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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Raya Trail of Hampi by OrangeCounty

This post explains our exploration of parts of Hampi Ruins, under the guided tour organized by OrangeCounty Hampi. Orange County Hampi facilitates exploration of Unesco World Heritage site under four designated trails, Tungabadhra (TB) Trek, Raya Trail, Virupaksha Trail and Vitthalapura walk. Orange county has interviewed more than 50 guides/experts/historians and has selected best 5 as in house historians, who will escort the guests on these guided trails, giving all minute details about the ruin you would otherwise miss/not know about.

Each of these trails are of duration 2 to 3 hours, often flexible based on guest's preferences and convenience. In this post, I will share photos and details on part of Hampi's ruins- places that are covered under Raya Trail.
Queen’s Bath
Our first stop on Raya trail was the Queen’s Bath. This structure is the first major one you will spot as you enter Hampi core zone and as name suggests was used by queens to take bath. From the outside it looks like a simple building but has lots of features on the inside. Though it looks like a standalone structure which can hold stagnant water, it had running water inlet and an outlet to expel used water- thus providing fresh water for bath every day. Queen’s bath has provisions where queen’s assistants (dasis) can stand and throw petals or other aromatic/luxury stuff while the queen is bathing. Inside the stone flooring we can see four positions which used to house a wooden (said to be sandalwood) pillars and a roof, which were burnt by the invaders during subsequent centuries.



Above: inside view of Queen's bath. Notice the position of four pillars in each corner- reportedly it had a sandalwood roof that was burnt by the invading army
Above: Provisions for the servants to stand and throw petals on the queen
Below: intricate carvings in the roof
Mahanavami Dibba
Mahanavami Dibba is a tall structure on with King and his family would sit and observe the cultural festivals that would take place below.

Stone door: Entrance to Mahanavami dibba reportedly had these huge stone doors which were fully operational with hinges, locking mechanism etc

The stone walls- Engineers of those days were able to cut huge stones with precision and stack them up super neat to build walls- there is near zero gap between two stone blocks, as you can see below
Cutting of huge rock was achieved by simple technique- drill small holes, insert wooden rods into it and continuously feed water. Wood would expand over time and crack the stone.
Mahanavai Dibba (dibba sort of means 'stage' or 'small hill' in kannada). The now popular Mysuru Dasara had its origin in the Vijayanagara times. The kind would organize week long celebrations, which saw participation from all his subordinate states and also from countries across the ocean- such as Mangolia, Arabia, China and so on. Vijyanagara empire had good trade relationship with several foreign countries- the carvings on the walls of mahanavami dibba indicate the pan asia reach the 15th century rulers had back then.
Carvings on the stone indicate that women were actively participating in hunting, war and other activities. There is only so much you can see in photos or videos. For real experience you should visit Hampi, visit these places along with an expert historian to be able to gauge the scale of grandeur, engineering advances and luxury that was in use back then.
 Left side view from top of Mahanavami dibba- the horizontal line is a stone made water duct
Straight View from top of Mahanavami dibba- all structures were destroyed by the Bahamani rulers
The hidden step well/Pushkarini
This well, situated next to Mahanavami dibba was filled with soil and archaeologists discovered it by digging in and carefully removing the soil. The guess is it was filled with sand just before the invasion, to protect it from being discovered and destroyed by the enemy forces.
The step well is fully intact, looks magnificent and photo worthy from every angle and is probably one of the most photographed spots in Hampi


Above: Stone water ducts that used to supply fresh water for miles and miles around the kingdom.

We also explored an underground chamber which apparently was leading to nowhere.

Hazara Rama Temple
Hazara Rama temple was a temple exclusive to royal family. It was all covered with vegetation before being restored to current state. The walls of this temple have carvings depicting entire Ramayana story.

Above: Main entrance
Below: notice the heads of gods chopped off by invading Muslim rulers

 The Ramayana story

 Backside view
 Inside
 A marriage hall stage

Lotus Mahal
After Hazara Rama temple we moved to Lotus Mahal. Lotus Mahal is another most popular spot in Hampi- it is a virtual air conditioned residence built for one of the two wives of Krishnadevaraya. It had a water tank on the top, water pipes through the beams and columns, facilitating flow of water through the structure and keeping in pretty cool even in hot summer (Summer in Bellary can get extremely hot)

Lotus tower complex was open only to women and the sole male allowed enside ever was the king himself. The Queen's campus is guarded by transgenders on four watch towers located in the corners.
There were more buildings in the campus, now with only foundations remaining. ASI folks are trying to visualize what kind of structures might have been there, based on various evidence at their disposal.

Elephant stable
Elephant stable was the last stop on Raya Trail. Behind Lotus Mahal was a series of barracks for royal elephants and quarters for the mahuts. The chamber seemed little tight for elephants to move around, but I guess it is more like a sleeping place and not a place where elephants would stay 24x7.

Lots of birds could be seen in the area-mainly the parakeets holding on to the rock walls in precarious positions...
Besides telling us about the historical significance, Orange County's historians are very knowledgeable in photography- to suggest what all could be right angle for the perfect shot. They command lots of respect in local community and add lots of value to your site seeing compared to doing it on your own. I had great time exploring Hampi after a gap of 10 years, thanks to Orange County Resorts.

4 comments :

rupam sarma said...

Wonderful, Thanks for the post and all pics.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Rupam

Rajesh said...

Wonderful shots of the place. Nice place to explore.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Rajesh. It is a must visit destination