Hampi-Once Prosperous Empire Becomes Forgotten Land

stone chariot Hampi

Hampi is situated on the banks of the River Tungabhadra in the Bellary district of Karnataka state. Some part of the region including the adjacent Anegundi, a place closely linked to Hampi’s past is extended to the Koppal district of Karnataka.

Hampi is one of the historically rich places in India, listed under the UNESCO World Heritage Site as the Group of monuments. These monuments are spread within the ruins of the medieval Vijayanagar Empire, one of the wealthiest and most powerful ancient Hindu kingdoms once ruled entire south India.

Hampi’s history dates back to the times of the Mauryan Empire (3rd century BCE). This is evidenced by Emperor Ashoka’s Rock Edicts in Nittur and Udegolan. The Chalukyan inscriptions referred to Hampi as Pampapura. It is also known as Pampakshetra.

According to the writings of the Persian and European travelers, who visited Hampi in the 15th and 16th centuries, it was a prosperous, wealthy and grand city. During that period, Hampi was reported to be the world’s second-largest city after Beijing.

At one point of time, the city was also one of the world’s biggest trading centers, creating a lot of wealth, fame and name for the empire. Portuguese traveler, Domingo Paes who visited Hampi in 1520, wrote that the city had rich vegetation, watercourses and artificial lakes etc. And, that it could be comparable to Rome.

From the City of Victory to the City of Ruins

Hampi or Vijayanagar means the ‘City of Victory’. It was the capital of the mighty Vijayanagar Empire, later plundered and destroyed by the Bahamani Sultanate in 1565. The City of victory was thus converted into the ‘City of Ruins’ within a span of six months in mindless, systematic destruction.  The efforts of the surviving regime to resurrect Hampi failed.

And, they abandoned the city and shifted their court to Penukonda in present-day Andhra Pradesh. For hundreds of years that followed, Hampi remained a forgotten land, until rediscovered in the 19th century by the British.

Today, Hampi is a village, living on the remains of its lost grandeur with scores of ruins of monuments spread all around. It remains like a mute witness to a powerful empire’s past glorious period, triumphs and disintegration.

Today, Hampi is a village, living on the remains of its lost grandeur with scores of ruins of monuments spread all around. It remains like a mute witness to a powerful empire’s past glorious period, triumphs and disintegration.

Geographical location of Hampi

Hampi lies almost at the state border with Andhra Pradesh, at about 1,532 ft above the sea level.  The Hampi village is spread over an area of  41.5sq.km.

It is about 355km away from the state capital Bangalore by road. You can access Hampi from other major cities including Hyderabad (370km) and Belgaum (266km).

Hampi- the ancient Vijaya Nagar empire
Hampi- the ancient Vijaya Nagar empire

Architectural  Marvels, Mythological Connection

Millions of domestic and international tourists visit Hampi every year,  attracted by its architectural marvels and mythological connections. You can’t miss the striking natural beauty and majestic historical monuments of about 2,000 units spread across a landscape of massive granite boulders.

Hampi has become a prominent Hindu pilgrim center for thousands of domestic travelers because of its religious background. The medieval Virupaksha temple is a core attraction to pilgrims. Hindus consider the place sacred, as it bears the footprints of Lord Ram, the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Several places mentioned in the epic Ramayana are precisely identified in the region.

For international visitors, it is a magnificent heritage and cultural destination with brilliant architecture and historic landmarks. Hampi is a focal point of an ancient disintegrated empire, frequented by a host of historians, antiquarians, and archaeologists among others.

Hampi is the solitary center in Karnataka, identified for the Ramayana Circuit under the Swadesh Darshan scheme.

 The religious significance of Hampi

Hampi is an important pilgrim center for Hindus. Devotees frequent the place to offer prayers at the Virupaksha temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is also a religious center for Jains. There are some ancient temples and other monuments built in the 14th and 15th centuries. Muslims also consider Hampi an important place. You can see several tombs, graves, and mosques among the monuments.

Settings for Kishkindha Kanda

Hampi along with adjacent Anegundi village provides for the full settings of the entire Kishkindha Kanda (chapter) of the epic Ramayana.

It is identified as the forest domain of the Vanara Kingdom called Kishkindha, where Lord Ram and his brother Lakshman met Hanuman and Sugriva.

It is identified as the forest domain of the Vanara Kingdom called Kishkindha, where Lord Ram and his brother Lakshman met Hanuman and Sugriva.

The brothers were in search of Sita Devi, abducted by the demon King Ravan, and to seek Sugriva’s assistance to trace her.

Holy Grounds of Hampi And Its Surroundings

Several places mentioned in the Kishkindha Kanda are identified with specific locations in and around Hampi. These are all sacred spots for Hindus.

Thus, you can see the Sugriva’s cave near the south bank of Tungabhadra River on the way to Vittala Temple. It is the place where Sugriva is believed to have hiden Matha Sita’s jewels which he later showed to Lord Ram.

This validated his statement of seeing Matha Sita being taken away by Ravan on his flying chariot or pushpaka vimana. The jewels were dropped by her from the vimana, as a sign to Lord Ram to help trace her. The pond near the place is named as Sitasarovara.

The riverbank near the Sugriva’s cave is believed to be the place where Lord Ram crowned Sugriva after killing Bali. This is near the Kodandarama Temple.

The Matanga Hill, known after the Sage Matanga is the highest peak in Hampi within 1km from Hampi bus stand. It is a steep hill on the south bank of the Tungabhadra River towards the east of the village.

It is believed to be the hill where Sugriva took refuge when chased by his belligerent elder brother Bali. Bali could not access the hill because of a curse on him by sage Matanga.

Similarly, the Malyavanta Hill situated relatively in an isolated place is also mentioned in the epic. The hill is identified as the place where Lord Ram and Laxman waited for the monsoon season to end, before setting out to Lanka to rescue Matha Sita.

There is a temple; Raghunatha temple dedicated to Lord Ram at this place.

Hanuman is believed to have met Lord Ram and Lakshman for the first time at Rishimukh island. There is a hermitage at the center of this island and a temple; i.e., Chandramouleshwara temple in its vicinity. You can see the stories of Ramayana carved in rocks and incorporated into several temples in Hampi and surrounding places.

People, language, the custom of Hampi

The people of Hampi are simple, friendly and very religious-minded. Majority of them are Hindus, followed by Muslims. The number of Jains, Christians, Buddhists, and Sikhs are limited in this region.

Hindus are represented by Shaivites (worshipping Lord Shiva) and Vaishnavites (worshipping Lord Vishnu). People also worship Lord Hanuman.

People of Hampi depend mainly on agriculture for their living, and most of them are economically backward. Others include artisans, stone masons, dyers, fishermen etc.

There is also a settlement of Lambanis, a gypsy tribe from Rajasthan in certain areas of Hampi.

Hampi is rich in deposits of iron ore and manganese. The red soil found here is very fertile.

Kannada is the official language. Telugu is also spoken in this area. Hindi and English are also understood and spoken mostly at the tourist spots.

Best time to visit Hampi

October to March is the best time to visit Hampi. Because normally the weather is very pleasant during the period. It is also the period for some of the festivals in Hampi, you can witness.

April to June is very hot and dry, with temperature touching even up to 45 ⁰C. Added to that,  the region’s hot rocky landscapes and hillocks push the weather condition to unbearable levels during summer.

July to September is the rainy season in Hampi and many of the sites remain closed during the season.

 How to Reach Hampi

Hospet, the second largest city in Bellary district is 13km away from Hampi and it is well connected with major cities through state highways. Frequent bus services are operating daily between Hospet and Hampi.

Hospet is also the nearest railway station to Hampi and is well connected with the rail network. There is a special weekly luxury tourist train operated by the state tourism department that connects the important tourist spots in Karnataka and Goa. This includes  Hospet / Hampi as well.

The nearest airport is Jindal Vijaynagar Airport also known as Vidyanagar Airport in Toranagallu village of Bellary District. This is some 40 km away from Hampi.

Hubli is another nearby airport, around 150 Kms away from the ancient city. Hubli is connected domestically from the major airports of Karnataka. The Bangalore International Airport is some 346km away from Hampi.

Places to visit in Hampi

The stunning historical monuments and beautiful age-old temples in and around Hampi make it a popular tourist destination all over the world. There are several sites spread across a vast area of land you would want to visit.

The ancient temple town was exquisitely planned and designed with an array of extensive structures comprised of huge bazaars for each major temple,  gigantic stone monoliths, aqueducts, stepped tanks and tall watchtowers.

Hampi is an excellent site of scores of archaeological remains consisting royal palaces,  massive fortifications, ceremonial places, baths, pavilions and stables for royal elephants. All these testify the artistic and architectural skills of people of those periods.

Hampi is an excellent site of scores of archaeological remains consisting royal palaces,  massive fortifications, ceremonial places, baths, pavilions and stables for royal elephants.

Some of the popular tourist attractions in Hampi are the following.

Archaeological Museum

The Archaeological Museum established in 1972 is a major tourist attraction in Hampi. It houses collections of sculptures and various antiques of the Vijayanagar period and pre-Vijayanagar period. This museum is open for tourists throughout the week except for Fridays.

In its galleries, you can see mainly the sculptures of various Hindu deities including Virabhadra, Bhairava, Bhikshatanamurti, Mahishasuramardini, Shakti, Ganesha, Kartikeya, and Durga. Other collections include Shivalinga, Nandi and Dwaramantapa.

An array of antiquities such as the armory, copper plate grants, religious metal objects, brass plates, and gold and copper coins of the Vijayanagar dynasty are also on display in the museum. You can also see antiquities belonging to the prehistoric and protohistoric periods, medieval hero stones and sati stones etc.

Virupaksha Temple

Virupaksha temple is the only living monuments of the Vijayanagar period in Hampi, unaffected by the combined assault by the Deccan Sultanates in 1565.

Now, the site is declared as a’ World Heritage Monument’, protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).  The temple is situated on the foot of the hill called Hemakuta Hill at the heart of the village of Hampi.

This temple dedicated to Virupaksha or Lord Shiva was originally a small shrine built in the 7th century by the Chalukyas. It was converted into a huge temple complex during the period of ruler Deva Raya II of the Vijayanagar Empire in the 14th century. Successive rulers modified the temple at different times.

A Shivalinga known as Vimpaksha occupies the main sanctum of the temple. Lord Shiva was the sentinel deity of the Vijayanagar kings.  Built in a triangular shape, the temple has three antechambers, a pillared hall and an open pillared hall, entrance gateways, gopurams, courtyards sub-shrines and Ranga mandapa among other structures.

The Ranga mantapa consists of 38 pillars, aesthetically designed and deftly erected. The central ceiling of the Ranga Mantapa is covered with painted panels, portraying themes from various texts including the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, and the Shiva Puranas.

Some of the important subsidiary shrines in the temple include Mukti Narasimha, Pataleswara, Navadurga Surayanarayana, Tarakeswara, Saraswati, Vidayamaya, Parvati and Bhuvaneswari.

At the entrance of the temple is Virupaksha Bazaar or market, adjacent to the main gopura of the temple, known as  Bishtappa’s gopura. The 9- storied gopura is 53 meters tall.

 Hampi Bazaar

The Hampi Bazaar, at the foot of the Matanga Hill, is a popular tourist spot in Hampi. It is a kilometer-long street right in front of the Virupaksha Temple.

The bazaar has an array of pavilions on either side. These used to be the residents of nobles in the Vijayanagar period. You can also see the monolithic statue of Nandi on the other end of the Bazar.

Achyutaraya Temple

Achyutaraya Temple is an ancient temple known by the name of the King who built it, namely Achyuta Deva Raya of the Vijayanagar Empire in 1534CE. Originally, the temple was known by its deity, Thiruvengalanatha (Lord Vishnu). It is the last of the grand temples built by the Vijayanagar rulers before the empire disintegrated.

The temple is situated between Matanga Hill and Gandhamadana Hill with a striking scenic backdrop. The elegant looking temple is a splendid specimen of the classic style of Vijayanagar architecture. It is noted for its large size and spacious courtyard lined by intricately carved pillars.

Achyularaya Pete, a huge bazaar of the temple also known as ‘Soole Bazaar’ is right in front of the temple.

The temple is among several monuments ravaged in the Bahamani Sultanate’s invasion. Its major part is in a damaged condition today.

Vijaya Vithala Temple

The Vijaya Vithala (Vittala)Temple is situated in the northeastern part of Hampi, near the banks of Tungabhadra river. The temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu was built in 15th century by the Vijayanagar rulers. The temple structures were expanded and updated to its present form by  Krishnadevaraya (1509 – 1529) the most famous ruler of Vijayanagar Empire.

The amazing stone structures such as the stone chariot placed on the courtyard of the temple and the musical pillars of the Ranga Mantapa are the classic examples of stunning craftsmanship and exceptional creativity.  For the incredible architectural excellence, these are generally considered as the iconic structure of Hampi.

The Stone Chariot is a richly sculpted and ornamental chariot or ratha with an image of Garuda, the carrier of Lord Vishnu is enshrined in it originally.

The musical pillars of the Ranga Mantapa totaling 56 are known as SAREGAMA pillars. The main pillars are designed as different musical instruments, each surrounded by seven minor pillars. When tapped the seven pillars emit musical notes from the concerned musical instruments.

There is also the King’s balance all made of stone. It was used to perform a ritual known as Tula Bhaara; i.e., weighing kings against gold, coins or grain, which would be distributed to the poor.

The other notable structures in the temple include the shrine of the Goddess, Kalyana Mantapa and Utsava Mantapa. The central western hall of the temple was partially damaged when the Deccan Sultanates conquered Hampi in 1565.

The temple is the most visited monument in Hampi

 Krishna Temple

Krishna temple was built by King Krishnadevaraya in 1513 AD to commemorate his successful conquest of the eastern kingdom of Udayagiri or Utkala in present-day Odisha. The temple complex occupies a vast area surrounded by a rocky landscape. The main road to Hampi passes through the temple campus.

The idol of Lord Krishna in his child form – Balakrishna- installed in the shrine and later removed was brought from Odisha by the King as a war trophy. The idol is now kept the state museum at Chennai.

The temple’s architectural style is striking for the exquisite carvings of decorated pillars. The entrances to the temple hall is flanged with impressive carvings of elephant balustrades.

Inside the courtyard, you can see a huge slab depicting the story of the conquest of Ulkala. The complex has several sub-shrines and halls containing carvings of stories in the Hindu texts, including the 10 incarnations of Lord Vishnu.

You can have a good sight of the topography of this temple from the southern part of the Hemakuta hilltops.

Hemakuta Group of Temples

Hemakuta Hill, located in the southern side of the village of Hampi is home for more than 35 temples of different sizes built during the 9th to 14th centuries. Only a few of them have regular worship.

The style of these temples is unlike that of the typical Vijayanagara temples and are mistaken for Jain temples.  Mostly they are compact triple chambered structures with pyramid-like roofs made from granite.

These temples are deeply associated with Lord Shiva, a majority of them are dedicated to this deity.  The Moola Virupaksha Temple, which is believed to be the original Virupaksha temple is located at the hilltop.

The Hemakuta Hill gives you and an amazing view of the ruins of Hampi down below.

Yantradharaka Anjaneya Temple

Yantradharaka Anjaneya Temple is located inside a cave amidst the boulders of a small hillock just behind the Kodandarama Temple in Hampi. It is about 2 km from the Virupaksha temple.

The temple is dedicated to Lord Hanuman with the image of the deity seated in prayer mood within a mystic stellate ‘Yantra’-  a hexagonal or a six angled amulet. The temple was built around 500 years ago, and the idol was installed by Sri Vyasaraja, the Rajaguru of the Vijayanagar kingdom. It is a functioning shrine, open during the morning and evening hours.

Lakshmi Narasimha Statue

The Lakshmi Narasimha statue is the largest monolith statue in Hampi located on the southern side of Hemakuta group of temples. This 6.7-meter gigantic stone structure is the finest example of the Vijayanagar style of architecture and the expertise of local craftsmen of that ancient era.

The imposing Lakshmi Narasimha statue and the temple were built by Krishnadevaraya, in the year 1528 CE. The temple is dedicated to Lord Narasimha, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu.

The statue was badly damaged in the Decan Sultanates’ attack in 1565. Originally, it was a statue of Lord Narasimha seated in padmasana pose, with the image of consort Goddess Lakshmi seated over the left lap of the deity. The image of Goddess Lakshmi is mutilated and now shifted to the museum.

A large number of people visit the site to see this amazing architectural wonder round the year.

 

Matanga Hill

Matanga Hill continues to be a major attraction for visitors seeking an aerial view of Hampi and its surroundings, being the highest peak in the village.  It would take you about 30 minutes or so to climb this steep hill. You can enjoy the beauty of the whole region from its summit.

People also find it suitable for watching sunrise and sunset as well as for trekking exploits. The trekking trail in the northern part of the hill leads you to  Achyuta Raya Temple and Hampi Bazar.

The famous Veerabhadra temple is situated at the top of the hill. Although the temple is in a ruined condition, it is still visited by pilgrims and tourists. The temple is dedicated to Veerabhadra, a cult deity with the Shiva lineage.

The hill is closely linked to some of the important events in the Ramayana and there are a number of temples near the hill you can choose to visit.

The hill is closely linked to some of the important events in the Ramayana and there are a number of temples near the hill you can choose to visit.

 

And Much More…

The list of temples and other monuments or sites of pilgrimage or tourist attractions in Hampi and surroundings are not limited to what we described in the previous pages. Apart from the above, there are a plethora of sites worth visiting in the region. This includes Kodanda Rama Temples, Pattabhirama Temple, Malyavanta Raghunathaswamy Temple  Hazara Rama Temple,  Hanuman Temple, Sasivekalu Ganesha Temple,  Underground (Prasanna Virupaksha) temple, Jain temples, and others. There are large monolithic sculptures like Ganesha and Veerabhadra at the site.

To the north of Tungabhadra,  lies the Anegundi village, popularly called as ‘Royal Village’ or the ‘Mother City’.  Because the Vijayanagar Empire started off from here only.

To the north of Tungabhadra,  lies the Anegundi village, popularly called as ‘Royal Village’ or the ‘Mother City’.  Because the Vijayanagar Empire started off from here only.

Anegundi is also said to be the real Vanara Kingdom. This place is very old and has a plateau that dates back to 3,000 million years. The region is reported to have given traces of Stone Age habitation.  Locals believe that  Anegundi is the hometown of Mother Earth or Bhoodevi.

Anegundi has several tourist attractions and excellent natural landscape. The major tourist spots in Anegundi include the Anjanadri hill believed to be the birthplace of  Lord Hanuman; Pampa Sarovar, Huchappayyanamath math Temple, Durga Temple, Nava Brindavan, and Chintamani math.

Other activities

Apart from visiting the Temples and the ruins of Hampi, people also indulge in other activities in Hampi. This includes climbing the Hampi’s giant boulders, spending time at on Hippie Island, watching sunset and sunrise from the Hippie island etc. People also choose to stay a longer period for relaxation and meditation purpose.

Daroji Bear Sanctuary

If you are interested in watching wild animals, particularly sloth bears in their natural habitat, you can visit the Daroji Bear Sanctuary about 15km from Hampi. The sanctuary in the Bellary district is spread over an area of more than 82 sq.km.

Daroji Bear Sanctuary was created in 1994 with the sole purpose of conserving sloth bears, locally known as Karadi, from the danger of extinction.

The local terrains composed of the rocky landscape, stone-strewn hillocks, scrub forests, tumbled boulders and caves is considered ideal for the habitation of bears. They are also known to have been living in this area for ages.

Besides some 200 odd sloth bears, the sanctuary also gives shelter to animals such as  Leopards, Hyena, Jackals, Wild Boars, Porcupine, Pangolins, Star Tortoise, Monitor Lizard, Mongoose, Pea Fowls, Partridges, Painted Spur Hen, and Quails etc.

You can watch the bears from the watchtower within the sanctuary when the animals descend from the nearby hillock usually in the evenings.

Tourists can also enjoy bird watching of about 100 types of birds and different types of butterflies, besides relishing the flora and fauna of the sanctuary.

 The Fairs and Festivals of Hampi

Hampi celebrates a certain cultural festival to highlight the traditional and cultural value shared by the people. It is also used as a tool for tourism promotion in this area. Almost all of the Hindu religious festivals are held at the Virupaksha temple, the only living temple among the ruins of several monuments of yesteryears of the disintegrated empire of Vijayanagar empire.

 Hampi Utsav

Hampi Utsav, also known as Vijayanagar festival, is an annual cultural event, organized by the Karnataka government, reviving the memory of the past glories of this region. Normally, it is held in the month of November.

The largest of its type in Hampi, the event is packed with a flurry of shows in art, music, and dance performed usually over three days on multiple stages.

The celebrations include the performance of classical and traditional dance, classical music, dramas, and colorful puppet shows, presented by renowned artists from different parts of the country and abroad. New items such as rock climbing, water sports, and rural sports are also included in the recent times.

The finale of the festival is marked by a splendid procession along the decorated path near the Virupaksha temple, showcasing the cultural richness of Karnataka, followed by a show of fireworks.

Purandaradasa Aradhana

Purandaradasa Aradhana is a classical music festival held in memory of Purandaradasa  (1484-1564), known as the father of Carnatic music.

The program is for 2-3 days during the months of January or February at the Purandaradasa Mantapa near the Vijaya Vithala Temple in Hampi.

Virupaksha Car Festival

This is the largest religious festival in Hampi held as an annual ritual of celebrating the marriage of the main deity of the temple Virupaksha ( Lord Shiva) and Pampa (Parvathy).

The main attraction of the event is the procession carrying the images of the deities on the temple car, which is a giant wooden chariot, accompanied by scores of devotees. Usually, this festival is held in the months of March or April, according to the temple calendar.

 Phalapuja Festival

Phalapuja festival is held to celebrate the betrothal of the divine couple; Lord Shiva and Parvathy at the Virupaksha Temple, usually in the month of December. Hampi  attracts huge crowds to participate in this festival and the marriage festivities

Diwali

As elsewhere in the country, Diwali is celebrated with a lot of pomp and enthusiasm in Hampi. Devotees visit Virupaksha temple to offer prayers and participate in special ceremonial functions. The highlight of the day is a local procession of devotees, with the participation of the temple elephant.

Sivaratri

Sivaratri is one of the main festivals in Virupaksha temple, particularly because the temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Devotees participate in large numbers in the special night-long religious poojas and offerings.

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