Sustainable Wanderlust
Preserve unique cultures and special places
PHOTO: Pristine Parelli islands off the coast of Kerala, India

Hampi – Angkor Wat AND Stonehenge of India

 

Cambodia has Angkor Wat. England has Stonehenge. And India, in perhaps the ultimate game of one-upmanship, has Hampi, a place that somehow manages to stunningly blend the wonders of the two. Just a brief ten hour train ride from the touristy beaches of Goa takes one to the Indian state of Karnataka within which lies the tiny town of Hampi, home to big temples and big, seemingly impossible rocks.

What makes Hampi amazing?

Location, location, location. Hampi is located within the ruins of Vijayanagara, the former capital of the Vijayanagara Empire. The Vijayanagara Empire, if you’re a bit rusty on your Dravidian history (and really, who isn’t?), was a South Indian civilization based in India’s Deccan Plateau that lasted from roughly 1336 until 1646. The Vijayanagara’s particular style of Hindu temple construction not only borrowed from methods used by other Hindu builders, but also integrated techniques used in architectural constructions from a variety of Indian faiths. The resulting structures, as seen on display at Hampi, are a stunning tableau of intricately carved, towering Hindu Temples,  that clearly did not earn Hampi its UNESCO World Heritage Site designation on a technicality.

Anyone with even the most casual relationship with architecture, history, religion and beauty cannot help but find Hampi amazing because the site manages to artfully blend all four. It’s not so much that Hampi carries visitors into the past – it doesn’t – but rather it helps to call our attention to the present while making us aware of the past in a very real way.

What makes Hampi particularly unique?

Hampi is not just temples. As we hinted at earlier Hampi is also home to rocks that have been called impossible, inconceivable, even unbelievable. Hampi’s geological structures quite literally evoke awe which is not an emotion one would ordinarily admit to (geologists aside) when they’re talking about rocks. But at Hampi the massive – two three story tall boulders –seem unaware of the basic laws of physics. Massive boulders casually float on top of each other, others nestle against each other as if in a caress, and all stand at seemingly improbable angles, which is likely why outside of India Hampi is best known by the rock climbing community.

Stunning vistas, great food, beautiful architecture, and a geographical wonderland – it’s not too much of a stretch to say that Hampi is the best of Angkor Wat and Stonehenge put together.

Getting there:

Hampi is easily accessible by night train departing from Bangalore, alternatively there is a bus or those who want to take detours can also drive – cars are not allowed within Hampi itself, however, and must be parked in the bus stand ground. That said, the train is generally the greenest way to travel and offers not only an opportunity to rest but also to see the country side. Taking the train also encourages reinvestment in trains rather than in roads since tourist dollars can help shape development patterns. It should be noted Hampi is aware of the issues that often arise with tourism and in 2006 created a master plan to balance tourism, the needs of the community, and the maintenance of the site.

Photo Credit: Marina & Enrique

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