If only stones could speak… A visit to Stonehenge

Stonehenge. From the moment I read about it in a school history book, I wanted to visit it. Photographs of stone slabs in a circular formation should have been boring to a 10 year-old, but the opposite was true for me—I was fascinated with Stonehenge, so much so that everybody in my family knew about it. When I left for my year-long stay in London in September 2008, my father told me, “You’ll finally see the Stonehenge now.”

And I finally saw Stonehenge for real at 11 am at on a wet, grey and rainy day in July 2009. Instead of elation and joy at having finally seen my “childhood dream”, my first reaction was one of intense disappointment — I had expected towering stone slabs rising up to the skies, but all I saw was a cluster of stony protrusions on a plain, featureless landscape. Added to this disappointment was the persistent rain that had followed me from London, leading to a perfect set-up for the much-anticipated visit to Stonehenge turning into a disaster.

I gave myself a strict talking to about not judging monuments by their appearance and to enjoy my visit as i walked towards the ticket office. I had almost cheered up when I saw the people lined up to buy tickets to see the monument. There were babies in prams, toddlers being given their first or maybe 11th history lesson by their fond parents; bored tweens and teens dragged around by determined parents. There were also busloads of bemused Italian, Spanish and Chinese students (who were in England to learn English) and trying their best to look interested as their instructors shouted out amidst the din: “Look at the stones and feel history and pre-history”.

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Hampi: Where mythology, history and today coexist

Vali and Sugreeva. Relief at the Hazara Rama Temple, Hampi

Where do I begin writing about Hampi—its many stories and histories, its kings and legends, its glorious past and ultimate ruin, its temples and other monuments, and its present day avatar. At the beginning, of course !

By Hampi (which is situated on the banks of the river Tungabhadra), I not only mean present day Hampi, but also the region around it.

Many millennia ago, the area was called Kishkinda or Kishkindanagari. This was the kingdom of the vanar Vali and later his brother Sugreeva, and home to the vanars who formed the bulk of Rama’s army in his battle against Ravana in the RamayanaAnegundi, the birthplace of Hanuman, is also located in this area. Anegundi was the erstwhile capital of the Vijayanagara Empire, before it was shifted to Hampi. One can still see the remains of old stone bridge connecting the old and new capitals.

Remains of the bridge across the Tungabhadra connecting the old capital, Anegundi, and the new capital, Hampi, of Vijayanagara

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