February 19, 2017

The Vijaya Viitala Temple Complex in Hampi - Photo by Sandhya Mendonca

A hush seems to envelop us as we trudge up the dusty path, the last mile from the car park to the Vijaya Vittala Temple Complex in Hampi. The walk is perhaps a salutary lesson to prepare us to be be awed, inspired and humbled in equal measures. Awed by the vision of the mighty rulers, inspired by the examples of art and culture and humbled by the reality of the ruins.

Hampi, the capital of the mighty Vijayanagara Empire that ruled most of the Deccan Plateau from 1336-1646 is a stunning sight. Though reduced to ruins when the kings lost their power, the monuments they built have stood the test of time.

A UNESCO World Heritage site, Hampi’s marvellous structures evoke images of a period in history when visionary rulers celebrated art and culture. The carvings on the monuments depict various instances of regal life such as royal ceremonies and visits.

Stone Chariot - Photo by SM

The Vittala Temple showcases the best of Vijayanagara art and was built by Emperor Krishnadevaraya. The most famous of Hampi’s relics is the stone chariot located within the Vittala Temple complex.

The musical pillars of the Mahamantapa elicit the seven notes of music when tapped.

There are intricate carved images of gods and goddesses on the pillars. The Purandara mantapa is believed to be the place where the singer-composer-saint Purandara Dasa used to sing his famous compositions that form an important component of Carnatic classical music.

The Virupaksha Temple also venerates Lord Shiva, the deity of the royal family. Successive kings added to the temple; King Mallikarjuna built the sabhamantapa (hall for public rituals) in the middle of the 15th century, and King Krishnadevaraya marked his coronation with a maharangamantapa (hall for performances).

Virupaksha Temple, Hampi- Photo by SM

Erotic sculpture on the outer wall of the Virupaksha Temple, Hampi - Photo by SM

The gopura (tower) of the temple is 170-foot tall, and has ten tapering tiers decorated with carvings. The betrothal of Lord Shiva and Pampa Devi is celebrated in November, and the wedding ceremony is celebrated in April with a chariot procession.

The Hazara Rama Temple, (hazara meaning thousand) is dedicated to Lord Rama, and is decorated with carvings of scenes from the Ramayana. The outer compound walls are engraved with images of elephants, horses and dancing girls.

The Lotus Mahal or Kamal Mahal was where the royal family met for smaller social gatherings - Photo by Asha Thadani

 

Kings and Queens rode elephants which had their own stable. The Elephant Stable was possibly built during the reign of King Devaraya II (1424-1446) - Photo by Asha Thadani

In the far distance is a hillock that offers splendid views of sunrise and sunset; it has many shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva.

 

 

 

Anegundi, five km from Hampi, has a historical significance that dates much further back than the Vijayanagara Empire. This is evident in the prehistoric rock shelters that have cave paintings of horse riders with spears, and animals like lions, antelopes and bulls. Legend has it that Anegundi belonged to the mythical kingdom of Kishkinda, ruled by the monkey-like humans, the Vanaras that is mentioned in the Ramayana.

You can reach Anegundi by taking a coracle ride across the River Tungabhadra. The buildings here include a 64-pillared mantapa built by Krishnadevaraya, military barracks, and the Gagan Mahal .

The Mahanavami Dibba in the Royal Enclosure in Hampi was the vantage point from where the Emperor and his family viewed important celebrations and received foreign visitors - Photo by Asha Thadani

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Hampi is 300 km from Bangalore. The nearest airport is in Hubballi, 150 km away from Hampi. The best time to visit is between October - February.