Sunday, October 20, 2013

Bangalore and Mysore

From Hampi we took the overnight train to Bangalore and visited Tara, an old colleague of ours from NIST.  Bangalore had many interesting areas, including one that was up on top of a shopping centre that resembled a European pavement cafe area.

The highlight of staying in Bangalore, however, was a trip down to Mysore.  It was a long drive but the visit to the palace was well worth it.

The Palace of Mysore (also known as the Amba Vilas Palace) is the official residence of the Wodeyars - the royal family of Mysore that ruled the princely state of Mysore for over seven centuries.  The Wodeyar kings first built a palace in Mysore in the 14th century, it was demolished and constructed multiple times. The current palace construction was commissioned in 1897, and it was completed in 1912 and expanded later around 1940.
Mysore palace is now one of the most famous tourist attractions in India after Taj Mahal with more than 2.7 million visitors.

Every autumn, the Palace is the venue for the famous Mysore Dasara festival, during which leading artists perform on a stage set up in the palace grounds. On the tenth day of the festival a parade with caparisoned elephants and other floats originate from the palace grounds.  The festival corresponds with Natratri, celebrated to commemorate the victory of the Goddess Durga who slew the demon Mahishausura, so is a celebration of good over evil.  We were there just before the festival took place, but did manage to see dancing troupes practicing in the palace grounds.

Hampi and beyond - Day 3

On our final day in Hampi we didn't cross the river, but instead took a rickshaw up to the temples on our side.  The first one we went to was the Hanuman Temple (monkey temple) which was on the top of a high hill.  To get to it we had to walk up nearly 700 steep steps and at the top there were lots of naughty monkeys who were grabbing food from those who had made their way up.

It was possible to walk around the rocks at the top and to sit right on the edge - which Jenni did and I didn't!

Once at the bottom we set off for the Durga Temple and the Cobra Cave.  The views beyond the Durga Temple looking back towards Hampi were really spectacular.

The view below is taken at the top of the Cobra Cave looking down towards the Lakshmi Temple and in the distance is the Hanuman Temple on the hill.

Hampi and beyond - Day 2

The following day we crossed the river again but this time instead of walking we took a tuk-tuk to some of the outlying ruins.  Our first stop was at the Mustard Seed Ganesha which was carved out of a boulder.  This was opposite the Krishnadeveraya Temple which I found a peaceful and relaxing place, full of wonderfully carved pillars.

Our journey continued onwards and our next stop was at the Narasimha Temple and the Shiva Temple Large Linga. 

This statue was carved in the 1500s and originally had Lakshmi sitting on his lap - though this was later vandalized.  The statue is almost 7 metres tall and shows Narasimha sitting on the coils of a smake that rises behind him with 7 hoods which act as a canopy.  The Archaeological Survey of India has restored much of this image.

Next to the Narasimha statue is the Shivalinga.  It's about 3 metres in height and the base is always under water.

We drove on to the Vittala Temple, which we had visited from the outside the previous day on our walking tour.  This temple is full of pillars, each of which has its own musical sound when tapped.  

In front of the main temple is the Stone Chariot.  I don't know much about the story behind this, but it is very intricately and beautifully carved.

After visiting this temple we drove on to the royal enclosure.  Here we visited the Queen's Bath.  The building is surrounded by a moat and inside is a sort of swimming pool surrounded by arched corridors and balconies - a very beautiful and peaceful place for a bath I'm sure.

Another building in the royal area was the Stepped Tank which was used by the royals for religious purposes.  The tank has 5 tiers each with steps in a pattern.  Because of the rains, some of the bottom layers of the tank were covered in water.

One of my favourite buildings was the Lotus Mahal in the Zenana Enclosure - the ladies quarters - which was surrounded by high walls and protected by watch towers.  The watch towers are half covered meaning that it was also possible for the women to climb them to get an excellent view of the surrounding countryside.

The Lotus Mahal is of Indo-Islamic architecture with pillars, arches and windows being typical of the Islamic and spires being typical of the Hindu

Located outside the Zenana enclosure are the elephant stables - also built in Indo-Islamic style.  There are 11 large rooms with high ceilings, most of which are covered in large domes of different shapes.  

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Hampi and beyond - Day 1

We took the train to Hospet and then a taxi to Hampi.  The guest house where we stayed (Mowgli) was across the river from Hampi.  It was surrounded by palm trees and rice paddies with a great view of the river at sun down.  We spent many happy hours sitting on the balcony and watching the sunset!

On our first day in Hampi we walked down to the river and took the local boat across.  There were other types of boats too (round coracles) which looked fun but also a little dangerous!  The river was flowing fast as it was the end of the monsoon period.

Across the river was a huge temple.  This temple has an elephant and each morning the elephant would come down to the river for his bath.

Hampi itself is an ancient place dating back to the Vijayanagara period.  Apparently it was the home of Lord Virupaksha and his consort Pampadevi.  Many of the sites around Hampi are associated with the stories of the Ramayana.  With the river on one side and the rugged hills on the other, Hampi was a natural fortress.  Originally a pilgrim site, Hampi grew to be the seat of a huge empire, and the shops in Hampi Bazaar were once covered in gold.

The Virupaksha Temple is the most sacred of all the temples in Hampi and dates from the 7th century.

Looking back along Hampi Bazaar to the Virupaksha Temple.  Now there are more goats here than people!

The fairly bleak landscape is scattered with the remains of temples and trading centres.

Achutharaya Temples

We walked as far as the Vittala Temple - we could only see it from the outside but knew we would be back to visit it again the following day.

From the Vittala Temple we started out walk back to Hampi.  We went past the King's Balance.  Here the kings on certain occasions such as solar or lunar eclipses would have themselves weighed against their own weight in gold and precious stones and then distribute them to the Brahmanas.

Walking on we came to the old stone bridge which used to cross the river.

On the way we passed several small and beautiful temples.

Our walking tour of Hampi was ending and we were looking forward to visiting the outlying temples by rickshaw the following day.