Ballari: Winds of change are sweeping the World Heritage Site of Hampi and nearby Anegundi as they are not merely tourism attractions anymore.
Of late not only are a large number of Hindu pilgrims, particularly from the Hindi heartland, making their way to them drawn by a cave, believed to be the birthplace of Lord Hanuman, on a hill nearby, and the many ancient temples located here, but also wildlife enthusiasts and even hippies.
Visit the site and you see pilgrims from Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and other northern states crowding the Virupaksha temple, Hampi bazaar, Krishna Bazaar, Badavi Linga, Queen’s Bath, Vijaya Vitthala temple and other monuments besides the shrines associated with Lord Rama and Lord Hanuman.
The trend has been growing since the Modi government assumed charge at the Centre and included Hampi-Anegundi in the ‘Ramayana Circuit’ of the tourism ministry’s Swadesh Darshan programme, say locals.
“Last year Prime Minister Narendra Modi's, wife Jashodaben and his brother, Pankaj Modi visited Anjanadri Hill in Anegundi and on Sunday, the Prime Minister’s other brother, Prahladbhai Damodardas Modi, visited the temple town of Hampi along with his family,” said local tourist guide, Hanumanthu.
If pilgrims are now seen more than usual at these ruins of the 15th century Vijayanagar empire, wildlife enthusiasts too are arriving in larger numbers than before at the nearby the Daroji Sloth Bear Sanctuary, the river otter’s sanctuary in the backwaters of the Tungabhadra and serene hillocks of Anegundi.
And Virupapura Gadde, a forest land surrounded by the Tungabhadra, has in recent years become a haunt of the hippies.
With Hampi turning into an attraction for more than one category of people, the country’s top hoteliers have begun to eye it, much to the dismay of historians and naturalists.
So high is the demand for property here now that realtors are reportedly prepared to pay as much as `30 lakhs per acre to farmers if they are willing to part with their land.
And despite the Unesco- approved Master Plan for the world heritage site , the realtors have allegedly managed, with help from politicians and bureaucrats, to get the Hampi World Heritage Area Management Authority (HWHAMA) to approve conversion of farmland into non-agriculture land for their projects.
A concerned Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has intervened to make it clear that HWHAMA cannot go against the guidelines of the master plan for Hampi.