Travel Stories and Histories – The Stone Chariot, Hampi

Writing about my past travels is kind of making the lack of travelling more bearable but it’s also reminding me about how much I love to travel and then I’m missing it more…Urghhh such useless times! But anyway, C’est la vie – at least right now. So continuing with my travel stories.

Today I take you to my favourite state, Karnataka. I have travelled there five times now and each visit has just made me want to go back. I love the food, I love the people, I love all the dynasties that ruled there and all the resulting histories and heritages. Out of all the treasures, today we visit an iconic monument of Karnataka: The Stone Chariot of Hampi

A few years back, my friend and I were discussing our travel bucket lists. And as die hard history students, both of us obviously had the Ruins of Hampi on our list. So the dreamy plans of visiting the once opulent Vijayanagara Empire, the beautiful city of Hampi and other heritage structures around began. It took almost a year for the plans to get into a reality with finally us sitting down to sort out the days needed to cover the trip, costs, leaves and permissions from office etc. etc. In August 2016 we finally set sail.

The 12-day trip covered a variety of places and heritage structures. Getting down at Hubli by an interstate bus, we travelled further by a taxi to reach Hospet. Hospet is the closest town to the ancient city of Hampi. We roamed around the ruinous city of Hampi for a good 3 days. Covering most of the celebrated monuments. One splendid monument after the other!

We then travelled further to visit another famous place: Badami! Badami or Vatapi was the ancient capital city of the mighty Chalukyan Empire. This town is famous for its rock cut architecture. The rock-cut Badami Cave Temples were sculpted mostly between the 6th and 8th centuries.

We continued our journey and stumbled upon Aihole and Pattadakkal. Both the cities house jewels of Dravidian architectural styles. Aihole is considered a cradle for the ancient and medieval era Buddhist, Hindu and Jain monuments. You can literally see the evolution of temple architecture styles. Pattadakkal is yet another site that houses amazing architectural gems. The most sophisticated temples, with complex friezes and a fusion of Northern and Southern styles, are found in the Papanatha and Virupaksha temples.

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I think I will cover each of these towns separately in different blogs dedicated to them. We then moved on to Bijapur. After traveling for 10 days in ancient era, coming to Bijapur made us feel like we time travelled. Where Hampi, Aihole and Pattadakkal evoked deep sense of ancient Indian (Hindu) aesthetics, Bijapur boldly explored the fusion of diverse cultures that India represents as a country.

The city formerly known as Vijayapur was established by the Kalyani Chalukyas. It later reached much of its greatness under the Adil Shahi dynasty of the Deccan. The city boasts Islamic architecture and has beautiful specimens of such styles.

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The places that were covered in this trip were just mesmerizing and I’m very grateful that we actually managed to travel. Though all of the places that we visited were absolutely amazing, I’ll talk in detail about the Stone Chariot of Hampi and as promised I will write about the rest too later.

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History:

The Stone Chariot is an iconic monument located in front of Vijaya Vittala Temple in Hampi. The whole city of Hampi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This Stone Chariot, which is a shrine, dedicated to Garuda the official vehicle of Lord Vishnu is one of the three most popular stone chariots in India. Other two are in Konark (Odisha) and Mahabalipuram (Tamil Nadu).

The Stone Chariot was built in the 16th century by the orders of King Krishnadevaraya of Vijayanagara Empire. The emperor is said to have been impressed by the Sun temple of Konark during the war with Kalinga and wanted to recreate a similar one in Hampi. The chariot is meant to represent the beauty and artistic perfection of the Vijayanagara Empire.

Built Heritage:

Built in a typical Dravidian style of architecture, the chariot is a colossal structure that shows the skill of the ancient engineering and artistic skills Indians. The beauty of the chariot lies in the fact that it looks like monolith structure but in fact, has been built by huge slabs of granite whose joints have been cleverly hidden with artistic designs.

The base on which the chariot rests depicts beautiful mythical battle scenes in intricate details. There were sculptures of horses where presently elephants are seated. Visitors can actually spot the hind legs and tails of the horses behind the elephants. There are also the remnants of the ladder in between the two elephants, using which priests used to climb up to the inner sanctum to pay homage to the sculpture of Garuda.

The chariot is located in the complex of Vijaya Vittala temple that houses the famous stone musical pillars. The beauty of these pillars is that they are built like a musical instrument. It was a place where dance programmes used to happen in those times.

Access:

Visiting Hampi best accesses this temple complex. Hampi is accessible through road and train. Unfortunately there are no airports near Hampi.

The nearest railway station is Hosapete which is situated at a distance of 10km from Hampi and has a good connectivity in and around Karnataka. Hampi has good road connectivity and people travel usually from big cities like Bangalore and Mysore to Hampi via private or public buses or by hiring cars.

The Vittala Temple Complex is open on all days of the week from 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM. There is no entry fee.


© 2021 Ashwini Nawathe, Kaleidoscope of My Life
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