Hampi, India

Voyage to the Ancient Kingdom of Bisnaga

little subject
Hampi girl walks along the lane in front of one of the highest Hindu temples in old Vijayanagar.
view from other times
Facade yellowed by the setting sun of one of the many buildings scattered around Hampi.
On the banks of the Tungabhadra
Boatmen chat while no more customers arrive at their small makeshift dock.
About to leave
Indian visitors to Hampi leave one of the ruined temples of the old kingdom of Vijayanagar.
With Hampi in my heart
Young salesman displays photo books of Hampi, in front of one of the main - and highest - Hindu temples in the old kingdom of Vijayanagar.
Relief to Art
Carved relief on the wall of a secondary temple in the ancient kingdom of Vijayanagar, on the outskirts of Hampi.
waiting for passengers
Muslim boatman with a coracle (round barge) contemplates the scenery of the Tungabhadra River, the main river artery of Hampi.
Garrido Assortment
Brightly colored powder dye stall in the center of Hampi Bazaar.
To soak
Buffaloes protect themselves from the intense heat that is felt in Hampi, in the dark waters of the Tunghabadra.
hindu laundries
Native women in sari wash clothes in an arm of the Tunghabadra River, also used by buffaloes, fishermen and the general population of Hampi.
golden glimpse
Ruin of a centuries-old building from the Vijayanagar empire, hidden behind a forest of coconut trees.
SiS Security
Indian security guards a restoring Hampi temple, with an entrance between two damaged elephant statues.
boarding time
Passengers prepare to board a large coracle barge that will take them across the Tungabhadra River.
Tower of Time
A turret yellowed by the sun and the centuries, it stands out against the blue sky over the rocky territory of Hampi.
Indian Patience
Couple trying to unravel fishing nets along a branch of the Tungabhadra River.
River Fun
Miúdo bathes in the Tungabhadra River, next to a coracle barge that he uses as a diving platform.
Coke, Sprite or Mirinda ?
Refreshment vendor is in a good mood, buoyed by the good deal brought by the scorching temperatures in Hampi.
an indian sunset
Day ends over the tropical but rocky scenery of the state of Karnataka, around Hampi.

In 1565, the Hindu empire of Vijayanagar succumbed to enemy attacks. 45 years before, he had already been the victim of the Portugueseization of his name by two Portuguese adventurers who revealed him to the West.

The tapered end of the subcontinent never seems to us to be less vast. Nor the inland lands of the state of Karnataka because we ventured out, having already touched the southern edge of India's beak.

The journeys, endless and uncomfortable, continued to wear us out to match. Almost six hours from Ooty to Mysore. Three hours from Mysore to Bangalore. Nine and a half hours again by train from Bangalore to Hozeit. A half-hour by rickshaw from here to Hampi, the destination we were pursuing and which we reached in obvious gastric distress, after a careless meal of tempuras at one of the chaotic train stations we had traveled through.

In the last 30 minutes of the route, the setting became magical à As the poorly motorized tricycle agonized across the rocky lands of vijayanagar. We are at the height of the Indian summer, if you can call it that. The sky was always blue, nothing attenuated the abrasive heat reflected back up through the stone floor.

Mowgli, the feral boy from the Jungle Book, had little to do with these inhospitable places. Even so, the cheap inn we had chosen to stay in had been named in her honor. We craved the coziness of shower and bed as Rudyard Kipling's child craved the shaggy belly of wolf-mother Racsha.

The rickshaw passes through the towering temples of the royal center of Hampi and only stops before the muddy stream of the Tungabhadra River. "Well, I have to stay here" shorts the driver armed with the strength of evidence. "Now, you have to cross in those boats."

We asked ourselves if due to fatigue, if the malaise, no matter how hard we examined the riverside area, we failed to see any vessel. The driver didn't give up. “They are, there, further down. Go a little further and see”.

Even somewhat suspicious, so we do. Only on the verge of the lower riverbank did we finally find a fleet of giant walnut shells, coracles, as the boatmen eager to cash in on the newly arrived passengers called it.

Like any newcomer aboard such barges, we find the swaying boarding strange and even more the little or no hydrodynamic navigation that prolongs the crossing. Protected from the sun by a jillaba and turban, both white, which contrasted with the skin of his brown face, the boatman paddles from side to side without saying a word and always with the air of few friends. We would soon discover that he had charged us triple the rate, with no damage worthy of note, as the fixed price was a few irrelevant tens of rupees.

Shortly after, we entered the guest house Mowgli that unfolds spread over several huts among leafy coconut trees, oversized species of huts and with the decoration and equipment expected by any relaxed traveler.

We rested and tried to recover from the food catastrophe we had been subjected to the day before but the indisposition only got worse. On that night that has however fallen, instead of peace and rest, we are treated to the chilling discovery that the guest house was completely packed with Israeli backpackers.

From several trips around the Earth, we were well aware of its somewhat superb and selfish reputation both with natives and with other travelers. Also how much your presence would most likely affect us. Confirming this, the rave was not long in starting. To our dismay, it lasted most of the night.  

In order to compensate for the damage caused by the psychedelic rumbling and screaming, we slept outside in the morning. As we leave Mowgli's bittersweet welcome for the first time, it strikes us with the certainty that they are about 45º. Even this oven doesn't deter us from renting bicycles and going to the great Hampi.

We crossed the river again, in another barge and already by the table. From there, we circle the sacred center of Hampi Bazaar, among the huge Hindu and Jain pyramidal temples where successive rulers of the Vijayanagar empire worshiped Shiva, Vishnu and other gods.

From 1343 to 1565, this was one of the most powerful empires in the world. This was witnessed by the Portuguese adventurer Domingo Paes and the horse merchant Fernão Nunes. The probability is strong that both got fed up with trying to correctly pronounce his name, until they started calling him Bisnaga to get around the boredom. narrated in “chronic of the Tube Kings” the civilizational glow and the power of the state that, at that time, dominated a large part of the spice trade of the subcontinent and the Indian Ocean offshore and that became the main partner of the Portuguese Empire in South Asia.

In the eyes of Domingos Paes, around 1520, Vijayanagar prospered visibly, financed by the intense sale of spices and precious stones. It was comparable to Rome, surrounded by vegetation well irrigated by aqueducts that brought water from artificial lakes.

Today, Hampi Bazaar – the main commercial stronghold – may lack the grandeur of yesteryear, but sellers are making every diplomatic effort to make themselves and the city more prosperous.

Sara takes advantage. Aware that we are approaching the end of the Indian tour, he finally buys the bright trousers in fine fabric that he has dreamed of ever since he had seen them in Goa. “I don't have your measure in all colors.”, the merchant communicates with disgust. "But I can sew them up and they'll pick up tomorrow." So we did and so we renewed the Indo-Portuguese trade relations so prolific in the heydays before Hampi. 

Afterwards, we circle the temples of Virupaksha and Vittala, which we also enter to admire the countless carved columns, the painstaking paintings and sculptures, and the glorious Hindu architecture as a whole.

Still and always hyperventilated due to the brazier that is felt throughout the state of Karnataka, we explore the old elephant stables, the queen's baths and countless other buildings and temples yellowed over the centuries.

We take the road that crosses the Islamic quarter back to the river and towards the hill of Anjenadri from where we hoped to get a very panoramic view of the complex. But at one point, Indian natives and visitors we come across wave and shout for us not to go any further, to return to the center. “There are bandits up there!” a woman with a brahmin posture shouts at us. "They carry shotguns and everything!"

We were aware that even the motherland of mysticism and spirituality had, from time to time, these aberrations.

Accordingly, we reversed gear to safer stops near the Tungabhadra. There, we come across an inlet of a river stretched between slopes full of boulders. We soon realized the multifunctionality of the deep pool. While we rested there, several buffaloes refreshed themselves almost submerged, like a kid who dived repeatedly from his mini-coracle. At the same time, a couple of elderly natives were fishing from the net, and young women wrapped in folk saris were washing other garments that were just as exuberant or more exuberant.

We continued to pedal in the afternoon outside. And the more we enjoyed Hampi, the more we were delighted to see that, nearly half a century after Vijayanagar's capitulation, life proliferated among the dazzling ruins of Bisnaga.

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