Yesterday, after an 8 hour, 340 km journey through the most rural of rural India we arrived in Hampi. I must say, having a car and driver and being able to stop anywhere anytime is the only way to see the true day-to-day existence of the people of this fascinating country. Words cannot really describe the sites we’ve seen over the more than 1,500 km’s of driving so far so hopefully some of our road pics with a few words of commentary will help but first, Hampi, another of the many sites in India designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The main town of Hampi is a typical noise and exhaust filled cornucopia of chaos. It lies about 3 km from the Village of Hampi (Hampi Bazzar) which has slowly grown into a funky little tourist area in the heart of the boulder strewn and incredibly beautiful surrounding hills and temple ruins.
Situated among banana plantations, palm groves, paddy fields and a meandering river, the area is dotted with “chill” restaurants and small family run homestays offering private rooms with toilet, bed and shower, it is such a nice change from the hectic to the relaxed.
Only motorcycles and auto rickshaws/tuk tuks are allowed on the very narrow roads that make up a small grid in this village of 1,000 people where alcohol is prohibited but secretly available as are the “special lassies”, however, there is a serious issue here that looks to cause the demise of this little Hampi hippie haven.
According to the Indian government, all of the businesses that exist to serve the tourists here are illegal and must be removed. All of them from tiny Mom and Pop window shops selling soap, water and toilet paper to all of the home stays and restaurants. Everything.
On the day we arrived we were told the court process to prevent this mass displacement had been exhausted and the next day the locals would find out their destiny.
The worst case which most were expecting was everything would be bulldozed. The second worse was they could keep their homes but must immediately close all business, their livelihoods. Not much of a choice and it was heartbreaking to have this conversation with the locals. What do you say to them?
Late the next day the verdict was in. Close all businesses immediately and don’t lose your home or defy the order and face demolition.
In a similar court ruling in 2011 they moved in and over night bulldozed homes and businesses into oblivion leaving 1,500 people homeless. Plots of land a few km’s away and compensation was offered and we’re told many are still left waiting.
Then, in 2016 they did the same to another small village in the area.
The vast majority of these businesses are run out of adjoining sections of their homes so the cost of defying the closure is the very real prospect of having your home demolished. The people knew the government wasn’t kidding.
When we departed the next day after the verdict every single business was shuttered, everything was shuttered. You couldn’t buy anything from anyone or any business that existed only 24 hours earlier.
There are over 3,700 beautiful monuments scattered over 36 sq. km’s of this amazing area and it seems if you live near these ruins your lively hoods will be ruined.
People blame the UNESCO designation (they can be very heavy handed in how they run things) but we’ve also heard some big hotels in the area are pushing for this, they are losing business and we’ve also heard (according to the gov’t) the concern is about human encroachment into the ruins. It’s probably a combination of several things.
We think the best solution is the status quo. No more construction, keep what is there and move on. It would be a terrible loss to the local people and tourism.
We doubt few travellers aside from organized tours would stay in the noisy and totally uninteresting main town of Hampi.
Unfortunately the area has lost a true jewel that glittered around the edges of a truly spectacular site.
Road pics to Hampi (iPhone pics)
The amazing ruins of Hampi