Domingos Paesa a Portuguese traveler visited Hampi 500 years back wrote "...People cross to this place by boats which are round like baskets.Inside they are made of cane, and outside are covered with leather; they are able to carry fifteen or twenty persons, and even horses and oxen can cross in them if necessary, but for the most part these animals swim across. Men row them with a sort of paddle, and the boats are always turning round, as they cannot go straight like others; in all the kingdom where there are streams there are no other boats but these..."They are exactly as it is today as it was five centuries back, except probably the PVC sheets has replaced leather, and motorbikes too are added to its cargo list!
First of all, what’s a coracle?
A circular shaped country boat to cross the river. A huge floating basket is a more appropriate description than calling it a boat. They are huge flat
craft to ferry people & sheep (yes sheep!). About 6 feet in diameter, coracles are made of bamboo, cane, plastic sheets and a fine coating of bitumen to make it leak proof!.
On an average a coracle takes about 6-8 people. At Hampi there are three places you would find the coracle crossings.
The first one is near the Virupaksha temple. That’s the Ghat (bathing place) adjacent to the temple. The crossing is mainly for crossing over to the other side of the river (the Virupapurgadde). Some times the coracle is used to take the tourists a ‘fun trip’ without any particular destination. However this is not for the weak-hearted ones!
The second ‘coracles spot’ is in front of the Kodandarama temple near the Riverside Ruins. There is a big bathing gaht here too.
The third and the most important ferry point is near the Vittala temple. The road that goes to Anegondi ends here at the ‘work in progress bridge’. So the ferry is the only shortcut to proceed towards Anegondi. Take the road in front of the Vittala temple that goes towards east (that’s the main royal road with ruined structures on either side). About 2 kilometers from the temple you would reach the point where this road joins a north- south direction road. Towards north it’s Anegondi.
Towards south it’s Talarighat Gate (further south Kamalapura ). If you go towards north from here, in about 1 kilometer you would reach the bridge. Take the trail that goes under the bridge along the left side you would reach the ferry point. Depends up on the time there would be about 2 or 3 ferry men doing the service at any time.
Or wait there till some 5-6 people get assembled, a ferryman pops up from somewhere! You can take your bicycle or motorcycle along with you in the ferry. The ferryman would help you to load & unload the bike.
The charges vary slightly. They charge about 2 to 5 rupees per head for one way. Similarly if you carry a bicycle, the rate is about 10 rupees (you + bicycle). For a motorcycle plus you on it, it’s about 15 rupees. One needs to cross the ferry to reach places like Anegondi, the Hanuman temple, Sita Sarovar… and a number of other locations in the Anegondi area.
Last but least, the coracle crossing is not for the weak hearted. It’s not dangerous, but could be a bit scary for some.
Anegondi was the capital of the region, before it was moved to Hampi. In fact this was the core of a tiny kingdom that eventually expanded into the Vijayanagar Empire covering the whole of south India. Currently Anegondi is sleepy village with a principally farming community inhibiting it.
The riverside gorge just north of the Kodandarama Temple is remarkable for the various clusters of ruins.The sought after ones are the array of Shiva Lingas carved on the flat rock surface and the carved Anandashayana Vishnu on the rock cleft.