Dec 3, 2012

Heritage- Hampi, The ruins of Vijayanagara Empire



My host state -the incredible Karnataka! It is a blessing to see its beauty, lush green forests infested with amazing density of wildlife, spectacular waterfalls, ancient art and abundant history. I can go on and on ... But for now, I will post on one of the World Heritage Sites in Karnataka ... Hampi.


Hampi is a place where stones speak ... they speak about the past glory of the proud City of Victory ... Vijayanagara ... the tiny village which grew into an empire, more specifically The Hindu Empire. Here each boulder, each ruin  speaks of art and architecture, story and glory of an Empire, and also the savage men who pillaged the city. Now in ruins, the city still mocks at its destroyers ...  it stands as a proof of man's capacity of senseless destruction and religious hatred. Even after centuries the ruins help people visualize its past grandeur.

Recent visit to Hampi was just great! Accompanied my niece who is doing a research on Hampi Ruins. Visited all the places bit by bit, with she telling me stories. I felt like the past came alive. I woke up from my dream when a squeeking bat flew right above my head when I entered the dark sanctum of an empty temple. I sat in one of the mantapas resting my back on one of those ornate pillars, the passing by cool wind whispered ... You are in the city of victory ...

Hampi is one of my favorite places to visit even though it is just a ruins of once glorious capital city. I love the rugged boulder strewn landscape which is as fascinating as the beautiful ancient architecture. The Tungabhadra river flows through this hot barren land cooling down the getting-charred effect. Yeah, my brown skin turned almost coffee in 4 days!

Hampi is associated with many legends. Most popular being the Kishkinda, the mythical Vanara (monkey) kingdom mentioned in the great Hindu Epic Ramayana. That is why temples of Sri Rama and monkeys can be seen all around this place. Nearby, a hill called Anjanadri is birth place of great monkey warrior Hanumaan. Interestingly, the locals have painted the functioning temples in white. Virupaksha temple is an exception. The other popular legend is that Virupaksha (Lord Shiva) married Pampadevi (Parvati), manasaputri of Lord Bramha, the original goddess of the region, on the banks of Pampa (old name of Tungabhadra) river. And so, the region had the name Pampapura. Here, even today there is a celebration- Kalyanotsava on the day they were married. It is a beautiful ceremony to watch!

The religious architecture, that is Hindu temple architecture is a cluster of structures with the sanctorum as the center point. The Vijayanagara temples had a large campus with halls, pillars, smaller shrines around enclosed in a high compound walls. The towering gateways leading to the campus were richly ornate.

Virupaksha Temple is only a major temple that is functioning. Its history is much older than Vijayanagara Kingdom. It existed much earlier than the empire but raised to the glory during this time. The area is called Viripakshapura and the cart street still is lined with shops. At the end of the street there is a Nandi (Bull) shrine. Nandi is the celestial vehicle of Virupaksha. There is a museum here which displays pictures of the ruins in 19th century, all covered with mud and bushes.

Ugra Narasimha- any Hampi article isn't complete if it doesn't mention about Ugra Narasimha statue. Also called as Lakshmi Narasimha, this statue was carved out of a monolith. The Lakshmi statue is completely damaged. This 6.7m high Narasimha deity is sitting on the curls of Adishesha (Serpent God) whose 7 hoods sheltering Lord Narasimha. Nearby is another shrine housing a massive shivaling which is called Badavi Linga

Vijaya Vithala Temple is the most popular monument in Hampi. Its spectacular architecture makes this temple center point of Hampi attractions.


First, the temple is known for its extravagant architectural beauty. Second, the temple complex houses the world famous and the most beautiful and the icon of Hampi- stone-chariot (first picture in the blog). It is a Garuda, celestial vehicle of Lord Vishnu, shrine.  Third, its architectural marvel, the richly carved giant monolithic musical pillars of the maha-mantapa. When tapped these pillars emitted musical tones! Unfortunately, tapping is prohibited to prevent further damage. I was told the pillars are damaged and are not functioning anymore. There is an entrance fee plus camera fee for this monument. From parking one has to take a battery operated vehicle (Rs. 20) to the temple complex or walk. I did both, and felt it was better to walk.

Achyutaraya Temple was built during the reign of Achyutaraya and believed to be the last grand temple structure built before the fall of the great empire. The temple deity Thiruvengalanatha, a form of Lord Vishnu. The temple is aloof and very less crowded. This temple has two concentric courtyards and in the background is majestic Matanga Hill.


Balakrishna Temple right on the main road is one of the important and ornate temples of Hampi. It was built by Krishnadevaraya to commemorate the victory over Udayagiri, present day Orissa. He brought the Balakeishna idol from there and installed in this temple. Now the beautiful idols is displayed in a museum in Chennai. The temple has a huge complex which was Krishnapura, with sub-shrines, pond and a market.

Hazaar Rama Temple is one of the beautiful and grand temples in Hampi. It is called Hazaara Ram because of the numerous panels depicting Epic Ramayana scenes. Its location near or inside the Royal Enclosure indicates that it could have been King's private shrine. The temple is not in use but is restored well. Here, are two of the numerous Ramayana panels. Rama killing Maricha in disguise of golden deer. And Hanuman collecting chudamani (jewels) from Devi Sita when he found her in the Ashoka vana. There are many others but, I can't post them all!!


Royal Enclosure is highly fortified area where Royal family lived. Unlike the temples, palaces seem to be built of wood and hence only the stone basements remain. King's audience hall, Mahanavami Dibba- a raised platform from where royals watched the festive processions, King's Palace, guest houses, bathing ponds, and shrines and sacred tanks exists here in this strong enclosure. There is a pair of rock-cut doors lying near the enclosure. Noblemen's quarters is on the opposite side of the Royal Enclosure.


There were the aqueducts but no waterbody ... that made the Archaeologists think ... so they excavated the place where it seemed appropriate and they found this ... the pushkarini, stepped tank in the Royal Enclosure. The tank has five tiers built of dark schist and is very well designed. It is a delight to see this beautiful and intact tank in the middle of ruins of palaces and temples which are just basements now.

Underground Shiva Temple, as the name suggests it is built several feet below the ground level and hence most of the time sacntorum and the inner hall are always submerged under water. I was here in winter and could go up to the pitch dark innermost shrine only to be greeted by bats. The temple is non-functional though there is a shivalinga present in the shrine.

Hemakuta Hill in Hampi is popular for the Trikutachala (cluster of three) style temples. There are hundreds of monuments like temples, mantapas (pavilions) scattered on the hill. There are two functioning temples here, one is Prasanna Virupaksha Temple and the other is Anjaneya Temple. The later one is very small almost on the summit of Hemakuta hill. The Nag Champa (Plumeria) tree beside the temple makes a great scene during sunrise and sunset. The views of Viruparksha and Balakrishna temple complexes can been from atop this hill. 

Chakrateertha is a village adjacent to Hampi from where one can see river Tungabhadra changing the direction. During rainy season when water level is high a huge whirlpool is seen and hence the name Chakrateertha- the whirlpool. Coracle rides are available here. And I did go on one and then went on boulder hopping on the riverbed. It is an amazing experience. The Lakshmi temple and the Shivalingas can be accessed only by a coracle ride and then boulder hopping. 


My sister freaked out when the coracle was taking rounds in the same place without moving forward! Yeah, Tungabhadra river has a good flow of water and there are a lot of twists and turns. There are many other temples, structures and also mosques in the area. Few structures like Lotus Mahal, Elephant stable, some of the existing watchtowers, Queen's bath etc show adoption Islamic architecture. They have plastered walls.


My post is growing long and long and will stop here. Look for another post for remaining temples ruins and other interesting facts. Also a post on climbing Matanga and Anjanadri hills. Till then just imagine the grandeur of a Kingdom which took five sultans together to defeat and took over six months to pillage and still retains its majesty even after centuries.
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Leave a comment to share your beautiful thoughts :)

Click HERE to read more articles on Hampi and around.

This post is linked to Our World Tuesday.

If you want pictures please ask me :)
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Scrapbook- A Travel Blog by Kusum Sanu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

20 comments:

  1. Hampi is one of those places you never tire of visiting , every time you go there you find something new and interesting .

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    1. Welcome back Deepak! You are right about Hampi :)

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  2. great information and beautiful heritage photos

    thanks kusum

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  3. One magnificent place with lots of architecture and history. Love this place.
    Nice post and photos, Kusum.

    http://rajniranjandas.blogspot.in

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    1. Thank you Niranjan! Yes, Hampi is just magnificent!

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  4. What untold beauty and history! Great shots.

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    1. Thank you Lady Fi! Right words for Hampi !!!

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  5. Lovely narrative and pictures of the glory of Hampi, Kusum!!

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    1. Thank you Bhatia Ji. Lovely place indeed!

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  6. That's amazing, i wish i can visit some Indian ruins one day. The ruin site is so wide as shown in the picture. I had some samples of Hindu art and temples in Angkor Wat, Borobudur, Prambanan and other temples in these countries. They have similarities like the details and the structure for accumulating water from the ceiling, supposed to be medicinal.

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    1. Yeah, Hindu art and artifacts are similar across the countries! I wish you visit these ruins soon!

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  7. Nice pictures and narration.
    This is one place I have yet to visit. And a trip in that coracle is a must :-)

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    1. Thank you and I wish you good luck for coracle ride!

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  8. This a very interesting place to visit and much history to learn. Dropping by from " Our world Tuesday" My entry: challenges: willyouhearfromme.blospot.com

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    1. Thanks Joy for dropping by! You have a great blog!

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  9. Beautiful tour!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

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  10. I will be forever mesmerized by this place.

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  11. such a fun posting...love all the beautiful pictures. I wish I could see it one day but your photos show it off well. Thanks for all the info on it as well. great blog, lots of effort and work here, continue to do this good work, it is like reading a book... cheers

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