#9 India, Central India, April 20, 1998

Dear Everybody,

Well, I’m back! I left on Thursday morning and got back today, Wednesday, and it was a good trip. However, I didn’t go quite as far as I had planned. It was just too hot. 106 degrees F does put a small crimp in sightseeing. I did manage to get air-conditioned hotel rooms on five of the six nights, but that one that I didn’t— well that helped me decide to come home. It worked out pretty well though, because I would start my sightseeing about 7:00 AM, and go until 11 or 12. Then I’d go back to the hotel, have a cold Kingfisher beer (boy, do they taste good then) and later, have lunch. During the scorching afternoon I read. I had my “A Suitable Boy” along which is 1500 pages, and I didn’t read fast, and never skimmed. I’ve never read a book that thoroughly before! Well it lasted just right; I finished last evening.

On this little trip, first I visited Hampi or Vijanager, as it was called in the 13th century, when it was one of the big cities in the WORLD—bigger than Rome at the time. It was defeated in 1565, so it’s been in ruins since that time, but it is really beautiful. The carvings on the temples were exquisite and there were so many of them. The city was set in a place with lots of big boulders, which made the setting as interesting as the ruins! These were as a result of volcanic activity. You can see that there was an explosion, and all these rocks must have been thrown out. I had a wonderful guide, a young local woman, who spoke really good English.






Apparently writings from Portuguese explorers told of all the gems and riches that were for sale at the Hampi Bazaar, that still operates, although probably not as opulently as long ago. I bought a silver necklace from a Gypsy woman. There was a very colorful display of bangles.




The temples in Hampi were outstanding, including the Vittala Temple that had many slender columns that, when tapped, gave

various musical notes, an intentional property in the design.

There was a ‘Weighing Place’ where the king gave away his weight in gold and precious gems long ago. A marvelous ‘Narasimha’ was carved from a single rock, 22 feet in height. And there were banana and rice fields right within the old city of Hampi.









The Royal Elephant Stables were all carved from stone and marvelous; the stone Lotus Mahal was an entertainment center within the Zanana Enclosure for the Royal Women.  The Queens Bath was the size of an Olympic swimming pool, although empty, now.  The city clearly had riches beyond measure.






While I was visiting the city, there were four weddings going on. Locals still use one of the temples for weddings so I was invited to participate in the festivities. I was asked to eat, too, but I declined as that seemed a little too intrusive. I took photos, though, and I will try to send them to the guide who said that she would deliver them to the brides. When I got there, two of the couples (kind of a double wedding) were just finishing the ritual bathing. Water was poured over them while they were fully dressed. After that (they were soaked) the women took the bride aside and made a huddle around her and dressed her in the wedding sari while the men dressed the groom. The brides wore pretty saris and the grooms wore a white long diaper affair, and a white sheer cotton long sleeved shirt. Then they put garlands of jasmine on the brides’ and grooms’ heads, and then continued with the ceremony in the marriage hall. This involved anointing with a red dot on the foreheads, candles, talking and then passing out rice to all of us who threw it at the propitious moment.

The next stops on my trip were three small villages about 20 km apart, which reached their nadar in the 5th through 7th centuries. Here there were gorgeous temples, and also rock cut cave temples. All of these were very beautiful. In the three villages there are 130 temples, so obviously I didn’t see them all.




In Aihole there were temples from the 4th to 6th centuries with beautiful and well-preserved carvings. An incarnation of Vishnu with a boar’s head and man’s body was a standout.




The Ravanphadi Cave Temple had been carved out of the living rock.  A bunch of kids lined up to have their picture taken.











Badami had cave temples from the 6th to 8th centuries. Of the four cave temples, two were dedicated to Shiva and one dedicated to Vishnu; the fourth was Jain. The Agastyatirtka Tank, created in the 5th century is now used for washing clothes.









Downtown Badami (population 16,000) had a street parade with various things for sale and was visited by many rural women wearing homespun cotton saris.







Clearly the rural people were in town for an event and were arriving on all forms of rural transport.






Pattadakal, the third village, reached its zenith in the 7th to 9th centuries. Again there were exquisite temples with intricate carving, one telling a story from the Ramayana.

Moving on to Bijapur, the capital of Adil Shah Kings from 1489 to 1685 required our car to plow through a sea of sheep, tended by some good-natured shepherds. The roads were quite primitive and some were under construction.

My last stop was Bijapur, a bustling small city. It was a center of the Moghals in the 15th and 16th centuries, so had Islamic architecture. Bijapur boasts the beautiful Ibrahim Rauza, a tomb and mosque built by Ibrahim Adil Shah who lived from 1580 to 1626.

I saw and climbed up in the Gol Gumbaz, which is a burial monument to one of the rulers who died in the early 1600’s. It has an unsupported hemispherical dome, which is the second largest in the world, after St. Peter’s in Rome. It is smaller (in diameter) by 12 feet. The inside is almost completely plain, and there is not a single column to help support anything overhead. When you climb up many stories of rock stairs, pant pant, you get to the base of the dome. Inside it there is a ‘whispering gallery’ with amazing acoustics. It sounded as though someone was right next to me speaking, but they were 130 feet away, across the dome. It was truly amazing.

I also visited a huge medieval cannon which is one of the largest ever cast. It was about three feet across the business end. It had beautiful Persian inscriptions and carvings on it.

Another outstanding building in this city is the Jami Masjid (the mosque) that seats, or rather accommodates, as they don’t sit, 2200 worshipers. There is a lined out format showing where each worshipper should kneel or stand. It resembled the mosque in Cordoba, Spain, except that one had a Christian church built right in the middle of it.

Then it was back home in scorching heat. Along the way there was a road construction project manned by both women (in saris) and men with the temperature at 106 degrees Fahrenheit!





And on this seven-day trip I saw a dozen trucks that had come to

grief in the traffic.


It was good to get home!


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