Ruins & Boulders: Welcome to Hampi, India
Hampi is like going to Rome or Ephesus in Turkey but without the crowds. You can walk through, sit on, stand next to and deface (as some teenagers have done with devotions of love, Sanjay + Meera = forever) the traces of kingdoms past. Crumbling temples, dissolving bazaars, and worn squares greet you behind every turn and wide open space.
While the ruins of Hampi are not as old as those of Rome, dating back only to around 1400, they are almost as exciting. Not for the preservation of them but for the vast quantities – over 3700 ruins dot the bouldered landscape of the region. You can’t walk 500 ft in any direction without literally tripping over a remenant of the once mighty people who ruled these lands. Hampi is an archeologist, architect and historians fantasy realized.
In addition to the man made Disney attractions, Hampi is also blessed with huge gobs of boulders. The Hampi boulders are world famous although not quite as marvelous as the ones in Cappadocia. They sit on hillsides like mounds of clay and turn from steel gray to saffron as the day lingers on. To further add to this bucolic charm is the Tungabhadra river that snakes through the valley providing an oasis for the dry, crackling earth. It’s no wonder UNESCO finally made Hampi a world heritage site in 2012.
A sad outcome of the UNESCO designation was the bulldozing of several homes and shops that had crept on top of the ruins in the old bazaar. Many woke up to see their livelihoods demolished looking like the ancient remains among them. That’s what India calls progress, I guess.
The town itself is still rather rough around the edges basically catering to the pilgrims from Israel and the lookie lous from the West. Most is the local Indian culture is being slowly being sucked away replaced with garish t-shirt shops and travel offices. Luckily, their are some nuggets of pure Indian-ness left in the narrow alleyways.
With its shanti atmosphere, some stay for 2-3 days but you could easily make it 10 and not have captured all the charm or seen all the ancient history this place has to offer.
Note: With so many ruins, you have to pick and choose the best. Several notable ones can be walked to from Hampi Bazaar (No tour guide needed): Virupakska Temple, Vittal Temple, Achutaraya Temple. Others in the photos below are 2 km from the bazaar. Take a rickshaw or rent a bicycle; they include Lotus Mahal, Elephant Stable, Queen’s Bath & Watchtower.