Stacking stones, or building cairns, is a thing people have been doing for ages now. On hikes, cairns are used to mark a trail for people following you, to know which way you went. More recently, stacking pebbles has become a spiritual practice, sometimes called Upala Yoga. In the past, cairns have had ceremonial and decorative uses in different cultures. The word cairn itself means ‘heap of stones’ in Gaelic.
None of the above ever interested me, except to wonder how stacking pebbles could possibly be an absorbing endeavour.
We were at Hampi in the last week of 2019. If there is something spiritual about stacking stones this is where I felt it. The landscape is littered with cairns created by Nature!
There is an extremely peaceful vibe around Hampi, the ancient ruins spread across 25 square km or so. The oldest structures are from 1st century CE, the newest are from 16th century CE! Sitting quietly inside one of the ancient stone structures on a hill, a cool, soothing breeze blowing through my hair, I could literally transport myself to the time when it was built.
I loved the way the architecture blended with the surroundings, buildings never grabbing negative attention in the vulgar way some disproportionately large buildings on small plots of land do in Bangalore.
It helped that I had come in that morning from the small town of Gangavathi nearby, a place where life is still simple. No malls, no high-rises, helpful people speaking a sweet version of Kannada, plenty of space on the road to drive, lots of homely idli-vada breakfast joints, crowing roosters and bleating goats, sunrise over lush green rice paddies . . . I drifted easily into the mood of Hampi from the peace of Gangavathi, after a good night’s sleep had done away with the more hurried pace I’m used to in Bangalore.
Our walk around Hampi fell on the morning of the solar eclipse on 26th December. The strange diffuse light created a soft-focus effect, enhancing the dreamscape quality of the place.