Ruinenlust

The German language has a word that seems to have been made for Bernd – Ruinenlust (Ruin-Excitement). It means the delight one can feel at seeing ruins. I found a lovely explanation of this word – “collapsed palaces and the rubble of temples put anxieties about the present into perspective and induce a pleasing melancholy at the passing of all things”.

We’re now in Hampi, UNESCO World Heritage Site in east-central Karnataka. Hampi became the centre of the Hindu Vijayanagara Empire in the 14th century and the ruins of this civilisation are spread over 16 square miles.

Bernd is loving it of course. I was fairly certain that I was all ruined out after Angkor Wat but surprisingly I’m enjoying it too. What I like most is that in addition to temples and shrines we can see ruins depicting pretty clearly where the Hindu and Islam populations used to live.

In addition to structures such as the elephant stables (above) and the Queen’s bath (below – fancy) there are bazaars, public baths and even a clock tower in the middle of the residential area where someone would signal the time – time to go to work, time to have lunch etc.

I’m more interested in the daily lives of ordinary people than royalty, but it’s less documented and therefore usually a bit of a mystery to historians.

Aslam is our tuk tuk driver for the 3 days of our visit. He used to live in Hampi but the government is undertaking a program to demolish residences inside the heritage zone. A red cross was painted on his door, his home was bulldozed and now he lives in nearby Hospet. Financial restitution (for him and hundreds of others in the same situation) was promised by the government but never materialised.

Tough break, to put it mildly, and yet another reminder of how lucky we are. The UK may currently be going to hell in a handbasket but we’re unlikely to have our home ripped away from us.

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