left direction. I took a left and then right and many turns after that. I noticed one peculiar thing about this village was that all the turns were perfectly perpendicular. Riding there felt like being in a 1982, block buster Hollywood movie – TRON.
I saw a man seated in a veranda of a beautiful house with sloping roof. Luckily this guy replied in English. He gave me directions for the palace but also advised against going there as the palace was closed for tourists due to repair works. I thanked him not only for directions but also for replying in a common language. I turned back and exited the village.
Next up in the plan, as suggested by Sheikh, was ‘Pampa Sarovar’ but I went through the photos of the spot in the book, and I didn’t find anything attractive there, so I decided to skip it. Then there was ‘Durga Temple’ too. I wasn’t sure if I should really go to these temples. But while passing by, I looked at the temple up on the hill and felt like giving it a shot. I took a left turn and followed the road going up to the temple. What happened next was the most embarrassing, yet most funny episode of the trip.
I was walking on steps painted in alternating white and red strips. The temple was not much far, it was within my eyesight. I wondered where I have to remove my footwear as I was unable to read the signs written around on the boulders and walls. I was shooting a footage of my own shadow while climbing the steps. I arrived at a white door and saw three men. I asked them where I have to remove my footwear, they said I can go further in and can remove the footwear right in front of the Durga Temple. I walked in and saw large blocks of stones, painted in bright white stacked up on top each other. This setup was on both the sides for a little distance. Then I saw the temple. A tree stood right in the front of the temple and had colorful bundles of cloth tied all over the branches. I removed my shoes in front of the temple and realized I could not enter the temple. There was a big group of people consisting of men, women and kids seated on the floor with their hands folded. Two priests were singing devotional songs for the goddess and the crowd was swaying their bodies with the rhythm of the song. One kid turned and looked at me, then he mumbled something to his mother. And before I knew it, many among them were looking at me, while still swaying with the song. I felt embarrassed and had no clue why I was getting such attention. I decided to walk around the temple to explore the vicinity.
I saw no reason why this temple was a tourist attraction. The temple was definitely not ancient. It was a normal, regular temple that we see everyday. I could not understand why Sheikh suggested this place. I was back in front of the temple. Gladly the whole crowd was looking up front at the idol of the goddess. The priests were still singing. I felt like capturing that event on my action camera. I started recording. One by one head started turning again. I became the center of the attention again. I froze, my whole body went stiff, only my right hand moved to press the ‘Stop Recording’ button on the camera. I really tried hard to understand the reason for attracting so much attention. Was it my costume? Or my camera? Or else I failed to read a signboard before entering the temple that said, ‘Tall guys, wearing short trousers and carrying an action camera, are not allowed inside the temple……… – By Order’. As far as shooting was concerned, I was pretty sure that wasn’t an issue. I had seen few men shooting a video of their families sitting on the temple floor. You know sometimes you get that feeling that you are at a wrong place at a wrong time? Well, it was precisely that wrong place and exactly that wrong time, for the reasons I didn’t even know.
Just a day before, while exploring ruins of Hampi, my imaginative mind had showed me 15th century people living in the glorious days of the place while I was walking through. But today I was getting looked at in the same manner a 15th century crowd would look at a guy from the 21st century. That was it. That was the most embarrassing moment for me, so I decided to walk out from there. As I was about to step out of the entry gate I was tempted to look back to check if the people were still looking at me and guess what…………
I didn’t look back. I walked straight down from there. One guy asked for a lift as I started the bike. He wanted a drop on the main street. While riding down I had a good conversation with the guy. When he got down from the bike I asked him for his recommendation for my next site. He advised me to go to the ‘Anjaniparvat’. He also told me that Anjaniparvat is a birthplace of Lord Hanuman. It was named after his mother ‘Anjani’ who resided on the hill. I shook hands with him and bid goodbye.
‘Another temple, that too with 580 steps? No way, I’m not going there’, I thought to myself as I rode back to the guest house. Anjaniparvat was right on my way to the guest house. After the embarrassing experience at the Durga Temple, I decided to skip the Anjaniparvat and go straight to the guest house.
I was climbing the steps of the Anjaniparvat. I had read about the Anjaniparvat in the book I had bought at the ‘Queens Bath’ and also in one of the travelogue I had read while planning this trip. I was aware that the view from the top was amazing and also due to the historical significance of the place, I unknowingly turned towards this place and found myself climbing the grueling 580 steps in the scorching sun. The steps were deserted. I saw no one for a very long time. Then after a while I saw some people coming down and a lady climbing all the 580 steps on her knees.
The concrete steps had about a meter tall side wall, painted in saffron color and each vertical face of the sidewalls had ‘Shri Ram’ written on it in white. After many turns on the steps I came across huge boulders right in the way. The steps dissappered beneath the boulders. I ducked to have a look and saw a man coming out from there. I crawled underneath the boulders and came out on the other side. A Sadhu (Hindu ascetic) was seated on the sidewall. He smiled and asked me if I had drinking water. I had bought two bottles before starting the climb. I took out one bottle from my bag and gave it to the Sadhu. He opened it, washed his hands with it and gave it back. “That’s it? don’t you want to drink water?”, I asked him, to which he said “No”. I sat there talking to him for a while. I wanted to catch my breath before continuing further. After about 15 minutes I started again, and in next 15 minutes I was on the top.
The view from the top was indeed great, just like I had seen in the book. The blue sky was looking beautiful, and countless sun bathing boulders, hills, temples, rivers and ruins disappeared into the horizon into the blue mist.
I read about the history and significance of the place written (in very poor grammar) on the wall of the temple. I went in the dark temple. saw few priests and sages resting there. The temple had many rooms dedicated to many gods and godesses. One of the large hall had Ram and Sita’s idols. A priest was seated right in the front, with his legs folded and was reading verses from Ramayana. The priests’ sound was echoing in the temple. It felt peaceful there. I rested my back on a wall and sat there for next half an hour.
While going down I sat with the Sadhu again and had a really long discussion with him about our views of the mythology. As I expected our views did not match with each other, yet we both heard each other out, every single word of it. Having disagreement with someone is not wrong, what’s wrong is stating our views in such a way that it offends the other persons views and beliefs. Believing that our views are always right is a sign of egoism. Thankfully, travelling let me meet with so many people I can agree with and so many I disagree with, and it also teaches me how to be receptive for all kinds of views. Unless we learn this art, we will always remain in the shadows of ignorance. My conversation with the sadhu will go down on my memory lane with the same humility. It was a good experience chatting with him. I was feeling hungry. I rode straight to the guest house from the Anjaniparvat.
While having lunch I was feeling sad that it was my last day in Hampi. I wish I had stayed longer to explore this place even more. I knew for sure that I was going to come back to Hampi once again. This place had already earned a special place in my mind and heart.
“Sir, you had told me that you wanted a ride of Korakal in the like, right? Do you want to go for it? I’m free now, I can come with you”, Sheikh told me. I didn’t realize when he came as I was lost in my own thoughts. I jumped at the idea. It would be really great to have one more adventurous experience in Hampi before I leave.
We met Moses, the Korakel owner in the lake. He was the same guy who had taken Aditya for camping across to the opposite shore of the lake during the meteor shower night. I asked him how much the ride would cost. He said 150 ₹ per head. I told Sheikh to hop in to which he said, “Sir, you go, I’ve taken ride many times. It’s not a new thing for me. You enjoy the ride”.
“He’s lying, he hasn’t taken ride in Korakel, I’m sure of it”, Moses said.
I realized what was going on. I said, “Come on Sheikh, don’t worry about the money. I’m paying for you. You’ve been very helpful to me, please allow me this favor to you. Now jump in”. Sheikh smiled and sat in the Korakel.
Moses and Sheikh knew each other very well, I guessed by the way they were speaking to each other. In such a small town everyone knows everyone else. Sheikh asked Moses if he can take the oar to ride the Korakel, Moses agreed and handed him over the oar. It must be difficult to steer that round boat with a single row. Even by following Moses’ instruction, Sheikh was having trouble propelling the boat. Moses took the oar back in his hand and propelled the boat with strong strokes in the water. As the Korakal left the shore, everything went silent. I could hear only splashing water all around me. It was a calm and pleasant ride. The place looked even more beautiful from the middle of the lake. Moses showed me the shore where he had gone for camping with Aditya. A family of foreigners were having fun swimming in the lake at the same spot. I saw a man diving into the lake from a boulder on the lake shore. Many had lost their GoPro camera’s in the lake in the past, when they had tried to capture the similar dives with it. Moses had found four such GoPro’s in the lake almost a year later while swimming and had parceled it back to their respective owners. Moses stopped rowing, Korakal stopped moving. We all just sat there enjoying the beautiful nature. I was observing the rhythm of the swaying of the boat and the sound of the splashing water. Our planet is so beautiful. I wish I get to explore the entire planet in this lifetime. It’s a long shot, and a huge dream, I thought.
By the time we came back to the shore, I had earned one more friend in this trip besides Sheikh. It was Moses. He was a nice guy and I had a good memorable conversation with him and Sheikh during the Korakel ride.
After the Korakal ride, Sheikh showed me the Hampi market area which was a very busy market with many hotels and guest houses. It appeared like a mini Goa with abundance of foreigners roaming around. By the river side we spotted a crew shooting for a Hollywood movie. The Virupaksha Temple looked beautiful from the other side of the river. Hundreds of people were taking a boat to go across the river to The Virupaksha Temple. The temple steps looked beautiful next to the river Tungabhadra. As it started getting dark I thought It was time to call it a day, go back and pack the bags for the next journey.
While riding back to the guest house, I reflected back on the memories of the last three days. This place offered me so much. This place was so damn beautiful………
End of Day 4