Posted April 12, 2012 by in Culture

The Temples of Hampi

Arriving from Rangoon, the two month track through India to Pakistan starts in Mumbai, before cutting south through Karnataka, to the ancient Vijanayagar capitol of Hampi…

Aside from walking through the chaos of Crawford Market, and admiring old colonial architecture along the Oval Maidan (above), there’s little to do in Mumbai…

… Still, I somehow got stuck here for two weeks, foraying into Bollywood, traipsing through slums, reveling in the anarchy of Crawford Market, and celebrating Holi on Juhu Beach.

After enduring Burma’s culinary holocaust, I’m gloriously reunited with extravagant, delicious (and cheap) Indian food.

A Panjabi Thali at Laxmi Villas, Mumbai, including palak paneer, channa masala, dal, pickle, aloo, papadam, mixed fruit, mithai, sweet lassi, and several bowls that were as unidentifiable as they were delicious. Oh, and it cost less than two dollars.

I timed my arrival to Mumbai so that I would catch Holi, the Festival of Colors.

Happy Holi from exuberant locals, Juhu Beach.

The silver gullal powder is carcinogenic, and we had to avoid being hit with it at several points.

These guys weren’t so lucky, but don’t seem to mind. Find out more about the Holi Festival in “Holi Moly: Do or Dye!

Crawford Market is the historic bazaar of Mumbai, and wandering through the meat and produce sections can be both an exotic and nauseating experience.

This little girl had no qualms in utilizing a severed goat’s head as a play thing. We watched in horror as she inquisitively jammed her finger into one of its eyeballs.

I attempted to join this old man for a morning session of “Laughing Yoga,” and even though the yoga half never transpired, there was lots of laughing as my friends Brian, Matilda, and I became the focal point of a mob of Indian tourists…

One by one, families approached us for photo ops, asking us to pose with them, or to hold their children.

Brian, Matilda, and the novelty of white people. Chaos ensues. Paparazzi swarm.

This is Gopal. Gopal is good at yelling things. He took this photoshoot very seriously.

Finally prying myself from Mumbai, I head south to Hampi, the 1,000 year old capitol of the ancient Vijanayagar Empire, and a modern backerpacker haunt.

While most of my five days were spent lazing by cool, blue rivers, riding motorbikes through jaw-dropping scenery, and eating hallucinogenic seeds picked off the side of the road (detailed in “The Shaman’s Seeds of Wisdom“), the crumbling, Hindu temples proved a photogenic feast, and sunrises and sunsets were reserved for ruin hopping…

The Hanuman Temple is located at the top of a hill overlooking the technicolor sprawl of Hampi–its blue lakes, green rice paddies, and enormous ochre boulders. It is believed to be the birthplace of the Hindu monkey god, Hanuman.

The Hanuman Temple is colloquially known as “The Monkey Temple.”

While they might seem cute, they’re terrors. They’re furry, aggressive little kleptomaniacs.

The troupe relaxes after a long day of hissing at tourists and stealing water bottles.

I don’t know which I find more unsettling: The hairless fetus baby, or the aging monkey nipples.

The Virupaksha Temple, overlooking Hampi Bazaar was my personal favorite, due to it’s stunning gopuram, and its colorful religious fervor.

Worshippers head to give morning prashad (offerings to the gods), Virupaksha Temple.

Like the Jains, Vijanayagar Hindus believed that the level of intricacy of their artwork reflected their devotion to god. Thus, dizzyingly finite sculptural work covers every surface of the gopuram (tower structure behind) and the mandapa (lower worship-hall in front). Virupaksha Temple, Hampi.

Laxmi is the resident temple elephant, and for ten rupees (twenty cents), she’ll place her trunk on your head and give you a blessing.

Laxmi the sacred elephant, painted with tikka powder.

The most famous ruin of Hampi was the Vitalla Temple, which contains one of the most stunning and well-preserved sculptures of ancient Indian art.

The dilapidated entrance gopuram, leading into the main courtyard of Vitalla…

A village woman surveys the ruins.

The stone chariot of Vitalla Temple is the pinnacle of Vijanayagar art, and the wheels were capable of moving at one point. Now stationary, it is still breathtakingly beautiful.

Stone chariot, Vitalla Temple, Hampi.

Despite the intrigue of Hampi’s scenery and temples, I quickly grew restless and turned my compass south, to the tip of India, to the royal city of Mysore, to its grand palace, and its sandalwood scented bazaars...


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For more pretty photos from the city of Mysore, check out “24 Hours in Mysore

Or peruse more eye-candy from across Asia by clicking the “Photo Travelogues” tab at the top of the page.

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