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Dispatch from Hampi

Mysore, India. January 16th Anno Domini 1800

sunny 33 °C

Hampi, the capital of ancient Vijayanagara in the 14th century, (and the capital of Hippy India since the 1960s), is a place of legends. According to the Ramayana it is the mythical birthplace of Shree Hanuman, the Monkey god, while, according to many flower children, it is the best place for a toke in the entire sub-continent. However, as we walked by the side of the Tungabadra river we found ourselves in the footsteps of Colonel Colin Mackenzie, Surveyor General of India, who stumbled across this ruined city in 1800, and we mused over the kind of dispatch he may have written to his paymasters in London.

My Dear Sirs;
It gives me much pleasure to report the discovery of an ancient, though sadly ruined, great city which, it seems, was once the capital of the region known as Vijayanagara. Firstly I must tell you of the wondrous scene that greeted us when we arrived with our camel train…
At first sight it seemed as if the Lord God himself had taken umbrage with the landscape; in every direction lay strewn such a great jumble of rocks and boulders that initially it appeared we might not find a passage…
Then, to our intense surprise, nay – delight, we noted that many of the monolithic formations had structure to them…
Imagine our glee when we discovered that a great city had once stood here on the Deccan Plateau just a few hundred years past, and that ruins of great temples lay off in every direction for many leagues…
Though none of the artifacts demonstrate the sophistication of European ecclesiastical works of the same, or even earlier, centuries, the ruins represent the very heights of the sub-continent’s architecture. It would seem that Budhists, Muslims and Hindus all built temples here between the 14th and 16th centuries. However, many of the extant structures are related to 16th century royalty. There are great elephant stables where the ruler’s beasts were stalled…

There is a delightful little Palace within a walled garden where, I am led to believe, the King kept his harem. And the concubines had their own bathhouse…

However, these once magnificent structures are in a sorry state today, with many of the great temples being utilised as squalid habitation for peasants and their animals…
Whilst others are considered so worthless that visiting pilgrims use them as staging posts to cross the river…

I will report further upon my findings, but I fear that unless immediate steps are undertaken to preserve these artifacts from further desecration they will be lost to future generations.
I remain, Sir, your obedient servant:
Col. C. Mackenzie. British East Indies Co.

Posted by Hawkson 00:56 Archived in India

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This was my absolute favourite place in India. Really nice to see it again. It was then full of young Israeli women partying after military service and equally oddly adventurous young Korean women in numbers larger than you might imagine. None regretably were hanging out in the baths.

by Tom Whalley

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