We got out of the hundred degree heat to head to the most famous restaurant in Hampi–The Mango Tree. It is the only restaurant in India that I have visited where my driver, the kids and I could all sit down and order exactly what we wanted at prices that we could all afford and with the peace of mind that the food was safe to eat.
You find the restaurant by walking through a banana plantation. On the way, the tour guide pointed out these little miniature ferns that would close up when you touched them (much like sea anenomes). They made Carson very happy. Below, right, the restaurant is located in the backyard of a family’s house.
The setting was to die for. Lovely lounge like seats under a shady mango tree.
I had a traditional thali veg lunch, hummus and veggies, and then I ended my meal with rice pudding garnished with fresh coconut. And I mean fresh! The kids ordered french toast, fried rice, french fries, and watermelon slices. They loved the food! Carson had a nutella crepe for dessert.
We gazed at this view as we ate. Or rather I did. The kids gobbled down their food and then happily scampered about the complex under the shady trees until I was ready to go.
After spending over an hour soaking up the ambiance of the Mango Tree restaurant, we had a renewed spirit and energy to see the ruins of Hampi. Our afternoon was much more cheerful than the morning! To drive to our next destination, we headed past active archeological sites and recently excavated ruins. In the bottom left picture, they plan to excavate the banana fields all the way to the mountain in the distance.
Perhaps our favorite stop of the day was the Lakshmi Narasimha temple. There was so much to see, it was hard to focus on any one thing. The statue itself is the largest in Hampi and carved from one piece of granite. The tourguide enthusiastically started telling me the story of this god–half lion, half man–the fourth incarnation of Vishnu. The story, as told on the official Hampi website. It is such a good story that it is worth repeating:
“Vishnu kills the demon Hiranyaksha during his Varaha avatar. Hiranyaksha’s brother Hiranyakashipu wants to take revenge by destroying Lord Vishnu and his followers. He performs penance to please Brahma, the god of creation. Impressed by this act, Brahma offers him any thing he wants.
Hiranyakashipu asks for a tricky boon. That he would not die either on earth or in space; nor in fire nor in water; neither during day nor at night; neither inside nor outside (of a home); nor by a human, animal or God; neither by inanimate nor by animate being.
Brahma grants the boon. With virtually no fear of death he unleashes terror. Declares himself as god and asks people to utter no god’s name except his. However his son Prahlada (who a devoted worshiper of Lord Vishnu!) refuses. Repeated pressurization on him yields no results for Hiranyakashipu. Prahlada declares the omnipresence of Lord Vishnu.
Narasimha (being a man-lion god form) kills Hiranyakashipu. He comes out to kill at the twilightt (neither day nor night);on the doorsteps of his palace (neither inside nor outside); uses his nails to kill (neither animate nor inanimate); puts him on his lap before killing (neither earth nor in space). Thus making power of the boon ineffective.”
As the tour guide was telling me the story, Carson starts reciting the story with him. He knew the story by heart. So did Kaden. Turns out it is the basis for the Holi holiday.
As fascinating as the statue and the story was, there were just so many other things to see at this site. Long tailed monkeys–a pack of mothers with little babies. The kids LOVED watching these monkeys and Kaden took some great shots of the mommas and babies.
Below, right, one baby monkey kept trying to nurse from it’s mother, and you could tell the mother was just DONE. They were high up on the top of a ledge and she kept pushing the baby away. I was worried the little one would fall but he held on tight!
Also located on the same site was a very large example of a Shiva linga. The statue symbolized male and female components and is a place to come to pray for fertility. The kids were equal parts fascinated and a bit grossed out by this statue.
The site was also teeming with local people as it is an active site for religious worship. And the kids were playing in the water, and the ladies were cooling off from the heat. And the goats were wandering by. India.
Another site that we almost skipped, and I’m glad we didn’t was the Queen’s Bath (below). More like a spa retreat, the Queen would come to this structure to have a soak, sun bathe, get her hair and nails done, and more. Below, right, Carson clammored down to where the swimming pool used ot be.
The last large complex that we visited included the Lotus Mahal structure–part of a ladies only complex where the women would stay when the men were away. They kept the place cool by pumping water up to the second floor (what Indians call the first floor) and then streaming water over the sides of the structure to create natural air conditioning.
Above, right, watch towers where Eunichs protected the ladies. Below, the gallant elephant stables!
Above, Carson and I pretend to be elephants.
We decided to cool off with a fresh coconut near the elephant stables. The electrolytes from the coconut really bolstered our energy! And heck, I paid Rs. 15 for this coconut. I hear Gwenyth Paltrow pays $20 for the same drink back in NYC!
Above is a modern temple near Hampi. The kids really loved the collection of gods and goddesses displayed. We had a long conversation about this temple with our tour guide. Even Srinivas our driver joined in the conversation helping us to identify the characters portrayed.