Friday, January 2, 2015

Hampi

Hampi
Hrishikesh S. Sonalikar
2 January 2014

Most of us are aware that long time ago, during Ramayana period, mother Sita was taken to Lanka by demon Ravana. Lord Rama and Lakshamana travelled in Southern direction in search of her and eventually reached a city named Kishkindha where they developed friendship with Hanuman, Sugriva and other Vanaras (Celestian monkeys and bears). Many wonderful events that happened there are vividly described in Kishkindha Kanda of Ramayana. Millions of years have passed since the time of Lord Rama but the record of historical events happened during that time is still available to us. Today, in this age of science and technology, we may wonder about the exact geographical location of the Kishkindha. It was a pleasant surprise for me when I came to know that the Kishkindha is situated on the banks of Tungabhadra river around the place called Hampi.

Hampi is a village situated near the Hospet city in the state of Karnataka. It is surrounded by many hills which are full of huge rocks and caves. In Puranas, this place is mentioned as Pampa Kshetra. Pampa is a presiding deity of Tungabhadra river. She performed penances and worshipped Lord Shiva here. Lord Shiva in His aspect called Virupaksha accepted Pampa as His wife. The temple of the self manifested Shivalinga and mother Pampadevi is a primary and huge complex of Hampi village. This temple, called as Virupaksha temple, is generally the first place that we see when we enter Hampi.

However the first place in Kishkindha where Lord Rama and Lakshmana arrived is a lake called Pampa Sarovar. After they observed the exquisite beauty of this lake, they visited Shabari who was a great devotee of Lord. Lord enjoyed the fruits offered to Him by Shabari on the banks of Pampa Sarovar. During those times Pampa Sarovar was a huge lake decorated with beautiful lotus flowers and different kinds of birds. Today also Pampa Sarovar is a very serene and beautiful place surrounded by hills from three sides. Although now it is smaller in size, the place is spiritually so vibrant that we can feel immediate spiritual nourishment when we go there. We are exceedingly sure about the purity of this holy place because Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu also took bath in this lake.

After visiting Shabari, Lord Rama and Lakshmana proceeded towards Matanga mountain to meet Sugriva. This Matanga mountain can be seen when you stand in the door of the Virupaksha temple and see towards the East. Sugriva was a younger brother of the king of Kishkindha named Vali. He was living there along with his four ministers. Hanuman, who is the great devotee of Lord, brought Lord Rama and Lakshmana and introduced them to Sugriva. Sugriva and Lord Rama became great friends. Sugriva was living in hiding in sage Matanga's ashrama as Vali wanted to kill Sugriva due to a previous misunderstanding. Sage Matanga's asharama was the only safe place for Sugriva and his ministers because Matanga muni had previously cursed Vali to die if Vali enters the area of his ashrama. Lord Rama helped Sugriva by killing Vali and installing Sugriva on the throne of the kingdom of Kishkindha. In return Sugriva helped Lord to search and rescue mother Sita. Sugriva gathered all the vanaras and sent them in different directions in search of mother Sita. It was the search party of Hanuman and Vali's son named Angada who discovered that Sita was present in Lanka. Once mother Sita's location was known, Lord Rama proceeded towards Lanka along with the huge army of vanaras. They built a bridge to Lanka and after the great war with Ravana and his army, they rescued mother Sita. Sugriva, Hanuman along with millions of other vanaras and their leaders played a very instrumental role in this rescue operation conducted to bring mother Sita and Lord Rama together. After these events, Angada, the son of Vali, was made king of the Kishkindha.

Today we can find many places in Hampi which witnessed these events. Pampa Sarovar, Malyavan mountain, Hemakuta mountain, Anjaneyadri which is a birthplace of Hanuman, the entrance to Vali's cave, temple of Durga whom Vali worshipped, a place where Lord Rama and Lakshmana stayed during the months of rainy season, Shabari's cave, the place where Sugriva stored the jewels dropped by Sita when she was being taken away are some of these places.

Apart from the places of Lord's pastimes, Hampi is also famous as a capital of the Vijayanagara Kingdom. Many structures constructed by Vijayanagara kings are present in Hampi. Looking at these works of huge and beautifully carved stones to construct palaces, temples and water ponds, one can only imagine the prosperity that prevailed when the saintly kings like Krishnadevaraya ruled their kingdom on the basis of dharma. King Krishnadevaraya was a disciple in the line of Madhva Sampradaya and a great devotee of Lord. Today all we can see in Hampi is broken temples and palaces. The worship of Lord is absent in many of the temples as there is no deity. For a devotee and a spiritualist, looking and admiring the beauty of these vacant temples may not be enough.

Me and my wife visited Hampi during 24 to 26 December 2014. We spent the first day in Hampi looking at the palaces and temples constructed by Vijayanagara kings and it caused only pain and exhaustion in me. I actually started enjoying the Hampi trip when we visited the places related to Lord Rama and his devotees. On the second day, we walked towards Vitthala temple along the Southern bank of Tungabhadra river. On the way we visited Kodanda Rama temple. This temple has very big and beautiful deities of Lord Rama, Lakshmana and Sita. The place where the temple is located is extremely beautiful. Situated nearby are the temples of Hanuman and Lord Ranganath. Then we proceeded towards the Vitthala temple where we crossed the river by boat and reached a village named Anegundi. This is where Pampa Sarovar, Shabari's cave and Anjaneyadri are located. First we visited Pampa Sarovar where I found myself very happy. After briefly visiting Shabari's cave and nearby temple of Lord Shiva, we proceeded to the birth place of Hanuman, Anjaneyadri. This hill is named after Hanuman's mother Anjana. She performed austerities on this hill and demigod Vayu impregnated her with Hanuman. I found myself fully energetic even after climbing around 600 steps to the top of Anjaneyadri where temple of Lord Rama, Lakshmana, Sita as well as Hanuman and Anjana is located. After visiting these places, we came back to Hampi by the same way. Spending every evening in the devotional environment of the Virupaksha temple in the central Hampi was also a nectarine experience for me. I spent a good deal of my time on the third day by just sitting on the banks of Tungabhadra river at different places. I also went to the base of Matanga mountain but did not climb up this time.

I was very fortunate to listen the story Ramayana from my maternal grandmother since childhood. During the beginning of my stay in IISc, Lord gave me opportunity to relish the reading of Ramayana in detail. This pilgrimage to Hampi, the Kishkindha of Ramayana, was a reminder for me to continue the spiritual journey which has started long ago.

There may be many people who may question whether Ramayana actually happened, whether Lord Rama was actually there or the information that I have written above is really true. The answers to these questions will be easily obtained when we associate with the devotees of the Lord, study the authentic Vedic literature like Ramayana in which activities of Lord are recorded and visit the holy places where these activities took place. This will bring a spiritual change in us, which is good. There will be always some people who will point out the contradictions in scriptures and different religious systems. But a genuine devotee is sure that all the contradictions are present in the Lord and still He is simple to understand for a devotee. He is वेदेषु दुर्लभं अदुर्लभं आत्मभक्तौ.

This article is certainly not a good guide to visit different places in Hampi. It also does not focus much on Vijayanagara history in which many people may be interested. But it is my hope that it will bring out some interest to carefully study Ramayana as well as to visit this place where the ancient events mentioned in Ramayana took place.

I am not very good at writing but the merciful devotees of Lord may accept this article and offer it to the lotus feet of Lord. I will be very happy if devotees become happy after reading this article.

Acknowledgements
I thank all the devotees of Lord and especially those in Bhaktivedanta Institute, Bangalore because of whom I can hope to make some progress in spirituality. I thank my wife who enthusiastically proposed to visit Hampi. I thank my friend Sudeep Nakhe for helping me in organizing this trip and giving me some important tips about food and climate. I also thank the people of Hampi and Anegundi villages.

References
1. Spiritual India Handbook, Stephen Knap, Jaico publishing house, 2011 (English).
2. Valmiki Ramayana Volume 1 and 2, Geeta press, Gorakhpur (Sanskrit, Hindi).

Virupaksha - Pampa Devi Temple

Tungabhadra river

Pampa Sarovar

Anjaneyadri

Matanga Parvat

View of Kishkindha from Anjaneyadri

Kodanda Rama Temple

View from Kodanda Rama Templa

View of Virupaksha Temple

Malyavaan Parvat and the temple of Lord on the top

Tungabhadra river

Pampa Sarovar