I had always heard my parents talk about how beautiful the ruins of Hampi were. And it was quite sad that after living in Karnataka for the past 25 years, I’ve never once visited these gorgeous heritage sites. Of all that I’ve heard about this mystic land, nothing, and I mean nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to see.
So, one fine Thursday as I was stuck in one of those numerous traffic jams that Bangalore is well famous for, I decided that I was honestly tired of the monotony. I realized that I needed more than just a break, I needed fresh air, I needed something spontaneous, I needed an adventure. I then quickly mapped out the possibilities of where I could head over the weekend. I called up my favorite adventure community, TrekNomads, these guys have been organizing treks and helping fellow travelers explore parts of the country. They told me that since I’ve already been to most places in Karnataka, I should cover the Hampi, Badami, Aihole and Pattadakal circuit this time.
|The gorgeous weather made the auto ride just twice more interesting.|
I was quite surprised if I could complete this belt as Hampi and Badami aren’t very close in distance. I was reassured that this is an easy getaway and safe at that. They mapped out an itinerary and also helped me book my stay at Hampi.
The plan was to leave from Bangalore on Friday night and reach Badami early that morning, Badami, Aihole, and Pattadakal were all in the proximity of 35 kilometers, which meant that traveling to all these places was not that difficult.
After a hearty breakfast at Badami, I spoke to one of the rickshaw drivers and he agreed to take me to all of these places and drop me back at the station by 5 pm. After about 10 minutes of bargaining, he agreed to a base charge of INR 550. Although too much for a half a day trip, I saw no harm in going forward with this.
I boarded my auto and headed towards Shri Mahakuteshwara Temple. These group of temples was constructed in the 6th and 7th Century by the Chalukya Dynasty of Badami. The Dravidian style of architecture is very prominent here. While I did not spend a lot of time at this temple, I did manage to get a few good clicks.
My next stop was Aihole. Aihole forms a group of 125 stone temples, these temples form the cradle of Hindu Stone Architecture in India. Built somewhere in 5th Century, Aihole was the then capital of Chalukya Dynasty. Due to time constraint, I could only visit the Durga Temple complex, this site also has a historic, archaeological museum that you can check out (recommended even for the non-history buffs such as myself).
|The Durga Temple at Aihole|
Interestingly, Aihole is in the long pending list to make it to UNESCOs World Heritage Site, this was told to me by my Auto driver, when I googled it up, I found it to be true, talk about gaining knowledge through word of mouth.
|The beautiful passageway, the carvings remain intact depicting ancient Hindu mythology|
|Smaller temples in the complex|
It started raining by the time I was done exploring these mystic stone monuments and I don’t know if it was the rain, the calm or the beautiful surroundings, I finally felt at peace. That being said, my very organized driver came in to remind me that we were running late. And so we headed out to our next destination, Pattadakal.
|Pattadakal or commonly known in Kannada as Pattadakallu|
|The entrance to the main temple complex|
Located about 14 kilometers from Aihole, Pattadakal, a group of Hindu (Shiva) and Jain Temples is a UNESCO World Heritage Site built back in 6th and 7th Century. The contrasting colors of the green grass and the brown stone temples are a sight to behold the minute you step foot in Pattadakal. These temples reminded me of Angkor Wat, another World Heritage Site we visited earlier this year, courtesy TrekNomads.
|A closer view of the carvings on the walls of the main temple|
|There are smaller temples in the premises that are an ode to the other Gods|
This breathtaking site easily spans up to two times the size of a football ground and the art here is just majestic, giving you a great glimpse of the magnificent Chola Architecture.
|The main temple in the Pattadakal premises|
I took about an hour easily just strolling through and exploring these monuments. Once out, I was reminded by my driver that I must be hungry as it was lunch time, just then, a couple of ladies asked me to try out the staple Bajra Roti, beans, pickled cucumbers and some gunpowder. After figuring out that this was my only chance at eating something until I board the train, I ate what they offered. To my surprise, I loved every bit of it. I also bought a bottle of “Taak” and left for Badami.
|The staple meal. I enjoyed every morsel|
The weather all through the way was just beautiful. Calm, breezy, and rainy at times. And the drive back to Badami was even better, just because of this.
Well, what can I say about Badami that hasn’t already been said before, Badami which is derived from the word Badam = almond, is temples carved out of hills sourced by soft red sandstone. The once mighty capital of Chalukya rulers, this capital was established in 540 AD. The rock caves were cut out and sculpted mostly between 6th and 8th Century.
|One of the caves in Badami|
The complex consists of four different caves of Hindu, Jain and Buddhist deities. The columns are lavishly and intricately carved depicting stories and faint traces of gorgeous murals. Each cave is supported by massively carved pillars and exquisitely streaked stony entrance that leads to a verandah and then the main temple which forms the womb of these caves.
|One of the carvings in the cave|
You can also notice that there are inscriptions in Kannada and Sanskrit dating back to almost 534 AD. Only can only wonder how beautiful these soft red sandstone carvings must’ve been back in the days.
The view from the top is absolutely mesmerizing giving you a nice peek of the town below and the Bhutanatha Temple surrounded by the gorgeous emerald lake.
|The emerald lake and the Badami Caves from the entrance of the Bhutanatha Temple|
|The Bhutanatha Temple, the water from the lake had dried up when I visited|
|The hills surrounding Badami|
After spending about 10-15 minutes at the Bhutanatha Temple, I asked my driver to drop me to the train station as I was keen on heading to Hampi that same night. Now as weird as this sounds, I was quite new to the Indian Railway System, thankfully, TrekNomads helped me figure out that I was supposed to board the general class train from Badami to Hospet with a change of train at Gadag and then reach Hospet.
The train to Hospet was late by an hour and so I sat there, just enjoying the view from this very secluded train station. I boarded my train finally, after an hour and was joined by a couple of daily wage workers, a teacher, and two bank staff members, it was quite a strange thing, here we were, 6 people with absolutely nothing in common having a great discussion about life, love and experiences. I think that’s the thing about journeys, it doesn’t really matter who you are, or where you come from, the stories you have can help you make friends, anywhere in the world.
After a rather tiresome journey, I reached Hospet at 11 pm. Hampi is located at a distance of 14 Kilometers from Hospet and getting there was my main concern. As a solo traveler and a female traveler at that, I was pretty worried about how I would get to Hampi. Thankfully, again, TrekNomads made sure the guest house I was staying had arranged transportation from Hospet to Hampi. I boarded my auto and headed to Hampi. Now the drive from Hospet to Hampi was just spellbindingly beautiful, we crossed paddy fields, all drenched in the pale moonlight was definitely a sight to behold. I reached the guest house at 12 am, now my main priority was to catch the sunrise from the Matanga Hill in Hampi, so I asked Gopi, my host to help me figure out the way to Matanga Hill, surprisingly it was a five-minute walk from the guest house, not so surprisingly it rained the next morning and destroyed my chances of catching the sunrise.
After lazing around in the bed for what felt like forever, I decided to head out for breakfast, the weather was just perfect, cloudy yet sunny enough. My first stop was the Virupaksha Temple.
|The entrance to the Virupaksha Temple|
As I walked towards the temple, I was awestruck by how big the main gopuram was. Located right in front of the temple is Hampi Bazaar, once a very wealthy empire, it is said that this 1km long street was adorned with jewel sellers back in 16th and 17th century. The terrain around is made of massive boulders all stacked neatly one above the other, almost looking unnatural yet beautiful. Also, there are a lot of monkeys just monkeying around so you might want to be careful with your food and water bottles.
As I entered the temple, I met Mr. Mallikarjun, a senior guide at the Temple. As due consideration and a tad bit of bargaining (something I now realize I need to learn), I agreed to pay him INR 150 for a tour of Virupaksha Temple. Mr. M was very kind and once a lecturer in the Mysore, he now works as a senior guide at the Temple helping people understand the history behind these impressive monuments. I must say, I could not have chosen a better guide.
I started my tour of the temple at around 9.30am and there were tourists flocking in from everywhere, this, however, did not stop Mr. M from helping me every nook and corner of the temple. This place is like an unexplored mine for history/architecture lovers and photography buffs such as myself.
|A glimpse of the main gopuram from the pond in the temple premises|
After exploring the temple, hearing its stories, myths, and legends, Mr. M and I decided to head to the Vittala Temple. I was totally against taking an auto to go to Vittala Temple and Mr. M showed me the route on the banks of the river, again, grateful as ever.
|The cows grazing around the Hampi Bazaar make for a picture perfect frame.|
As I walked on the boulder terrains, I met two fellow solo travelers, who were headed in the same direction, talk about taking the path unknown. After what seemed like ages, we stopped for a breather, the three of us just sat down on a boulder overlooking the beautiful blue water of the river.
|The Hampi Bazaar, the stage and the Matunga Hill in the backdrop.|
Since the weather wasn’t sunny, we decided to lie down and soak in some cloud for a while. That moment, right there, on that boulder with two strangers, soaking in the beauty of the surroundings, the crisp clean air, that was what tranquility felt like.
|The river on the way to the Vittala Temple.|
After the break we headed towards Vittala Temple, we came across a cave, a Durga Temple and many smaller complexes along the way.
|A temple dedicated to Goddess Durga with 10 hands|
Vittala Temple, a World Heritage Site declared by UNESCO is a sight to behold. The iconic stone chariot is what makes this site so beautiful.
|The famous Stone Chariot.|
Dedicated to art and culture, this site oozes emphasis on the importance that art held back in the days. As we spoke to some of the management staff, we were told that this was where the kings would get their guests for entertainment.
|The marvellous pillar carvings at the Vittal Temple premises.|
As a Japanese Anime fan, I also found carvings of Japanese kings who were invited to one of the many gatherings that the king’s holding. Now, I was impressed.
|A close up of one of the hidden complexes n the way to the Vittala Temple|
After a long session of photography and looking around, I headed back to the guest house, I realized that I had walked about 15 Kms that day, I was tired but proud beyond measure.
|One last glimpse of the gorgeous surrounding before bidding adieu to Hampi|
I reached the guest house at 5 pm and spent the rest of the evening at the rooftop restaurant at the guest house. I ended the day with a quick meal, paid off my bills and took the last bus to Bangalore from Hospet.
As a female solo traveller, I strongly recommend Hampi and Badami as a great weekend escape, the best part is living it local, and one lesson I learnt here is no matter where you are in the world, regardless of your language and everything else, there are people who are willing to listen to the stories that you’ve lived.
A big thank you to TrekNomads for helping me plan the trip, Mr. M who helped me explore Hampi and Mr. Amir, my super disciplined auto driver for taking me around Badami, Aihole, and Pattadakal.
This article was written by our guest blogger, Malavika Mallya. You can check out her work, on her Instagram page here.