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Notes on the Geography of Peninsular India: Hampi Sacred Center: Photo 45

world pictures Peninsular India: Hampi Sacred Center

This is the postcard icon of Vijayanagar. It's a stationary stone cart, although according to Fergusson in the late 19th century, its wheels could be turned. (They were turned so much that the axles wore thin. The wheels are now fixed.) Even in Fergusson's time, the cart had lost its top half, made of the usual brick and plaster. Fergusson says that the cap (which can be seen in a photograph from 1856 by Greenlaw) had deteriorated and been replaced by order of a British officer. Twenty years later, he says, the replacement was removed because a fire had cracked the base, and it was feared that the weight of the cap would cause the whole thing to disintegrate. The cart has sat capless ever since, in (as one expert today has written) "a miserable, incomplete state." Still, most visitors don't notice that anything's missing. That's the power of famous monuments: they annihilate judgment and reduce visitors to worshipful gawkers. (The critic is George Michell in Verghese and Dallapiccola, South India Under Vijayanagara, 2011, p. 83).

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