Hampi’s boulder strewn landscape is one of the oldest exposed surfaces on earth. Tens of millions of years of erosion due natural forces have made the surface of the monolith rocks crack and split into often bizarre shapes. The result is the mysterious looking landscape, as if god had emptied a bag of rocks over Hampi. These huge granite boulders have inspired the artisans of the Vijayanagar Empire to carve an imperial city out of them. They could build such beautiful and extravagant structures in Hampi, thanks to the availability of granite blocks in whatever size they wanted. The result was unending rows of structures that were built by many kings of Vijayanagara over centuries.
An interesting fact is the way the boulders were sliced. All that they needed was some rudimentary metal tools to make some holes, a few wooden pegs and a little bit of water to neatly split a boulder as big as an elephant. A series of holes, about 3 or 4 inches deep, were dug along the line of the required cut. The holes were typically 4 to 6 inches apart in a straight line. Once this was done, wooden pegs soaked in water were driven into these holes. The enormous force these pegs would apply along the line made the boulder split neatly into two pieces.
Those boulders which were too huge to cut were carved into sculptures! The two gigantic images of Ganapathi in Kadlekalu Ganesha and the Sasivekalu Ganesha are examples of this innovation. These idols where carved out of the boulders in situ and the temple was built around them. Apart from these massive works, one can also see hundreds of religious images carved on the boulder surfaces as we move around in the Hampi ruins.
Each of these rippled, dimpled, boulders is distinctively different from one another. Travelling across the landscape of Hampi, one often wonders as to how they came to be there. There could be a variety of geographical reasons for it. But the story told by our accomplished and hugely talented guide Mr Pinjar Hussen was far more interesting!
Hampi is believed to be the erstwhile mythical monkey kingdom. There was a bitter power struggle going on between the princely brothers, Sugreeva and Vaali. In a pitched battle Vali defeated Sugreeva and chased him out of the kingdom. The frightened Sugreeva took refuge at the Matanga hill (the tallest hill in Hampi ) as Vali could not climb it thanks to an earlier curse on him.
Rama , the king of Ayodhya , reaches Kishkinda in search of his abducted wife, Sita. Hanuman finds Sita in Lanka in custody of the demon king Ravana. Sugreeva offers help of his monkey army to attack Lanka and free Sita. In return Rama helps him to kill Vaali and regain the throne of the monkey kingdom.
The battle between Vali and Sugreeva was so intense that the boulders each threw at the other piled up all around Hampi!
With a smile, he said that there is yet another version of the story! The army of monkeys helped Rama to build a bridge across the ocean to reach Lanka. What was left behind is what we see now in Hampi!
The rocks….they are the oldest story tellers!
The Vijayanagar Empire crumbed after a few hundred years of its existence. But the boulders of Hampi survive, ablaze in fiery light that no camera could ever truly capture.
The sun streams
Through the rocky boulders
They belong to no one
These rocks continue to converse more eloquently in the words of Chandrashekara Kambar:
These rocks of Hampi
Forms without shape
Prance like bears
In your dreams…
Among these rocks
The horses of fantasy
Gallop away to the horizon
Some glimpses at: photos.app.goo.gl/TTiFsRpN5Gm2VPPd2