Hampi!

I apologize if this post is not as amusing as the last one.  I personally am happy Hampi contained no major disasters or confusing issues.  It is a bright, shiny spot on the map of my India travels and I will always remember it adoringly – my Indian town one-night stand.

Hampi is everything you look for in a one-night stand – beautiful, easy to navigate, thoroughly equipped to meet all your needs and desires.  (Don’t know where that came from – no more creepy analogies from here on out – I promise.)

Shiva Temple with monkeys

Hampi’s ruins are splendid, standing out against slate-tinged boulders, glowing green rice paddies and bright sky.  These temples and palaces and marketplaces were all inhabited between 1300-1600 AD.

We saw enough Queen’s palaces and Elephant Stables and intricate carvings and meditation and dancing halls to satisfy my appetite for ancient Eastern history.  There was even an entire building dedicated to the Queen’s bath, which would be freshly filled each time she used it, and perfumed with oils.  There were window ledges in the royal bath  specifically designed as ancient hair dryers.

Even better, many of the Hindu temples are still in use.  Have I mentioned?  I LOVE ancient ceremonies!

Birthplace of Monkey-god Hanuman, Son of the Wind God

We climbed hundreds of stone steps up a mountain to reach the birthplace of Hanuman the Monkey God.  This is actually one of about five spots in India where Hanuman is supposed to have been born.  But, I loved it.  Monkeys galore.  Priests chanting.  Chai and prasad and all kinds of musical instruments.  Indian boys scampering around, laughing.  Women in bright saris.  All eventually paying their respects to the deity of protection, friendship, love and loyalty.

Hanuman Priest

We spent hours at this hilltop temple, some of my happiest hours in India.  The sun was warm, but there was a protective blanket of clouds shielding us from its harsher rays.  We sat on the stones outside the temple, letting the sacred chants roll over and throughout us.  We watched children and monkeys play as a woman tied a piece of cloth to the tree outside the temple.

“She ties it there and asks for a boon,” my friend from Mumbai said.  “When it is granted, she comes back and takes it away.”

We descend the stairs slowly, in awe of this lush and quiet landscape, so seemingly separate from the rest of modern India.

We buy water at a tea stall at the bottom and wait for our rickshaw.  I ask my friend from Mumbai to help me with the many verses of the Sri Hanumanacalisa, from a booklet given to me out of a locked cupboard by the doti-clad priest.

We begin the first of 40 verses, she loudly and confidently, me stumblingly and doggedly.  Before long, the people around us began to chant as well.  By the time we were through, we all shouted “Jai, Jai!” smiling around the courtyard like old friends.

See what I mean about Hampi?  It’s a place that will stay with you.

Feeding Lakshmi

My other meaningful moment came complete with an elephant.  I already knew about her – Lakshmi, the Shiva temple elephant.  I came prepared with a bunch of bananas especially for her.

We had a special moment, me and Lakshmi.  One that was interrupted by a priest who invited me to follow him all the way up inside the temple dome (top photo).  It was dark, and I was shoeless, and there were rats.  Also the priest seemed to have some sort of nefarious intent.  But all came out well in the end, as it does, unless it doesn’t.  I said my goodbyes to sweet and imperious Lakshmi, and the next evening, to Hampi, catching another night bus to Goa for one more week of Ashtanga practice at Rolf’s shala.

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