Saturday, November 20, 2010

We visited - Hampi, Badami, Aihole and Pattadakal

The coffee decoction friends had been planning to visit Hampi, Badami, Aihole and Pattadakal for quite some time. The Deepavali holidays in November (4th to 7th) gave all of us an excellent opportunity to go on a trip. We started planning in early October. One thing about travel is good planning. It always helps to sort out the ‘where’ and ‘when’ part of the visit as early as possible and to tell all your friends about it. This way, they also get adequate time to plan their itinerary. Once the ‘who’ part was sorted out, we went ahead and booked accommodation at the KSTDC hotels in Hampi and Badami. The booking for KSTDC hotels is done by their authorized agents such as ‘Padaki Travels’. I found the ‘on line’ process to be easy and reliable.

We hired a 12 seater ac Tempo Traveler for our trip. The TT is quite comfortable as long as the roads are good. The TT reported to Sunder and Saroja at Jalvayu Towers at 0430 on 5th Nov 2010. Nair and Sudhi joined them. Prassu and Preet were next, followed by Jai and me and thereafter we went to White House in RT Nagar to pick up Dore and Lalithamma. Talking about White House, earlier on there was a rumor that Obama was also likely to visit Hampi and we were scared that it would interfere with our trip. I just realized that Obama gets underlined in red and one of the synonyms suggested by Microsoft is ‘Osama’. I hope Bill Gates has not done this on purpose. Finally we left the Hebbal flyover complex around 0545.
The drive from Bangalore to Chitradurga on NH4 was excellent as it is part of the Golden Quadrilateral - a highway network in India connecting Delhi, Mumbai,kolkata,and Chennai, thus forming a quadrilateral of sorts. This highway project was initiated by Atal bihari Vajpayee –Ex Prime Minister of India and consists of building 5,846 km (3,633 mi) of four/six lane express highways during the first phase. There after we took NH13 to Hampi. The decision to take NH13 was a grave error on our part. The roads are terrible and at places they do not exist at all – courtesy the mining lobby which transports iron ore via this highway. Unfortunately there are no official websites which provide a daily status on the condition of national and state highways. Also there are not many public sites which offer accurate information on the condition of roads. Unlike here, it’s extremely easy to obtain accurate information on condition of roads in USA and Europe. Our authorities at the national and state level need to provide this facility to the road user. It’s so much better to travel on a good road even if it means a few kilometers more.

We finally reached our hotel ‘Mayura Bhuvaneshwari’ at Kamalapura - Hampi around 1400 hours- a good nine and half hours in the TT. Looking back we should have done a little more home work. Prassu has suggested that for the next trip, “We meet at the RSI and discuss the details over a good Gin and Tonic, which is very good in agitating the brain cells – we could have several pre trip meetings to sort out route selection, places to visit, what small eats to carry, how much liquor is required, food and so on,” – the more the merrier.

Apart from the roads, the journey was very interesting. I enjoy travelling and love organizing trips, picnics and activities which take you away from the ordinary day to day existence. Over a period of time I have noticed that there are some inherent irritants in taking the lead. Automatically you become responsible for all aspects of the travel, be it the transport, food, accommodation, quality of roads, acts of God such rain, storm, oppressive heat, the health of those travelling and much more. As the journey progresses, you become the butt of all jokes, cribs and complaints. To obviate such an eventuality I decided to publish a ‘Disclaimer’ to all my fellow travellers – “This is to inform all fellow travelers (FT), that as the organiser of the trip I Captain MV Prabhakar IN (Retd) am not responsible for the performance of the Tempo Traveler, behavior of the TT driver, including his personal hygiene and bathing habits, roads of Karnataka, performance of BJP government, state of KSTDC Hotels, ruins of Hampi and such other issues. I am also not responsible for any delays and changes in programme due to rain, strikes and any other acts of God. Any dissatisfaction with the above mentioned services may be referred to the correct authorities. In order to help my fellow travellers, I have published below sample FAQ showing the correct way to ask a ‘Q’
Pubs, ‘Why is the driver driving so fast?’ - Wrong
Driver – you bloody fool! Why are you driving so fast? - Correct

Pubs, ‘The damn roads in Karnataka are bloody useless!’ - Wrong
When I go back I must write to the Chief Minister Mr Yediyurappa about bad roads in Karnataka - Correct

Pubs, ‘What have you gone and done? The rooms are bad and smelling!?!’ - Wrong
Are you the manager of this dump? by the time we get back I want the place all cleaned up or else I will give you one solid kick up your backside - Correct

Pubs, why are the roads blocked? - Wrong
Let me get down and find out why they are blocking the road … Correct

Believe me the disclaimer had an extremely sobering and salutary effect on all my friends and the entire trip was free of any innuendos and obliquely aimed questions. The TT suddenly stopped on NH 13 and we saw a number of people blocking the road. To my utter surprise and satisfaction all the FTs got down and went to investigate. What a relief!!!!

I. Figure 1 Farmers on Rasta Roko on NH 13

Travelling with senior citizens is great fun :) All of us have retired, brimming with experience, full of ideas and opinions about anything and everything around us. One cannot make a statement and get away with it. All utterances are discussed threadbare and different opinions offered on the subject. Somebody says “Gaultheria oil is good for joint pains”- is sufficient to start a debate of gigantic proportions. A volley of views is suddenly thrown at you. The cause of joint pains, Gaultheria oil is a hoax, proportion of Gaultheria oil with coconut oil, why Zulu tribesmen do not get joint pain, Vajpayee and knee replacement, Dr Ranawat’s life history, malayali massage cures everything and finally the tech savvy traveler reads out the details of Gaultheria oil from his Blackberry connection.

After a chaotic lunch we started our first round of Hampi darshan. Details of Hampi, the Vijayanagara Kingdom and the reign of Krishna Deva Raya are all very well documented and I shall keep these aspects to the minimum. Hampi belongs to Hospet taluk of Bellary district situated at a distance of 350 Km from Bangalore. We hired a local English speaking guide Mr Sreenivasa Char who was knowledgeable and did a reasonably good job. It is very useful to hire a guide in these historical places and they make the tour interesting. The readers have to bear with me as I have a placed a very large number of photographs on this blog, I could not help it, as the trip to Hampi and other places is all about photography and capturing their story told in stone for posterity. As you walk around the ruins it becomes evident that the city was rich and thriving and built around a proper plan.

Saint Vidyaranya established the seat of Vijayanagara Empire in 1336 A.D, with the help of his devotee disciples Hakka and Bukka. Hampi strewn over 26 square Km area was the capital of the Vijayanagara, for over 200 years during the period 1336 AD – 1565 AD, during this period four dynasties – Sangama, Saluva, Tuluva and Aravidu ruled Vijayanagara. The capital was once a major trading center. Anything from horses to gems was traded in Hampi. Art and architecture found its special place in Hampi. The rulers were great patrons of art and religion. King Krishna Deva Raya (1509-1529 AD) of the Tuluva Dynasty stands tall among the rest. During his regime the empire saw its peak. Hampi was finally laid siege to by the Deccan Muslim Confederacy. The Bahamani Sultans, who were the traditional enemies of Vijayanagar, were waiting for an opportunity to attack. When they saw that there was no strong ruler, they attacked and defeated the Vijayanagar army in the Battle of Talikota in 1565. Thus the invaders - the Bahamani Sultans - conquered Vijayanagar and burnt, looted and plundered its beautiful sculptures and buildings. 250 years of a glorious empire came to an end and passed on into history. Hampi was deserted by its people and it lay in ruins unknown to the outside world. Excavations by Archeological survey of India began in 1975 and continue even to this day. Hampi was declared ‘World Heritage Centre “by UNESCO on 5-December-1986. As explained by our guide, Hampi was chosen as the capital of the Empire, because of its strategic location, bounded by the torrential Tungabhadra River on one side and surrounded by defensible hills on the other three sides. In addition the soil around Hampi is excellent for cultivation.

Figure 2 - Map not to scale - 1. Both Calicut and Sri Lanka were tributaries of Vijayanagara Empire - 2. Considerable portion of The Gajapati Kingdom of Orissa was tributary to Vijayanagara Empire - Net

Figure 3 - Hills around Hampi as natural barrier

Figure 4- Hills and river Tungabhadra

Figure 5 - Old road with stones on the left
The BBMP has a lot to learn from the city planners of Hampi. 400 years back Hampi had broad roads for horse drawn traffic better than many of our present day narrow roads.

Figure 6 - All of us at Pushkarni

Figure 7 - Ruins of the shops with stone pillars

We visited the Pushkarni - the temple pond located at the entrance to the Hampi main bazar. The main bazar extends the entire length from Pushkarni to the Vitthala temple. Even by today’s standards the bazar is huge with its continuous row of shops.

Figure 8 - Entrance to the Vitthala temple

The Vitthala temple represents the highest watermark of the Vijayanagara style of art and architecture. Vitthala is the Krishna aspect of Lord Vishnu. It is one of the largest temples of the period, built under the patronage of King Devaraya II (1422 – 46) AD..... ASI

Figure 9 - Stone chariot inside the temple courtyard – perhaps the most stunning achievement, the wheels actually revolve - …ASI

Figure 10 - Sabha Mantapa

The composite pillars of the Sabha mantapa (congregation hall), are massive, hewn out of single granite block, which are designed as clusters of slender pillars. Some of them when tapped gently produce musical notes….ASI

Figure 11 - Kalyana Mantapa - Marriage Hall - Who does not want to get married in a place like this - Samundarbaba

Figure 12 - Utsava Mantapa - Festival Hall for musical concerts and dance programs

Figure 13 - Southern view of the temple – entrance at the far end

Figure 14 - Jai enjoying a coracle ride in Tungabhadra River

Figure 15 - Saroja, Nair and Sudhi in the Coracle

We then proceeded to the Zanana enclosure with high walls on all the four sides as it housed the queens’ residence. It also has a tank, treasury, elephant stable and Lotus Mahal which is shaped like a lotus flower from top; this two-story structure has beautiful arc ways set in geometric regularity. It was an air-cooled summer palace of the queen.

Figure 16 - Lotus Mahal

Elephant Stables: This huge stable, a beautiful example of Hindu-Muslim style of architecture, housed about 11 elephants in separate compartments.

Figure 17 - Elephant Stables

Figure 18 - Treasury

Figure 19 - Sun sets over Hampi

That was end of our day one at Hampi. We then proceeded to our hotel. Mr Deshmukh the manager of the hotel was there to welcome us to make up for the horrendous lunch he had served in the afternoon. After a hot bath, we all gathered to discuss the proceedings of the day. A soothing drink thereafter greatly helped us to appreciate Hampi even better. Conversation flowed freely like the Tungabhadra River – sometimes calm and steady and on occasions turbulent and tumultuous – but always remaining on course. The unfortunate NH13, recent utterances of Arundathi Roy, Adarsh and Kapil Sibals Right to Education act were some of the topics which kept us company, till Venkatesh announced dinner.

Dore and I believe that tipping should be done, like in the ‘Pre Paid’ billing concept. Especially in hotels, if you are staying for long, it is better to announce and display your intention of generosity and appreciation of hard work in advance. Dore called Venkatesh aside and tipped him in advance. The effect was immediate and the service thereafter become more prompt and personalized. This method works well in hotels, but for other jobs one has to exercise utmost caution.

After a very refreshing sleep and sumptuous breakfast, we set forth for the second leg of Hampi Darshan on 6th November. We have to thank ‘Cyclone Jal” for bringing rains to this area also. Hampi otherwise happens to be in the rain shadow zone. Throughout our stay the weather was very kind to us and making the trip very comfortable. Our first visit was to the Virupaksha temple. This temple is in ruins, but devotees still worship Lord Shiva. The temple has a 50 m tall, elaborately carved gateway and renovated in 1510 by Krishnadevaraya. The approach to the temple is lined with an array of shops catering to the foreign tourists.

Figure 20 - Is it hello “excuse me” or exclusive wrongly spelt. Whatever, I found it funny

Figure 21 - Virupaksha Temple

Figure 22 - Local musician blowing his skills

We were lucky to be in the temple courtyard when the temple elephant was brought in by the mahout. The elephant is extremely well trained and accepts bananas and cash. Depending upon the value of the gift, the elephant responds accordingly. It may be an ordinary wave of the trunk to the ultimate gesture of placing its trunk on one’s head. In my case, more than cash, it was recognition of another member of the same species.

Figure 23 - God be with you Brother

We then went to Lakshmi Narashima temple, the fourth incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The 6.7 meters monolithic idol is one of the finest examples of Vijayanagara sculpture. The statue was consecrated in 1528 AD….ASI

Figure 24 - Unfortunately this lovely and exquisite idol is badly damaged by the marauding forces

Our next place of visit was Badavilinga Temple which contains a 3 meter high monolithic Shiva Linga

Figure 25 - The Linga

We then proceeded to Prasanna Virupaksha (Underground Shiva) 14th century temple.

Figure 26 - Prasanna Virupaksha, the Sanctum Sanctorum is below the ground level and so named underground temple

Next was the Royal Enclosure, which is undoubtedly the jewel in the crown of Vijayanagara Empire Architecture. At one time it housed as many as 46 buildings such as the Main hall where the king held his court, water tank, underground secret rooms, Mahanavami Dibba and many more, occupying an incredible 59,400 square meters.

Figure 27 - Mahanavami Dibba

Mahanavami Dibba is a spectacular raised platform, 80 sq feet in area and 22m ft in height built by Krishnadevaraya to commemorate his conquest of Orissa. This is the tallest structure in this area and hence the first thing you would notice as you enter the Royal Enclosure. The Dibba provides a panoramic view of the entire Royal Enclosure. Standing on this elevated place and viewing the ruins, takes you back in time and it lets you feel like an emperor for the fleeting moment. An extraordinary place. The original Dibba had a sandalwood carved roof to protect the royalty from the elements. The king used this platform to watch the army march-pasts, war games, aquatic sports, shows of the royal animals, musical performances and also the most important Navratri celebrations, the nine day-nine night state festival. And this was the annual occasion the governors of various provinces under the king visited the capital to pledge their loyalty to the king’s dominion. For the king, it was an event to demonstrate the imperial pomp and power at his disposal.

Figure 28 - View from the Dibba. Notice the squares, which once supported the sandalwood columns of the roof

Inside the Royal Enclosure, not far from Mahanavami Dibba, is a beautiful and ornate water tank. The tank was not excavated until the 1980s. It is a square tank, measuring 22m x 22m. It is 7 meters deep. The water to the tank comes from a long aqua duct which can be seen in the photo below.

Figure 29 - The water tank

Figure 30 - Water from Tungabhadra supplied through an incredible 9 Km long aqua duct to the royal tanks and bath houses, a symbol of amazing engineering feat.

Figure 31 - The magnificent assembly hall of the king. The squares once housed sandalwood pillars of the enclosure.

Figure 32 - Secret Chambers

Figure 33 - The famous stone doors of the Royal Enclosure

Figure 34 - Queen's Bath House

Queen's Bath, located in Royal Enclosure, is a rectangular building with the long veranda inside approaching a square tank of 6 feet depth from all sides. This is considered as the Royal bath, where the king and his wives had their baths. It's believed that water in the tank was filled with perfumes and fragrance flowers for the royal family. It housed a change room on the first floor. Water was supplied through an aqua duct and drained out through a different duct.

Figure 35 - The Bath House

Figure 36 - Duct for used water

With this, our trip to Hampi came to an end. The numerous monuments of Hampi tell a story carved in stone, a story of a great empire ruled by grand kings and queens of four dynasties and their people, their lives, devotion to gods, victories, achievements and aspirations. Hampi undoubtedly was a fascinating capital of a flourishing empire. Hampi must have been a maximum city, attracting hordes of people from within the country and foreign nations. A very prosperous and busy city with broad roads, shopping malls and gardens. Destiny had its way and the city was plundered and relegated to the dustbin of history until the excavations unearthed this glorious city to be seen and appreciated by us and future generations. We left Hampi feeling proud of our ancestors and the heritage they have left behind.

We left for Badami the same evening taking a route recommended by the hotel manager, which kept us away from the dreaded NH13.It was Hospet – Koppal – Yellburga - Badami. Roads have a knack of deteriorating within days and it is advisable to seek information and advice in advance from responsible locals. We reached KSTDC Hotel Chalukya Badami by about 1830 hrs.The hotel, manager, staff, rooms and almost everything around there is so depressing, one gets a feeling that they are in competition with the ruins. We started our second leg of our trip on 7th with Pattadakallu meaning 'Stone for the throne' in Kannada. We were lucky to find yet another knowledgeable English speaking guide with a very unusual name 'Mr Benne Shetty' meaning butter shetty. Thank god the weather was very pleasant or we would have seen Mr Shetty melting.

The town lies on the banks of the Malaprabha River in Bagalkot District of North karnataka region. It is 22 km from Badami and about 10 km from Aihole. The group of 8th century CE monuments in Pattadakal are the culmination of the earliest experiments in the Vesara style of Hindu temple architecture. They were designated a World Heritage Site in 1987. The town displays both Dravidian (Southern) and the Nagar (Northern, Indo-Aryan) styles of temple architecture. I like the way Mr Butter put it across, if Aihole is primary school of sculpture, Pattadakallu is high school and Belur Halebid is college. Pattadakallu uses red stone, unlike Hampi where granite is used. One can visualize the difficulty in carving stones here when compared with the soft soap stone which is used in Belur Halebid.

Figure 37 - Pattadakallu Temples from a distance

Figure 38 - Kashivishwanatha Temple

Figure 39 - Virupaksha

Figure 40 - Sangamaheshwara Temple

Figure 41 - Mr Butter earning his bread

Figure 42 - The Gang

Figure 43 - Virupaksha Temple Complex - Bull pavilion - Monolithic Nandi mantapa - 8th century

Figure 44 - Vishnu measuring three steps

Figure 45 - Kadasideshwara with curved tower - dedicated to Shiva - 8th Century

Figure 46 - Another view of the temple complex

We then proceeded to Aihole, which was once the capital of the early Chalukyan dynasty. Aihole is a picturesque village situated on the banks of the Malaprabha river. There are about 125 temples in Aihole that are divided into 22 groups and scattered all over the village and the fields. About 30 temples in a single enclosure are surrounded by the walls. Most of the temples were built between the sixth and eighth centuries and represent early Hindu temple architecture. Various temples are being excavated here that reflects about the vigorous experimentation done in temple architecture about fourteen centuries ago under the Chalukyas. Aihole is the cradle of the stone temple architecture of the southern Dravidian school.

Figure 47 - Durga or Fort temple vaguely resembling our parliament house
We then went to Badami which is a visual treat of different sorts. The Badami cave temples are composed of four caves all carved out of the soft Badami sandstone on a hill cliff in the late 6th to 7th centuries. The town is named after the colour of the stone which resembles the outer skin colour of dry fruit ‘Badam’ or Almond. Incidentally my mother’s sister and father’s sister are married to Badamis who once hailed from this city. Cave 1 is dedicated to Lord Shiva and the first to be excavated by Chalukya craftsmen in 550 AD.

The rich past of Badami is closely linked with the ancient Kingdom of Chalukyas which dates back to 600 and 700 AD. Chalukyas built number of temples, and other monuments that marked the beginning of the Hindu style of architecture

Figure 48 – Caves as seen from below

Figure 49 - Closer view of the cave

Figure 49 - The second level cave. Notice the fort and two cannon post erected by Tippu Sultan on top of cave

Figure 50 - Third level cave

Figure 51 - Fascinating view of Vishnu and the pillar carving inside the cave

Figure 52 - Yet another example of the cave carvings - Lord Vishnu

Figure 53 - Nataraja with 18 arms

Figure 54 - All ears to Mr Butter
Figure 55 - Monkey view of the lake from the cave

With this we ended our trip to Badami. After a well deserved lunch at Badami Court we went back to Hampi to spend the night. In retrospect it was a very good decision to halt at Hampi, which in turn reduced our overall travelling time. Next morning, 8th November we left Hampi at 0930 hrs and reached Bangalore Jalvayu Towers, our final destination at around 1800 hrs. From Hospet we came via Bellary bypass on NH 63 and took SH 19 to Challekere – Erabahalli and on to good old NH 4. The roads are in very good condition and we had a very comfortable journey back to Bangalore. Post event wisdom dictates that we should have taken this very route while going to Hospet.

I look back at Hampi, Badami, Aihole and Pattadakallu in awe and feel proud that our ancestors created this architectural wonder in stone, hundreds of years back. Someone in the group remarked that the people of these places had nothing else to do but sculpt stones. May be its true – but see what they left behind for us. Take a minute to ponder and tell me what are the architectural wonders Karnataka has created since then. In 500 years all that I can think of is – Mysore Maharajas Palace and Vidhana Soudha building.


  1. Lovely read :) Submit it to Lonely Planet :)

  2. I am reading photo-features on Hampi/Badami, published in the Internet, with a lot of interest, as I plan to visit Srimukhalingam/Hampi/Badami/Aihole/Pattadakal and photograph the beaties created centuries ago.

    Your article very good on logistics.You must have kept lots of personal notes. My interest area is Iconography - do you local guides will be able to throw light on this aspect ?

    Any books you suggest ?

    Best wishes.

  3. Dear Reader,
    I suggest you visit Archaeological Museum, Hampi
    prior to going around. I am sure you will be able to get a knowledgeable guide. Visit for further details. Try the references detailed in wiki and also A Forgotten Empire by Robert Sewell. Wishing you a happy and eventful trip.

  4. Very interesting account.We are planning a family trip to Hampi and ahve 3 days to spend.Our base will be Hotel Mayura in Hampi.Can we start in the morning on day 2 and cover Badami,Aihole and Pattadakkal in one day.On day 3 i thought wise tobe in Hampi itself.How far is Bijapur ?

  5. Dear Raghu - Thanks. Bijapur is 235Km from Hampi.It takes 4 hrs to reach Badami from Hampi.If you intend to come back to Hampi on the second day then it will be a very tight fit.Spend the second night in Badami and start off to Hampi very early on the third morning.Have a nice trip.

  6. Excellent Travelogue on Hampi, Badami, Aihole and Pattadakallu. I have scheduled to visit the above places starting 24 Dec 2010. This article immensely helped in my planning and I am very clear about the trip now. In fact, the way Captain has captured the details in the article, I already virtually went round the trip.

    Thanks a lot for your article Captain.

    With regards,


  7. Dear Srinath,
    Thanks. Have a nice trip and all the very best.

  8. Dear Captain,

    Very nice and informative article.

    Could you throw some light on the state of KSTDC hotels at Hampi and Badami? Are the rooms/beds clean and comfortable? How are the bathroom/toilets? I am planning to visit these places with my family. I have a 5yr old son hence these Qs.

    Did you engage the guide in KSTDC hotel? What were their charges?


  9. Dear Krishna
    Answers to your queries ad seriatim;-
    1. KSTDC at Hampi is OK
    2. Badami KSTDC is bad - avoid it. Try Hotel Badami or a new one next to it
    3.The rooms/beds etc are clean and resonably comfortable - its around 2 star
    4. Clean - but get it cleaned all over again
    5. Guide through the manager

    Catering is rather slow.Order in advance and intimate the time you will reach the table - it helps.


  10. Oops I forgot - we paid around Rs 900/day - but ours was a large group. May be you can bring them down to Rs 750/=

  11. cool... such a super duper account of the trip...i must bookmark this for future reference

  12. Dear Anuradha
    Happy you liked the details of the trip.

  13. awesome.The pics make me feel so proud about the INDIAN culture.Superb engineering....thanks captain for all the info.our famliy are actually plannning to visit hampi,Pattadakallu,aihole,badami from hyderabad.your blog helped us plan for it and i am sad that i will not be surprised as i have seen it all in your beautiful collection of pictures...neverthless i am very excited to see them all in person :-)...waiting for THE DAY

  14. Dear ~ Anon
    Wish you a very happy trip

  15. your account to hampi is impressive..specially the history part...loved reading it...thanks for posting..

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  22. Hampi is an alluring tourist destination for history lovers. The city of ruins is best enjoyed in Winters and one can stay comfortably as plenty of hotels in Hampi comes under different price ranges suiting every travellers needs.

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  24. Thanks for sharing this blog post having a lot of information. Badami in Bagalkot district of Karnataka is famous for its rock cut temples. There are many other places to visit in badami.

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