Waiting for us at the end of Hampi Bazaar was a huge monolithic statue of the bull Nandi housed in a twin-storied mandapa (pavilion) with a heap of huge boulders behind it. Known locally as Yeduru Basavanna, this was carved out of the rock and although fairly primitive in style has an imposing presence about it.
Sadly, like so many other religious monuments in Hampi, this statue of Nandi has been desecrated, but it still gazes towards the Virupaksha Temple nearly a kilometer away as if carefully watching over the safety of the shrine to his Lord Shiva that is housed there.
The stone staircase up to the old Hampi Bazaar entrance gate was pretty steep, but it did afford us some wonderful views of the Bazaar and the Virupaksha Temple as we looked down from the steps.
There were also some intriguingly-shaped shaped boulders formations along the way, as well as this small shrine dedicated to the monkey god Hanuman.
Even though the Virupaksha and many other temples in Hampi are dedicated to Shiva, Hanuman is probably the most cherished local deity, for it is widely believed that this region was the site of Kishkindha, the forest domain of the monkeys, which was where one of the most famous and gruesome episodes in the Ramayana took place.
In the scene, Rama, the hero of the poem, and his brother Lakshamana were journeying south in their quest to rescue Rama’s kidnapped wife Sita, who had been carried off by the ten-headed demon king of Lanka, Ravana, when they were told Sugriva, the deposed king of Kishkindha, could give them news of her.
The two brothers set off for the region straight away to meet with Sugriva and his advisor, the monkey warrior Hanuman, and were told by Sugriva how he had seen Sita drop her jewels and one of her garments as she was being carried through the air by Ravana and how Sugriva had collected these objects and hidden them in a cave for safekeeping.
Sugriva showed Rama the items as proof of the truth of his story, and the two men went to seek out his brother Vali, who had deposed him as king of Kishkindha and taken his wife Ruma. As Rama stood by watching, Sugriva and Vali fought each other but were evenly matched until Hanuman stepped forward and placed a garland of flowers around Sugriva’s neck. Rama then shot an arrow right through Vali’s heart, and restored Sugriva to the throne.
In addition to getting his wife Ruma back, Sugriva also took Vali’s wife Tara as his empress and now that he was king again spent his time relaxing rather than continuing to help Rama. This greatly angered Rama, and it was only after an intervention by Tara that the two men were reconciled and Sugriva sent Hanuman off in search of Sita.
After finding her in captivity in Ravana’s island fortress of Lanka, Hanuman returned to Kishkindha to tell Rama and Lakshamana of his discovery and then he organized the monkey army that built the causeway to Lanka that Rama crossed over to defeat his enemy and rescue his bride.
Sugriva nearly died at the hands of Ravana’s brother during the battle, but was saved at the last moment by Lakshamana.
Just across from the Hanuman shrine, you can see Matanga Hill, which was where Sugriva and Hanuman fled to after the king was deposed by his bother Vali and came under the protection of the holy rishi (saint or sage) Matanga, who had pronounced a curse on Vali after finding the putrefying corpse of a demon that Vali had killed and flung close to his hermitage.
Matanga Hill is the highest and most famous peak in Hampi, and houses a shrine dedicated to Virabhadra, a great warrior who was created by Shiva, on its summit. From there, you can enjoy magnificent panoramic views of the ancient city and its surrounding area, particularly at sunrise and sunset, though unfortunately we didn’t have the time or the energy to climb it on this trip.