The Monkey Kingdom of Hampi

  Dec 29, 2016   Edmond

Location: Hampi Unesco World Heritage Site

At midnight Max picked me up, I laid out in the back seat took two xanax and I was out, I woke at 3 to see stars unlike anywhere I've seen on this earth. I could reach up and grab them, fuck I could practically taste the light hitting my tongue. I climbed in the front and crashed out again, with this wonderment of the universe. I woke again at 0630 & we were still driving the light of the sunrise painting the most electric on the sky as we raced towards it.

Food stalls being set up in the early morning light.

After arriving Max’s brother set me up with a rickshaw driver named Christna and by some miracle a guide, as they were all booked with the holidays for school kids that were showing up in giant busses in droves.

It would take an hour for the guide to arrive, the whole thing would cost me 4000 rupee but I wanted the guide for this one and with the cash crisis and my funds dwindling it was difficult to know id be letting that much go, but this place was like the Petra, or the Angkor Wat of India, a Unesco world heritage site that spans 64 square miles. I didn’t want to just wander, I needed to learn and absorb as much of this place and religion as I could. Max took off while I waited in the company of my breakfast of a milk tea and a cigarette until finally a guy named Kumar my guide arrived and we jumped in with the rickshaw driver.

Kumar immediately took the reigns and we went as fast as the rickshaw would climb through the steep hills and valleys, past giant balancing boulders and banana fields to arrive at the most popular place in Hampi in the surprise cold of the morning. I threw on another shirt and we pulled into the VIjaya Vittala Temple and Kings Balance plaza. I paid for my ticket and we quickly entered the site where immediately lost my tiny mind.

Inside the plaza it felt like someone had opened my eyes for the first time, my heart raced and like I child I just wanted to run around to see it all. I was calmed by Kumar as he explained most of what was inside was built in the 1500’s. In the center was a giant stone chariot carved from stone and temples surrounding it. what most impressed me in the quiet of the morning was the temples themselves, small single story structures with pillars within larger pillars that were entirely of stone. Kumar had me put my ear against one of the smaller pillars, each was tapering differently than the one next to it and with my ear pressed against one Kumar tapped a few of the other pillars near it and played a little song with a stiff finger and his thumbs bouncing off each one. I just shook my head and thought what a strange coincidence. You could imagine my face when it was explained that the entire plaza of buildings wrapped in larger pillars were all the same and each temple was its own giant musical instrument. During festivals there would be musicians at each pillar and the music could be heard throughout the valley and for miles there after. Awe isn’t really the word, I had got that feeling back that I so desperately hunt for and it gave me an adrenaline rush you can only get when you stand in amazement at the brilliance of mankind.

The tapering musical pillars.

The Stone Chariot inside of VIjaya Vitala Plaza

The plaza started to fill as the holiday locals starting literally pouring in like locusts. I found myself outside the site surrounded by about roughly 30 10-11 year old kids who were taking photos of my tattoos and video and each asking me where I was from, they crowded in until I could hardly move. it was a whole class from a school trip. It was fun at first but when I started to sense the class clown was making fun I ended our little gathering and wiggled my way out. Until Kumar saved me and politely told them to hit the bricks.

Back in the rickshaw we made way to the next site. The entire ancient city was built in and around giant Neolithic boulders the size of houses that made everything seem small as we plugged through the park and this is when it gets difficult to write about this shit. You're listening to a guide, trying to retain as much as possible all while filming and shooting with both hands and marching around through the dust in the cold of the morning, up ancient stone block stairs and between columns, learning about the stories of Hindu mythology, how each building was constructed and avoiding mobs of Indian school children trying to take photos of your tattoos.

Neolithic boulders, not the small holes in the two here, where they would drill holes, then insert wood, get the wood wet to swell in order to split the giant stones.

The vastness of everything around me had me so stoked to be there I could hardly contain it. Gasping at the giant structures, gawking at the slightly eroded but intricate stone carvings depicting Hindu stories. I can't even count how many times I sung the king Louis song (the Louis Prima one of course). Kumar was a fucking guide and three quarters, smashing his job and the more my eyes danced and darted back and forth he would catch on and tell me the stories of each tiny piece of information he had in the vault of his mind. Kumar had been at it for twenty years guiding in Hampi, I couldn’t have hired a better guide.

Kumar explained the detailed carvings on the buildings while simultaneously kicking open the Hindu mythology door like the SWAT team. Vishnu had ten incarnations the 9th time returning as Buddha, which blew my mind, I knew the Buddha was Indian but not an Incarnation of Vishnu. The final incarnation of Vishnu which hasn't happened yet. He would return on a horse and some Hindus believe the end of the world is coming, because we have fucked up so bad, and the final incarnation wont happen, or it will and cause the end of days I'd have to agree.

Vittala temple was next, where there was two men playing a song inside, which they played all day long, every single day in honor of Shiva. The thought of it was a little maddning; the same song everyday all day long, for months at a time, what incredible devotion.

Inside the temple there was a narrow passage way that I followed into the dark where I found a man praying, I quietly back away to leave him in peace without seeing the alter inside. Just as my shoulder turned the man called to me to come in, where he explained some of what was inside and asked for a small donation, where he pressed his hands together in prayer to me, dipped his hands in water and blessed me by sliding his thumb that was dipped in red powder down my forehead. It was the first time I was blessed in Hindu. It made me feel so good even without fully understanding what it fully meant, why they did it, I just knew it was good and I had plunged a layer deeper into the culture that surrounded me.