PATA Travel Mart is all about professionally marketing destinations to buyers from around the world. It’s fascinating to know that its current host state of Karnataka’s official language Kannada has the word “maru katte” (meaning- a platform for selling goods) in use since many centuries and being the nearest word to English word market, it’s extremely likely that the word was adopted into the dictionary by the British. The historic stone architecture used as the background for PATA Travel Mart 2015 poster is that of a ‘maru katte’ or an ancient bazaar at the World Heritage site of Hampi in central Karnataka. These are actually remains of markets of the last Hindu empire called Vijayanagara. The rich and well developed kingdom was spread across most of today’s Southern India. Vijayanagara empire’s bazaars bustled with local and imported goods and produce much before the discovery of America.
Live evidences of maru kattes or bazaars of Hampi from six centuries ago can be witnessed in the form of a rows of stone columns at several sites in Hampi. Hampi bazaar streets can even be considered among the first malls or organised space for international retail trade.
There are evidences that gems, pearls and precious metals were sold by the measuring jars at wayside markets in Hampi during the Vijayanagara kingdom’s rule. Foreign travellers of the time have described Vijayanagara as a prosperous and well-planned city, and even compared it to Rome. History books depict that famous rulers of Vijayanagara brought many reforms and people-friendly measures, apart from good administration. Mighty empire of Vijayanagara contributed immensely to culture, art, architecture and literature of India. The architecture is highlighted by the vast hypostyle halls and open-pillared mandapas with colonnades (some even musical). Karnataki-style music originated here. Many travellers from Italy, Portugal, Persia, Russia and China were attracted by its glory and have left their reminiscences.
Financially, the Vijayanagara empire had reached its peak. Agriculture was flourishing and bazaars bustled with fresh produce. Spice route flourished and cotton was exported too from 300 ports of the kingdom. Kings mainly purchased their requirements for army from foreign traders. Horses were imported from Arabia, Persia and Europe. Elephants were brought from Sri Lanka and South East Asia.
Dr S Y Somashekhar, professor at Kannada Hampi University said: “Each of the seven key bazaars of Hampi was designated a day of the week for its santé (market) day. Hampi bazaars were held at a different place (mostly near a popular temple) everyday. These bazaars had entertainment, education and accommodation facilities. Bazaars also supported cultural activities like fairs, festivals, music and art.”
Mr Somashekhar has done a research on Hampi Bazaars and has written a book on the same. Remains of bazaars can be seen at many of these markets through stone columned structures. Hampi bazaar in front of Virupaksha Temple is 717-metre-long with each of the stone mandapa (individual partition) having two or more halls. Some even are multi-storied with staircases. This well-developed city was destroyed by a group of invading kings. Its remains are being carefully excavated and maintained at this UNESCO World Heritage Site. India Tourism and Karnataka tourism are developing Hampi into a major destination in India.
A visit to see the remains of the grand heritage city spread on 22 acres of land is an inspiring and thought-provoking experience.
In the vicinity of Hampi is a sloth bear (black Asian bear) sanctuary. Karnataka Jungle Lodges and Resorts runs has a unit here with tented accommodation. Safaris are conducted to witness bears in their natural habitat.
Hampi is 350 kilometers from Bengaluru and can be reached in 6 hours by road. By train, it’s a convenient overnight journey from Bengaluru or Mysuru by Hampi Express. The train has air conditioned compartments and prior reservation is essential.
Accommodation: Hyatt Place, Hampshire is a 115 room five star luxury hotel spread on 10 acres of land close to Hampi. Orange County, another popular local chain of resorts is building a heritage hotel designed on the stone architecture of Hampi. The exclusive sixty room luxury hotel is expected to open later this year. Mallige, the popular three star hotel has 170 rooms at Hospet, 12 kilometers from Hampi. There many budget hotels at Hospet and a few at Hampi.
Shopping: Kinnal, near Hampi is known for traditional wood craft passed on from Vijayanagara. These are long lasting artifacts made from natural colours.
By Anand & Madhura Katti