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Hampi Experience

Excerpts from Journal written on January 19, 2001 16:24 hrs
by Sunita Fernandes
the experience was ethereal. the sublimal messages echoing and pulsating around us were magical and mysterious. the carvings, the musical pillars, the noise and the incense enthralled. the sindoor-wearing, chunky-jewellery-sporting, colorful-cotton-pajamas-with-cheap-jari-wearing hippie, junkie and not-so-hippie-junkie played on the senses with an aura of the exotic. i loved it all.

Hampi was more than an experience. it was something that you feel when you know you haven't had enough - and yearn for more. on the journey back to Bangalore, i felt almost lonely. as if a part of me stayed behind.

the craggy landscape, with all its boulders and hills, with the Tungabhadra river flowing in gay pollution, was an unlikely paradox. but why? this is India - it should exactly be so. anything else would have been a shock.

the villagers of Hampi are enterprising. every small house seemed to be converted into a guesthouse. and they serve Italian (macharoni, pasta, peezza), Israeli (humus, gyros, Israeli salad), Chinese, Tibetan, Continental (bread toast, jam, porrije, butter, pies, cornflakes), Tex-mex (that was the winner!) and of course sambhar, rice, north Indian. absolutely no idlis or dosas. and there was this German bakery selling strudels and marble cake.

almost everyone spoke a smattering of English. Some, especially the village children, even spoke Hebrew, Italian, French, German and Spanish.

and everyone wanted to know where I came from (which country? what do you mean, which country? can't you see she is Indian? Indian? of course she is not Indian! look at her - sunglasses, T-shirt, she is even reading a guide book. except that she is tanned. that's why she sits in the shade and writes. of course she is NOT Indian!).

that got me thinking seriously. which country?

so I in turn shocked them all by speaking in fluent Kannada. and watched in glee as the surprise turned into joy on seeing a fellow Indian visiting like a foreign tourist; yearning to understand the essence, the vibrancy, the spirit of Hampi 600 years ago and the Hampi of today.

Author's Note: Hampi, built in 1336 on the south bank of the Tungabhadra river, austere and grandiose, is the site of the last capital of the last great Hindu kingdom of Vijayanagar, whose extremely rich princes built Dravidian temples and palaces, which won the admiration of travellers between the 14th and 16th centuries. Conquered by the Moslems in 1565, the city was pillaged over a period of six months, and then abandoned. Hampi has been declared an endangered World Heritage site by the UNESCO primarily because of the construction of two suspension bridges so close to the site, which dominate the natural environment and threaten the World Heritage site's integrity.

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