Hampi: Land of Stone + Ancient Abundance
Hampi, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in east-central Karnataka, India. It became the centre of the Hindu Vijayanagara Empire capital in the 14th century. Chronicles left by Persian and European travellers, particularly the Portuguese, state Hampi was a prosperous, wealthy and grand city near the Tungabhadra River, with numerous temples, farms and trading markets. By 1500 CE, Hampi-Vijayanagara was the world's second-largest medieval-era city after Beijing, and probably India's richest at that time, attracting traders from Persia and Portugal. The Vijayanagara Empire was defeated by a coalition of Muslim sultanates; its capital was conquered, pillaged and destroyed by sultanate armies in 1565, after which Hampi remained in ruins. Knowing that Hindus would not worship damaged idols, they made a concerted effort to destroy the faces of all the stone gods.
The land around Hampi is an endless granite boulder field spiced with coconut and banana plantations. We started everyday with early morning balcony asana practice memorized by the emerging sunshine lighting up the temples and monkey troupes jumping from building to building in their morning grazing for meals and shiny humans objects. Walking and biking amidst the rocks to the various sites and scootering around the countryside made up most of our days in Hampi. Making the sweaty pilgrimage 575 steps to the Hanuman monkey temple for 360 views of the land of stone was a highlight. The days were extremely hot and dry so by midday we were retreating to our aircon room for an afternoon respite.
Hampi is a living heritage site. Meaning people still life almost amidst the ruins. Some years ago, 1500 people were resettled and their home demolished in the Hampi Bazaar in an effort to maintain and preserve the area for future archeological study and maintenance. The area where we stayed is also in consideration for demolition, the local people and business owners fighting back against possibly loosing their home and livelihoods. It remains a complicated topic, as Hampi is an incredible archeological world heritage site on par with those of ancient Greece with some much yet to be discovered amidst the boulder fields.