Hampi, located in Karnataka was the capital of the old Hindu Empire Vijayanagara. Hampi with all it’s ruined sandstone monuments is enlisted as a World Heritage Site. Hampi has a mythical aura surrounding its environment and you would start feeling the same once you set your foot in Hampi. Spread over an area more than 25 square kilometers (10 square miles), Hampi ruins is packed with giant temples, palaces, market streets, aquatic structures , fortifications and an abundance of other ancient monuments.
Hampi is located in Karnataka state, a southwestern province of India. It’s about 350 kilometers (217 miles) north of Bangalore, the state capital.
The history of Vijayanagara is the witness of the constant resistance of this Hindu Kingdom against the Mughals. The capital was one major trading center. Anything from horses to gems was traded in Hampi.During the reign of King Krishnadeva Raya the empire reached its zenith. During this time the Vijayanagara kingdom covered the whole of South India and extended beyond that. The warring of the Deccan Sultanate led to a lot of massacre and plunder at the capital city of Hampi. Hampi came under many kings from time to time but none of them were strategic and hence the upliftment of the capital city of Hampi was neglected at every point of time henceforth.
To be very honest, before visiting Hampi I was just aware of the name of the ruined city of Hampi and was not at all aware of the rich architectural and historical background of Hampi. We had halted in Hampi for a day before we left for Trivandrum. Frankly I was not as excited for even a day’s stay in Hampi as I thought it to be just a village with some remnants of Vijayanagara Kingdom.
But sometimes when our expectations are less and we get more, the situation just leaves us speechless. Even my attempt to pen down the richness and beauty of Hampi is just a very small attempt to make the reader aware of this magnificent place. We left early in the morning and our journey started by visiting the Lotus Temple which is a rare evidence of the Indo-Sarsanic architecture. The lunatic boulder strewn landscape offered a brilliant background to the architectural monuments at Hampi. Then we visited a number of temples of which Virupaksha Temple was the one which left me speechless. The campus dedicated to Lord Vishnu is unique.
Of all the architectural monuments at Hampi, I personally feel that the aquatic structures are the ones which are worth mentioning. The Bukkha’s aqueduct, the Stepped Tank and the Octagonal Bath, the Queen’s Bath are a few to be named in this category.
As the day passed and we visited more and more temples, my respect for this ruined city reached its zenith. The temples made of sandstones and excellent carvings are unique in its own way. The carvings of animals, floral designs on the walls or pillars of the temple were so beautifully crafted that it was sometimes tough for us to believe that these were done by human hands.
As the day passed, the temperature too increased and by afternoon the sun ray was almost unbearable. But to my amazement, even the temperature outside was more than 30degrees, whenever we entered any temple or monument the interior was extremely cold and soothing. Hats-off to the architects who had not only designed the buildings at its best but were technically sound enough to consider the climatic factor in their designs.
We had only one day in hand to visit Hampi and as a result our time was restricted also.Every monument we went, I felt like staying for hours. But I had no other choice but to leave early. I personally feel that we should at least plan for 3days in Hampi to enjoy its beauty. Although the place is dry, boulder strewn, less green but still the ruggedness of the place makes it beautiful.
WHAT TO SEE
Vittala Temple : This temple complex dedicated to Vittala, a form of the Hindu god Vishnu is an architectural highlight of Hampi.
This temple campus contains many halls and shrines. The halls are noted for its extraordinary pillars with the animated carvings on it. A set of pillars, known as ‘musical pillars,’ resonates when tapped. A huge stone chariot complete with wheels carved out of stone stands in front of the main temple. The environment of this temple is packed with numerous smaller but ornate temples and a wide chariot street of the temple.
Virupaksha Temple: This temple dedicated to the Hindu god of destruction is located at a riverbank. Virupaksha temple is believed to be one of the oldest active temples (from 7th century AD) in India. This is a place equally sought-after by the tourists and the pilgrims. The temple complex consists of the god’s sanctum, pillared halls and a series of giant entrance towers. This is one of the fine places to witness the Hindu religious functions in close proximity.
This is a giant statue of the elephant headed Hindu god Ganesha. According to Hindu Mythology, Ganesha is the god who is responsible for removing obstructions! This 4.6 meters (14 feet) tall sculpture id carved in situ on the slops of the Hemakuta Hill. The tall slender granite pillars with many mythological themes carved decorated the front hall of this shrine. Kadalekalu means gram seed in local language. The shape of this statue was the reason for this witty name for a god’s statue.
Lakshmi Narasimha : This giant monolithic statue of the man-lion god is the largest icon in Hampi.
Lotus Mahal: This ornate structure was probably used by the military chief as his office or the queens of the palace as a pleasure pavilion. The pavilion spots Islamic architecture style arches and the roofs and base typical of Hindu temples.
Queen’s bath: This structure belongs to the royal area of the capital. Probably used by the courtly ladies or the king himself, this looks like an indoor aquatic complex. A large veranda with protruding balconies all around faces the central pool. This is one of the typical example of the Indo-Islamic hybrid architecture.
Bukka’s aqueduct: In any case this less frequented by visitors stands in contrast among a cluster of tiny hamlets as a giant monument. Many meters above the ground level, it’s not known how water was fed to the top of this aqueduct. Probably water from the river below was manually fed to it during its operational days.The remains of a giant aqueduct (Bukka’s aqueduct) located in Anegondi (Virupapur Gadde area) can offer you the scale and ambition of irrigation projects in Hampi.
Stepped Tank: Radically different from the rest of tank constructions in Hampi, the Stepped Tank is made of made of finely finished black schist stone blocks. It seems the tank was made elsewhere and later brought and assembled at its current location. Practically every stone is earmarked for this purpose and some bears even ‘sketches’ by its architects. The purpose of this tank is not very sure, mostly it was used during the religious ceremonies by the royals.
HOW TO REACH
The primary connectivity to Hampi is by road. Rail connection comes second and the air link is a third option.
Hospet, a small town located about 12 kilometers (8 miles) from Hampi is the nearest railway station. This is the main gateway to Hampi. Hospet is connected by rail to other important towns like Bangalore, Bijapur, Hubli , Guntakal ( a major rail junction) , Hyderabad and Vasco Da Gama (Goa). Train is a preferred mode.
Hospet has a bus station too with frequent bus services to the above mentioned places. The local bus service to Hampi starts from here. The nearest airport to Hampi is Bellary (60km/ 37miles).
WHERE TO STAY
Hospet town is the place where one can get accommodation that is rated as luxurious in Hampi’s scale. Kamalapura, a village centre close to Hampi is the second option. This is the place where the state run hotel with fair level of staying comfort is located.