Explore Anegundi, the village across the Tungabhadra river where the story of Vijaynagara Empire began
The Nandi looks benignly over the scenic Tungabhadra River. You are at Talvar Gatta, the old entry gate and tax collection point in Anegundi looking across the river towards Hampi where a century ago, George Sewell, stood looking wistfully at the Nandi and the fortifications above winding through the boulder strewn hills. For all his years spent working in Hampi, Sewell, the author of the comprehensive book on the rise and fall of Vijayanagara Empire, A Forgotten Empire (Vijaynagar), never got a chance to explore Anegundi. Maybe he was scared of taking the circular floating contraptions made of bamboo called coracles used by the locals. Anegundi is a pleasant drive of about 15 kms from taluk centre of Gangavathi. The scenery on the way is utopian — lush green paddy fields, swaying palm trees and an incredible backdrop of millions of loose granite boulders piled high reflecting the golden of the sun. There are these occasional sights of lonely mantapas or pavilions, a Hampi signature structure. Some mantapas sit by the road while some are precariously balanced high over the glinting boulders.
Huchhappayya Matt, on the outskirts of Anegundi, is an ornate two-storeyed temple set in perfect sylvan surroundings. While the temple is built of the standard granite pillars, in the rear there is an added colonnade with lathe turned soap-stone pillars. It is quite possible for Anegundi earlier was the centre of Chalukyas and Hoysalas dynasties, and therefore, had temples whose parts have been harvested to build this extension. Sitting in solitude among the profusely decorated pillars, carvings of women engaged in ‘Dandiya’ dance with monkeys playing on the enclosure fence, this deep calmness washes over your being.
Anegundi is the setting of Kishkindha Kingdom where large parts of Ramayana were played out among its boulders. Pampa Sarovar is one of the five holy sarovars in India created by Lord Brahma where Shiva and Parvati are worshipped. Ram and Lakshman bathed in the sarovar. They came here looking for Sita, who was abducted, when they met Sugreev and Hanuman and helped Sugreev get back his kingdom by killing his brother Vaali. On the banks of Pampa, one of the most popular Ramayana episodes was played out. Overlooking the Pampa Sarovar is the Srilakshmi Temple. Next to the temple is the cave where Sabari lived. A small platform inside indicates Lord Ram’s feet. This is the closest you have come physically to the Ramayana and Ram. As you duck into the low cave created by a cavity among boulders, it does feel surreal.
Laidback And Peaceful
It is time to drive into the centre of the village. A wooden chariot occupies the place of pride in the village square. Behind is the Ranganathaswamy Temple which was the temple of the Vijanagar royals. Outside the Girbhgriha, a Garud Sthambha rises and inside the locked sanctum, you can see Adishesh and Ananthashayana or reclining Vishnu.
The Royal Family
Stepping out in the square again, a freshly whitewashed Gagan Mahal gleams in the afternoon sun. The palace built of bricks with projecting balconies, niches and lattice work, has the most unique architecture in Anegundi and it reminds you of the Lotus Mahal of Hampi. It is possible that after the decisive Battle of Talikota, the vanquished Vijaynagara royal family came back to Anegundi and built this palace as their residence.
The story of Vijaynagar’s royal family goes back to around 1334 when the eccentric and tyrant Mohammad-bin-Tughlaq marched into Anegundi, where the local Raya or King, gave refuge to his rebel nephew. The Raya was duly disposed off and Tughlaq returned to Delhi after installing his governor. The local population soon rose in an uprising and Tughlaq installed Harihara as the King and his brother Bukka as the Chief Minister. In 1336, the brothers founded one of the greatest kingdoms, the Vijanagara Empire, south of Anegundi and Tungabhadra River where the boulder hills and the river would provide protection against the marauders from the North. The empire fell when the combined armies of Deccan Sultanates defeated Vijaynagar in 1565 in the Talikota battle.
More To Discover
Walking ahead north brings you to the Tungabhadra again as it changes course seemingly hugging Anegundi in its protective embrace. On the banks you see one of the most imposing mantapas. Called 64 Pillared Mantapa, the structure is a Samadhi of the greatest ruler, Emperor Krishnadevaraya (1509-1529). To the right is the Chintamani Temple where Ram killed Vaali. In Anegundi, you keep walking through time at every step. Anegundi, as old as the boulders here, has aged gracefully. She is mother to Lord Hanuman, to the pre-historic men who lived and hunted among these boulders and to one of the greatest kingdoms. The dignified matriarch straddles the times from myths to the present unassumingly. You love Anegundi and will be back soon as the mother waits to shower you with her love and blessings again.
Text & Photos: Nirdesh Singh