It was some ten years ago now on the beaches of Goa not long into my first visit to India. He was a memorable character so I remember the conversation with him well. I was a India greenhorn. He was anything but – he’d spent most of his vagabonding days in the country. He had one particular piece of advice for me. “You gotta go to Hampi” I was told. He said it more than a few times. Well, it has taken a decade & three visits to the country but I finally took his advice. I finally made it to Hampi. And it was worth the wait.
Hampi itself is nothing more than a village in the north of the Indian state of Karnataka. While it’s fair to say the village itself is nondescript, it’s location within the ruins of Vijayanagara, the capital of the 15th century Hindu Vijayanagar empire, & surrounded by a hot, truly bizarre landscape terrain of banana plantations & rock expanses dotted with gravity-defying boulders. Oh & there’s also some 500+ ruins of the Vijayanagar empire, about 10% of which were collectively inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1986 as the Group of Monuments at Hampi. It’s a scene that is quite hard to describe in words and even harder to portray in images.
A strange sort of place is Hampi. You can either come here and exhaust yourself ogling at huge gravity-defying boulders & traipsing around 15th century ruins in 35+ degree Celsius heat. Or you can go the other extreme and do nothing from one end of the day to the other except drink banana lassi after banana lassi in any number of laid-back rooftop restaurants. After a days here of lounging & photographing -the landscape, the rocks (the ones carved by man & by nature), the temples & ruins, the monkeys, & the sunrises/sunsets – I think I got the mix just right.
Of the 500+ ruins in the vast Hampi region, about one-tenth of the ruins have attained UNESCO World Heritage status – UNESCO first recgonised the importance of Hampi back in 1986. However, having unrestricted, unmonitored access to all Hampi ruins shows that the Indians entrusted with protecting them (I’m assuming there are some) really haven’t grasped the concept of preservation for the ages just yet.
– UNESCO’s introduction to the Group of Monuments at Hampi