With a dry and boulder-strewn landscape by the Tungabhadra river in the Bellary district of Karnataka, Hampi is a mystical town. It was once the seat of the power of the royals of Vijayanagara Kingdom. In its time Vijayangara had grown to become the largest kingdom in the entire southern India. Their capital was also called Vijayangara and was situated at the same place which we today call Hampi. The monuments, that showcase the glory of the past, are spread over an expanse of 20 sq km in the town of Hampi which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Vijaynagara rulers are not only admired for their warfare but also for their architectural and town planning skills.
Note: At the end of the post there are a few videos of Hampi.
Monuments in Hampi
Vithala Temple Complex
Vithala Temple Complex houses some of the most striking monuments in the town. The stone chariot here has become the symbol of Hampi. Situated about 1.5 km northeast from the centre of the town, the temple here is considered to be established in the beginning of the 16th century. The finest element of Vithala Temple is the mandapa (pillared hall) leading to the main shrine. This mandapa rests on a platform whose sides are decorated with beautiful friezes.
The bazaar of Hampi leads to the magnificent edifice, Virupaksha Temple. Dedicated to a form of Lord Shiva, this temple is part of the ‘Sacred Centre’ of Hampi. The ‘Sacred Centre’ constitutes of a set of temples situated along the riverside. In a typical ‘Vijaynagara style’, Virupaksha temple has impressive gopurams (welcome gates), huge courtyard, and long colonnades.
Hampi Bazaar (Virupaksha Bazaar)
A colonnaded street stretches 750 m to the east from Virupaksha Temple. This street, in its heyday, was a buzzing marketplace. Pilgrims and travellers would throng this place in search of exotic wares. Persian and Portuguese travellers were fond of jewels and cloths that were sold here. A stepped path from here leads to Achyutaraya’s temple which stands on a rocky ridge.
Krishnadevaraya, the most well-known ruler of Vijaynagara, built this temple in 1516 to celebrate his conquest of the hill fort of Udayagiri (Orissa). Though not being functional, this temple is a beautiful monument and is situated amidst pleasing environs. A tank situated next to the temple has a pavilion in the middle.
Statue of Ugra Narsimha (Also called Lakshmi Narsimha)
This monolithic monument represents the man-lion form of Vishnu. The deity is depicted to be sitting cross-legged with a serpent protecting it with open hood. With the height of 22 feet, this idol is the highest sculpture in Hampi.
The first glance at this elegant two-storeyed pavilion is all it takes to identify the Indo-Islamic influences in the architecture. Lotus Mahal is part of the ‘zenana enclosure’ (women’s quarters) and is one of the well-preserved monuments in Hampi. This building was meant for the recreation of Krishnadevaraya’s queens.
Just like Lotus Mahal, Elephant Stables appear in good shape. A series of 11 chambers overlook a huge ground which must have been used for royal parades. These domed chambers have high ceilings and are entered through arched gates.
Hazara Rama Temple
It is believed that Hazara Rama Temple must have been the private place of worship for the royals. Built by Deva Raya I, this temple is a beautiful example of 15th-century temple architecture. Hazara Rama Temple is surrounded by a rectangular enclosure. The outer faces of the walls are profusely covered with friezes of elephants, soldiers, horses with Arabs draped in djellabas, and dancers.
This square tank has multiple steps arranged in a striking geometry. It speaks loads about the scientific knowledge of the planners of Vijaynagara because it was a part of an extensive hydraulic system. The system’s job was to supply the water, collected from a channel, to the royal enclosure.
Tunga river and Bhadra river unite at Kudli in Central Karnataka to form Tungabhadra river. And it merges into Krishna river near Alampur in Telangana. The village of Hampi is situated on the south bank of Tungabhadra. This river was the primary source of water in Vijayanagara kingdom. Had it not been for Tungabhadra, probably the capital of Vijaynagara wouldn’t have been at this location.
Temples on Hemkuta Hill
Hemkuta is a hillock dotted with the remains of temples and pavilions. The monuments here are much simpler than the ones in the plains. This makes us wonder that the architecture of the 14th-century was devoid of intricate decorations. It doesn’t take much effort to climb up the hillock. Apart from visiting the monuments, you can also come here to enjoy the sunset peacefully.
Badavilinga temple has a huge lingam in its shrine. This is the largest lingam in Hampi, and is partly immersed in water. This temple is situated next to the Lakshmi Narsimha temple.
Achyutaraya temple is part of a complex which used to be of a huge significance to the royals. Though the temple is named after a king, it was actually built by his brother-in-law in 1534. The deity here is Tiruvengalanatha, a form of Vishnu.
A path from Achyutaraya temple leads to the steps that ascend to the top of Matanga Hill which is the highest point in Hampi. Climbing up is quite an exertion. But if you do, you will be rewarded with the sweeping views of the entire landscape. On the top there is a temple of a deity called Veerbhadra.
Situated within the fortifications, this structure was a pleasure pavilion. It was meant for the recreation of king and queens. Inside the building there are balconies projecting towards a central pool. To reduce the heat, this pavilion was cooled by a surrounding water channel which was fed by an aqueduct.
This mammoth statue of Nandi bull is housed in a pavilion situated at the eastern end of the bazaar. Nandi is considered to be sacred vehicle of Lord Shiva.
Videos of Hampi
To get an idea of the mystical landscape of Hampi, watch this 3-min video:
If you want to see more of Hampi, watch this 11-min video:
If you are interested in watching a video with detailed narration, here is the one: