After an overnight train (during which an Indian grandmother who didn’t speak a word of English but admired my knitting decided to adopt me and kept force feeding me bananas for breakfast) and a quick rickshaw ride, I arrived in Hampi. It’s starting to look just like I imagine south India – perfect blue skies, bright green paddy fields and palm trees and ancient temples dotted in between. Hampi is also in the middle of a very strange landscape covered with so many boulders that from a height it looks like a vast gravel pile.
It’s getting to be quite a backpacker hub – in early October I still didn’t really see that many people about, but I saw evidence of the creeping Westernisation in the restaurants. This is supposed to be an active religious hub and as such there is no meat and no alcohol. I had to ask when trying to interpret a menu what ‘huhn’ was. Apparently it’s chicken. When I asked about it I was told ‘yes, it is illegal, but it’s what the tourists want’. I chose not to partake of the illegal chicken. (They also openly had fish on the menu, so I had to fight back my Fish Are Friends, Not Food impulse which tends to pop up every time someone says they choose not to eat meat, apparently believing that fish are a kind of vegetable) The couple on the table next to me were drinking not-on-the-menu beer, and I decided not to ask what was in the special tea, but given how much my waiter was giggling I could probably guess.
The only temple still in use in Hampi is the Virupaksha temple, right next to Hampi bazaar. There’s one small room off a side wall (which is very easy to miss) that has a tiny chink in the wall which creates a kind of pinhole camera, projecting an upside down image of the gate tower onto the opposite wall.
I spent the next day visiting the main sights (the only day I had here – it would have been nice to amble around some of the smaller sites as well, but my time on my own is running short!), including the Elephant Stables! (no elephants), the Queen’s Bath! (no bathwater) and the Underground Shiva Temple! (just foundations so not really underground)
I have zero explanation for this. At first glance it looked like another pile of rubbish, but on closer inspection it’s actually lots of little bundles of rocks or sticks tied up in fabric or plastic bags and attached to the vines of a banyan tree. It reminds me of home a little bit – where I used to live there was a similarly explanation-free tree covered in pairs of shoes…
The main sight here is the Vittala temple – a collection of shrines covered all over with carvings. There are some hollow pillars here which make notes when you hit them (but the hordes of rambunctious tourists aren’t allowed near them any more), and a big stone chariot in the centre with wheels which allegedly used to be able to spin, back in the good old days.
There was also a film crew here when I arrived, which sounded terribly exciting until I realised they were only filming one very short section to cut into a longer dance scene, so I got treated to the same ten seconds of music over and over again. Still, if you happen to see a Bollywood movie where a dashing leading man in a flowery shirt and some very fetching green trousers prances round the ruins of Hampi, well, you heard it here first.