The magical ruins of a fallen empire
Trip Start Aug 22, 2005
48Trip End Jul 17, 2006
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My arrival in the eerie light of dawn made the boulder-strewn landscape dotted with ancient ruins feel all the more mystical. Once the capital city of the Hindu Vijayangar empire, the ruins still echo its former glory even though the gold and jewels which once adorned its palaces and temples have long since been pillaged by Muslim invaders
The highlights of the area included the exquisitely carved pillars of the Vittala temple, each of which sounded a different musical note when tapped, the Queen's bath, and the giant stone statues of Ganesh and the terrifying goddess Kali. When I returned to the main village that night, there was a real carnival atmosphere on the main bazaar, due to one of the many Hindu festivals. In the distance I could hear the beat of drums and as it came nearer I could see a procession led by the temple elephant. Kids set off firecrackers, sword-wielding warriors and fire-breathers danced to the beat of the drums and others carried a glowing idol - the focus of the celebration - to the temple on their shoulders.
The next morning whilst exploring the still-functioning temple in Hampi, I witnessed something so surreal that even now I'm not sure it really happened
I took some time to observe some of the other temple rituals going on around me. Naked from the waist up, the temple priests tend to the golden idols which sit inside shrines, dark and hazy from the burning incense and candles. Each idol is lavishly dressed up in silk and wreathed in flowers - like an elaborate doll. The priest rings a bell to attract the attention of the god, and the worshippers come forward in small groups to stand for a moment in silent prayer, before being splashed with holy water and decorated with a bindi (third eye) on the forehead. Other worshippers queue up bearing baskets of fruit and coconuts for a priest to crack open and fill with flowers and leaves for the worshippers to offer to the idol. For an outsider observing these practices, it is incredible to see the level of devotion shown towards the gods.