It’s a dreamy landscape. It’s a concoction of gigantic boulders, banana plantations, ancient temples and rice paddy fields. There’s the Tungabhadra River where crocodiles bathe, on one side a bazaar and the other home to sleepy cafes and guesthouses. It’s a mystical place where Hindu temples of worship have a tropical backdrop with a Sub-Saharan theme; the greenery of the tropics merges with arid rock formations. It’s like no place I’ve ever visited before, it’s entirely unique.
Hampi is located in the centre of Southern India and on arriving I had the feeling that we were entering the real life ‘Jungle Book’. Dusty, rustic, beige in colour, the boulder formations dwarf everything else in size and are situated in piles throughout the region. You can climb them, stroll amongst them, sit on them or just simply marvel at the way they look. Green rice paddy fields create a direct contrast in colour, with the addition of clear blue skies. The dry, lifeless and aged rocks reflect the long story of the evolution of our planet, whereas the watered, growing and ever changing rice paddies are a stark reminder of how short life is in comparison.
Wandering through the UNESCO World Heritage Site, I find my mind once again engaged and in awe of the ancients. Machu Picchu, Angkor Wat, Bagan and now Hampi, the architecture and ruins of the ancient civilisations are their imprint on the world, left for us to see. Hampi was the capital of the Hindu empire of Vijayanagara, existing between the 14th and 16th Century. It was conquered by the Deccan Muslim confederacy in 1565 and after six months left abandoned. Staring at the ruins today, you must admire the engineering skills of the ancients and also when looking at their engravings on the rocks, appreciate their precision and attention to detail. What would our civilisation leave behind, if anything at all?
The study of past civilisations is interesting and presents a reoccurring lesson relating to the rise and fall of empires. A few years ago NASA part funded a study that highlighted the fact that our industrial civilisation could collapse over the coming decades as a result of unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution.
Currently, humanity is using 50% more resources than the earth can sustain and if trends continue, by 2030 we will be using twice what our planet can provide. The NASA study emphasises that the rise and collapse of civilisations is a recurrent cycle throughout history. Their evaluation of the past allows them to conclude that two crucial social features lead to collapse, ‘the stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity’ and ‘the economic stratification of society in to Elites (rich) and Masses (poor)’. These social trends have played ‘a central role in the character or in the process of the collapse’ in cases over ‘the last five thousand years’.