Hampi is a village in northern Karnataka, India. It was one of the largest and richest cities in the world during its prime. It was earlier known as Vijayanagara, and was the former capital of the Vijayanagara Empire, which had its hold on the whole of South India from the 14th century to the 16th century. Today, Hampi is a vast open museum of history, architecture and religion. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, listed as the Group of Monuments at Hampi.
Spread over hundreds of kilometres, the Hampi ruins are packed with giant temples, palaces, market streets, aquatic structures, fortifications and an abundance of other ancient monuments.
It was founded by two brothers, Hakka and Bukka. The capital was a major trading centre, from horses to gems being traded. Art, religion and architecture were promoted on a large scale by the rulers. Domingo Paes, a Portuguese horse-trader who visited the erstwhile Vijayanagara, during King Krishnadevaraya’s reign, described the city of Vijayanagara as being as large as Rome. He also called it one of the best-provided cities of the world.
Important places of interest Shri Vijayavittala Temple
This temple-complex dedicated to Lord Vittala, a form of the Hindu God Vishnu, is an architectural highlight of Hampi. The campus of this temple contains many halls and shrines. The halls are noted for their extraordinary pillars with animated carvings on them. A set of pillars, known as ‘musical pillars,’ resonates when tapped. A huge stone-chariot temple, complete with wheels carved out of stone, stands in front of the main temple.
The Virupaksha temple located at the foothills of Hemakuta Hill, is the core of the village of Hampi. This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva – the Hindu God of destruction. Virupaksha temple is believed to be one of the oldest functioning temples in India, dating back to 7th Century AD. The temple-complex consists of the God’s sanctum, pillared halls and a series of giant entrance gateways. Starting at the entrance of the temple is Virupaksha Bazaar or market, the largest of the many bazaars of Vijayanagara. This is the only bazaar around which a township of sorts still exists.
The present-day fortified area or the Royal Enclosure of Hampi was once the seat of power of the Vijayanagara rulers. Today, the Royal Enclosure is a wide open ground consisting of a number of small stately structures.
Some of the important structures here spread across hundreds of square metres of land, consisting of a number of interesting and important relics. Among these are the King’s Audience Hall or the 100-pillared hall, The Stepped Tank, The Underground Chamber, temples and waterways, etc.
This structure is one of the many ruins in the royal area of the capital. Used by the courtly ladies or by the king himself, the Queen’s Bath looks like an indoor aquatic complex. A large veranda with protruding balconies all around, faces the central pool. This is one of the typical examples of Indo-Islamic architecture in Hampi.
These were the shelter of the royal elephants. This long area is made of a series of chambers with dome-shaped roofs. Each chamber is big enough to accommodate two elephants.