A couple of langurs greets us, as I listen to my guide Virupaksha gush about his hometown. “Anegundi is older than Hampi — in fact, this is the mother kingdom.”
It's a medley of the ancient (cave paintings of prehistoric men), the mythical (it's said to be the Kishkintha of The Ramayana), the holy (the Pampa Sarovar flows here), and the historic (ruins of forts, palaces, temples and gateways…). But, most importantly, Anegundi is a lively settlement that opens its doors to most tourists who visit Hampi.
A fisherman and his wife are busy making nets near the Tallarighata Gate, as we sip tea in a small shack, talking to a few old women, lost in the passage of time. “You will find another gate in Hampi,” says Virupaksha, and explains that during the Vijayanagar dynasty, it was at these gates that toll or taxes were collected from people entering from other kingdoms.
For a prayer
An auto driver decides to take us on a whirlwind tour of Anegundi. We see the village, the palace, the main entry gates, and then climb up the old Durga fort listening to more stories. “The Vijayanagar kings used to pray here before every battle. Then, they went to the Pampa Sarovar and the Lakshmi temple there,” enlightens Virupaksha. We climb further to see an ancient entrance to the fort, the ruins of a palace and tombs.
“Kishkinta means a forest where monkeys lived,” explains Virupaksha, about the Hanuman Temple atop the Anjanadri Hill, which takes 400 steps to reach.
As we lose ourselves in the green fields below, bordered by the boulders, Virupaksha says the last coracle will leave for Hampi soon.
A few minutes later, sitting precariously on the coracle that's carrying two bikes and a dozen people, I cross the Tungabhadra. My thoughts move to a passage in the book “A Forgotten Empire: Vijayanagar” by Robert Sewell which narrates observations by a 16th Century Portuguese traveller Domingo Paes.
He mentions that the coracle was used even then to carry “fifteen to twenty persons and even horses and oxen can cross in them if necessary”. Paes adds: “People cross to this place by boats which are like baskets, inside they are made of cane and outside of leather… and the boats are always turning round, as they cannot go straight like others; in all the kingdoms where there are streams there are no other boats than these”.
It is interesting, I think, as we reach Hampi, that the coracle lives along with the monuments from the Vijayanagar days…