The Pilgrim’s Way
At the Pattabhirama Temple I met a villager from Bellary who has been visiting his relatives in Hampi. He talked a great deal about his work in Bangalore and the events that led to his decision to return home. My Kannada isn’t all that great and I understood less than half of what he said.
He was shocked that I was paying Rs. 250 for my room at Hospet. He directed me to the Shivramtathana Math at Hampi near the Virupaksha Temple. They accept pilgrims on a regular basis. Pilgrims can stay there for free and partake the food they offer. A pilgrim pays nothing. He brings only some basic stuff, his religious beliefs and piety.
In fact, Hampi has been a crowded place today and yesterday. I was informed that it was much worse on Sunday. The Pushkara Festival is currently on. I must have been visibly reeking with sin, for an employee of the Archaeological Survey of India advised me to buy the necessary articles, perform the due offerings and take a dip in the river. I was guaranteed to that all my sins of this life, and of all past lives, would be washed away. A little of the water could be taken home for the benefit of all in the family. It is as easy as this to wash away sins in Hinduism; but it is much more difficult to believe.
The world economy may not be doing all that well but I am convinced that Indian economy will always flourish so long as pilgrims exist. Local tourism is insignificant but pilgrimages keep happening all through the year in thronging numbers. They are bound to keep the Indian economy ticking for ages to come.
The Royal Enclosure
For me, the highlights here were the Lotus Mahal, the Elephant Stables, the Pushkarni, the Hazara Rama Temple and the Queen’s Bath. The most eccentric of them, and also the loveliest, was the Lotus Mahal. The Elephant Stables perhaps have no equal in all of India. The Hazara Rama Temple details episodes from the Ramayana – Hanuman crossing the sea to Lanka, the building of the bridge, the battle scenes, Rama leaving for the forest and his brother Bharata pleading to him to stay. This is amongst the best of all temples at Hampi. The walls are packed with stories in bas-relief. It would take a lot of patience and as much curiosity to study them in detail.
I was disappointed at double standards I experienced at the Queen’s Bath. It was supposed to close at 5 pm but I was asked to leave 15 minutes earlier. I did not mind. Just then a group of Russians came in with their guide. The security guard promptly opened the gates and let them in.
The lawns here are maintained well and mowed regularly. What in developed countries is accomplished with machines is done manually in India. At the Mahanavmi Dibba, there were as many as 15 wowen, 2 men and 2 supervisors engaged in mowing the lawn. Grass was cut with sickles, the lawn gleaned by hand, the cut grass scooped and stuffed manually into sacks.
Sunset at Kamalapura
I had a rather good walk today. I started from the bus stand at Kamalapura, walked to the Pattabhirama Temple, the Domed Gateway, the Malyavanta Raghunatha Temple before covering the ruins at the Royal Enclosure. I passed many temple ruins, some open fields and banana plantations. I had the opportunity to study the banana infloresence with its purple sheath, little white flowers and young yellow fruits.
Towards sunset, I returned via Bhima’s Gate and across a rocky landscape where the rewards of bird-watching come without effort. I saw many nests of weaver birds hanging by pliant branches and swaying in a gentle breeze. I passed the same large reservoir I had passed in the morning and made my way across Kamalapura towards the bus stand.
Sunset is that hour of day when an Indian village is buzz with activity. There is home-coming and that delightful prospect of rest and sleep. Women sit on their mud-caked open porches and watch vacantly the world go by. Other women return home balancing on their heads bundles of firewood. Buffaloes return languidly from their daily wanderings. A herd of goats find their way through the streets by habit. A mother goat suckles its kid. Pigs and piglets remain busy as ever. Carts wheel home their loads, are unloaded and parked. The bullocks are unyoked for the night. The waters flow in the canals to the reservoir, carrying in their current the spent offerings of flower and leaf of the day.
All this time, the light has been mellowed and the shadows lengthened. The air has cooled itself and carries in its vibrations the chirps of country birds. Lively village gossips mingle with the background of sounds. There is that familiar smell of dung, and of dust rising in the coming and going of village folks. It is definitely sunset and the day is done.
I took a bus from Hospet to Kamalapura. The return to Hospet was by bus as well.
Stayed at Hospet at the same place as last night.
I did not find suitably good places to eat at Hampi or at Kamalapura but I had brought with me some fruit and bread from Hospet.