The Ramayama – very short

The Ramayama is one of India’s central epics. It is not as long as the better-known Mahabharata (which is as long as the Iliad andthe Odyssey together), but is still quite a complicated story, which extends geographically across the Indian subcontinent. Since the Ramayama plays  partly in Hampi , and as I stumble upon it almost everywhere,  here a very brief summary

Rama is the firstborn son of King Ayodha in the north of India and a reincarnation of Vishnu. His father, however,  owes a favor to  another one of his wifes and she  requests to send  Rama into exile, so her son can be king. Rama then goes with his wife Sita and his devoted brother Lakshman into exile and spends several years in the woods. One day the sister of the demon Ravana tries to enchant Rama. But she is not successful, Rama even cuts off her nose.  Ravana could not stand this dishonour and  abductes Sita with a lousy trick.


Ramayama

Ravana abductes Sita

Rama and Lakshman head now on the search for Sita and end up in the monkey kingdom Kishkinda. This is the region around Hampi, where they then regulate royal conflicts between brothers, before they continue to search for Sita. With them  on the road is now Hanuman – who has an army of monkeys, and later becomes known as apegod.

 

Ramayama

Hanuman meets Rama and Laksman

The latter is first sent forward to Lanka (where Sita is) to announce the upcoming help. He is captured there  and during his liberation he  quickly sets Lanka on fire. The liberation of Sita is initiated with the construction of a bridge to Lanka with the help of the monkey  armycommanded by Hanuman. Rama wins the succeeding war even if Laksman is wounded.

 

Ramayama

Hanuman hands over to Sita a ring as message from Rama

Then Rama regulates also in Lanka the conflict between the royal brothers, before Rama, Laksman and Sita can finally return home. Before the all embracing happy end, however, Sita must still undergo a trial by fire, because her honor would otherwise be in doubt.

Here in the south where I am, illustrations from the Ramayama can be found in many temples. Not that I am able to  identify the different parts of the story on the sculptures. Also the guidebooks  are not accurate enough for this. But sometimes there is a person on charge in the temples, who can gie at least rudimentary information about the contents of the sculptures in exchange for a “small gift”to give in exchange for a small “gift”. More rarely, I can also listen to a guided  group (this especially when it comes toWestern groups are, but they are rare).

For this purpose the childrens books, with the most important stories come in handy. For 50 rupees (70 cents)I bought  an illustrated children’s book, which summarizes the story of Rama. It is  still surprisingly complicated, but really good to get a glance. There are also comics which retell the stories of gods and heroes. I am sure, that I am going to buy more of those in the next weeks….

 

Hampi – a short overview

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The rocky landscapes of Hampi

 

Hampi is a place to slow down. It radiates a serenity and beauty with its temples and the very peculiar stone landscape. I spend my days in peace. Mostly I am active for half of the day – looking at temples, going to the lake and hiking through the beautiful landscape along the river. The second half of the day I spent chatting and reading, in one of the cozy hang-out areasthat invite you to enjoy some time. After a week I have still not enough and so I’m staying almost two weeks. The main reason is that I’m fighting with my stomach after one week, and two days have been very quiet.

But now to Hampi

The ruins of the former Hindu kingdom of Vijayanagar are spread over 26 km2. The city has fallen only 500 years ago, after the Kingdom was in clinch with local Muslim sultanates. The sites look much older, and as a European, I first think  there were ancient ruins. The individual temples are not so exciting, as I’ve been also confirmed by an lecturer of Indian Studies, I meet at the guesthouse.

 

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Krishna Tempel in Hampi

 

Impressively, however, is the hilly landscape, which is surrounded by rocks and boulders and has picturesque atmosphere. Many stay here hanging out  for weeks and exploring the temples and the surrounding countryside, roaming around the widely scattered sites or climb one of the many rocks.
Even if the site is not so old, the region is full of legends. This is the place of the Kishkinda Kingdom – the legendary kingdom of monkeys, which plays an important role in Ramayama. Hanuman the monkey god helps the hero Rama to free his kidnapped wife from Sri Lanka.
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Hanuman temple, where the monkey God Hanuman was born

 

To reach Hampi, you must take a train or bus ride of at least six hours, the nearest airports are in Goa and Bangalore. And therefore, there are still mainly independent travelers who come here. Around Hampi there are many small private guest houses. In the small village of Hampi Bazaar, tight nested houses, many of them with a rooftop restaurant. On the other side of the river the hippie scene has established itself. Here is more space, more green and almost all houses have nice outdoor areas inviting you to stay – many with views oover the rice fields or the river. Who wants to live in a better hotel, must switcch to the 15km distant Hospet and transfer every day.

How longthis idyll remains is currently questionable. In August, a row of houses that were built in front of  the historic bazaar, werer demolished by the local authorities almost without warning. Many fear that the whole place will be destroyed. It was first inhabited about 40 years ago with the emergence of tourism and has again spread all over. A Swiss told me he was the first time 35 years ago  there has not been a single guesthouse.

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Behind the demolished houses the pillars of the bazaar come to light, much to the chagrin of the UNESCO people have settled also here

How Hampi will evolve is currently more than open. I can hardly imagine that all accommodations will be demolished in the core zone of the world cultural heritage. Until then, the backpackers will continue to flock into Hampi in search of a few quiet days in the hustle of India. “We live as if there were no tomorrow,” an aging hippie said to me.

Silent days in Agonda

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Cow at the beach

A small village on the coast of Goa – a Catholic church, small hotels on the beach with cabins, a few restaurants, private guesthouses. At the beach, more cows than people and more locals than tourists.

I’m accommodated in Simrose,  a nice place to arrive – in a breezy beach cottage overlooking the sea, with a mosquito net included.  At that moment I think, that the 1,000 rupees (about 15 €) I pay are very cheap. That will change in a few days later.

For me, the days are ideal for acclimatization. I practice yoga at the resort next door, hang out in cushion landscapes and read a lot. And the sea of course – the Arab by the way – I have not seen such waves for a long time. Swimming  is not really possible as they are really high. But one can well jumping along them. It’s also fun.

The best in Goa are the sunsets- as everyone tells me, because at almost all beaches the sun goes down over the sea. This considerably increases the pair density, as it seems to me. Accordingly, the beaches are very hot in the afternoon and have no shade.

 

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Sunset a la Goa

One afternoon I’m going to the busy neighboring beach Palolem, and I realize that I’ve made the right choice with the village of Agonda. But the bustling beach life there is also nice to visit.

 

Palolem Beach

Busz life in Palolem

 

A colorful mixture of Nations on the beach, cricket between umbrellas and cows, and restaurants with cuisine from around the world flock, a busy, yet peaceful atmosphere.
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Cricket in Palolem

 

In Palolem, I meet Wilson from Kerala. With him I’m driving for one day to secluded beaches – Turtle conservation areas where there are only restaurants but no accommodation. These beaches are calm, even lonely. Especially the second beach where the restaurants are hidden in a pine grove, is my favorite. And Wilson is not only a good guide but knows also about fish. With keen eye he chooses one, who will then be served Goan style with rice, dhal and salad. And we feast sort of into the sunset.

 

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Fish Goan Style

 

Arriving

Relaxing at the beach

 

A brief moment of wonder as I wake up early in the morning. The weather is so warm and a gentle wind is blowing through my beach hut. It is nice to be finally  back in the heat.  But thrilling too – a whole new country, many strange looks when I tell that I will be traveling alone through India. But no matter. Arriving is the only important thing today. I hop out of my  bed, stretch myself a bit and walk directly over to the beautiful restaurant overlooking the sea.

I’m not really hungry, so  a coffee is enough for the moment. While I’m  sipping it with pleasure, I notice that my stomach tweaks. Was it the airline food, the hummus full of  garlic the night before, or perhaps simply the fact that I brush my teeth with tap water. Either way – I feel restricted and I do not want to move, while it is also getting hotter and  I have to get used to this temperatures too. I decide to make it like my cats, and to take everything a bit slower.

A bed can be a wounderful retreat for a cat

Mimi and Musette were of course the most beautiful and greatest cat ever. Mimi the brave and Musette the more  withdrawn, who always took a long time to gain confidence. When we drove with them for the first time in the cottage, we had two small panicking  cats in the car. Once in the house, both have hidden under the bed at an incredible speed (amazing that they have found the bedroom so fast). Musette came only a day later out while Mimi explored already after a few hours the other room. And so it went, both at different tempos, making larger circles every day – until the day when Mimi ran away and came back only two days later – dishevelled and hungry.

I ‘m hiding myself not under the bed, but on the small, fine patio in front of my bungalow and spend the morning alternately reading and sleeping. For lunch, a banana lassi and a first swim in the sea and in the late afternoon I feel that I am ready explore the surrounding area a bit. Such a quiet, sleepy day at the beach is certainly not a  bad way to start your travels.

 

Tips for arriving:

 

  • Especially when you do not know a country, it is very pleasant to pre-book a hotel, at least for the first few nights. Many hotels also pick up their guests from the airport. This is a recommended option. Especially if you are bleary-eyed and disoriented, you can be an easy target for all sorts of scams.
  • A slow start is always good. Anyone who is not tied to a tour group, has every opportunity to rest . Time and temperature change and another kitchen are  a real challenge to the body.

Off to India

Whereever you go, go wth all your heart (Confucius)

Arrival beer at the beach

I have never prepared myself for a trip as well – read so many books,asked  people, watched videos. And yet I have the feeling, I know nothing. India is very different from Southeast Asia, where I’ve been in recent years – that’s what everybody agreed upon.

The country stands for so much: the poverty and the spiritual, hippies and Mother Teresa. For most people India evokes  something – either the the place of longing – of Sehnsucht, or the place where they never want to go, too poor, too crass to confusing. For the yoga scene India of course has a different meaning. Here is the cradle – created 2000 years ago, the Yoga Sutras, which are still standard works (Although yoga the way it is taught today in the West, is probably connected  only to a limited extent to these root. But that’s another story)

At Delhi airport, – the first impressions. I look at the faces, the colorful clothes of the  women, the more than strange carpet in the entrance hall. The newer the environment is, the more fascinating everything is  and the more interesting it is to look at all sorts of details.

I get more and more tired, and nod at the connecting flight from Delhi to Goa several times – which is also good, because it  would annoy me  that we have to wait in Mumbai for over an hour on the plane (delays are actually normal, it is also not necessary to explain why it is sufficient that there is a delay – heit does not help  to know why).

After over 24 hours of travel time, arrive at a smal resort in Goa almost on schedule. I can evenwithdraw money during the transfer (I was a bit scared because at the Delhi airport, the card did not work). Finally I ‘m off.