Hampi – “If dreams were made out of stone, it would be Hampi”

hampi

Once upon a time, the city Hampi used to be the capital of one of the mightiest Hindu empires of South India, the Vijayanagara Dynasty. The importance of this temple town was no less that Mathura or Kashi, other holy cities of India. However, what stand here now are just majestic ruins reminding one of the times gone by. Reason enough for the western traveller to ensure it features on his/her Indian itinerary, to catch glimpses of a world where art and day to day life went together.

To begin with, Hampi, the last capital of the kingdom of Vijayanagara was built around 1336 A D. This town housed numerous palaces and temples, built in the Dravidian style of architecture. And, ironically, just like today, it was a much visited destination – albeit for different reasons – being a major stop for spiritual travellers between the 14th and 16th centuries.

Before its conquest, Hampi was a cynosure of all eyes. People were attracted to it not only because of its riches, but also its exquisite architecture. It was also a spot for trade.

But sadly like all things – good and bad – come to an end, so did the prosperity of this grand kingdom. It was conquered by Muslim invaders in 1565 and was subjected to systematic pillaging for about six months, and later after divesting it of its riches, the marauders abandoned the city.Although in ruins today, this capital city once boasted riches known far beyond the shores of India. The ruins of Hampi of the 14th Century lies scattered in about 26 sq. km area, amidst giant boulders and vegetation. Protected by the tempestuous river Tungabhadra in the north and rocky granite ridges on the other three sides, the ruins silently narrate the story of grandeur splendor and fabulous wealth. The splendid remains of palaces and gateways of the broken city tells a tale of men infinite talent and power of creativity together with his capacity for senseless destruction.

 

Strewn over a large area (about nine square miles) the ruins at Hampi offers to the tourist a remainder of the greatest land in the whole world. Every rock, every path and every monument at Hampi speak the same language; a language of glory and beauty. In March 2002, the Government of India has announced that Hampi would be developed as an international destination center. This ancient city is also one of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites. The Indian government too is involved in the restoration, excavation and protection of the ruins of this once grand city.

Legend behind the city

Hampi and Anegondi are twin towns situated on the opposite banks of the Tungabhadra river in the Bellary district of the Indian state of Karnataka. Many legends surround these two ancient cities as well as the surrounding areas. Hampi itself covers an area of over 25 square kilometres. According to one of the legends, Pampa, the daughter of Brahma (of the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh), went into deep meditation and penance for she wanted Lord Shiva as her husband. Shiva granted her this boon and married her, hence he became ‘Pampapathi’ (the husband of Pampa). It is said that after this wedding, he settled down in this region. Hampi and Kishkinda, an area close to Anegondi, are even mentioned in the great Hindu epic the Ramayana. According to which, Kishkinda was the capital of the ape kings Vali and Sugreeva. Lord Rama won the battle with the demon-king Ravana, who had kidnapped his wife Sita, thanks to the help of Sugreeva and his minister Hanuman. In fact, certain names of areas around these two cities reflect their deep connection to the story of King Rama. Some of these names are Rampada, Sita Sarovara, Vali Bhandara and Shabari Ashram. Some of the hillocks located nearby bear names like Rishyamooka and Malya – vanta, again suggesting their link to the Ramayana era.

 

Places of interest

  • Temple of Virupaksha – As one comes to the end of the main bazaar, one reaches the oldest and most famous temple in Hampi, the Virupaksha Temple, very outstanding with its towering gopuram (entrance tower). The rich sculptures atop the gopuram depict the religious zeal of the people who built the temple to their resident deity Lord Shiva. The 15th century temple has a long tunnel like entrance to the inner courtyard. Within the temple compound lies a large open courtyard and several shrines. Huge pillared halls are the special and distinctive features of this temple.
  • Narasimha – Close to the Virupaksha temple stands tall a sculpture of Narasimha (half man, half lion). The speciality of this is the fact that it is carved out of a single mound of rock.Close to the massive Narasimha statue is a large rock carved Shiva lingam which is impressive in its own way.
  • Musical Pillars – The main pavilion of the temple houses 56 ‘musical pillars’. All these pillars are superbly carved and emit different musical notes due to the reverberation caused when tapped. However, this practice is currently discouraged as the government believes that this will add to the wear and tear pressures of the monument.
  • Vittala Temple Complex – The 16th century Vittala Temple Complex is situated close to the Virupaksha temple. This temple is a declared World Heritage Monument. Although this temple was never consecrated, as the city was conquered before this could happen, the sculptural work on the walls of the temple is exquisite. It is considered the epitome of the arts of the Vijaynagara empire.
  • Stone Chariot – Towards the Vittala Temple’s eastern side is located the famous and extremely beautiful Stone Chariot, a chariot carved out of stone and depicted being pulled by an elephant. The speciality of this sculpture is that it is perfectly proportioned and thanks to its superior engineering technology its wheels can actually rotate!
  • Elephant Stables – The elephant stables is close to the Lotus Mahal with eleven stalls domed in different styles.
  • King’s Balance – As one explores the city another spot that is interesting is the King’s Balance. It is said that in the olden days, the rich Dravidian kings of the Vijaynagara Dynasty actually used to be weighed on a giant scale against grain or gold, which was later distributed to the poor in the kingdom.
  • Queen’s Bath – Amongst the ruins one point that still shows the magnificence of the days gone by is the Queen’s Bath. It is built in typical Islamic architectural style, which is open to the sky and surrounded by a moat. It boasts of arched corridors, projecting balconies and lotus-shaped fountains. It is said that when the Queen of the later day sultans used to bathe here, water mixed with perfume would spew out of the fountains. Our modern day showers and Jacuzzis are but poor cousins of this royal bath.
  • The Hava Mahal – The Hava Mahal or Wind Palace is actually the Lotus Mahal, a two-storeyed pavilion formed by intermingling a series of vaults and domes to form a striking geometric pattern.
  • Natural beauty – Apart from architectural marvels, Hampi is rich in natural beauty. It is marked by hillocks and the terrain is covered by huge grey-brown boulder like rocks. The most surprising aspect is the placement of these boulders, which look almost surreal as if some giant hand had lifted them and placed on top of each other at dangerous-looking angles. But, the strangest part is the rocks have existed in this shape since time immemorial, a curious quirk of nature, one presumes!The Pushkarini pool has only been recently excavated but it is worth a visit. This is classic Indian pool architecture with patterned steps of green chlorite.Amongst the reasons why Hampi is so well visited, especially by the foreign traveller, is the fact that not just are the local people of the area very co-operative, but also because the weather and natural beauty of the land is captivating. As one interacts with the people who live in the hamlets around the ruins, one gets to see Greek, Italian and French delicacies as a part of their food, although the people preparing the same may have never tasted the famed Punjabi curry! All thanks to the travellers from around the world who after days of staying at Hampi, along with taking back memories of this culture left behind a little of their own lands.
  • Daroji Bear Sanctuary – This is very near to Hampi. Though the sanctuary is relatively new, which began in 1994 in the eastern plains of Karnataka, it has proved to be a suitable habitat for the Indian Sloth Bears in a span of few years.
  • Mustard Ganesha – This is a 9 feet tall single stone statue which is also known as Sasivikalu Ganesha.
  • House of victory – It was built when Krishnadevaraya came back from his victorious expedition against the King of Orissa. The spaces between the rows of the plinth-mouldings here are most elaborately and elegantly carved. The kings of Vijayanagar used to sit on a grand throne in the House of Victory and witness the nine-day Dasara festival. Westwards from the House of Victory, leading through two ruined gates, the path leads to the Hazara Ramaswami temple. This temple is believed to have been the private place of worship of the royal family. The chief attraction of the temple is the series of scenes from the Ramayana carved on two of the inside walls of the mantapa. The genesis of the place known today as Hampi dates back to the age of the Hindu epic Ramayana when it was the site of Kishkindha, a monkey kingdom.
  • Rock Climbing at Hampi – Hampi is regarded amongst the topmost rock climbing destinations in India. This place is visited by the rock climbers from India as well as abroad and offers excellent opportunities in bouldering. It is often termed as the bouldering capital of India as the entire landscape is covered with granite boulders or crags. Rock climbers can easily set out for an exploration of the boulders, on a rented bicycle, towards the site of ancient temples and can engage in bouldering. Some of the most famous bouldering sites in Hampi are the Hemakuta Hill, Matanga Hill, and the premises of Tiruvengalantha Temple and Malyavanta Raghunatha Temple. Rock climbers can find the largest free standing boulders at Hemakuta Hill. Hampi offers only a few bolt protected routes, which can be found scattered around the pilgrimage site.

Local Festivals

  • Hampi Festival – Hampi Utsav, also known as the Vijaya Utsav, Festival of Hampi has been celebrated from the times of the Vijayanagar reign. This event has been reiterated as the “Nada Utsava ” by the Government of Karnataka. Hampi being a World Heritage Site is a international tourist spot. This festival is attributes to the mega cultural extravaganza.
  • Janapada Kalavahini” a concert of folk songs is a special attraction introduced this year festival.
  • Jumbo Savari” similar to the Dasara elephant march is held at Hospet town. The Howdah in Panchaloha (made of 5 metals), from the Vijayanagar Empire is being used.
  • Light and sound show: Special lighting of monuments across the 15 km of Hampi ruins on the banks of Tungabadra is another attraction guaranteed to make the visitor mesmerize and put the spell of the ancient days.

Best time to visit Hampi

October to February is the peak tourist season in Hampi, when the temperature ranges in between 28ºC and 30ºC. December is the most favored rock climbing season during which the place is visited by both Indian and international rock climbers.

How to get there

  • By Air – From Bangalore one can take a flight to Bellary, which is 77 kms from Hospet.
  • By Rail – Hospet is the nearest railway station (13 kms). Hospet is linked by rail to Bangalore, Bijapur, Hubli and Guntakal.
  • By Road – The ruins of Hampi are located 13 kms away from the town of Hospet in East Central Karnataka. The best way to get to Hospet is from the state capital of Bangalore. From Hospet one can hire taxis to travel to Hampi. Hampi is well connected by road from Bangalore as well as other prominent cities of Karnataka. Bangalore (353 kms) is linked to most parts of India by air, rail and road.

Accommodation in Hampi

Hampi, as any other popular Indian tourist destination, offers comfortable accommodation units to its visitors. It offers various accommodation options that fit the budget of the visitors. Hampi offers Economic hotels and Mud huts for the low budget-travelers, which can be found towards the Bazaar. Budget hotels can be found near the Stepped Tank in the place.Few famous hotels are :-

 

  • Hampi Boulders Resort -> +91-22-24042211
  • Hotel Mayura Vijayanagar, Thungabadhra Dam Hospet, Tel: +91-8394-48270
  • Hotel Priyadarshini, Station Road, Hospet, Tel: +91-8394-48838.
  • Hotel Malligi, 6/143, J. N. Road, Hospet – 583 201. Phone: +91- 839 4228101, Fax : +91-839 4227038, Email : malligihome@hotmail.com
  • Hotel Mayura Bhuvaneswri, Kamalapur, Hampi. Tel: +91-8394-51374
  • KSTDC Cottages.Tel: +91-8394-8108
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