After showing us things to do in Melbourne
, Jules Lund decided he should spread his wings and see what else is going on in the world. He travelled to Hampi in India's south. The medieval capital of the Hindu empire Vijayanagara, Hampi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
At first look, Hampi seems to be a quiet place, but on closer investigation Jules found it to be one of the most colourful and vibrant places he had ever seen.
Each morning in the little village locals give thanks to the Hindu gods for their gift of another day before bathing in the waters of the sacred Tungabhadra River.
In a place where the cow is sacred and worshipped, their limelight in Hampi is overshadowed by Lakshmi, an 18–year-old elephant. Every morning she is bathed and scrubbed in the river in preparation for her important role as gatekeeper at the local temple.
The honour bestowed upon Lakshmi is in recognition of the animals being the embodiment of Ganisha, the elephant god. With her tusks all shiny and polished, Lakshmi takes her place at the Temple of Virupaksha. It has an uninterrupted history of worship back to the seventh century. Thousands of pilgrims from near and far arrive each year to have their prayers heard and answered at what locals call Hampi's living temple. Holy men call people to prayer by playing musical pillars using the temple rock to create song.
Followers of Shiva asking for blessings rub chalk crosses on their foreheads. It is a reminder that the body is not permanent and will one day turn to dust. The cross symbolises the holy trinity the creator, the preserver and the destroyer. Coconut represents the ego.
Hampi is not all about religion and for around 15 cents you can enjoy the most serene experience in a basket boat known as coracles. Jules said it was like slowly drifting through the pages of the National Geographic.
This little place is one of India's most important archaeological sites and home to royal palaces of the Vijayanagara Empire. More than 500 monuments are dotted around the vast boulder-strewn hills and valleys. There is an endless list of temples, palaces, remains of aquatic structures, ancient market streets, royal pavilions, bastions, treasury buildings and more.
The Vitthala temple is by far the most impressive. From the early 14th century spanning and 300 years, the Vijayanagara unified all of southern India, creating one of the country's greatest Hindu empires.
While not a particularly easy place to reach, Jules found the bumpy 10-hour ride worth it. So do pilgrims and backpackers who have found the remote place which has a surprise at every turn.
Hampi in the southern Indian state of Karnataka.
Ausindia Holidays has 14-day Hampi Heritage Tours from Bangalore. Accommodation, breakfast and transfers are included and they start at $3239 per person twin share. They depart every day except between June to August and prices are valid until April 30, 2010.
Thai Airways International has flights to eight destinations in India. Flights to Bangalore are:
- Perth $1458
- Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane $1686
Sales and validity dates apply.
Prices correct at March 26, 2009.
For further information
Thai Airways International
Ph: 1300 651 960
Level 2, 32 York Street
Ph: 1300 146 342
Fax: 1300 724490
Level 5, Glasshouse, 135 King Street
Ph: (02) 9221 9555
Fax: (02) 9221 9777
Visas: Entry visas are required before arrival. Six-month multiple-entry visas are issued to most nationals regardless of intended length of stay. Most Indian embassies and consulates will not issue a visa to enter India unless you have an onward ticket. They are valid from date of issue, rather than date of arrival in India.
Electricity: 230-240V/50Hz. You will find two sorts of plugs one with two circular pins above a large circular grounding pin or a European plug with two circular metal pins.
Time zone: GMT +5.30 hours
Currency: The Indian rupee made up of 100 paise.
International dialing code: +91.
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