A post about one of the most coveted places that have been in my wish list since childhood. This place is a testament to the glorious days of the Vijayanagara kingdom which was a very powerful and wealthy kingdom in the 16th century. Hampi it is!
The land which was ruled by the great king Krishnadevaraya and also home to Tenali Rama who graced his court. Many a childhood day has been spent listening to the stories of this witty pair who were South India’s equivalent of Akbar and Birbal. In fact given that they pre-dated Akbar and Birbal, if you believe in re-birth, maybe they were reborn as Akbar and Birbal respectively!!
Hampi was renowned for its riches as well as the rich culture and played an important role in the history of Southern India for a little over two centuries. The place fell into despair after the death of Krishnadevaraya and was plundered by the deccani kings towards the end of the sixteenth century. Today only the ruins are left. Hampi today is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Hampi is located on the banks of Tungabhadra river. On the other bank of the river is the town of Anegundi which predates Hampi and is believed to have been the mythological city of Kishkindha of Ramayana fame where the Vanara army which included Hanuman was put together to rescue Sita from the clutches of Ravana. The fact seems plausible given the rocky terrain.
We took the Hampi express from Bangalore around 9 PM and reached Hospet which is the nearest railway station at around 7 AM. We had booked cottages at the newly opened Daroji Sloth Bear Resort owned by JLR (Jungle Lodges and Resorts) group. The resort is located at the village of Kamalapura which is 30 minutes away from both Hospet and Hampi.
The sprawling Virupaksha Temple complex in the middle of Hampi Bazaar near the base of Hemakuta hill is probably the only place to have escaped the plunder of the invaders and left almost intact. Our guide told us that this was due to the presence of the Varaha (Wild Boar) sculptures in the temple which was a bad omen for the Muslim rulers who plundered Hampi and they therefore left this temple alone. Even today the temple is a place of worship. While the main deity is Lord Shiva there are small shrines dedicated to Goddess Bhuvaneshvari and Pampa. This temple pre-dates the Vijayanagara kingdom.
One of the key features of the temple is the Ranga Mantapa which was added during the reign of Krishnadevaraya. This ornate hall has pillars with beautiful carvings. The walls and ceilings are adorned with paintings depicting scenes from Ramayana, Mahabharata and other Puranas. It is a pleasure to see such intricate and beautiful artwork. The artisans were definitely highly skilled and very creative.
A pinhole camera effect has been created out of stonework to reflect the main tower from within the shrine dedicated to the revered sage Vidyaranya who laid the founding stone for the Vijayanagara kingdom. An unusual sculpture of a triple headed Nandi is another interesting sight here. An elephant near the entrance of the temple blesses visitors and can be fed.
Literally translates to Mustard Seed Ganesha :) A giant monolithic statue of Lord Ganesha at the southern part of Hemakuta hill flanked by an ornate mandapa enclosure.
Literally translates to Bengal Gram Ganesha :) It is called so due to the belly of the idol resembling a Bengal Gram that has not been split. This fifteenth century monolithic statue of Lord Ganesha on the northern side of the Hemakuta hill stands about 4.5 meters high. It is housed within a mantap having ornately carved pillars.
Hemakuta hill has a few shrines and a gateway with two storeys. There is a path leading towards the Virupaksha temple. Climbing this hill gives a bird’s eye-view of the surroundings.
This sixteenth century temple was built during Krishnadevaraya’s reign to commemorate his victory over the rulers of the present day Orissa. Only a part of the Gopura still exists. The remains of the vegetable and flower markets of Hampi can be seen opposite the temple.
Lakshmi Narasimha Temple
This dilapidated temple surrounded by Plantain fields houses the 6.7 meters high monolithic statue of Lord Narasimha, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The arms of the idol have been broken and the face has also been damaged. Even the roof over the idol is gone. The idol of Goddess Lakshmi which must have been seated on the left lap of the idol has also been destroyed. Only the right hand of the idol of the Goddess remains.
Badavi Linga Temple
A giant 3 meter tall monolithic Shiva Linga is also present in an enclosure next to the Narasimha idol. The sanctum of the Linga is always filled with the water from Tungabhadra river. This temple got its name as it was commissioned by a poor peasant woman and “Badavi” means a poor woman in Kannada.
This high walled compound encloses a series of structures. The whole enclosure was meant for the ladies of the royal family and was supposed to have been guarded by eunuchs. Only foundations of the palace that once stood here are left.
This beautiful double storeyed structure within the Zenana Enclosure is reasonably well-preserved. It is symmetric and built-in the shape of the lotus after which it is named. While the foundation is a typical example of the Vijayanagar architecture, the upper section is influenced by Islamic architecture. The structure is designed such that natural air-conditioning could be achieved to ward off the severe heat in this region during summer. Watch towers can be seen at all four corners of the enclosing fortifications.
This is a fifteenth century structure consisting of eleven chambers used for housing the elephants of the royal stables. The domes are symmetric and of various shapes. The style of architecture is Indo-Sarcenic.
Vijaya Vittala Temple
This is one of the grandest temples of Hampi. The path leading to this temple is dotted on both sides by the ruins of the fabled Hampi Bazaar where precious gemstones used to be sold right in the open. Every nook and cranny of this temple has a story to tell. This magnificent temple complex has been a witness to the grandeur of the Vijayanagara Kings. The world-famous stone chariot is housed here. This is the first picture above in this post.
Another remarkable feature of this temple is the dancing hall with the fabled musical pillars. Each stone pillar can produce a different sound. Two of these pillars were removed by the British archaeologists (from ASI) who discovered the ruins of Hampi to figure out what lay within the stones and produced the music. To their surprise they only found stone which had been hollowed out within. Such is the magic and ingenuity of the artists who built this wonderful edifice which is the pinnacle of the Vijayanagara style of architecture. This area has been cordoned off to protect what is left of the pillars. There are a few similar pillars in another section of the temple where one can listen to the music emanating from stone.
This pyramidal structure stands almost 8 metres tall and is a place of royal splendour. The Dasara festival spanning over ten days used to be the chief festival celebrated in the Vijayanagara kingdom. The King used to be seated on a pavilion high up from where he could oversee the celebrations. There are steps to climb this pavilion on the front side. However the King used to take a special staircase from the rear of the pavilion. There is a Roman aqueduct near the pavilion. Another notable structure here is a stepped tank which is a remarkable piece of architecture.
We went here mainly to sight the vulnerable Yellow-throated Bulbuls. This hillock has a giant Nandi idol at the base and some ruins scattered all over. A small Hanuman shrine can be seen as you climb up. Some huge rocks had paintings over them. Not sure if they were ancient. It seemed more likely to be modern tribal art.
Walk along the Tungabhadra
We went on a walk along the banks of the Tungabhadra starting from Virupaksha temple and ending at Vijaya Vittala temple. The banks of the river are strewn with rocks and boulders. Ruins can be found all along the way. Lots of idols have been discarded here. This was supposedly the place where sculptors and artisans practiced their skills before starting on the actual work! Even the opposite bank had huge idols.
There are small temples and shrines along the way. Hundreds of small Shiva Lingas could be found at one of the places where we stopped for a brief while.
The locals use the coracles to ferry people to Anegundi which is on the opposite bank of the river. The agility of the locals can be seen by the way in which they are able to navigate through the boulders so effortlessly.
As I have said above, Anegundi on the opposite bank of the river is supposed to have been the Kishkinda of Ramayana. We saw what is believed to be Sugreeva‘s cave at the end of our trail. Nearby is a small pond with lot of beautiful Water Hyacinths called Sita Sarovar.
The King’s Balance can be seen while approaching Vijaya Vittala temple. It is said that the Kings used to be weighed on special occasions against gold and other precious stones which were then distributed amongst the Brahmins.
We went here on one of the evenings to try to get some fabled sunset shots of Hampi. Alas the weather was gloomy throughout our stay and continued to be the same. The clouds took away all our hopes. We went to the Rama temple at the top of this hill where the bhajans are sung throughout the day. We spent some time sitting here on the rocks watching dusk set in.
Pattabhi Rama Temple
This temple is very close to Kamalapur. Its off the normal tourist trail and we were the only ones when we went there. The temple complex is pretty large and has some beautiful halls with lot of pillars.
The bathing place of the royal family probably. This structure has a big pool at the centre surrounded by corridor with balconies. The roof is domed and has beautiful patterns painted on it.
This ruined structure in a slightly desolate area must have been the bathing place for the commoners. It is octagonal in shape thus giving it the name.
Hazara Rama Temple
The word Hazara literally translates to thousand. Aptly named so as the temple has a unique panel of carvings of scenes from the Ramayana all along its walls including the exterior wall of the temple complex.
Where to eat: Mango Tree Restaurant
This place was highly recommended by a couple of friends when I was planning the trip. It turned out to be quite a pleasant experience to have lunch here. The approach to this restaurant is through a banana field and they have outdoor seating arrangement facing the river. The food was pretty good. All in all a great place to unwind after a tiring day of walking amidst the ruins!