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?