Kishkindha - Vijayanagara - Hampi
One such centre of that speaks greatly of her glorious past is the kingdom of Vijayanagara. Hampi or Vijayanagara was it’s capital and was a famous trade centre with sprawling bazaars. Inscriptions and sculptures speak of the time when horse traders from Mongolia and China would visit and trade horses in exchange of jewels. The state budget was divided between maintaining the army and developmental work of the villages. The Kings were known to be kind and just to their subjects. The army was formidable and several conquests including one to Orissa were successful. This prosperous city lying on the banks of Tungabhadra witnessed major destruction after it’s last strong ruler Rama Raya was captured by the Sultan of Ahmednagar. Inevitable doom followed and the city was reduced to ashes. Buried and forgotten, it was only in 1984 when the ASI started excavating did they rediscover this magnificent city. With over 500 monuments and counting, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most beautiful ruins I have visited in a long time.
It was a chilly evening when I boarded the second last bus out of Gokarna to Ankola. The travel agent had told me that the bus to Hampi leaves from Goa (Paulo Travels, 600, non ac-semi sleeper, 8 hours) and would pick us up from Hotel Vardaraj, 4km away from Ankola Bus stand. Typically, any bus plying to Karwar or Hubli should stop there but due to a lack of an ‘official’ stop, most bus conductor will tell you that it doesn’t fall on the route. However, after convincing one Hubli bound bus to stop on its way, I was dropped off at Hotel Vardaraj. The bus is usually an hour late and arrives only at 2345. A non-AC semi sleeper worked well for me because it was cheap and the cold weather more than made up for the lack of air conditioning. The journey was uneventful but a few tourists from Belarus reeking of Old Monk kept us entertained for a bit. When I woke up, the bus had stopped at Hospet for a chai-coffee-toilet break. Hampi wasn’t too far now, just about 12 km away. And soon enough, slopes dotted with boulders started rolling in and the ruins appeared in sight. I had arrived in Kishkindha.