Ruins of Hampi, Karnataka
Hampi was the capital of the erstwhile Vijayanagar Empire and known to be one of the richest cities of its time. Located on the shores of the Tungabhadra River in Karnataka, Hampi is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its stone carved structures, built in marvelous Dravidian style architecture, temples and monuments.
13 Popular Places to Visit In Hampi
When it comes to the important world heritage sites in India, the ruins of Hampi hold the top position in the prestigious list. Hampi is basically a village located in the Northern part of Karnataka, which forms an integral part of the ruins of Vijaynagara (the once capital of the Vijaynagara Empire).
This place, apart from being an important religious centre, is home to several other monuments that belonged to the old city. One of the interesting facts about Hampi apart from its history and culture is that this place is closely associated with the incidents of Ramayana. According to the mythological epic, when Lord Rama and his brother were wandering in the forest searching for the trails of Devi Sita (Lord Rama’s wife), who was abducted by the demon king Ravana, both these brothers came to this region in search of Vail and Sugriv (two monkeys brothers) who ruled in this region.
Later Lord Rama went and sought help from Sugriv to form an army of monkeys and other animals in order to rescue his wife. Owing to such historical and religious significance, this place was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In terms of etymology, the name of Hampi has been originally derived from the word ‘Pampa’, which used to be the earlier name of the Tungabhadra River. From the word ‘Pampa’ was derived the Kannada word ‘Hampe’, which went on to be anglicised as ‘Hampi’.
The most important attraction of this place, which also serves as an eminent religious centre of the region, is the Virupaksha Temple (a temple dedicated to Lord Virupaksha, who is considered to be the deity of the Vijaynagara rulers). Because of this, Hampi is also at times referred to as Vijaynagara and Virupakshapura.
Hampi is considered to be the largest open monument and lost city of Asia. At the same time, it is easy to understand the past grandeur of this city and realise what it used to look like some 6-7 centuries back. The first historical record of settlement in Hampi dates back to 1 C.E. Dating from 1336-1565 Hampi was considered to be one of the core areas of the capital of the Vijaynagara Empire with palaces, temples, fort walls, civil buildings, tanks, irrigation channels, etc. spread over an area of 25 sq km.
This place reflects the power and prosperity of the Vijaynagara Empire, not forgetting the fact that only an empire so big and powerful could have created it. Religion, which played an important role in the construction of this place, also had a crucial role to play in its destruction, thereby justifying the fact that one man’s fundamentalist is another man’s infidel.
The Muslim states of Bijapur, Golkonda, Ahmednagar and Bidar formed an alliance in order to ravage the Hindu shield. This led to the battle of 1565 where the army of the Vijaynagara Empire was brutally defeated by the alliance and the army of the invading soldiers marched on the beautiful city with the determination to tear it into pieces. This caused a prevalence of loot, pillage, rapine and destruction of the beautiful buildings including Hampi temple and statues of Hindu Gods.
Thus an empire that marked its beginning with ascribing to Islamic invasions met its end being invaded by the Islamic army. One of the major reasons why Hampi laid siege to the Deacon Muslim Confederacy was its strong topography and geographical location which refers to its bounding by River Tungabhadra on one side, while the rest of its three sides are covered by defensible hills. Since the terrain is more hilly and raggedy, there is abundance of large stones in this region, which were eventually used for the construction of the various statues of Hindu deities. Hampi is also known for the mineral deposits of iron ore and manganese leading to the prospects of mining, which has been going on for many years now.
Apart from this, the Archaeological Survey of India keeps conducting excavations in Hampi to discover something new every now and then. In current times, Hampi is one of the favourite tourist spots of India visited by people from across the world. In simple terms Hampi is a must-visit destination when one is travelling in India especially South India.
Thousands of people visit the ruins of Hampi every year for the purpose of sightseeing, study or research thereby reinforcing the cause of tourism in this region. This helps the government in two major ways, first of all having so many tourists every year boosts their economy, and tourism helps in several ways to protect this beautiful site from negligence and destruction.
Here’s a list of some of the best places to visit in Hampi:
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02 Archaeological Museum
The Archaeological Museum of Hampi is one of the principal attractions of the place that houses collections of sculptures and assorted antiques. Although a lot of these findings were made by the British officers who stored them in elephant stables, the Archaeological Survey of India established this museum and started shifting the antiques in 1972.
Since this museum houses some of the most important artefacts of Hampi, it turns out to be one of the important places to visit in Hampi that one shouldn’t miss out on. This place is open four tourists throughout the week except for Fridays.
03 Vijaya Vittala Temple
Built in 15th century AD the Vijaya Vittala Temple is a rich architectural temple that serves as one of the important places to visit in Hampi. This temple has an expansive campus which consists of several other Hampi temples, pavilions and halls. This temple as its name suggests is dedicated to Lord Vittala who was one of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu. Lord Vittala is believed to be like an ordinary person and is worshipped by the cattle herds.
One of the main attractions of the temple are its marvellously created pillared halls that reflect true wonders of architecture along with a gigantic stone chariot which also serves as another major attraction of this place.
Along with this one can still find the remains of the Vittalapura township, which once existed outside the temple campus. This entire place, along with its contents, is exemplary of the true marvel of religious architecture.
04 Monkey Temple (Hanuman Temple)
As mentioned earlier, Hampi has a close association with the incident of Ramayana. One of the important evidences that pinpoints this fact is the Monkey Temple, which is located at a serene spot on Anjanadri Hill in Anegundi.
This Hampi Temple is located 4 km from Hampi and is believed to be the birth place of Lord Hanuman. This Monkey Temple is basically a small concrete structure consisting of a granite carved statue of Lord Hanuman along with a small shrine of Lord Rama and his wife Devi Sita. As you reach the main site, a flight of granite steps lead you inside the temple.
Also, this place has a lot of monkeys that truly justifies the name of the temple so one needs to be little cautious with these primates. Since this temple is located on a hill, it offers an amazing view of Hampi and many of the heritage sites of this region.
Along with this the view of sunrise and sunset is a mesmerising one to witness for tourists visiting Hampi. Some of the other places to visit near the Monkey Temple include Pampa Sarovara Laxmi Temple, Bukkaâ Aquaduct, Anegondi Fort and Rishyamukha Sarovara.
05 Virupaksha Temple
Lord Virupaksha is believed to be the principal deity of the Vijaynagara rulers, dedicated to whom this temple has been constructed in Hampi. This beautiful and architecturally rich Hampi temple is one of the most important places to visit in Hampi and it also serves as the main centre of pilgrimage in this region.
This temple is considered to be built somewhere around the 7th century and it initially started as a small shrine only to be later developed into a marvellous temple under the reign of the Vijaynagara rulers. Several evidences found in the temple indicate towards the fact that a lot of additions were done in the temple during the late Chalukya and Hoysala periods.
Although this amazing temple lost most of its wonderful decorative structures and creations during the 1565 war, worship here kept on persisting. This temple finally received a major overhaul and renovation at the beginning of the 19th century in order to keep it under working condition and to salvage its structure, artistic elements and aesthetics.
06 Royal Enclosure
The present day fortified area or the Royal Enclosure of Hampi was once the seat of power of the Vijaynagara rulers. In current times this Royal Enclosure is basically a wide open ground consisting of a number of small shelters.
Some of the important structures in here are spread across hundreds of square metres of land and consists of a number of interesting and important relics. Some of the important structures of the Royal Enclosure are the King’s Audience Hall or the 100-Pillared Hall, stepped tank, an underground chamber and the Mahanavami Debbie to the commonly called Dossier Platform.
Since the Royal Enclosure is pretty large a good amount of walking is required to have a look at the entire place. Any kind of vehicles whether manually or automatically driven are not allowed inside the area, so it is advisable to visit this place during early morning or in the evenings, as the atmosphere at these times are more pleasant.
07 Riverside Ruins
Located to the North of the Kodandarama Temple, the riverside gorge is an imminent site for some clusters of remarkable ruins. These relics feature some of the finely carved Shiva Lingas on the flat rock surface along with a reclined structure of carved Anandashayana Vishnu on the rock cleft.
Once you go close to the edge of the river you will be able to notice a couple of Shiva Linga mandalas carved in an array of 108 and 1008 in a square area. The numbers are such chosen due to their significance in Hindu religion.
This place consists of some other interesting features such as an array of pavillions, partially submerged small shrines, sequence of motifs carved on the rock surface, etc. To have a comfortable trip in this area and to get a closer look at the Shiva Lingas, it is advisable that one should hire a coracle, as it would be an easy and quick-to-use option.
08 Queen’s Bath
f you enter the Hampi complex from the South-West corner, then the Queen’s Bath is the first of the ruins that you would visit. From outside this building appears to be a plain rectangular complex encircled by a big water channel that one might need to cross at some places using the bridge-like structure.
This contraption was created to block unwanted intruders from walking in to the place where the royal women used to bathe. When looked at from the inside, one can see a huge circular veranda facing a big open sky pool in its middle.
It is believed that in ancient times the pool used to be filled with fragrant water and flowers, which now is nothing more than an empty brick-lined pool structure. This entire building and its surroundings have been designed in the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture. There is a small garden outside the Queen’s Bath, which serves as a fine picnic spot.
09 Hampi Bazaar
The Hampi Bazaar, also well known as the Virupaksha Bazaar is a kilometre long street at the foothill of the Matanga Hill located in front of the Virupaksha Temple. On both sides of the street are an array of old pavillions, which were once the part of the thriving market and also the residence of the nobles.
At present this whole area has been mostly encroached upon, either to be converted into shops or the dwellings of poor villagers of this place. Above this a part of this ancient structure houses a nursery school for the village children, making it one of the oldest nursery school buildings in the world.
While you take a look at this place you will notice a huge Nandi located at the East-end side of the street along with an open platform, which serves as a main stage for the annual Hampi festival. One can opt for walk or a bicycle ride to tour this place, which would not take more than 30 minutes to cover.
10 Underground Temple
This underground temple of Lord Shiva is one of the oldest temples in Hampi. This temple for some reasons was built several metres below the ground level due to which the sanctum as well as the main parts of the temple remain under water for most of the time round the year.
One enters the temple by passing through the main tower, which is supposedly an incomplete addition done later on. There is a series of steps along the axis of this tower that leads you to the sanctum, which further takes you down to the inner part of the temple.
There is a cubical pillared main hall in front of the shrine, which is the last part, access to which is dependent upon the level of water that would decide whether you can go any further or not. Outside the temple there is a beautiful lawn built around it. Most of the time, this place is less crowded so it gives you the opportunity to survey the outside of the temple by going around this lawn.
11 Old Palace (Gagan Mahal)
Located in the small village of Anegundi (a place of great historical importance during the rule of the Vijaynagara dynasty) near Hampi, Gagan Mahal or the old palace is a place of great importance soaked in legends and history.
A lot of tourists visit this place as part of their tour to Hampi. This place is considered to be constructed around the 16th century and is surrounded by a fort most of which is actually in ruins. This yellow coloured palace consists of beautifully decorated windows and four spectacular towers.
To know more about the place and its history, take the help of the local guides present there, who would efficiently walk you through the history of Gagan Mahal as well as that of Anegundi.
This region has got some other amazing sightseeing destinations which include Anjeyanadri Hill, Pampa Sarovara Laxmi Temple, Sabari Cave, Srikrishnadevaraya Samadhi, and Nava Brindavana.
12 Hemakuta Hill Temples
To get an amazing view of the beautiful ruins of Hampi there could be no better place than the Hemakuta Hill, which consists of a large number of temples, archways and pavillions being guarded by the tall wide stoned walls, the ruins of which can still be seen here.
Most of the temples here are dedicated to Lord Shiva, as there runs a myth that it was on this hill that the Lord had married the local girl Pampa after his penance and also that it was the same place where he had burnt Kama the God of lust for having distracted him from his penance in order to help Pampa marry him.
The major temple of Virupaksha is also located here at the Northern part of the hill along with a large number of pre-Vijayanagara temples. At the hilltop is located the Moola Virupaksha Temple, which is believed to be the original Virupaksha temple.
13 Sasivekalu Ganesha
This Lord Ganesha’s statue derives its resemblance from that of the mustard seed, which is referred to as Sasivekalu in the local dialect thereby leading to its name. This statue is located on the Southern foothill of the Hemakuta and is almost half the size of Kadalekalu Ganesha located on the Northern slope of the same hill.
This statue derives inspiration from an incident of Hindu mythology when one day Lord Ganesha had eaten so much food that his stomach almost burst. So in order to protect his stomach the Lord tied a snake around his belly. On this statue one can see the figure of the snake carved in front of his stomach.
This monolithic statue measure 2.4 metres in height and is carved out of a huge boulder. There is an open pavillion built around the statue, which is believed to be constructed by a trader from Chandragiri (present day Andhra Pradesh) in the memory of Narsimha II the mighty Vijaynagara king. Similar to the Kadalekalu Ganesha Temple, this temple too is considered to be one of the important places to visit in Hampi.
14 Krishna Temple
When it comes to places to visit in Hampi, the Krishna temple is a place that should not be missed. This temple was built in 1513 AD in order to commemorate the conquest of the Eastern kingdom of Udayagiri (present day Odisha State) by king Krishnadevaraya.
A figure of Balakrishna (infant Lord Krishna) was the main idol to be installed in the temple, which in present time is displayed in the Chennai State Museum. The history of this temple is inscribed on a huge slab that is installed in the temple’s courtyard.
The pillars inside the temple are quite unique in their design and architecture especially the Yalis or the mythical lion along with carvings of elephant balustrades.
One of the interesting things to see here is the main tower located at its East, which displays an impressive sight of spectacular carvings especially the one depicting the 10 incarnations of Lord Vishnu.Because of its intrinsic designs and architecture, this temple stands out as an exact specimen of true Vijaynagara era temples.