Hampi: beauty in ruins

Hampi, in my dictionary, would mean “Beauty in ruins”. You could read that as the beauty (that once was) now in ruins, or, even the ruins of this erstwhile Vijayanagara empire are so breathtakingly beautiful.

I love to visit historical places. Every stone I look at, makes me think of that one person, who would have placed it there, centuries ago. The person has gone but the stone/sculpture/carving, part of a beautiful structure, is still there, frozen in time! Another reason why I love visiting historical places is to stand in awe of the things humans are capable of – good and bad! And no place, I’ve been to till now, represents this better than Hampi.

Hampi, by far, one of the most beautiful place I’ve been to. So rich in culture, so many stories, so many sculptures, so much beauty to take in. Of course, this all depends on what you love!

Broken Bridge in Hampi, India

Broken Bridge in Hampi

Hampi

The basics, you will do well knowing these, before visiting the place:

  • Hampi/Vijayanagara was the capital of the Vijaynagara empire from AD 1343 to 1565
  • Hampi is located in the southern bank of river ‘Tungabhadra’ (also known as Pampa)
  • Has strong mythological associations. The birthplace of Ramayana, Kishkinda-kshetra, is believed to be situated close to it
  • Don’t hesitate to get a guide. Don’t worry, you don’t have to find them, they’ll find you!

Things humans are capable of – good and bad! – Hampi

The good thing – the beauty that this Vijayanagara empire must’ve been once. All built by human hands, with so less technology, so much time, dedication and passion it would’ve taken.

The bad thing – that would be the reason the empire lies in ruins now. It was attacked and conquered by the Bijapur sultan. When the war was won, the Sultan burnt down the palace, which was wholly built of Sandalwood, and the story is, it took 6 months for the whole palace to be burnt down. Yes, the palace is no more, one can only see the foundation stones of the palace.

As for the stone temples and structures, the sultans couldn’t burn it, so they broke whatever they could. Example, most of the tusks of the elephant sculptures are broken off, the tummy of  Ganesha is sliced off, broke off Lakshmi from this beautiful 6.7m monolith Lakshmi-Narasimha Statue (below) and below that is a carving (smaller sample) of this statue from one other temple pillar:

 6.7m Lakshmi-Narasimha Monolith statue, Hampi

6.7m Lakshmi-Narasimha Monolith statue, Hampi

Below: This is a carving I found in one of the pillars of another temple. The above statue was supposed to have Lakshmi sitting on the Narasimha’s lap, like shown below. Imagine how beautiful that would have been.

Lakshmi-Narasimha carving, Hampi

Lakshmi-Narasimha carving, Hampi

I don’t blame the Sultan for doing this, I’m sure any triumphant king would have done the same. All is fair in love and war.

There are still remains of bazars, so well organized:

diamond and ruby bazaar, hampi

Diamond and ruby bazaar, hampi

remains of a medieval bazaar, hampi

 

The beauty is in the details and stories:

That’s exactly why you need a guide. They charge Rs.1000 for a 7-hour guided tour. They know the order in which the vast empire has to be covered. Take help, pay them, tip them, it’s no harm. Buy a guide book as a souvenir.

There is always a story to any historical structure, about the reason and significance. There is a temple called ‘Hazararama Temple’ which depicts the whole story of Ramayana in three tiers. What a beauty!! Like a medieval cartoon strip! The guide explained the story to me and it was very helpful.


ramayana depiction in hazararama temple hampi

Below: our guide giving us a crash course in Ramayana

our guide giving us a crash course in Ramayana

Our guide giving us a crash course in Ramayana 🙂

Ravana:

 ravana, ramayana, hazararama  temple, Hampi

10-headed Ravana depicted, hazararama temple, Hampi

 

So like I said, if you want to know the stories around a structure, getting a guide is a wise decision. Also, without a guide you might miss out on lot of details, such as:

Below image depicts the trade with various other races, such as chinese, persians, mongols (thanks to the guide for pointing it out):

 

Other races depicted here, trading in Vijayanagara

Other races depicted here, trading in Vijayanagara

 

Obviously, I am not gonna write about each and every monument I saw here, rather, I want to leave with you a travel idea, an inspiration for you to pack your bags and go!

One more thing: Will blog about how we reached Hampi, where we stayed and budget, later. Also there are two sides to any river, same for River Tungabhadra. Another post will talk about that!

A message to travellers: Travel, don’t trash!

PS: you can view all my Travel Photos here.

cheers

1718 church in Tranquebar

I didn’t know about this church till I was there. Was a surprise to know that the first protestant missionary to south-east Asia, Bartholomaus Ziegenbalg , had come here and what more, he built a church too. That church “New Jerusalem Church” still remains and the mass is still conducted there on every Sunday. I was lucky to be there on a Sunday and attended the mass there. Took some photos,  which also has lot of information.

1718 new jerusalem church, Tranquebar

The Church

 

1718 new jerusalem church, Tranquebar

A plaque in the pulpit

 

1718 new jerusalem church, Tranquebar

Important events in the church

 

1718 new jerusalem church, Tranquebar

The man himself – Bartholomaus Ziegenbalg

 

1718 new jerusalem church in tranquebar

You can see this in the floor of the church, in front of the pulpit

1718 new jerusalem church in tranquebar

Inside the church

1718 new jerusalem church in tranquebar

 

Of course the church is old, but the Gospel does not change 🙂

 

Other places to see in Tranquebar:

  1. Danish fort museum
  2. Danish Governor’s Bungalow
  3. Danish Land gate
  4. A 3-Gopuram temple, 2 of which are already submerged in the sea.
  5. Tranquebar maritime museum, setup after the Tsunami of 2004 by Danes

 

cheers

Tranquebar/Trankebar Maritime Museum

This museum was put together by the Dutch, not by our government, after the 2004 Tsunami. The is no entry fee and the guide inside, is very informative. You can also buy books and postcards here.

Below is a postcard I bought from this museum. The original Tranquebar/Trankebar according to the Dutch, much of this encroached by the sea now. The sea towards the east, top. Fort Dansborg on the right top, south. Danish land gate is seen at the bottom, the west wall. The 3-gopuram temple (out of which only one is standing even now) is seen in the middle of second row of building from the east wall.

tranquebar postcard and map

The original Tranquebar/Trankebar according to the Dutch, much of this encroached by the sea now.

The walls of the old buildings already encroached by the sea:

ruins of a city

Be patient, the video of the Tranquebar/ Trankebar maritime museum, might take sometime to load!

 

Other place to see in Tranquebar:

  1. Danish fort museum
  2. Danish Governor’s Bungalow
  3. Danish Land gate
  4. A church founded by Bartholomaus Ziegenbalg (the first protestant missionary to south-east Asia), and built in 1718
  5. A 3-Gopuram temple, 2 of which are already submerged in the sea.

Danish Land Gate, Tranquebar

Danish Land Gate, Tranquebar. Built in 1792. Restored by ASI recently!

Read about Tranquebar and my trip here

tranquebar gate or Danish land gate

tranquebar gate or Danish land gate

Below: Inscription on the back side (inner side) of the gate, built in year 1792

tranquebar gate or Danish land gate

Below: the front side of the gate.

tranquebar gate or Danish land gate

Other places to see:

  1. Danish fort museum
  2. Danish Governor’s Bungalow
  3. A church founded by Bartholomaus Ziegenbalg (the first protestant missionary to south-east Asia), and built in 1718
  4. A 3-Gopuram temple, 2 of which are already submerged in the sea.
  5. Tranquebar maritime museum, setup after the Tsunami of 2004 by Danes

Danish fort(Fort Dansborg) museum, Tranquebar

First stop, after some lunch and rest was the Danish Fort Museum.  The museum is in the Fort Dansborg (Dutch fort in Tranquebar) enclosure. The museum contains old Danish artifacts. This is located right opposite to ‘Bungalow on the Beach’. The fort overlooks the beach. Built in 1620 AD.

Tranquebar road trip, Danish fort museum, fort dansborg

fort dansborg

fort dansborg, Danish fort in Tranquebar

Sea facing side of fort dansborg, Tranquebar

fort dansborg, Danish fort in Tranquebar

Inside the fort walls

fort dansborg, Danish fort in Tranquebar

Warehouse

fort dansborg, Danish fort in Tranquebar

Jail. It’s scary. It’s in the dark end of this tunnel

fort dansborg, Danish fort in Tranquebar

Horse Stable

 

Museum: Entrance free, it’s closed on Friday. Artifacts include a picture of the Dutch king, a whale bone (YES! apparently), list of governors of Tranquebar and the ships that came to the Tranquebar port during the Dutch times, and more Danish stuff.

fort dansborg, Danish fort in Tranquebar

Museum inside the fort

fort dansborg, Danish fort in Tranquebar

Very small model of a Dutch ship

 

Other place to see in Tranquebar:

d my lunch and went back to my room and rested till 4 PM. I asked around and there are few must see places:

  1. Danish Governor’s Bungalow
  2. Danish Land gate
  3. A church founded by Bartholomaus Ziegenbalg (the first protestant missionary to south-east Asia), and built in 1718
  4. A 3-Gopuram temple, 2 of which are already submerged in the sea.
  5. Tranquebar maritime museum, setup after the Tsunami of 2004 by Danes

Tranquebar – Land of the singing waves

A month back, someone asked me “Have you been to Tranquebar?”, I replied “I don’t know the place, I don’t drink”. 🙂

Only later did I know that Tranquebar used to be a Danish colony, south of Pondicherry and 10kms north of Karaikal. Danish had come to Tranquebar in early 17th Century and they had leased Tranquebar from English for a period of time. During which they built Fort Dansborg.

About the trip:

Where: Chennai to Tranquebar
Duration: Saturday and Sunday
Budget: Rs.2,500 (could have been cheaper)
Distance: 600 kms (return)
Type of place: Heritage

Note: this place has only one ATM and it was ‘out of order’ on the weekend. And Neemrana Hotels does not accept cards, which is pretty irritating. So, carry cash.

I almost cancelled this trip!

It had already been more than a month since I went travelling, to Rameswaram, and I was itching to go travel. Heard about Tranquebar, went to google maps and made a plan. A friend and I were supposed to go to this place on Saturday morning, in his car. He pulled out on Thursday. I was left alone to do this trip and I did not want to sit idly at home, doing nothing. Went to the SETC site to book bus tickets, but there were none available. Thursday went, Friday came, I didn’t have an idea of how to go to this place. It had occurred to me to postpone this trip to next weekend, but I SO wanted to go travelling. So, Friday night, I went to Redbus site to book tickets and there was some server error and I couldn’t book a ticket (usually this site is very reliable). Then I decided to go to CMBT (bus station) and thought I will get some bus going there. I called for a Fast Track cab to pick me up at 10:30 PM take me to CMBT. Cabbie came at 11 PM and I cancelled it. I had already packed and I was frustrated that I wasn’t able to do this trip. Everything was going against the plan.

But I made it… (the advantages of solo travel! :))

Saturday

My dad suggested I go to Guindy and take a bus from there. I woke up at 5:30 AM and went to Guindy, fortunately for me, I was waiting and got an A/C bus till Pondicherry. Ticket cost me Rs.190 only. Reached Pondicherry at 9:30 AM.

pondicherry, Tranquebar trip, Tharangambadi trip from chennai

Got down at the bus stand and asked around for a bus to Tharangambadi (other name for Tranquebar). Got that bus, sat in it and in 15 minutes, the bus started. Also I found out how many people it takes to load a tyre on to a bus top. 🙂

chennai, pondicherry, tranquebar, travel

The bus kept going and going and some more going. Finally reached Tharngambadi/Tranquebar at 1:15 PM, after 3.5 hours of travel. Thankfully I had music and my Kindle.

I knew Tranquebar was not a big city but I expected something a little bigger that what I saw. It has one road through which buses and traffic pass through. I got off at the only bus stop for this little hamlet. I knew already that there was one hotel here by “Neemrana Hotels”. I googled for that name and got a mobile number. Called the person and asked him for directions to reach that place. He, Kiran, regional manager of Neemrana hotels, was very helpful and guided me. I walked a bit and reached the Bungalow by the beach.

Streets of Tranquebar:

Streets of Tranquebar

Streets of Tranquebar

 

Reached ‘Bungalow on the Beach’, went to the reception and asked for the rates. Tariff starts from Rs. 4,000, I asked him if he had anything more reasonable. They have another property called ‘Tamil Nadu House’, where the tariff for a double-bed room is Rs.990. I took that one, checked in, had a shower and came to the Bungalow on the Beach for lunch. The restaurant serves good food, costly though and the cutlery was rusting away. I will review(not a good one!) this Neemrana Hotel in another blog, now let’s focus on Tranquebar.

I had my lunch and went back to my room and rested till 4 PM. I asked around and there are few must see places:

  1. Danish fort museum
  2. Danish Governor’s Bungalow
  3. Danish Land gate
  4. A church founded by Bartholomaus Ziegenbalg (the first protestant missionary to south-east Asia), and built in 1718
  5. A 3-Gopuram temple, 2 of which are already submerged in the sea.
  6. Tranquebar maritime museum, setup after the Tsunami of 2004 by Danes
  7. Beach

Everything is close-by and you can cover the whole place in half a day. I took it slow and started with Fort Dansborg, then there was the beach I went too. It was a bit crowded because of the weekend. After which there is the 3-gopuram temple and by this time it was well past sunset. I went back to my room and freshened up, read a book and then went to ‘Bungalow by the beach’ for dinner.

The beach: 


Sunday:

Went to the ATM in a nearby village to get cash to pay the hotel people. Attended the church that was built in 1718. The church service got over by 10AM. After which, I walked around the town and chanced upon the Maritime museum. The guide, in this small shack of a museum, was very informative and explained with patience, significance of each of the artifacts. There are guide books available at this museum that will educate you more on the history of the place. This museum was setup by the Danes after the 2004 Tsunami.

The checkout time for the hotel was 12 noon. Checked out and walked to the bus stop to get a bus to Karaikkal which is south of Tranquebar. I had to go to Pondicherry, to get a bus to Chennai. The buses to Pondicherry, from Karaikkal, goes via Tranquebar, but my chances of getting a place to sit in a bus was higher if I boarded the bus from Karaikkal. So I went to Karaikkal, took a bus to Pondicherry and from Pondicherry, took a bus to Chennai and reached Chennai by 8PM, Sunday.

That was my first solo trip, and I had a wonderful experience 🙂

Cost:

Stay at TamilNadu House for a night: Rs.990 (is reasonable for a double-bed room, bathroom with a geyser, good view)

Lunch and dinner at Neemrana Hotel: Rs.1000 (which is pretty costly!)

Travel: Rs.500

SUGGESTION:

If you want to do a budget trip, get a hotel in Karaikkal or Chidambaram. If you are staying in Chidambaram, you should add Pichavaram to your itinerary.

 

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