Exploring the ruins of the wealthiest city during the 15th century AD and the beautiful beaches of Gokarna…

After all that I went through 2020 or should I say “The 2020”, it had to end with a great note. My 2020 began with a trip to Kerala and ended with this 6 day trip to Hampi, Chitradurga and Gokarna.

Giving all of you the hindsight of the planning going into this trip, it began in October when one of my friend triggered a trip which was to ‘Kedarnath’. But, it was always going to be difficult to plan and execute such a trip which is almost 2000km from my home town Belagavi. The situation then, in throughout India was still very unsafe considering the pandemic. Most of our parents wouldn’t even allow to travel or plan a trip to nearby places. It was still on the cards until November end but, eventually fading off as the days, hours, minutes or even seconds passed by. And finally the inevitable happened, we had to cancel the plan and we did.

One good thing which happened during these days was suddenly the number of COVID-19 cases began to reduce and the situation began to get better. Yes, I know fortunately. Hence, me and one of my school friend Niraj thought of visiting few nearby places to our home town together and probably, within the state of Karnataka. Through heavy hesitation whether or not the trip is feasible in terms of safety and of course through loads of confusion of places to travel, we finally circled upon these 3 places. Okay, the places were finalised but not the means of transport. Owing to the cost of the fuel needed for the car, we decided not to take the private vehicle instead travel using KSRTC (Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation) buses.

We first booked the bus from Belagavi to Hospete. This was more convinient than booking the bus to Bellary since Hampi is just 13km from Hospete. It was a mere 6 hour journey and we arrived at the Hospete bus stand around 0500 hours on the morning of 25th December. But, the first bus leaving to Hampi from Hospete was at 0630 hours and we had to wait until then. Just on the opposite side of the road is a small restaurant named ‘Udupi Sri Krishna’ where we had our breakfast. It serves probably the best South Indian food in Hospete and at a very affordable price. Okay, after a good food break, our journey began.

Day 1 HAMPI (12252020): We boarded the bus to Hampi at 0700 hours and the distance of 13km cost us just INR 17 each and it took only 30 minutes to reach. We had yet to book any room for that nights stay. Upon reaching Hampi, we hired an autorickshaw and searched for a few rooms. Since, it was the time of year end, many of the rooms and hotels were already booked in prior. Hardly managed to find a good one for INR 1500 for a night and stayed there. It was already 1000 hours while we left to discover the ruins of what once was the wealthiest city in the entire world. The city where diamonds, pearls and gold were sold on the roadside. It is only one of the two cities in the world which cannot be bought to its ancient glory completely and, the other one is Pompeii. Such is the mass destruction. Due to its vastness of the ruins over such a gigantic area, and its rich heritage, history and culture, Hampi has been named as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Now then, our first stop was Big Bull temple. It is a huge monolithic sculpture of a bull, over a 2-story pavilion framed by huge pillars located in the Virupaksha Bazaar. Bull or Nandi (in local language) is the mount of Lord Shiva and it always faces the Lord Shiva shrine. Here, The Virupaksha Temple located at the opposite end the road about half a mile away.

Following the trail behind the Big Bull which is slightly an elevated area, we reached the Achyutaraya Temple complex. This was built in early 16th century in Dravidian style of architecture. This is among the last dazzling temples that were constructed in the beautiful city of Hampi prior to the decline of the Vijayanagara Empire. This temple complex is less crowded as compared to other ruins in Hampi. The main idol worshipped here is a form of Lord Vishnu. The temple walls, pillars have divine carvings and ornamentation enacting some of the forms of Lord Vishnu. All of the temples and other monuments during the Vijaynagara Empire were built using the ‘Granite’ stone, which is one of the toughest to carve/etch on. Major parts of the entire city is in damaged condition. But, even after all the barbarian act by the monarchs of Bahamani Kingdom, the ruins does not fail in grandiosity and its magnificence even today. The temple was built by Achyuta Deva Raya, younger brother of Krishna Deva Raya and is distinctly visible from atop the Matanga hill.

Continuing the trail behind this temple we came across Kodandarama temple and, as the name suggests it is dedicated to Lord Rama. It is believed that Vanara (Monkey) King Sugreeva was crowned here by Lord Rama. The next temple was Varaha temple. This temple is dedicated to Varaha (Boar) which is one of the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu and is one of the oldest of the Vijanagara Empire which was built in early 13th century. The Royal insignia of Vijayanagara comprises of 4 elements, namely, Varaha (the boar), Sun, Moon and Dagger. The next ruins which fall on the way towards the stone chariot are Purandasara Mantapa and The Kings Palace. The former is a small pillared pavilion dedicated to the legendary poet Purandaradasa who lived in Hampi located on the shores of Tungabhadra river. It is believed that he composed all of his devotional songs here. Every year a classical music concert is held in this area to celebrate the birth anniversary of this poet. The latter which is The Kings Balance is an ancient balance located South-West of Vittala temple. The balance is also known as Tula Bhara and the structure is almost intact even today. The king used to weigh himself with gold, silver, gems, precious stones and jewellery and give away those things to the priests of the temples in charity. The pillars are at a height of 15 feet from the ground and support a heavy beam which is 12 feet wide.

All these took around 120 to 150 minutes to cover. Now moving towards one of the most famous temple complex in the entire world, Vittala Temple complex which has the Stone Chariot. Located near the banks of Tungabhadra river, it is the largest structure in Hampi which is well known for its extraordinary architecture and unmatched craftsmanship. The complex has an entry fee of INR 40. The Vittala temple has iconic musical pillars. It was built during the reign of King Devaraya II in the mid 14th century and was further expanded by Krishna Deva Raya in 15th century. The Vittala Temple is also known as Shri Vijaya Vitthala Temple. It is dedicated to Lord Vitthala, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The complex covers a huge area surrounded by walls and three towering gateways or Gopuras. Other structures inside the complex are Maha Mantapa, Ranga Mantapa, Kalyana Mantapa (marriage hall), Utsava Mantapa (festival hall), and the famous Stone Chariot which is considered to be the most stunning architecture of the Vijayanagara kingdom. The chariot is dedicated to Garuda (Eagle) which is a mount of Lord Vishnu. Other notable structure is/are the 56 musical pillars of Ranga Mantapa aka. SAREGAMA pillars. Every main pillar is surrounded by 7 minor pillars. These 7 pillars emit 7 different musical notes from the representative musical instruments. The notes emanating from these pillars vary in sound quality depending on whether the instrument is a percussion, string or wind instrument. They were carved out of single pieces of resonant stone. (Source – http://www.karnataka.com)

This complex itself took around 2 hours to explore. It was about 1400 hours by the time we had our lunch at the famous restaurant in Hampi, The Mango Tree.

Coming towards the south of the Vittala temple. There are structures namely Lotus Mahal, Elephant Stable, Hazara Rama temple, Watch Tower, Queens bath, and Pushkarani.

Lotus Mahal aka. Kamal Mahal is a beautiful palace in the Zenana enclosure used by the royal women of the Vijaynagara Empire. It is a two storied palace and the design is a fine blend of Indo-Islamic style of architecture. Palace from above looks like an open lotus bud hence, the name. Elephant Stable is a gigantic building used to provide shelter to the royal elephants of the empire. It is long rectangular shaped with seven large doomed chambers which could hold 2 to 3 elephants at a time. The chambers have huge arched openings. The next on the path is the Hazara Rama temple which is dedicated to Lord Ram. Small yet one of the most beautiful temples in Hampi, built in early 15th century. Hazara meaning a thousand, the temple has around a thousand sculptures of Rama depicting the epic poem “The Ramayana”. The most unique thing about this temple is that the inner pillars of the mantapa are carved out of soap stone which you will find nowhere else in the city of Hampi or even during the Vijaynagara Empire. Watch towers around the royal enclosure were meant for guards and are built in the Indo-Islamic style. The other notable structures inside the Zenana Enclosure are the Water Pavilion and the Treasury Building. The Pushkarani is/are sacred water tanks built besides slmost all of the major temples in India. These are related to various rituals and also during the festivities. There are a total of 6 pushkaranis in Hampi and the most prominent among them is the one which is within the royal enclosure. The Pushkarani is a 5 tiered tank where each tier comprises of a few steps.

By the time we finished exploring the above mentioned structures it was already past 1800 hours. With more than 12km of walking, around 4-5km of cycling, we were tired to the core. Even though our eyes, heart and mind could take more of the sightseeing but, our legs couldn’t. We did end our day 1 here. We went back to our room, took a rest for 2 hours and then left for dinner. We just roamed around the Hampi bazaar. You really get a nice collection of arts and artefacts here.

Day 2 HAMPI (12262020): With the same curiosity but, with some fresh energy we began our exploration on the second day. We hired the bicycle again as we did on the previous day. Our first destination of the day was Anjanadri hill, the birthplace of Lord Hanuman.

Anjanadri hill lies on the other side of the Tungabhadra river. Just besides the path behind the Pushkarani of Virupaksha temple through the stream of Tungabhadra river, we hired a ferry boat which would carry our bicycles on the other side. From here, the hill is just 5-6km away. By the time we reached the foothills, it was already 1100 hours. It has precisely 567 steps to be climbed which would take another 30 minutes since the steps are bigger than normal. The climb was indeed tiresome but, the view from atop the hill was breathtaking. The entire city of Hampi is visible from here. It didn’t take more than 90 minutes to climb and get down the hill. It is advised you finish the visit of Anjanadri hill before 1430 hours on any day. Since, many reports of leopard attacks in recent have come to the notice. The hill is crowded the most on all Saturdays.

It is believed that the huge boulders seen in and around Hampi were carried by Hanuman after of battle between Ram and Ravan. These boulders were used to build the Ram Setu (bridge) between India and Lanka. The bridge is still visible today.

From here we moved towards Pampa Sarovar, which is about a km awat from the foothills of the Anjanadri. There are temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and Lakshmi facing the pond. This is the place where Shabri waited for the arrival of Lord Rama in Ramayana.

We were back into the city of Hampi by 1400 hours taking the same ferry boat. Quickly had our lunch and left for the last two hours of exploring Hampi. The first spot aafter lunch break was the Virupaksha temple. This temple is dedicated to Lord Virupaksha, a form of Shiva. It is the most holiest and the most sacred temple in Hampi. The main gopura is an astonishing 150 ft. high. There are many more temples on the right side of the Virupaksha temple. The notable among them are Dodda Ganapati temple, Sasivekalu Ganapati temple.

The final temple we visited was the Ugra Narasimha Temple. It is the largest monolith statue in Hampi.The huge structure is considered one of the most important in Hampi. It was built is early 16th century during the rule of
Krishnadevaraya. The original sculpture had a small figure of Goddess Lakshmi, consort of Narasimha, sitting on his lap. The gigantic statue was vandalized and mutilated in 1565 A.D. during the raid by the Mughals that led to the fall
of the Vijayanagara Empire. The limbs of Narasimha’s statue were broken during the attack. The figure of Lakshmi was separated from that of Narasimha. In the process of destruction, one of the hands of Goddess Lakshmi was broken and even today the broken hand of the Goddess can be seen resting on the back of Narasimha.

This was the end of our short stay in Hampi, Though we couldn’t complete all the sightseeing in one and a half day, we left with immense satisfaction, knowledge, memories gained during our stay. We left early since we had to travel to Chitradurga for our next part of the trip. We went back to our room, packed our bags and immediately left. There was already a bus waiting at the Hampi bus stop which we boarded and got down at Hospete. We had our high tea at
Hospete and boarded the bus to Chitradurga at around 1900 hours. Chitradurga is just about 130km from Hospete and we reached there before 2000 hours. The first thing which we did was to have our light dinner and book a room for that nights stay. We were fortunate enough to get a good room for INR 800, which was clean and very near to the bus stop. End of day 2, Good Night!!!…

Day 3 CHITRADURGA(12272020): Woke up to a bright Sunday morning in Chitradurga. We had only place to visit here in the city of Chitradurga which is the “Chitradurga Fort”. We had ample amount of sleep and left for the fort around 1000 hours which was just 1.5km from the lodge. The fort is open to public from 1000 hours to 1700 hours on all days.

It is also locally known as “Kallina Kote” or Stone Fortress, which is also formed of two Kannada words ‘Kallina’: “Stone” and Kote: “Fort”. Other names used in Kannada are ‘Ukkina Kote”: “Steel Fort” (metaphorically used to mean an impregnable fort), ‘Yelusuttina Kote’: “Seven Circles Fort” and ‘Chitrakal Kote’: Since, every stone is in the form which depicts a picture. (source: Wikipedia)

We hired a local guide at the entrance of the fort for INR 450. The next few sentences follows his words.

The fort was built during 11th and 13th century. But the majority of the fort was expanded during 15th and 17th century by the Nayakas of the Vijaynagara Empire. The fort covers over an area of 1500 acres. The entrance of the fort is in the form of a snake, in a zig-zag manner and not straight. This is planned and built with such intelligence so that during the attacks on the main gate, the elephants were used to cruise on ram the main door and due to this zig-zag path, the elephants are forced to reduce the speed before impact. This in turn reduces the damage on the main door. The fort has withstood 3 battles during 1760, 1770 and 1799. The walls were initially 15 to 20 feet tall. But, over the years and due to the impact of battles, environmental weathering and so many other reasons, they are now down to 10-12 feet. On our left after you enter through the gate of the fort, we saw a huge pit carved in a boulder. This was used to store the oil. It was very near to the gate since it was meant for easy access to carry out an attack on the intruders. The fort has 3 water tanks, they deployed rain water harvesting even during that time. The tanks are said to have never run on water shortage. On one of the doors near the tanks, the carving of two fishes facing to each other. This meant that the water tank is at 10-15ft. distance away from the carving. There are few temples inside the fort. The other notable spot in the fort is the ‘Onake Obawana Kindi’, the spot where she killed around 40 of Hyder Ali’s soldiers while the fort was on attack. There is also the ruined palace. We also came across a huge swing in the courtyard of Hidambeshwara and Chamundi Temples. The local guide nicely explained how the huge rocks/boulders were cut using hot water.

It usually takes at least 3-5 hour to entirely explore the fort since it requires climbing. I would advise anyone to visit during the morning hours during which the temperature will be pretty lower than during the afternoons. I was tired after exploring the fort and needed some immediate rest. We rushed back to our lodge room after having lunch and had a short nap for 2 hours. We had already booked the bus to Gokarna that night which was at 2300 hours.

So, this is it from our one day stay in Chitradurga. Will definitely visit again to explore few more places which I couldn’t this time due to time constraints. Off to Gokarna then. Bis bald!!!…

Day 4 GOKARNA (12282020): We boarded the private bus from Chitradurga at 2300 hours and reached Gokarna by around 0700 hours on 28th December. We had not booked any stay in and around Gokarna. We had thought of staying one night at the beach and remaining two days in the town. For the beach stay, we headed directly to Kudle beach. I would say we were very fortunate enough to see that the beach stay was not completely filled since, it was the time of year end of “2020”. You get variety of rooms based on your personal need over a range of INR 600 to INR 4500 per night at Kudle beach. We booked a room for that night at INR 800. Pretty decent room and a price steal I would say at that time of the year. By the time we got ourselves unloaded in the room, it was already 1100 hours. We immediately rushed to the beach and played there for almost 2 hours. Let me admit it, the Kudle beach is one of the most cleanest and the most clearest beach I have ever been to. Makes sense since it is a private beach and there is too less crowd when compared to any public beach. This was a complete rest day for us at the beach. There are various restaurants at the shore but, only non-vegetarians have a variety of options regarding the sea food. I haven’t personally tasted any sea food there, but would recommend. Our next day plan was to travel to Idagunji Ganapti Temple and Murdeshwara. And also to look for a stay inside the town. We did nothing other than spending our entire day at the beach. Saving some energy for the last two days of the trip.

Day 5 Idagunji & Murdeshwar (12292020): After having a refreshing early morning jog at the beach, we were again ready for an other adventurous day. It is easy in Gokarna to get scooter/bike on rental unlike as in Hampi. You have plenty of rental providers just opposite the Gokarna bus stand. The stand is about 6km from Kudle beach. We reached there by 1030 hours and hired a Honda Shine 125cc bike for INR 1500 for two days. The journey begins…

Idagunji is round about 65km from Gokarna town. A direct highway connecting makes the travel more easy and less tiring. The temple at Idagunji is dedicated to Lord Ganesh. The temple is open to the public on all days from 0600 hours to 1300 hours and again from 1500 hours to 2030 hours. We were both fortunate and unfortunate to be there at the temple at exactly 1301 hours. Unfortunate because we couldn’t get the proper view of the idol and fortunate because we could just have a glimpse before it was closed. One of the temple guards suggested us to have the prasadam (lunch) served at the nearby hall by the temple organisation. We did have our lunch there itself. By the time we finished our lunch it was already 1345 hours. From here we left towards Murudeshwar which is about 20km away.

On the same single highway I rode the bike at 45kmph average speed and within 40 minutes we were at the gates of Murdeshwar temple. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple is most famous for it’s Shiva statue which is 123ft. tall and is the second largest Shiva statue in the world. Statue was built by R.N. Shetty foundation over a period of 2 years. A 20-storey gopura has been built right next to the statue in the temple complex. An elevator has been installed here to provide breathtaking views of the magnificent statue to devotees. The Raja Gopura itself stands tall at 249 ft. and is the tallest Gopuram in the world. There is a Rameshwara linga at the bottom of the hill but the sanctum where it is placed is off-limits to devotees. The temple complex is surrounded by the Arabian Sea on its three sides. The view from top of the gopuram is simply awe-inspiring.

Would advise everyone to know the legend behind the linga and its appearance here. So, that was it from our trip to Idagunji and Murdeshwar. We returned back to our room at the Kudle beach around 2000 hours. Instead of having the same vegetarian dish at the beach, we had our dinner at one of the restaurants in the town. That is it from our penultimate day of the trip. Onto the sixth and last day of our trip where we will be traveling to Yana caves.

Day 6 (12302020): Final day of the trip. Thought of waking up early to travel to Yana, but couldn’t execute it. We were extremely tired. By the time we left towards Yana it was already 1030 hours. Yana caves is 50km away from Kudle beach and will take take at least 90 minutes to reach there. Yana is one of the wettest villages in the world and it is cleanest village in Karnataka and second cleanest village in India. Major tourist attraction are the two rock hills which are known as the Bhairaveshwara Shikhara and the Mohini Shikhara. The huge rocks are composed of solid black, crystalline karst limestone. Bhairaveshwara Shikhara is 120 metres (390 ft) in height, while the Mohini Shikhara, which is smaller, is 90 metres (300 ft) in height. (source: Wikipedia)

We reached the base of trekking at 1230 hours. There is a provision made for parking vehicles. It is a 1.5km trek upto the two hills which requires climbing. It takes 45-50 minutes to reach the caves from the base. The view of the rocks and the path to it is a treat to nature lovers and trekkers. A cave temple dedicated to Lord Shiva lies below these shikharas. We actually went at the wrong time because, it was 1245 hours when we started our hike. Would advise you to plan your visit during early morning hours so that the trek will be less tiring. For the amount of fat I have accumulated in my body, I took 55 minutes to reach the summit. At least 10-15 minutes slower than my friend Niraj who was accompanying me. I did relax a bit at the temple after reaching there. The view was peculiar to me. We didn’t spend too much time inside the caves, did the sightseeing soon and returned back to the parking base by 1420 hours. The trek both ways will take around 90 to 100 minutes. To refresh our body and to make up to the water loss, we drank a glass of lime soda and a glass of buttermilk each. Both were freshly prepared at the stall near the base itself. You also get variety of packed foods, chips, etc at the stall. We returned back to the beach at 2100 hours. On the way to Kudle beach we witnessed the sunset at the Om beach and spend some time there. For a change we had North Indian food for the dinner that night at the Kudle beach.

Unfortunately we didn’t had any direct bus connecting from Gokarna to Belagavi that night hence, had to spend one more night at the Kudle beach. We woke early the next morning and checked out our room by 0900 hours. Just because there wasn’t a direct bus from Gokarna to Belagavi, we had to take detour to Hubli via. Haliyal and then board a bus to Belagavi from Hubli. And until we reach our home it was almost the end of the day and as well as the year, we reached at 1830 hours. Alas!!!… the end of the trip and my blog. This happened to be my last trip and one of the most knowledgeable trips I have ever been to. Knowledge in terms of I learned about Vijaynagara Empire, their art, the temples, about the Chitradurga fort, the betrayal which led to the fall of the Nayakas, the legend behind Gokarna and Murdeshwar and many more.

And finally as I thought or suspected or the best is as I had hoped, the year “2020” did indeed end on a great note. I put a full stop to my post here and thank my friend Niraj for accompanying me. It was a great time with you, looking forward to many more.

PS: 2020 made us all learn some toughest life lessons. There goes an old saying, “All is well which ends well” and by this I personally salute all the frontline workers or I would love to say “Frontline Heroes”, without whom we all couldn’t imagine surviving the year 2020.

8 Replies to “Exploring the ruins of the wealthiest city during the 15th century AD and the beautiful beaches of Gokarna…”

  1. I absolutely love the pictures! They’re so reminiscent of the once great Vijayanagara Empire.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautifully written pabby👌👌n amazing clicks loved the way you started the blog n how your plan b actually worked out.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hampi is great and I am proud of it being from North Karnataka .It is amazing to see the detailed version of your ur blog. Keep exploring. Good work.

    Liked by 1 person

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