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Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Hampi Vijaynagara - Book Review

There are many guide books, but when the book is written by two Phd scholars John M Fritz and George Michell you have great expectations. The good thing is that most of your expectations stand fulfilled in their Hampi Vijaynagara book.

The book is much more than the mere listing of famous tourist spots. It provides in detail information about Hampi. The book is divided into four sections. The first one is called introducing Hampi. In this section we have chapters on layout of the capital, protecting and provisioning the city, courtly life, architecture and art, religious cults, festivals, Muslims and Europeans at Vijaynagara. The last chapter in this section aptly titled Hampi under threat summarizes the plight of this historic city.

In the following section - Exploring Hampi - we are taken on a tour of Hampi and its famous spots. But wait, there are no fancy tales like the ones which your tour guide will tell you. The descriptions here are based on studies of writings of many travellers who visited the city when it was at its zenith. You will be disappointed to hear that the musical pillars at the Vitthala temple is merely a myth. This section also makes passing reference to Hospet and Anegodi.

The next section is computerized reconstructions of the monuments of Hampi. Due to vandalism most of the monuments in Hampi are nothing more than dilapidated walls, broken statues and temples without any idols. So these reconstructions help us to visualize the grandeur of what we call rubble today.

The last section is appendix comprising of reports of foreign visitors. This part of the book is to be treasured. The descriptions of the King, his kingdom, festivals and busy markets take you to a different time and world. You will never wish to come back to the present times. The pictures as well as the paintings in the book aptly capture the magnificent expanse of Hampi. Watching Alexander Greenlaw’s black and white photographs is a visual treat.

It is indeed unfortunate that I have to point out spelling and grammatical mistakes in almost every review, including those published by big names in the industry. Here too on page 66 shrine is misspelt as shine. But still I enjoyed reading this book.