It must be the shortest river crossing – from Hampi to Anegundi across the Tungabhadra river. The two minute journey at the Talwarkatta crossing might lead you to think you could just swim across.
Make no mistake though. The water is quite deep – deep enough to have drowned laborers working on a bridge as it collapsed in 2009. The loss of life and money only reinforced the superstition that the Gods were not in favor of the idea, and there hasn’t been an effort to re-build it since.
Bridge or not, I am keen on visiting Anegundi. Our trip to Hampi has just ended. Hampi surrounds you with history in a way that no other place in India can (see my posts here and here), but after a while seeing boulders all around is just overwhelming. So, we decide to find out what normal, everyday life in these parts is like. We also want to observe sustainable tourism initiatives by an NGO, the Kishkinda Trust, at work in Anegundi.
Here we are then, waiting for the boat at the jetty while the minutes seem to tick away endlessly. To be honest, it just feels that way ‘coz 1) it is blazing hot 2) we are the first ones to arrive while the locals saunter in close to departure time. Stumbling around with luggage on rounded, slippery rocks doesn’t help either!
Unlike us, if you have back packs for company, you could take a coracle instead of the boat to ride across. It is the more unsteady option though, unless you are used to floating around in a basket 😉 (Am kidding, it’s fun!).
If you are wondering why you can’t take the road, the answer is you can, but the journey takes close to an hour.
Anyhow, as the boat chugs to the jetty consisting of little else but flat, partially submerged rocks, waiting passengers arrange themselves in single file.
First off the boat come bicycles, ridden or hoisted over the rider’s shoulders. Bikes follow, vrooming and landing with a thud on solid ground. Then come the passengers, with firewood, goats and instruments of labor that give an idea of the hard work that goes into making a living here.
We take the boat and reach the Anegundi side of the river bank. The monkey kingdom of Kishkindha (from the Hindu epic Ramayana) awaits us.
Our auto rickshaw pulls up in front of Uramma House, a property that is part of the sustainable tourism initiative I wrote about earlier. I think to myself that it looks much like any other house in the village, barring the lock.
The exterior is where the similarity ends though. Comforts of modern living seem to extend only to homes that have been customized to receive tourists, like this one.
As we step into the large common/receiving area, the rustic décor immediately appeals to us.
It isn’t just the architect’s skill at bringing together traditional architecture and modern living that is impressive. Little ethnic elements like an antique looking lota (rounded vessel to hold water), sculpted locks and keys, reed screens on windows et al show the love with which the ambiance has been created.
We spend a peaceful afternoon. In the evening, loud drum beats are heard from the lane next to the House. Turns out, locals are celebrating the Muslim festival of Muharram. Joining the Tazia procession, we take in the sights for a while (the Tazia represents tombs of prophet Mohammad’s martyred grandsons).
While the ethnic majority here seems to be Muslim, we are told that Hindus and Muslims have lived side by side in the village for centuries. They even celebrate each other’s festivals, which is not common practice in India.
Unlike much of rural India, Anegundi has pucca houses. At the same time, it does have other trappings of a small village. Tinkling of cow bells as they are herded to and from river side pastures, hens being followed around by their brood, thick smoke rising from courtyards as the evening meal is cooked – all lend that pastoral character that we find so fascinating.
The kids are friendly – they smile as we pass by and say ‘hello’ with a foreign accent. A few insist on being photographed – a result of tourists frequenting this area one would think.
It isn’t just tourists who breed this familiarity among the children though. They are used to interacting with foreign volunteers at the Kishkinda Trust, the local NGO.
Any conservation effort means locals have to forfeit benefits of urban development. This makes it imperative to devise ecofriendly means of living.
The Trust has done just that by setting up a cottage industry to manufacture products made of banana fiber ,which is locally grown. Encouraging villagers to offer their houses as home stays negates the need for additional tourist accommodation.
Educating/training youth to become tour guides, bird watchers, service staff at home stays etc. makes tourism a sustainable alternative and ensures that the local populace does not have to leave their village for jobs elsewhere.
We also see signs of a few locals breaking away from the Kishkinda Trust to start their own enterprises.
It seems to have succeeded in this respect.
There are no polluting industries here. Sensitizing locals to cleanliness and personal hygiene however, is a tougher task and lack of solid waste disposal facilities hasn’t helped this cause.
Anyhow, we have little time in Anegundi. So we visit the banana fiber product workshop and go for bird watching with a local, skipping the usual tourist spots. I shall write a separate post on the bird watching bit.
Join me by the Tungabhadra riverside for now.
Overgrown with tall grass subtly changing color with the sun, the rocky banks teem with life. Herons and egrets walk in search of prey- their necks moving back and forth, kingfishers dive from strategically located perches, crabs cling to rocky overhangs and though we don’t see snakes, holes point to their presence.
And – it’s peaceful. So quiet that you can hear a fisherman’s oars splashing far off, soft voices carrying long distances, thoughts racing through your mind. This is bliss. Except for flies, which buzz around annoyingly.
On our return, we pass by the Chintamani temple and the ornate wooden house of current royalty (I didn’t click a picture as it was being renovated).
We go for lunch to Uramma Cottages and decide to shift there from Uramma House. Apart from having an onsite restaurant, this option has the added benefits of a library, boutique and an open air amphitheater.
The setting apart, what stands out at Uramma is the food and service. The chef consults us on the menu for each meal. Servings are generous and our host Siraj makes sure we are wanting for nothing.
NOTE: This is not a sponsored review. I try and present my honest views on properties visited personally.
I end this post with a brief travel guide.
In my next, I hope to take you along on a bird watching trip in Anegundi. If that sounds interesting, do drop in once more.
If you wish to read more on Anegundi, click here
When to visit Anegundi/Hampi – November/December are best. It’s pleasant during winter (October-February), but summers (March-May) are very hot and dry. I wouldn’t advise visiting during monsoon either.
How to get to Anegundi/Hampi – Trains offer the best transport – book seats in air conditioned coaches on the Indian Railways site. Click here for the site . The nearest railhead is at Hospet/Munirabad depending on where you are arriving from.
If you are going to Anegundi first, tell the hotel to send a car for a pick-up from the station. If you are visiting Hampi first, hire a rickshaw.
The nearest airport is at Hubli. It will take a minimum of three hours to drive down from there.
If you are already in Karnataka, state transport buses will take you to Hampi. You need to get off at the Gangavathi stop to reach Anegundi. Click here for help
If you wish to take your own car, check out this link
How to get around Anegundi – Request your hosts to arrange for an auto rickshaw.
Where to stay in Anegundi/Hampi – As Anegundi is a village, you don’t have too many options to choose from. Take your pick from Uramma Heritage Homes, Kishkinda Heritage Resort and Shama’s Cottages.
However, if hotels are your thing, you could stay in Hampi and do day trips to Anegundi. –
Link to options listed on Lonely Planet
Link to options on tripadvisor
Where to eat and what in Anegundi/Hampi – Your place of stay should offer food. It might be a good idea to check which vegetables/fruits are in season and order accordingly.
If you are looking for continental food, definitely visit Uramma. Order soups, pastas and the like and you will not regret it. Uramma’s pumpkin soup was the best I’ve had. Indian fare is also good, not to mention home-made jams, pickles and preserves.
Hoova Café is an option too, but we didn’t visit so I can’t offer comment on the quality of food.
If you don’t mind crossing over to Hampi, you will have a wider choice. It would be preferable to order South Indian fare like lemon rice, tamarind rice, bisi bele bhath etc (see more on the cuisine here )
Mango Tree in Hampi seems quite popular among our guests from the West. One must note that the restaurant has shifted and is not near the river any longer. We found the food decent enough.
Durga Roof top serves good North Indian cuisine. Chillout restaurant and Tom & Jerry are also recommended. If you happen to be in Kamalapura, you could eat at Mayura Bhuvaneshwari.
What to see in Anegundi– The Anegundi Fort and Durga Temple inside, Huchappayana Matha temple (with black-stone pillars and dance sculptures), Pampa Sarovara (a lake sacred to Hindus) and Navabrindavan (island housing tombs of nine Madhva saints) are the major attractions.
If you don’t mind physical exercise, you could climb the 570 steps on the Anjaneya hill to the Anjaneya Temple (believed to be the birthplace of monkey god Hanuman).
What to buy in Anegundi/Hampi – Banana fiber handicrafts and Lambadi embroidered cloth in Anegundi.
Hampi offers stone and wooden carvings, brassware, silver jewellery, spices, ethnic clothing, bags,musical instruments et al. Don’t forget to bargain though as the tags are tuned to Western wallets.