Karnataka’s jewel Hampi enriches you, historically and architecturally
Hampi is a town like no other. Well, which other place has the kind of heritage that dates back to the times of the Hoysalas and despite of largely being in ruins, manages to attract attention every time? This is probably also why, Hampi is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The stone formations, ruins of history and cultural connections makes this city in northern Karnataka a much soughtafter travel destination. Hampi was believed to be one of the richest and largest cities in the world in its hey days. It is located within the ruins of Vijayanagara, the former capital of the Vijayanagara Empire. Legend has it that this place is the site of Kishkindha, the empire of monkey king Vaali and his younger brother, Sugreeva, and has a strong connection with the great Indian epic Ramayana as well. The Tungabhadra river flows through Hampi which makes it a haven for birds as well. The city has so many wonderful sights that one will need to spend at least a week’s time over here to cover them all in detail.
Here are some places that must be on your radar when you visit Hampi.
VITTALA TEMPLE COMPLEX
Well known and popular among the ruins of Hampi, and in a sense, a way of identifying the town, is the iconic stone chariot that is also a symbol of Karnataka Tourism within the Vittala Temple Complex. The stone chariot is believed to be a reproduction of the processional wooden chariot and has an image of Vishnu’s vehicle Garuda. Built in 15th century AD, the Vijaya Vittala Temple is a testament to the Vijayanagara style of art and architecture and the temple is dedicated to Vittala, a form of Vishnu. This sprawling complex has temples, pavilions and halls. The massive pillars in the congregation hall are made of single granite blocks. In fact, some of the slender pillars here produce musical notes when tapped. But touching these pillars is not allowed in today’s date. The marriage hall, festival hall as well as the shrines of several goddesses are part of this temple complex. Hiring an experienced guide who will explain the details of the complex will certainly prove useful.
If you like history, the Archaeological Museum of Hampi will entice you with its collection of sculptures and antiques while giving you a great insight into the mighty Vijaynagara dynasty. The well laid out museum has four galleries Built in 15th century AD, the Vijaya Vittala Temple is a testament to the Vijayanagara style of art and architecture centrestage in Hampi and the first gallery has sculptures of gods and goddesses. The Central Hall is a replica of the Hampi temple complete with sculptures of Shiva and Nandi. The second gallery has a large display of armoury, copper plate grants, religious metal objects, brass plates and gold and copper coins of the Vijaynagara dynasty. The fourth gallery displays antiquities belonging to the pre-historic and proto-historic period, medieval hero stones and sati stones. It also exhibits some other excavated items such as stucco figurines, iron objects and shards of porcelain among other things.
Lord Virupaksha is the main deity of the Vijaynagara rulers and the 7th century Virupaksha Temple takes centrestage in Hampi. The temple was a modest creation initially but there have been several additions to the structure during the Chalukya and Hoysala time periods. The nine-tiered temple tower faces the famous Hampi Bazaar and the intricately carved mandapas and towers are lined across the temple complex.
The Royal Enclosure was once the seat of power of the Vijaynagara rulers. It is a wide open ground with several small shelters with important relics. This place houses the 100-pillared king’s audience hall, a stepped tank, an underground chamber and the Mahanavami Dibba, the tallest structure in the area.
Located in the south-west corner, the Queen’s Bath is a rectangular complex encircled by a big water channel that is believed to have been used by the queen to bathe in. All around is a huge circular veranda that faces a large open sky pool in its middle. It is said that the pool used to be filled with fragrant water and flowers during the reign of the Queen. The Indo-Saracenic style of architecture makes for a compelling structure. There is a small garden outside the Queen’s Bath.
The Hampi Bazaar or the Virupaksha Bazaar is a kilometre-long street in front of the Virupaksha Temple, flanked on both sides of the street with old pavilions believed to be part of a flourishing market in the past. It is said that this is the place where jewels and precious stones used to be traded when Vijayanagara empire was at its peak. There is a huge Nandi located on the east side of the street where the annual Hampi festival is held.
HEMAKUTA HILL TEMPLES
If you wish to witness a bird’s eye view of the ruins of Hampi, head to Hemakuta Hill that houses a large number of temples, archways and pavilions within large wide-stoned walls. Most temples here are dedicated to lord Shiva and the hilltop has the Moola Virupaksha Temple, which is believed to be the original Virupaksha temple.
This is a large statue of Lord Ganesha and the name comes from its resemblance to the mustard seed (Sasivekalu in Kannada). This statue is inspired from an incident in Hindu mythology when lord Ganesha had eaten so much food that his stomach almost burst and he tied a snake around his belly to help himself! The monolithic statue is 2.4 mt in height and carved out of a huge boulder. Also, check out the Kadalekalu Ganesha Temple located close by.
Text: Bindu Gopal Rao