Monday, August 31, 2015

Rain in the Ruins [Part 2]

First read the Part 1 before continuing here.

That was basically our first day at Hampi, now let me start with the details of Day 2. One of the auto drivers had promised that he would be taking us to the Anjanadri temple in the morning. This place is considered to be the birth place of Lord Hanuman whose mother is Anjana. He wanted us to see the temple and the Sun rising from the mountains. After climbing 575+5 steps (he had claimed 575) to reach the temple, we realized that we were late for the sunrise by 10-15 minutes. The first rays of the Sun had already brightened the Earth.

Late for Sunrise   Anjanadri temple

But we did enjoy standing atop the mountains and watching the ruins of Hampi. We met many monkeys here.

Monkeys enjoying   Monkeys shrugging away

There were monkeys of all kinds as expected. No, I didn’t expect anything of such sort. Of course not. Who do you think I’m? A primatologist? Or maybe I’m. Most of the monkeys were young and naughty (I like naughty ones). Some were mothers teaching their kids. Some were old and a few of them were handicapped. A monkey and I sort of connected emotionally and we spoke to each other for a while. I guess he tried telling me his hardships and I could do nothing but listen. I wonder sometimes why my mum was always scared if I would pick up kids from the street and call them my siblings.

Discussing hardships

While I was doing this serious discussion, He and Marcos were doing wonderful photography on the mountains. They were also jumping from one mountain to the other, meditating, exercising, taking pictures and discussing Physics (maybe not!). To me, it was a nice noise in the background.

Meditating   Taking pictures

Panoramic view from Anjanadri hilltop

We came back from the temple and finished our breakfast with a few monkeys roaming around the shed where the breakfast was being served. The plan for the rest of the day was to go to Badami, Pattadakal and Aihole. We had requested a taxi to take us to these places. It arrived so late to pick us up that by that time, we had roamed around the hotel at least twice. There were fountains, a lake and an empty swimming pool. And a lot of monkeys who chased us all the time (as if you needed reminding of them any more).

Water fountain

Leaf house

Scared to walk

It was very hot when we started our day but our taxi driver was quite entertaining and he didn’t allow us time to think of the heat. He told me that he is a huge fan of Salman Khan (have heard of his huge fan following but after listening to him, felt it too!) and watches his movies many times and he was looking forward to ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’. What a masala Hindi movie that is but I liked it. Smile Both of us recalled all the good Hindi movies from the 90’s. He spoke in a very funny accented Hindi (dialect). He asked me who this foreigner was (looking at Marcos), what was he doing with us and whether he was married and had children. I guess he wanted to share his personal story, the fact that he was married and had a daughter. He had a very nice collection of songs in his taxi. He handed over a small remote asking me to change the songs whenever I find them boring. And so, in a short time (it felt that way), we reached Badami.

A Salman Khan fan

After a quick lunch, we headed towards the famous cave temples of Badami. The caves were divided into four regions and were carved out of Sandstone. It was necessary to climb stairs to get to the caves in each region. The first (lowest) cave was dedicated to Lord Shiva and his beautiful incarnation as Nataraja. The next cave was dedicated to Lord Vishnu.

Inside cave 1   Cave 2 (probably)

Dharmesh and I didn’t climb up after these first two caves as we felt too full after lunch. We sat there enjoying the games those omni-present monkeys were playing and the lake situated beside this unique temple.

Monkey - Planning   Monkey - Analyzing

Lake near Badami caves

Marcos went ahead to the caves higher up and came back to report that the 3rd cave was again dedicated to Shiva and Vishnu but the 4th one was dedicated to Jainism. It apparently has one of the oldest Jain monuments from 6th-7th century. He was treated like a celebrity here too and people asked us to take their photos with him.

Inside cave 3 (?)   Inside cave 4 (Paraswanath?)

We then left for Pattadakal. After a bumpy ride to the place, we reached a group of temples there. We were able to comprehend and appreciate the differences between Hampi, Badami and Pattadakal’s architecture by now. It was interesting to know how the architecture changed with each passing city.

Wondering me   One of the many temples in Pattadakal

Panoramic view of Pattadakal temples

It goes without saying that we had some light-hearted moments here too… Have a look at what Dharmesh was doing here:

Open air house   Trying to hide in a stone house

As you can see, we were going inside and coming out of different temples when all of a sudden the weather changed and it started raining in the ruins (again!) of Pattadakal. We waited for a long time inside one of the temples for the rain to stop but it didn’t so we dashed for the exit and got drenched. At least our driver was smart enough to bring the taxi right in front of the gate when he saw us running towards it.

We did pass through Aihole but there was no time left to go inside the temples so we just admired them from outside. We had a simple dinner on our way back to the hotel in a highway-side restaurant, which didn’t have anything substantial on offer apart from rice! But it had A/C and we didn’t have much of an appetite so we had whatever they could arrange and landed in our hotel a bit late. We agreed we had a great time (partly thanks to the driver; more of his contributions coming up in Part 3!) and that now was a good time to sleep marking the end of our second day at Hampi.

A very special dedication to the squirrels at the Anjanadri temple:

Adorable Squirrel   Attentive Squirrel

Animated Squirrel

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Rain in the Ruins [Part 1]

This India trip of 2015 was different than the previous ones because it had a slightly different agenda. It was not just us going back to the homeland, we had too many things to do – attend a conference, go to regular office job, go for a small trip with a friend, look at properties along with parents, and then travel to Rajasthan. The best part was we were going to stay in Bangalore, the place I like the most in India. Other than the fact that Bangalore is located in the south of India, I don’t have a deep childhood connection with it. When I first moved to Bangalore in 2009 for my internship, I realized why is it called the ‘Pensioner’s Paradise’. We didn’t need fans then for most of the year because the weather was brilliant (not too sunny, rains once every two days, light breeze in the evenings and cool nights).

Our plan was to stay in Bangalore for the first 2 weeks where I would work from my old office and He would attend the Strings 2015 Conference at IISc. We had booked a service apartment in Indira Nagar but it turned out to be a complete mess when we landed there. The place was totally different from the pictures on their website. Luckily, something changed the heart of these service apartment owners when we said that we wish to leave. They arranged for a better apartment but quite far in Kundanahalli. Thanks to our stay in almost the other side of the city, He learnt about every nook and corner of Bangalore by the end of our stay. [Edit: She is obviously exaggerating.]

While we were planning which place to visit for a trip with His friend (& collaborator from SBU), Goa or the backwaters in Kerala came across as the obvious choices. Mountains, beaches or greenery are what we generally look for in holidays but we wanted to explore something different this time. So we chose Hampi and it didn’t disappoint us. And thus the trip began with me, Him, and Marcos travelling by train to Hospet railway station. This railway station is just about 15 Km from the main Virupaksha temple of Hampi. It was enjoyable travelling in the train as we discussed cultures and countries, all the way to our destination. The small town of Hampi is basically divided into two regions – on the left and right sides of River Tungabhadra.

River Tungabhadra

The auto (a 3 wheeler popular in India for transporting people and goods) dropped us on one side of the river and we had to catch a ferry to reach the other side. For someone who knew swimming, it was like participating in a 500m freestyle swimming competition. It took us just about 5 minutes to reach the other side. Then we went to our hotel where we had booked two cottages.

The Cottages  Cottages through a filter

The auto drivers in Hampi spoke to us in English and helped us plan our trips while we were there. The autos were particularly large and comfortable in Hampi and it was fun watching the thousand odd ruins of Hampi while enjoying the auto rides. The place is declared as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. Many of the temples that we see today are parts of ongoing excavations and they have been renovated to stand tall and survive the present weather conditions. It was particularly hot during the day, so I’m not sure if we visited Hampi during the right time of the year. But we could still see tourists wherever we went.

Auto rickshaw

The auto driver we hired on our first day was called Raghu (photo of his auto above) and the first big temple that we visited was the ‘Krishna temple’ built during the reign of Krishnadevaraya. He told us that the temple was destroyed when the Mughals attacked the city in 16th century and asked us to look out for damages done by the firearms. Dharmesh hypothesized that the small rooms that we saw closer to the main building could be the homes for the priests and/or temporary residences for guests/visitors. The art was profound and beautiful – Gods, women, men, soldiers, children indulging in different kinds of activities.

Krishna temple

On our way to the next big place, Vittala temple, we saw an underground Shiva temple and a Jain temple named Gangitti. We agreed to enter the Jain temple on our way back from Vittala temple. The autos drop you at least 1.5 Km away from the main temple and you are supposed to either walk or take a bus. We walked our way to the temple stopping at the Queen’s bathing area named Pushkarani, and a smaller one for the maids.

Pushkarani Tank

We saw many small excavations happening as we walked towards the temple. Two boys came running asking for food when they figured out that I was carrying a bag with some bottles and boxes. I wondered if their pastime was to catch tourists like us.

Sweets & children

Vittala temple was a pleasant sight to the eyes. There was a chariot with a chakra depicting our imaginations from the Ramayana/Mahabharata. There was a main temple and many sub-temples with interesting carvings on them. He and Marcos did some good photography here while I simply observed the surrounding beauty.

Vittala temple

There were also many light-hearted moments… Follow the pictures below to witness one Smile:

Facing away  Facing up  Facing towards

We took the bus while returning back and our auto driver was patiently waiting for us. As planned, we went inside the Gangitti Jain temple. The temple is of the 17th Tirthankar, Lord Kunthunath (out of the 24 Tirthankars and 24th is Lord Mahavir) as believed among Jains. It was a small place with a small but well-kept garden. We spotted an injured cat outside the temple who jumped towards the garden after seeing us.

Gangitti Jain temple

We were generally inquiring about the crops which are cultivated in Hampi and Raghu told us that sugarcane and paddy are mainly grown in the region. He showed us the paddy fields and asked us to go near them and enjoy the greenery. We discussed the process of rice cultivation and after all that learning, we went to have our lunch.

Exploring paddy fields

When we came out of the restaurant, we realized how abruptly weather changes in Hampi. Half an hour ago what looked like a bright sunny day was now a dark rainy day. We waited for the rain to stop while Marcos was treated like a celebrity by the children of the neighborhood and they took pictures with him.

Raghu took us to the Hazari Rama temple after this. There was a huge lawn surrounding the main temple. The black stone pillars in the main hall of the temple were special and apparently brought from Warangal. After wandering around this temple, we sat on a large rock in the lawns and enjoyed the beautiful weather of Hampi.

Lady among the ruins :)

We went to Lotus Palace next which was quite huge. We saw many royal buildings (or whatever was left of them), cows crossing through the lawns and vendors selling coconuts. Me and Him had coconut water here and Marcos even tried coconut flesh.

Lotus Palace

Using Marcos' unknown filter

After a while, we made our move (like the cows above) to the next destination – Lakshmi Narasimha and Badaviling temples.

Lakshmi Narasimha temple  Badaviling temple

I am a huge fan of stories from Mythology and would like to take a bit of your time to explain the story of the Narasimha avatar. [Comment: As if the post is already not 3-days long!] Going a step back, Vishnu – one of the three supreme deities as per Hinduism – the “God of protection” takes different avatars (incarnations) to rescue humans from all sorts of evil. This is to reiterate to the world that “Good always wins. It may take longer but good prevails at the end”. Coming back to the story, there was an immortal king [Explanation: Immortal in the sense that he couldn’t be killed by ordinary humans, animals, gods or demons, during night or day, inside or outside of his palace, on Earth or in the Sky and other such various ‘conditions’!] named Hiranyakashyap who was very cruel to his population. He had a son named Prahalad who worshipped Lord Vishnu and Hiranyakashyap hated that. He tried to poison, burn and drown his own child but all in vain because Lord Vishnu always helped Prahalad. As the last attempt, Hiranyakashyap heated a big iron pillar and asked his son to embrace the same. At that time, Lord Vishnu appeared in the form of Narasimha (half man, half lion) and killed Hiranyakashyap. [Loopholes were found in all previously mentioned conditions, like it was dusk when he was killed on the lap of Narashimha at the door (threshold) of his palace, etc.] Prahalad was blessed by Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Vishnu and he became the next ruler of the kingdom.

We next went to see the famous Virupaksha Temple. Raghu told us that one is not supposed to leave Hampi before visiting this temple. ‘Seeing is believing’ and I can’t explain how amazing an architecture is of this temple. It was pretty late in the evening when we went inside the temple but we were able to take some great photos.

Virupaksha temple

Us @ Virupaksha temple

After thanking Raghu for a great day, we started walking towards the river bank to go back to our cottage. Guess what – it started raining again. Not just raining, raining cats & dogs! We took refuge under ruins of a small temple (hence the title of the post, realized? Winking smile Actually, He had already mentioned this phrase at the breakfast table in the morning and I couldn’t stop myself from beating the hell out of him in that rain for His spot-on premonition. That’s also when He (we) decided to call this series of posts the same!) and enjoyed the rain from there. The topic of discussion among Dharmesh and Marcos was ‘Who will get more wet – a man running in the rain or one walking in the rain?’ I wondered why I never thought of rains this way. Anyways, it was a delight listening to the Physicists. The interesting parameters in the discussion were the angle at which the rain was falling, the size of water droplets, etc.

Refuge from rain near Virupaksha temple

If you want to read more about our mini adventures at Hampi, look out for the Part 2 of this series. Till then enjoy the photos in this post. Smile

This photo appears earlier in the post... Guess which one?