Locals and visitors all tend to ignore the 'Swimming is Danger' signs, and go for a dip anyway! Most stay in the shallows, just to bathe themselves, but we saw plenty of children and young men swimming in the faster currents in the middle.
Rangolis are wonderful instances of spontaneous art that decorate the streets outside people's homes during major holidays. They are drawn in outline with either white rice flour or chalk, and at big celebrations are often filled in with coloured sand.
We saw lots on the ground during the Car Festival, particularly in the back streets.
Because Hampi is a Hindu religious centre, both alchohol and meat are banned in the Hampi bazaar area, which is of course where most people stay. I've heard that some of the resorts on the other side of the river serve alcohol (illegally), but I didn't test the rumour.
Rivers are the main lifelines in rural India and are used for a whole host of things. The place to go in Hampi to witness everyday Indian life is at the Bathing Ghat - a series of steps that lead down to the river, just to the north of the Virupaksha Temple. Here you can see local women wash clothes and other people bathe.
I think Hampi is a no-meat area, which is probably due to fact that it sits right outside the large Virupaksha Temple. However, you'll still find most places advertising meat dishes on their menus. I enquired at one place, called the Prince restaurant, about the meat dishes they had on their menu only to be told that they didn't do any as they would be fined Rs5000 by the local police if they were found serving them. Don't really know why they're on there in that case! Anyway, if you really want meat you'll have to go over to the other side of the river (e.g. to the Laughing Buddha).
The river plays an important part of everyday life in Hampi and if you walk along it you can witness that truly Indian experience where local women wash clothes and other people bathe. You can also cross over the river via a small ferry and also see local people transport and fish from small round floating baskets known as coracles. They are flat basketlike craft used to ferry people & sheep (yes sheep!) and are about 6 feet in diameter. They are made of bamboo, cane, plastic sheets and a fine coating of bitumen to make it leak proof.
Hampi is brimming with everyday rural Indian life. Hampi Bazaar is the main street in the village and is long, straight and wide. It starts at the Virupaksha Temple and continues for about 1km till it meets the foot of Matanga Hill. Poor villagers have made the eastern section into their homes where you see children cutting firewood, chickens running around and a lot of rubbish. This is true rural Indian life which is great to see as you make your way to the Vitthala Temple. Other places to witness that truly Indian experience are along the river where local women wash clothes and other people bathe. If you cross over the river you can witness rural farming with ploughing done by ox.
Lakshmi is the celeb of Virupaksha Temple in Hampi. She is the official Temple Elephant, a position with great responsibility.
I saw her for the first time standing outside the temple, observing the crowds who came for the festival. The next morning she was in her place inside the temple, busy blessing the worshippers. One moment later her trunk was gently touching my head: I was being blessed! The same trunk also collected the rupee coins I placed on it, and then got ready to bless the next in line.
I am sure her blessing brought me good luck for the rest of my trip in India!
At many of the temples you will come across sadu's (holy men). They will readily "bless" you, for which a small donation is expected. Likewise if you visit the Monkey Temple, your donation is in the form of payment for nuts to feed the numerous monkeys to be found there. 5 or 10 rupees is ok.
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