Hampi-the capital of the Vijayanagara Empire from 1336 to 1565 is one of the famous historical village in northern Karnataka, India. It is situated on the banks of the Tungabhadra river within the ruins of Vijayanagara Empire.
The ruins are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, listed as the Group of Monuments at Hampi. Hampi has historical & mythological significance.It is a vast open museum of history, architecture and religion.
Main Attractions: Virupaksha Temple, Vittala Temple, Royal Enclosure, Sunrise and Sunset point, Hampi Festival(A three day event celebrated every year in the first week of November).
Best time to visit: October to February.
The Vittala Temple – 8:30 am to 5:30 pm
The Elephant Stables – 8:00 am to 6:00 pm
Getting to Hampi: Hospet is the nearest rail-head to reach Hampi. Regular bus service and private bus service are available from Bangalore and Goa to reach Hampi. Auto-rickshaw can be hired or Local buses can be approached to reach Hampi from Hospet.
The iconic UNESCO World Heritage historical village of Hampi is an international tourist spot and was in my travel wishlist since long. I always wanted to explore the history, culture of the boulder-strewn landscapes, and majestic ruins of the capital city of 14th century Vijayanagar empire.
Wandering like lost souls it just happened- our last minute weekend plan. We slipped into an overnight Rajahamsa from Udupi to Hospet which would reach Hospet around 5-30am in the morning. We then boarded first bus for Hampi from Hospet at 6-30am.
After a spectacular view of giant boulder strewn hills and mythological ancient ruins; we were greeted by the peaceful morning at Hampi in next 30 min. We freshened up in a nearby homestay, dropped in for a coconut shake and gorged on an Italian breakfast at “Mango Tree”-the rural themed chill out joint listed in Lonely planet for its culinary excellence in creativity blends.
A hippie vibe, complete with trance music and acid-blue lights, hangs over this popular option serving Mexican, Italian and Indian regulars, with cookies and crumbles on the side. A good range of teas (jasmine, lemongrass and herbal) are also on offer.
We hired a bike to roam around the Golden village at 150INR/day, got a map and pumped ourselves up to explore Hampi.
Hampi altogether has a different feel from other historic sites. As you whizz around Hampi it will take you to a different historic era altogether.
We pushed up to the Tungabhadra river watching early morning ecstasy of the village, took shade in the boulders, watching the locals- fishing and visitors take Coracle ferry to the Anegondi side of the river and finally strolled up towards hampi bazaar watching shepherds taking their cattle grazing and much more.
1. Virupaksha Temple: We started our Hampi exploration from Virupaksha temple, one of the city’s oldest structures which is within a walking distance from the bus stop. Dedicated to the Hindu god of destruction, the temple is located at a riverbank.The main shrine is dedicated to Virupaksha, a form of Lord Shiva.There are many mythical statues sculptured on the pillars, ceiling and walls.
The sacred temple elephant in Virupaksha- adorable Lakshmi is taken for her morning bath at 8.30 am just down the way by the river ghats. She will bless you on the forehead for a ten rupee note.
2. Hemakuta Hill Temples: Just behind Virupaksha temple,this is an important mythological site with many small temples & rock structures in Hemakuta complex. The highlights are the sets of triple chambered temples with its pyramid like granite roofs.
3. Stone carvings of Ganesha:
Kadalekalu Ganesha: We biked up the hills to reach a huge monolithic stone carving of the Elephant god Ganesha- the God of eternal knowledge.This 4.6 meters (14 feet) tall sculpture id carved in situ on the slops of the Hemakuta Hill.
Sasivekalu Ganesha: This four handed giant statue of Ganesha is a fine example of the Vijayanagara’s artistic skills.
4. Krishna Temple: We next stopped at the Krishna temple, engraved with the incarnations of Lord Vishnu and Kamasutra carvings. The complex consists of the main shrine, shrines of the goddesses, the chariot/market street and the temple tank. The main hall spots a series of pillars carved with mythical rampant creatures.
#There are a large number of Hanuman statues all over the place.
5. Lakshmi Narasimha : Our next stop was at Yoga Lakshmi Narasimha temple-the God of destroying Evil! The giant monolithic statue of the man-lion god is the largest icon in Hampi. It’s believed that the original image contained his consort Lakshmi sitting on his lap. This image was destroyed during the enemy invasion. Currently only a hand of the goddess resting on his waist can be seen.
#Closeby within the premises was Shiva Lingam temple.
6. Underground Shiva temple: Next we reached the Underground Shiva temple. Inside there is a hall filled with water some 1 1/2 foot deep. Nearby you can see the watchtower.
7.Royal Enclosure: We then headed towards the Royal quarters-a fortified campus with numerous palace bases, underground temples, aquatic structures and the likes. The place was supposed to be the heart of activities in the kingdom where annual parade of imperial majesty and military might took place and the royalties sat and watched the entertainments and processions, etc.
8. Zenana Enclosure: A short distance away from the Royal Enclosure is a large veranda with protruding balconies all around faces the central pool. It contains the remains of the palace of the Queens, the Lotus Mahal, 3 watchtowers, and the Royal Treasury.This is one of the typical example of the Indo-Islamic hybrid architecture.
– Lotus Mahal: This delicately designed ornate structure was supposedly the queen’s recreational mansion.
– Hazara Rama Temple: This was a private temple of the king. The story of Ramayana (the Hindu epic) is impressively carved on all around the shrine walls.
– Elephant Stables: That was the shelter for the royal elephants, made of a series of chambers with domical roofs.
– Pattabhirama Temple: This is a sprawling temple campus dedicated to lord Rama.
#Entry ticket for the Royal enclosure is valid for same-day admission to the Vittala Temple also.
9.Vittala Temple- Further exploring the Vijayanagar kingdom our next visiting spot was Vittala complex. Climbing up the hill along riverside ruins we finally reached Vittala Temple, about 2km away. This temple complex dedicated to Vittala-a form of the Hindu god Vishnu is an architectural highlight of Hampi.
The temple premises contains numerous halls and shrines decorated with extraordinary designs, statues and remarkable animated sculptures of the incredible pinnacle of Vijayanagar art.
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. The most famous huge ornate stone chariot complete with wheels carved out of stone stands in the temple courtyard, whose wheels were once capable of turning.
10. Matunga Hill: By 5pm we made our way back to highest point of Hampi- Matunga Hill, most famous to get an aerial view of the landscape and ideal place to watch sunrise and sunset. I am speechless to describe how the large burning red figure melted down far across the horizon leaving us stunningly breathless.
Besides there is also one more famous point for sunrise and sunset- The roof top of the Veerabhadra temple.
#Its interesting to note that all the temples were made facing eastwards.
There is much more the place offers. Amazed by the architecture, imagination, art, craft, and the rich ancient culture of the historical site of Hampi, I have fallen in intense love and fascination for Hampi. It was an unexpected architectural adventure to me much beyond imagination.