Rediscover Hampi: Photographer Manoj Arora’s exhibition will make you time-travel into the city's glorious past

The exhibition is curated by esteemed art historian, critic, and scholar Uma Nair

author_img Priyamvada Rana Published :  20th September 2022 01:08 PM   |   Published :   |  20th September 2022 01:08 PM
A photograph from Rediscover Hampi

A photograph from Rediscover Hampi

To anyone who has been to the ancient city of Hampi, it’s etched in the memory of a visitor. They get bewitched by the tale-telling capacity of the now sleepy village, along the deep waters of the Tungabhadra river in Eastern Karnataka, which once was a bustling hub of trade, life and patronage of the 14th century Vijayanagara empire.

The arresting beauty of the city is such that despite the bygone era, its stone carvings, temple ruins, sculptures, mandapas and the medieval cityscape still radiate in their resplendent glory. Moreover, the sunrise and sunsets bath the city in rich molten hues of orange and gold, truly bringing the magnificence of the relics.

Bringing to us one such unforgettable vision, Delhi-based photographer Manoj Arora has come up with a photography exhibition titled Rediscover Hampi. Curated by notable art scholar Uma Nair, the exhibition presents an immersive exploration of the city from a cultural vantage.

Credits: Manoj Arora

Detailed observations

Manoj went on an exploration of the temple city in 2020. Seldom he knew that he'd come back with a vast repertoire of over 600 photographs. Telling us about his experience and observations, he says, “My experience in Hampi as a photographer was magical. The city has so much to offer: heritage, antiquity and rich history. I was bedazzled by the beauty of the architecture, the workmanship, monoliths, the understanding of workers of the ancient times about proportions and measurements and the precision in design that withstood the test of time for centuries. Words may not do justice to describe Hampi and its essence.”

Credits: Manoj Arora

IndeedHampi was one of the richest cities in India at that time. History is a testament to this fact as the city boasted of artisanal legacy, political will, military prowess, organised society, economic prosperity and more. Even today, despite being desolate and arid, the city is a magnet for art, culture, travel and history lovers.

Uma Nair with Manoj Arora

Scholar Uma shares with us, “In the history of our country, Hampi is an ideal example. It gave us an idea of a township that was shaped in stone by the hands of mortal men who were gifted with talent. The gods and goddesses all have very strong stories to tell us about faith and spirituality. In a way, Hampi is not about religion. It is about bhakti and devotion of the human spirit.”

Credits: Manoj Arora

The city is full of mystical tales and historical anecdotes that date to the time of Ramayana and Puranas. Uma adds further, “The city is about the beauty of design and architecture and the language of those who loved life and the meaning of living. When you look at the gods and goddesses and the stones, you realise that ancient India was richer and greater in many ways. You realise that there is a power in rituals and there is deep meaning in the prayers we offer to our ancestors. I realised Hampi is older than history, older than time. It is precious.”

Curatorial vision

Uma felt that Manoj artfully captured the spirit of the city. Describing Manoj’s mastery, she shares, “I saw his work in 6 images of Delhi taken in 2020. I knew he understood the power of solitude, the importance of composition and the beauty of Delhi's heritage. He came to see one of my shows that year and asked me if I only work with masters as a lot of shows I curate are of masters. I told him that he must think of going on a journey and exploring a city.”

Credits: Manoj Arora

As a result, the photographer headed to Hampi and came back with photographs. When Uma looked at his images, she “realised he had a deep understanding of travel.” She took six months to curate his work. 

Telling us about her curatorial vision, Uma shares, “In the 15 days he shot gods and goddesses, architectural vignettes, captured sunset on the sandstones and also had delightful landscapes of trees. I looked at his work and divided them into chapters.”

Credits: Manoj Arora

The curatorial vision created a body in which Manoj's images fell into place, providing a strong narrative. This is reflected in many of his photographs. Picking his favourites from the exhibition, Manoj shares, “It is difficult to pick but I would say Gods and Goddesses as they are beautifully carved on sandstones which are the hardest of stones. The intricacies are mind-blowing. They leave you wondering how they would have done it without modern-day technology, machinery and know-how.”

Rediscover Hampi is on display till September 22 at Bikaner House, New Delhi.


Twitter: @ranapriyamvada