June 9, 2011
Just as soon as summer vacations began, the Amrita Students Forum for Indian Heritage organized a five-day trip to explore ancient heritage sites in Karnataka. Faculty members and anyone interested could join in.
Neha T. (ECE) and Surbhi Sonkiya (EEE), second-year students of the Amrita School of Engineering, filed this enthusiastic report upon returning from the educational tour.
Nobel Prize winner, Romain Rolland was a French writer and mystic. “If there is one place on the face of earth where all dreams of living men have found a home from the very earliest days when man began the dream of existence, it is India,” he wrote.
Our experience has been that these words are no exaggeration; the real truth lies buried deep inside them. In an attempt to explore this truth, our journey began …
It was a sunny day, when about thirty of us began our super exciting trip to Hampi, a World Heritage Site, as well as nearby places in Karnataka.
Hampi was once a flourishing capital city, its rulers were known for fair and just rule and great love for art and literature. During the time the Mughals occupied many parts in northern India, in the south, the Vijaynagar Empire flourished as the cultural center for Sanatana Dharma.
With its base at Hampi, the empire extended to the far reaches of present-day states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, during the 14th century AD.
The glory of Hampi tragically ended when invading Mughals destroyed the city, its palaces, ornate gateways and its many temples. But even today the ruins are a silent testimony to the past splendor. They spoke to us of a golden age, when immense creativity and talent must have created a heaven on earth.
Stopping first at the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) office in Hampi, we learnt more about the erstwhile capital’s history from the chief archeologists who shared with us details of some of their excavations.
After this, we began our own survey. Visiting the ruins, we began to somewhat appreciate the faded glory of our country. What interested us most were the marvelous rock monuments. Kadalekadu Ganesha was a monolith statue 22 feet in height. We feasted our eyes on more such statues of Gauri Ganesha, Ugra Narasimha and Badavi Linga. Badavi Linga remains submerged in nearly 3 feet of water from the Tungabhadra River at all times.
We admired the Virupaksha temple and the inverted shadow of its huge gopura, cast on the courtyard using pin hole camera technology. We gazed on Trimukha Nandi in the temple compound, each face representing past, present and future respectively.
Among other beautiful places we visited, was the Viraharihara Palace that had a stepped tank, public bath and the giant Mahanavami Dibba. The last stop in Hampi was Vithala Temple Complex. We wondered about the artistic skills and architectural expertise of the artisans who had built such a temple. Our guide was kind enough to tell us the deeper meaning of each carving. We felt that each one had its own unique story. Most carvings depicted our gods or retold the stories of our epics. Our culture and religion were surely rooted very deeply here.
All these technological wonders proved the advancement of India in those early ages. Looking at those marvels, a feeling of pride filled our hearts. But at the same time, a feeling of sadness prevailed, as we thought about our glorious past, now almost dead and buried.
Our next destination was the Chennakeshwara temple at Belur. There was a gravity pillar, also known as Mahasthambha, that stood on its own weight without any foundation. Hoysaleshwara temple, very similar to the Belur temple, awaited us in Halebidu, the last destination of our trip.
Before returning to Amritapuri, we stopped at Amrita’s campus in Bengaluru, sharing our experiences with faculty and staff there.
All in all, the cultural, architectural and sculptural excellence that embellished the heritage sites of Hampi, Belur and Halibedu enamored us and enlightened us about ancient Indian glories. We enjoyed every minute of this five-day excursion.