• Saptadeepa Bandopadhyay

Explore Hampi - The lost city of Vijayanagara Kingdom

It has been long that I last visited Hampi! But the place has made me so curious and interested that I often google up details about it after I visited it. Like recently I learnt that the successor of the Vijayanagara empire still resides in a nearby village of Hampi. I would really like to follow that news more!

In 2015, when I informed my family of spending a long weekend of October exploring Hampi, they were clueless about the place. Hampi used to be an offbeat destination even for Indians until recently it was written about internationally. It has been well promoted today by the backpacker community and photography enthusiasts. Lately, Hampi attracts many tourists from around India and also internationally.

I just wonder sometimes, why was Hampi missing from our history books while Harrapa and Mohenjodaro civilization had such elaborate lessons.

Ruins of Hampi
All that remains in the deserted Empire of Hampi

Tell me about Hampi -

Hampi was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1986! It is the excavated and ruined remains of the grand Hindu Empire of Vijayanagara which dates back to structures ranging from the 13th to 15th Century AD. Hampi lies in one of the oldest plateaux of the earth in the South Indian State of Karnataka. There are several stories of the historic significance of Hampi and the more I read about it, the more it makes me nostalgic and sad thinking of how a city as old as Beijing and a potential commercial hub for international traders could have been destroyed to such an extent. Today all that remains is ruins and ashes.

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Here is what I have learnt about the region and would love to share about Hampi's history -

The mythological connect -

A part of Hampi known as Kishkinda is believed to be the kingdom of the Monkey God (Hanuman) from the Indian Mythology, Ramayana. Kishkinda has a mountain-top 'monkey temple' significant for being the birthplace of Hanuman.

About Anegundi -

Anegundi lies across the Tungabhadra river northwest of Hampi and is said to have existed much before Hampi. Existence of Anegundi is dated back to 1500BC and the region is said to have been the oldest plateau of the earth. Stories around Lord Rama and the Monkey God makes Anegundi one of the important pilgrimage places of South India.

Anegundi also happens to be the first capital city of the Vijayanagara Empire until it was later moved to Hampi.

The Vijayanagara Empire -

The ruins and remains of this grand South Indian Empire are scattered around Hampi. The Vijayanagara empire was established in the 13th Century AD and eventually grew as a collective of all royal dynasties of the Deccan Plateau with the objective to wade off the influence of the Muslim Sultanate rulers in the region.

However, the battle of Tallikota, in1565 AD caused a major military defeat of the Vijayanagara empire by the collective forces of the Muslim Sultanates. The battle left the entire region of Hampi devastated. The Hampi town is said to have been burning for months at a stretch including the destruction of monuments, vandalizing and looting of resources.

Also Read: Places to visit near Bangalore in Karnataka

I'll share with you some snippets of the sights I visited in Hampi, without going much into the dates and ages of the monuments but more about their significance.

Experiencing the grandeur of Hampi -

I spent three days in Hampi and not just experienced the extravagant grandeur of the temple town of Hampi but also the surrounding villages of Anegundi/Kishkinda and Gangavathi.

Our accommodation was at Gangavathi, which is around 20 km away from the main tourist hub of Hampi but at the same time a gateway to explore the simplistic surrounding villages. More about that in a separate blog!

Here is an elaborate list of all that I saw in Hampi! Hope it helps you to explore the UNESCO world heritage site on your visit!

An extensive list of places to include in your Hampi Itinerary-

Underground Temple, Hampi
An underground temple of Hampi that stands on its rickety structure

Temples around Hampi -

The Vitthala Temple complex and the Stone Chariot -

This is the largest temple complex in Hampi and sees the maximum number of tourists in the whole of Hampi. It comprises of the many temples and halls around the premises. Here are some facts about the Vitthala Temple that every visitor must look-out for -

  • Vitthala temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu in the Vitthala form.

  • All the buildings are made in the Dravidian style of architecture with intricate carvings depicting stories from mythological tales, day-to-day life.

  • There are separate chambers like the Maha Mantapa, Kalyana Mantapa or Ranga Mantapa dedicated for different activities like rituals, marriages and music.

Vitthala Temple of Hampi
Vitthala Temple and the Musical Pillars
  • We were amazed by the musical pillars of the Ranga Mantapa. Each large pillar is divided into seven smaller pillars which when tapped produces different notes of music. These pillars have been of interest to many researchers and the British rulers even cut open two of these to check what was within but found nothing.

Stone Chariot replica in Indian Currency
The famous Stone Chariot stands in the center of Vitthala Temple
  • The stone chariot is another important attraction. It is among the three most-famous stone chariots of India. The other two are in Konark(Orissa) and Mahabalipuram(Tamil Nadu) respectively. The stones wheels have been cemented to avoid damages but were once functional.

  • The Vitthala Temple Bazaar which spreads over a large area is another visibly large single-storey building which used to be a busy market place, back in the days, for traders from across the globe.

Krishna Bazaar where traders came in the 15th Century Hampi
The Vitthala Temple Bazaar which was once a trading hub of the 15th Century

The Virupaksha Temple -

  • The Virupaksha temple is the largest temple that has survived the test of time amidst the ruins of Hampi. It is just adjacent to the bank of the Tungabhadra river.

  • Virupaksha Temple is devoted to Lord Shiva and still remains functional for many devotees who visit here. The Nandi (Bull) to the Shiva temple is a grand Monolith structure seated at an elevated platform, at the far east end of the entrance. The bull structure attracts many eye-balls for its spectacular view during the sunset hours with its backdrop of large boulders.

  • The bull leads to the entrance after a long way through a broken stretch of the once market area also known as the Hampi Bazaar.

  • The eastern gate is a huge nine-tier temple-like structure with many beautifully carved designs on it. I bet you can't see it completely without looking straight up at the sky.

  • The temple structure has been renovated many times and thus, the only functional complex amongst the ruins of Hampi.

Virupaksha Temple, Hampi
Interiors of the Virupaksha Temple of Hampi

The Kadalekalu and Sasivakalu Ganeshas -

Both these Ganesh statues (the Elephant God) are monolithic structures carved out of a single stone.

The Kadelekalu Ganesha temple is located on the Hemakuta Hill and is 15-feet tall, the largest in south India. The location of the temple gives a calm meditative kind of vibe with a breathtaking view of the Matanga Hills and the whole of Hampi.

Sasivakalu Ganesh Statue in Hampi
Sunset view behind t