A blog about writing, reading, travelling and great characters I meet in life. I love these things more than cheese-on-toast times trampolines times monkeys.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Striking at the heart of Hampi...

Hampi. A magical place in Karnataka, India.

Where giant boulders have been dropped from the sky into the lazy, cool river.

Where Lakshmi, the Virupaksha temple elephant, blesses pilgrims and has her morning splash in the river. Watch out for the spray!

Sleepy cows wander in Hampi's Main Bazaar.

School children and Indian pilgrims come to visit the UNESCO World Heritage monuments.

The long-established community in Hampi work, play and relax together.

As a visitor to the heart of Hampi, all I have felt is the warmth of the community's welcome.

I am treated like a member of the family.

I feel completely safe here.

Then I start hearing the word ‘DEMOLITION’ around town...

On 29th July 2011, bulldozers arrived in Hampi, Karnataka.

They demolished houses and businesses in Hampi’s Main Bazaar following government instructions.

Local families and business owners who have lived and worked in Hampi for generations say they were given less than 24 hours notice of the demolition.

The Indian government claims that the houses and businesses they demolished were illegal constructions.

They say this established community poses a threat to Hampi’s archaeological and historical sites (mantapas).

The High Court in Karnataka is considering the fate of the whole of Hampi Bazaar (affecting an established community of several thousand people). A court decision is expected in December 2011.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people in Hampi have been left without homes and businesses since the demolition in July.

Whatever the legalities and bureaucracy of this situation, there’s a community in Hampi who have lived and worked here for generations, who are frightened about what is happening to their homes and businesses.

Here are some of the stories of Hampi's people, affected by the demolition - you can also find out more about this at Save Hampi People...

1) Dasappa’s family have lived in Hampi for 55 years...

Dasappa is 65, he grew and sold bananas in Hospet market in his working life. His wife Vannuramma is 55. Here they are pictured with son Krishna (25), daughter-in-laws Lakshmi and Bagya Laxmi, and grandchildren Bhumika (4) and Nanditha (2). They are standing outside the home they have rented since their house was demolished by the government.

Dasappa said: ‘My family used to live on the main road in Hampi before the demolition.

'Our house was in good condition in front of the mantapas (archaeological structures). We were given hardly any notice before they demolished the front of our house.’

Vannuramma said: ‘I was crying on the day of the demolition – the police just told us to go out of the house. We could not take our things from the house – the furniture, the metal from the roof, the floor tiles, the ceiling fan – all of it was broken in the demolition.’

Dasappa’s question for the Indian government: Are you going to rebuild our houses in Hampi?

2) Kiran Kumar, 30, manager of Gopi Guest House and Rooftop Restaurant.

‘In 1985, my parents started their business in Hampi selling coconuts. Then in 1995, they had the opportunity to buy some land here. My father paid in 20 installments for the land. He built a house with six rooms and we rented three of those rooms to backpackers.

‘In 1998, we built the first floor and a rooftop restaurant. My Mum and my Dad put a lot of effort into this business – making it a very well run and recommended place for tourists. We have many very loyal customers who have returned here for over 15 years. Then my Dad died in a bike accident in September 1998.

‘Thanks to my parents’ hard work, I was able to study a Diploma in Tourism. In 2005, I finished my degree and now I manage Gopi Guest House and Rooftop Restaurant. I’m very lucky to live in such a beautiful place as Hampi. All the community here love and look after Hampi.

‘The biggest shock of my life was seeing the government demolition of houses and businesses on the main road in Hampi on 29th July 2011. I was involved in the peaceful protest with 4000 people from Hampi and surrounding villages. We sat in front of the police station on the main road.

‘We asked for a few days for families to clear out their homes and businesses but they didn’t listen. We were arrested and taken in the police van to the next village.

‘The whole town here is living in fear about what is going to happen next. At Gopi Guest House, my family have created employment for 50 people since we started. Now we employ 12 people and we all work very hard together in the main tourist season.

‘If the government demolish my home and my business, my family and my employees will have nothing.’

3) Next we go with Dasappa's son Krishna to the site of their demolished family home on the main street in Hampi...

Krishna said: ‘After the government demolished, we stay in the broken house for several days. Everyone was too upset to move. One sister still lives in this house they demolished, but there’s no room now for the rest of the family. We don’t know if the government will come and demolish again.’

Krishna’s question for the Indian government: ‘What is the government’s plan to preserve the community in Hampi who have lived here for many years?

4) Inside another partially demolished home....

...I meet Venkamma (47), Hampamma (30), Gayathri (20) and Nagaraja (26).

They are sitting on the floor in the narrow backroom – the remainder of their home after the demolition. Venkamma’s family have lived in Hampi for 80 years.

Venkamma said: ‘My family find a life in Hampi through tourism. My sons work as local guides and we had a clothes shop in the Main Bazaar. My children are grown, it is time for them to marry, but when the government demolished my clothes shop and my house in July, they took away my main income – so I don’t know how to pay for anything now.’

Nagaraja said: ‘We have taken a loan now which we cannot repay because our business is gone. We rent a small house for the whole family at 5000 Rupees per month. We are only making around 2000 Rupees per month from guiding. Without the clothes shop, there is 3000 Rupees shortfall. The government should not come at midnight to wake us up and then demolish the next morning.’

Nagaraja’s question for the Indian government: ‘After the demolition in July of our home and our business, how are the government going to support us to live and work in Hampi?’

5) Jayanna, aged 60, has lived and worked in Hampi since 1980...

He owns Geetha Restaurant on the main road in Hampi, making his income for 30 years from visiting Indian tourists and pilgrims, as well as international backpackers.

Jayanna doesn’t really want to talk today. He says people have come and written articles about the demolition before but still the government is threatening to demolish the rest of his home and business, as well as many further buildings in Hampi.

Today, Jayanna feels quite hopeless about the situation and is just waiting for the bulldozers to come again.

Jayanna’s question for the goverment: ‘Because of the demolition, I have to send my grandchildren to live in Nandal, 170 kilometres away. I cannot afford to keep them here. So perhaps the government could give me a small bottle of poison?’

6) Sujatha’s family have been selling bangles for nearly 60 years...

Her family had two shops in Hampi Main Bazaar – both were demolished by the bulldozers in July 2011.

Sujatha is also a member of a women’s rights group, Sree Shakthi Association. She was arrested during the demolition.

Sujatha said: ‘We didn’t fully believe the government would demolish our homes and businesses with only a few hours warning. We didn’t sleep on 27th and 28th July. We went around Hampi to raise awareness. We now have this mobile cart, that's all.’

Sujatha’s question for the Indian government: ‘We have been in Hampi for 60 years and we want to stay in Hampi. How can the Hampi community work with you to keep Hampi clean and safe for everyone who comes?'

7) Next we go inside Sujatha’s sister’s house...

Here I speak with Nagarathna, aged 18. She is from the next village of Kaddirampur.

‘My parents are stone carvers – all the family collects stones, makes carvings at home and then we bring the stone carvings to Hampi for the tourists. Our shop was completely destroyed in the July demolition.

'Now we have nowhere to keep the stones in Hampi. We carry all the stones in a bag everyday from the next village. We used to make around 1000 Rupees each day from the shop. Since the demolition, we make almost nothing.'

Nagarathna’s question for the government: ‘Why didn’t you preserve the other unoccupied mantapas that need work around Hampi rather than demolish our homes and businesses?

8) For 70 years, Mariyamma’s family has lived in Hampi...

Mariyamma has two sons (a rickshaw driver and another at school) and one daughter (at home). Her husband Ningapa, a local labourer, died 11 years ago.

Mariyamma’s eldest son brings in some money from rickshaw driving – but her family cannot all live in the house since it was demolished.

Mariyamma said: ‘I was so shocked and disappointed when the JCBs destroyed the main road. I couldn’t sleep for days after the terrible sound and sight of the roof being pulled off my home.’

9) Sweet merchant Gadilingappa, 34 and his son Prajwal, aged 9 months...

‘My father is 82 and my mother is 69. My family have been in Hampi for 32 years. We had a house and a sweet shop with a plastic covering – it wasn’t attached to the mantapa – so they had no reason at all to demolish it. My son was only 5 months old at the time.

‘They told us at night time on 28th July about the demolition – it was raining and they had cut the electricity. At 6am on 29th July, they started to pull down our house. I had bought a lot of stock for my sweet shop for the festival in Hampi at the time – I lost all of it in the demolition.’

Gadilingappa’s question for the government: ‘My mother and father are now sleeping outside and I have a 9 month old son. How am I supposed to support my whole family without a business?’

10) Thipamma’s family have been living in Hampi for 82 years...

‘I lost my bangle shop in the demolition and 40,000 Rupees worth of goods. I have a mobile cart now and I move from place to place.

'The demolition has also had an enormous impact on the amount of Indian tourists who come to Hampi. I’m living in panic now. We’ve had more warnings of further demolitions but I don’t know where the government want me to go.’

Thipamma’s question for the Indian government: ‘If the government want me to stop my bangle business then fine, I accept it – but are you going to give us two government jobs for members of my family so we have an alternative income? Please tell us what you are planning to do – suffering everyday like this is very painful and frightening.’

11) Parvathi, 42 and Anji, 21 are mother and son...

‘We had a big restaurant here in front of our house (14 feet x 60 feet in total) – it all went in the demolition. Now I just sell food that I cook on a small stall – street snacks like bonda, mirchi and mandal. I can’t pay for medicine now for my daughter.

Parvathi’s question for the government: ‘My husband is dead now and both my children are disabled. How can I support my children without a business or home?’

To find out more about the July 29th 2011 demolition of part of Hampi's long-established Main Bazaar, please visit our Facebook page - Save Hampi People.

Please pass this article on to people you know who have an interest in India.

Thank you.


  1. What gorgeous photos you take! I am so envious. I wish I were travelling with you. Christmas in India? Not much celebration there, I'm sure.

  2. Ah David, you can join anytime! I'm in Fort Cochin, Kerala, for Christmas - lots of people celebrate Xmas here, so it's a fun atmosphere in town. Are you doing anything nice for Christmas? x

  3. Hi Charlie,

    Would you allow me to use one of your pictures in Chiang Mai on my blog (in French!). I would of course mention the source.
    Thanks and best regards!

  4. Hi Didier, yes of course you can use a photo, thank you for asking me x I look forward to reading your post about Chiang Mai (send me a link) - because I loved it very much there, best wishes, Charlie x

    1. Hi Charlie, thanks a lot! Published here:
      Will go thru your site. Seems quite interesting!
      Best! Didier

  5. Hi Charlie,

    I'm student in journalisme in Québec and I have to make a short movie about Hampi so would you allow me to use one of your pictures and your vidéo about Hampi. I would of course mention the source.



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