Hampi is the modern town that sits by the ruins of the City of Victory, Vijayanagara, capital of the once mighty Vijayanagar Empire. Local tradition also says that it is the site of the Kingdom of Monkeys, Kishkinda, and birthplace of Hanuman, the monkey god. In fact, every guide will tell you that the landscape of broken rocks is nothing but what is left after the terrible battle between brothers Vali and Sugreeva over the kinship of Kishkinda.
This is also typical of the Indian habit of conflating history and mythology, making Hampi the perfect Indian destination where the past lives on.
After the fall of the Vijayanagar Empire in the mid 1600s, the entire city was abandoned and was overgrown by the jungle. It remained hidden and out of human reach for more than 200 years, before being rediscovered in the 1800s.
This means that significant portions of the historic capital city are still undisturbed and can be seen even today. The ruins of Hampi give us a fair idea of the grandeur of the Vijayanagara Empire.
Visiting Hampi today is an extremely relaxed affair. Everything is slow and functions at the speed of the countryside. You make you plans in days, not in hours. You linger over meals, walk the scenic route to different historical sites, spend an afternoon or few in the noisy company of the river, or a troupe of monkeys, or the coconut woman. You sometimes spend the whole day at the breakfast table, reading your book and let them bring chai, lunch, pakodas, evening snacks and dinner to you.
The ideal way to visit Hampi is to spend at least a week there. Not doing anything specific and let the time just have its way with you. I am a slave to my photographic desires, and spent my time there trying to get some angle or the other. I’m sure you will find your Muse, or she will find you!