Dadu Aur Madak

As we approached Hampi the landscape began to change dramatically. Even though it is just a few miles from Hospet the difference is enough to be shocking. We had been riding through miles and miles of farm country, and although it definitely still had a sub tropical feel, it didn't prepare you for Hampi. The first thing that you see is an immense boulder field that looks like Joshua Tree, or Cochise's Stronghold had been dropped down in the middle of Indian jungle. Not only does the geology change, but it seems to become tropics in earnest.

The actual village of Hampi sits about 4 kilometers from the area known as Hampi Bazaar that attracts most of the tourists who plan to stay at the site. As you leave the village the landscape changes drastically. A kilometer or so past the spot where this photo is taken, I saw guys unfolding large, thick, black pads up among the boulders. As it turns out, Hampi Bazaar had a fair number of guys with these foam pads that a climber will recognize as "crash-pads". Crash-pads, or landing zones is what boulderers use to protect them in the event of a fall. For you gravity hampered individuals, bouldering is kind of a run and gun type of rock climbing that uses no protection and moves typically more horizontally along the rock. It is definitely not easier than climbing, but it has several advantages. The climber needn't carry a ton of gear, he doesn't even need a rope. It doesn't even require the help of a partner, although it is always nice to have a spotter. But even though it could qualify as a world class climbing mecca, climbing is not the primary draw at Hampi.

The view above is from Hemakuta Hill, looking northward to Hampi Bazaar and the Virupaksha Temple. Facing the temple on the right is the main bazaar road, and beyond the temple just to its right is a twisting maze of small streets with dozens of small guesthouses. We found an immaculate place without ac or tv for a third of what we normally pay.

The end of the main drag in Hampi Bazaar nearest the temple takes on a different bazaar vibe as indicated in the photos at left. On top this man does a very rapid fire open-air infomercial for a plastic device that braids your hair almost instantly. Although it was all in Hindi, we found it extremely entertaining. Below, what would the place be without a few sadhus.
In the right hand photo, taken from Hampi Bazaar's opposite end is the real source of the connotation bazaar. The  galleries that line both sides of Hampi's wide main street are open fronted shop spaces whose roofs and support columns were hewn from the local rock. These are remnants of Hampi's heyday as a major trading center for cotton, spices, gold, and gemstones. It was the center of one of India's most powerful Hindu empires. If this was all that remained of Hampi it would be impressive enough. But this is just a small portion of Hampi known as the Sacred Center, a tiny fraction of the more than forty square kilometers of development that date back to the 15th to the 17th centuries. Several kilometers away begins a two-plus kilometer section known as the Royal Center.
The Royal Center is impressive for its elegance, but sharing the billing in the impressive category for Hampi is the other-worldly landscape and its sheer scope. Over every little hill or horizon you see additional amazing courts and galleries hidden within the very rocks that they were hewn from.

The rock for this massive array of complexes was quarried using a simple method, evidence of which can be found all over. As shown in the photo at left, you see a line of square chiseled holes in the rock. These then have wooden blocks hammered into them that are then set on fire. Before the rock can cool, they then poor cold water into the holes causing the rock to split. You can see the results in the photo on the right. The more perfect pieces are used for the elegantly sculpted columns,  and what is left is used for other forms of construction.

Every step reveals vast hidden galleries like the one above, or elaborate courtyards fringed by palms like the one below. You will note in the bottom picture (and I am sure several others) the top of the ridge has a structure at the top just this side of the top. These outposts were there so sentries could signal the approach of any unexpected visitors.

Whether it is sheer extent or intricacy, there is something here for all. A lone visitor marvels at the size of one of the many grand structures left. While this mass of visitors listen to an explanation of the musical temple right. Properly known as the Vittala temple, it is called the musical temple because the smaller pillars carved into the larger pillars they surround are said to make musical notes when struck, a practice that is vigilantly discouraged.

Situated just below the Vittala temple the ghat shown above left is for spiritual cleansing. There is another closer to town that locals flock to in the morning for their regular bathing needs.  Close to the ghats at left there is a convenient place for doing laundry. (right)

As we have seen elsewhere in India, not all spirituality is expressed the same way as the orgiastic scene above indicates. You may recall seeing in one of the images from Khajuraho a man servicing a horse. In the photo below left the horse reciprocates. Below right, a robust young woman enjoys the attention of two men.

Well, for a place we had not intended to visit, Hampi produced more material than would fit on this, or many pages. We will have to end for now, and continue Hampi's Royal Center on another page.