DAILY PHOTO: 1008 Linga on the Tungabhadra Bank

Taken November 1, 2013 near the Tungabhadra river at Hampi.

Taken November 1, 2013 near the Tungabhadra river at Hampi.

I read the Wikipedia article on Shiva linga, which said that it was a grave error to think of a lingam as a phallus. However, the article went on to say that the union of the lingam and the yoni represents the inseparability of male and female and the act of creation. Therefore, I’m sticking with the neophyte view that this symbolically represents the male organ of amour.  [Note: the terms linga and yoni are used in the Kama Sutra to describe the male and female organs, respectively. The terms may have been euphemisms that distorted the true initial meaning, or this might be taken as evidence of the correctness of the neophyte view. I’m not qualified to comment.]

Shiva is one of the top-tier aspects of God in Hinduism. He’s one aspect of the Hindu trilogy. Brahma is the creator. Vishnu is the operator. And, Shiva is the destroyer. This may seem a little ominous, but it’s obvious that something must be destroyed to make way for new things to come into existence. In a more modern interpretation, matter cannot be created or destroyed but can only change forms. These two ideas may seem very different, but when one considers that there is a finite amount of matter, if you want to make something new, then something else has to give up its matter to build it.

So while Shiva’s hallmark quote is, “I am become death, destroyer of worlds,” [reiterated by Robert Oppenheimer in referring to his role in the Manhattan Project] he’s really not so bad a deity.

DAILY PHOTO: Hampi Boulders

Taken on November 1, 2013 on the Tungabhadra  River

Taken on November 1, 2013 on the Tungabhadra River.

I just got back from a trip to Hampi, India. My wife and I agreed that it’s the most spectacular Indian historic site we’ve seen to date. The reason why it edges out the–awe-inspiring–Taj Mahal for us is that even if man had never touched this land it would be a spectacle to behold due to the unique geological processes that have taken place there. (The Taj Mahal is impressive, but once you leave its gates, the glory shrivels. In Hampi, leave the ruins and the awe has just begun.)

The rocks in that region are some of the planet’s oldest, and while much of the softer rock has been entirely washed away, the harder marble remains, but has been eroded over time. It creates an otherworldly appearance that is suitable for the set of a sci-fi film. Some formations seem to defy gravity, with boulders stacked on boulders in impossible ways.

I highly recommend a trip to Hampi. It’s about 7 hours by car from Bangalore (if your driver knows where he’s going–ours was a bit longer.)

A couple of points to keep in mind.

-There’s no alcohol allowed in Hampi village.

-There’s little non-vegetarian food in Hampi (Even if you’re vegetarian, you may be a little underwhelmed. It’s bland by Indian standards, and almost every guesthouse / restaurant tries to sell every ethnic food imaginable resulting in a “jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none” warmed-over mediocrity. The one exception that we found was the Mango Tree restaurant, which is generally packed. Eat at off hours if you can.)

-If you stay across the river, the ferry only runs until 6pm. We stayed in one of the many basic guesthouses in Hampi proper. Staying in a nicer hotel incurs a trade-off that one will have to travel quite a while to get to the site. (As my wife said, “30 kilometers is too far in India.”) If you miss the ferry, the trip by car is a long way around.