Hampi, a well explored yet wonderful place sits along the Tungabhadra river in Central Karnataka. This place has a surreal landscape of boulders strewn across little hills. This was the very home of famed “Vanaras” mentioned Ramayana in Treta yug called Kiskindhya. Lord Hanuman was born here near Anegundi across the river. Between 1336 and 1646 one of the most prosperous and powerful Hindu empire of Vijayanagar came up here and shaped the history of southern India. The Kings of Vijayanagar contributed to architecture, literature, socio religious and economic affairs of this region to great extent. Their patronage to temples, literature and architecture are still visible in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and some parts of Tamilnadu. It was successful to repel the treacherous, tyrant Sultans of Bahmani to gain further south beyond Maharashtra and eventually disintegrated it into five smaller Sultanates with its shrewd diplomacy, military prowess and efficient administration. The Game of Thrones finally backfired when the five Sultanates made an alliance and Vijaynagar army was routed in Battle of Talikota(1565). Muslim militias massacred the residents and plundered the capital ruthlessly.
Today, Hampi is a Unesco World Heritage site and visited by thousands of tourists every day. It has become a travelers paradise due to its convenient location midway between Bangalore and Hyderabad. Nearest rail head is Hospet(HPT) Junction. Hampi is 12 -14 km away from Hospet. Hampi can be visited in one day, two day or even more leisurely in few more days. The dry heat makes it difficult to see the sites in one day. A couple of days is good to see the major sites. Two wheelers and bicycles are available in rent and is a cheapway to commute between the sites. Otherwise auto rickshwas or cars are available but that needs dependence on the driver and haggling with them.
The Royal Enclosure or the Palace area is located near Kamalapur. It has several ruins of mansions, bathing tanks and other buildings.
Here ruins of watch towers can be seen. A little ahead the Lotus Mahal is located.Most probably this was a socializing area for the women folks in the royal family.Unlike the other major structures in Hampi, this is made out of lime mortar and brick made composition. The name of the building is due to its shape of the structure. The archways and the balcony with the domed construction resemble a half opened lotus bud. Also is the lotus bud shape carved on to the center dome.This is a two storied structure with an open base floor the sidewalls are having tall arched windows. The upper floors have balconies with arched windows. The arches of the ground floor are recessed and ornate. The decorations and architecture is a curious mix of Hindu and Islamic styles.
A little ahead is the Elephant stable. It is an iconic structure that makes Hampi synonymous.This long building with a row of domed chambers was used to ‘park’ the royal elephants. There are 11 domed tall chambers; some of them are inter- connected.The whole building looks symmetric with respect to this central hall. The tower of the central hall resembles more like that of temples. However the five pairs of domes on either side are of Islamic in style.
Next , lies the Madhava or Ranga Temple.It has a sanctum sanctorum(garvagriha),a vestibule and a large 18 pillared pavilion.The pillars have sculptural depictions of Garuda, Vittala, Surya, Balakrishna, Hanuman and Alwar.It also depicts episodes of Matsya, Varaha and Narasimha avatar of Vishnu.
A well preserved and iconic landmark is the Hazara Rama temple.Dedicated to Vishnu in his aspect as Lord Rama is the finest example of compact Dravida Vimana type of temple.The temple is known for its sculpted friezes depicting the Ramayana in three tiers running all around the main shrine.The temple is also known for the narrative sculptures of the Bhagavata.It was a temple of Royal patronage.
Mahanavami Dibba is a stone platform constructed by King Krishnadevraya 1513 AD in commemoration on the victory over Udaygiri (now in Orissa). The king watched the army march-pasts, bow and arrow competitions, war games such as sword fighting competition, wrestling, aquatic sports, musical performances of the royal animals and the hugely significant Navaratri celebrations from the raised structure of the grand platform of the Dasara Dibba.
The Hampi Bazar area is scattered with impressive ruins mostly temples and pavilions. The grand Virupaksha Temple lies on the banks of Tungabhadra.It is still being worshiped. The temple is dedicated to Lord Virupaksha(Shiva)who is the guardian deity of this region(pampakshetra). The shrine pre dates Vijayanagar empire but the grand monumental temple was built by Vijayanagar rulers. It also houses a temple elephant named Laxmi. At present, the main temple consists of a sanctum, three ante chambers, a pillared hall and an open pillared hall. A pillared cloister, entrance gateways, courtyards, smaller shrines and other structures surround the temple.The main Gopuram is 9 tiered and 50 metre high.
Beside the temple lies Hemkuta hill.There are several structures located on it. Kadalekalu Ganesha is a monolithic Ganesha image enshrined in a simple sanctum with vestibule and an open ornate pillared pavilion in front.The tall slender pillars are sculpted with with depictions of mythology.
Sasivekalu Ganesh is another Ganesh statue enclosed in an open air pavilion.The statue seated in a half lotus posture and 2.4 mtrs high. The Mantapa was built in 1506 AD by a trader belonging to Chandrapuri near Tirupati in memory of Narasimha II of Suluva dynasty.
Krishna Temple was built by King Krishnadevraya in 1513 and the image was brought from Udaygiri(Orissa).It was built in panchayatana style with two enclosures has the main shrine with the sanctum, a vestibule, pillared pavilions and a hall, a devi shrine and many subshrines. The grand towered eastern gateway is an outstanding example of Vijaynagar architecture. The temple walls are carved with depictions of Bhagavata, puranic story of Lord Krishna and his times.
An iconic statue of Ugra Narasimha and one giant Shivalinga lies side by side ahead of Krishna Temple.The magnificient monolithic Laxmi Narasimha stands at a height of 6.7 mtrs.It is one of the finest example of Vijaynagara sculpture.Narasimha is seated on coil of Adisesha with its seven hoods acting as canopy arched by a Kirtimukha torana in front. The statue was consecrated in 1528.
Badaviling is 3 mtr high monolithic Shivalinga remains in a bed of water within a small damaged shrine.
The Vithhala Complex located a bit far towards the Matanga Hill. It is situated at the hill top. VIsitors are ferried in battery driven cart from the road end 1.5 km away. The main attraction is the Vittala Temple.
Hampi is where history murmurs its stories from every pillar. It remains as the witness of the glorious period of its magnificence, prosperity and enigma. It has in numerous smaller sites and vantage points that can offer newer perception to the unearthly landscape and stunning remains of architecture.