I usually make two visits to Hampi every year. If there is one thing that I necessarily look forward to during every visit, it is the climb to Matanga Parvata to watch sunrise over the landscapes of this ancient city.
Matanga is perhaps the tallest hill in Hampi, on the right bank of Tungabhadra River. From the vantage point on the top, the sun rising over a misty landscape during the winter months highlights a wave of ridges that line up the eastern sky. As the big blob of light moves well above the hills, the golden lights sparkle on the smooth surface of the boulders littering the landscape. Tungabhadra shines in the skylight, with occasional coracles moving up and down on its calm surface.
The steep fall of Matanga towards the east offers a bird’s-eye view of Achutaraya Temple right below and an uninterrupted view of the sunrise above. On the western side of the hill, the tall spire of Virupaksha Temple appears to challenge Matanga in its height. All around, remains of the erstwhile Vijayanagar Kingdom – Vijaya Vithala Temple, Krishna Temple, Lotus Mahal and several mantapas offer insights to the city’s past.
A little downstream, on the other side of the river, is Anjanadri Hill – a place of many legends. While Hampi’s hills are often credited to be the place where the kingdom of monkeys from Ramayana once existed, Anjanadri is known as the place where Hanumantha was born. The hill now houses a hoard of monkeys that usually settle around an Anjaneya Temple, as if to prove a point.
While Matanga is the highest point on the right bank, the Anjanadri probably takes the honour on the left bank. Near the base of Anjanadri, the river takes a steep turn from its northwardly flow to east, which allows a line-of-the-river view of sunrise from the hill top. In the winter months, the morning landscapes over the river appear bathed in gold – a spectacle that stays in the heart as permanently as it does in the camera.