When myth and nature merge...

When myth and nature merge...

Legend has it that the area around Anegundi, a village on the Tungabhadra across Hampi, was the monkey kingdom, Kishkindha of the Ramayana. The macaques and langurs that reside on the majestic boulders and ruins of the Vijayanagar kingdom have a pedigree that winds back in mythic time to Vali, Sugriva, Hanuman and their simian families.

As if to help us suspend our disbelief, there is the rocky hill of Anjanadri here. But of course, in the beginning, we know neither its name nor significance. We notice this imposing hillock from the Virupaksha Temple in Hampi and squint to bring in focus a few people milling about on top like ants on a mound. We wonder what the place might be. On another day, at another time, we see a white trail snaking all the way up the rock face to a whitewashed temple at the very top. A saffron pennant flutters in the breeze very much in the style of temples in the north; it seems an oddity in this part of the country. A few hours later we discover serendipitously that the hill is quite close to where we stay.  

Anjanadri Hill is named after Anjana, the mother of Hanuman. The climb to the hilltop is a modest trek with a pilgrim tint. It takes about 575 steps for us to trek from the base to the top. The steps are broad and neatly cut into the rock face. Handrails on both sides of the path make the climb safe and doable for all age groups. There is just one place a little before the summit where we need to negotiate around a massive boulder by stooping to climb. The sun beats down on the rocks during the day in the Hampi-Anegundi area. So it is perhaps best to do the trip early in the morning or at sunset. In any case, the hilltop is a well-known viewpoint.  

On top of the hill is a small shrine dedicated to Anjana Devi and   Lord Hanuman. The shrine is maintained by a sect affiliated to an order founded by Swami Ramanand in the 14th century, perhaps whose most famous member is Goswami Tulsidas, the 16th-century composer of the Ramcharitmanas. The devout sit around the shrine with eyes closed and legs crossed, chanting the 'Hanuman Chalisa', Tulsidas's hymn in praise of Hanuman.

The view on offer from the top is well worth the huff up. If we cast our gaze into the distance from a point to one side of the shrine, we see the splendid gopuras of the Virupaksha Temple. A little to the left we see the meandering waters of the Tungabhadra sparkling under the early morning sun.  

We spend about an hour on top and head back down before the heat and glare increase. In no time we are back in the lane at the foot of the hill, where we sip on tender coconut juice to quench our thirst while soaking in the feeling.  

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