3. The Indo-Portuguese Museum
4. The Old Jail Complex
5. Dutch Cemetery
There’s a Dutch Cemetery with more than a hundred graves just a couple of minutes from the beach. It is usually kept locked, so you can only take a peek through the gate.
6. Parade Ground
8. Kerala Kathakali Centre
Another charming art gallery with good food – this is a breakfast-all-day, soups, salads, sandwiches, cakes kind of place. I loved their lemonade flavoured with a local herb called narunandi (also called sarsaparilla or nannari). It is used in Ayurveda as a coolant, and is said to help alleviate many disorders.
During the non-tourist season in Fort Kochi, many places work limited hours or shut down altogether, so late dinners can get a little tricky. The Saffron restaurant in the Spice Fort Hotel is a nice option as it is open from 7:30 AM to 10PM. They claim to be an organic restaurant, which is another plus. The menu is quite huge and I really enjoyed their appams and stew.
Many more places like Oy’s Cafe, Dal Roti and Loafer’s Corner Cafe are highly recommended, but since we were there during the off season, they were closed most of the time.
However, things changed dramatically in the early 14th century. Muhammad bin Tughlaq took over as the ruler of the Sultanate. He was quite the tyrant, and his reign was full of rebellion. One rebel took refuge in a tiny kingdom called Anegundi, a small village near Hampi. Tughlaq’s army hunted him down, killed him and brought down Anegundi. A general stayed back to administer the region, but he soon returned to Delhi, leaving two young men named Harihara and Bukka Raya in charge. Theories abound about the origins of these brothers, but many accounts say they were princes from one of the ruling families in the region. Harihara and Bukka Raya didn’t declare themselves as kings at first. Quietly, but rapidly, they expanded their territories. Other rulers in the region aligned with these men who seemed capable of warding off the invaders from Delhi, and this unified kingdom became the mighty Vijayanagara empire.
Around the same time, another kingdom was founded to its immediate north, following another rebellion. Alauddin Hassan Bahman Shah, a commander in Muhammad bin Tughlaq’s army, revolted against the despotic Sultan, declared independence in the Deccan and founded the Bahmani Sultanate. In about 2 centuries, the Bahmani Sultanate broke up into the five Deccan Sultanates of Ahmednagar, Berar, Bijapur, Bidar and Golconda.
In the 16th century, the Vijayanagara ruler Aliya Rama Raya got involved in conflicts between these Sultanates repeatedly, sometimes supporting one, and sometimes another. Finally, the Deccan Sultanates got together in an alliance, and waged war on Vijayanagar. This was the iconic Battle of Talikota (a town known as Talikoti now), in which the Sultanates defeated Vijayanagar and killed Aliya Rama Raya. They then plundered and destroyed Hampi to the ruined state in which it lies to this day. The slain king’s brother survived the battle; he moved to Penukonda in present day Andhra Pradesh, and ruled the now weakened and diminished kingdom from there. The last Vijayanagara king made Chandragiri his capital, which was captured by the Golconda Sultanate, putting an end to the empire.
Hampi is magnificent even in its ruin, and one can only imagine what it looked like in its days of splendour. The city has often been compared to Rome, for its size, its riches, its flourishing art, architecture and literature, and also its abrupt destruction. Vijayanagara architecture is essentially Dravidian in its style, and scattered all over Hampi are an assortment of structures in varying degrees of dilapidation including temples, palaces, bazaars, mandapas, gardens and military structures. It is like Disneyland, but for heritage enthusiasts – here are some pictures 🙂
The group of monuments in Hampi were included in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in the year 1986. It’d probably take months to even skim the surface of Hampi’s treasures, but I hope you enjoyed the small glimpse into the medieval town from my short stay there.
Hopefully useful information
Nearest railway station: Hospet or Hosapete, 13km away. We took a train from Hyderabad.
Transport: Auto rickshaws, cabs, rented bicycles/scooters
Stay: Hotel Malligi, Hospet. My friend Ajay suggested it, and I totally recommend it too.
Memorable meal: Hotel Swati near the Hospet bus stand. We went because yamsivam recommended it on Twitter. Best dosas in the world. Seriously. Do not miss.
On the left of the above diptych: Shiva performing his cosmic dance or tandav. I don’t recognize the depiction on the right.
There is a reservoir at the base of the hillock, which would collect rain water flowing down the slope, making the fort self-sufficient for its water needs. The moat around the fort was filled by rain water as well.
Chandragiri is about 145km from Chennai, and 230km from Bangalore, but I really wouldn’t recommend going all the way – for all its rich history, the fort itself is not too remarkable. But if you are in the vicinity, like in Tirupati, which is just 14km away, do check it out. A sound and light show happens at the fort every night, with narration by Amitabh Bachchan. I didn’t watch it, but since the history of Chandragiri is rich, I’m guessing it must be good. Please note that the fort is closed on Fridays.
And finally, another interesting bit of trivia about Chandragiri: in the 17th century, the British East India Company purchased from Chandragiri’s king’s general, the piece of land where they built Fort St. George. The regions around the fort grew into present day Chennai, known as Madras earlier. You might have heard of the Madras Day celebrations that now take place each year – they are held on the anniversary of that historic transaction.
If you are driving to Mahabalipuram from Chennai, Sadurangapattinam, anglicized to Sadras, is just about half an hour further. The erstwhile settlement, adjacent to the Kalpakkam (of nuclear plant fame) township, has the ruins of a picturesque seaside brick fortress built by the Dutch after their arrival in the mid 17th century. Sadras was famous for muslin, that was woven (or spun?) in its looms. During the Carnatic wars, the warring parties would often conduct their negotiations in the fort, because while the British and the French picked sides and got involved, this Dutch settlement was neutral territory. Back then, the Sadras fort was referred to as Fort Orange, because orange is the colour of Dutch royalty. The British captured it from the Dutch in 1781, but returned it to them in about 40 years. Later, in the 19th century, the Dutch once and for all ceded all of their Indian settlements to the British.