Are we debating about the more splendid architectural marvel between Taj Mahal and Ajanta-Ellora, it looks like you haven’t been to the city of ruins still with one of the finest architecture we have in the country.

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Pampa Devi Tirth Kshetra or known to you as Hampi! The city is rather an open-air museum with remnants of architecture on display. Spreading its arms and legs along the Tungabhadra river over 4100 hectares, Hampi is addressed as the second-best tourist place in the world by the New York Times in 2019 and The intricate perfection and richness of architecture stand true to the acclamation. 

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City of Hampi_©redsavannah.com

The remnants of magnificent temple complexes, forts, pillared halls, shrines, mandapas, public bazaars, and gateways all compile together to withstand the claim of Hampi being the capital of Vijay Nagar empire in the 14th century; one of the largest and powerful kingdoms in Indian history. Presently located in the Bellary district of Karnataka it caters as a popular tourist destination fondly visited by people from around the globe.

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Here are some not so known things about Hampi leveling up the excitement about this alluring city:

1. Time travelling machine takes back to 1CE

The seeds of this alluring UNESCO world heritage site were planted a thousand years ago around the 1st century and reveal the ceramic potteries of that time found in Hampi. Vijayanagar was set up by two brothers Bukka and Harihara in1300s where four different dynasties ruled the empire in a span of 200 years. 

The focus was kept on enhancing the richness of the city with the help of art and architecture. The ruins of the city were discovered by Colin MacKenzie in 1800.

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A  still of Hampi_©rakhsup/tripadvisor.co.uk

2. Mythology also has its say in the Story

Hampi as Pampa Kshetra as you may have heard is named after Goddess pampa who fasted and prayed to marry Lord shiva on the Hemakuta hills which made Hampi a religiously significant place especially for Lord Shiva devotees. Lord Shiva is also believed to have burnt Kama- the god of love with his third eye for intervening while meditating on Hemakuta Hills.

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Sugreeva’s Cave_©www.hampi.tourismindia.co.in

Hampi is also mythologically worshipped as it was a part of the historical epic: Ramayana. After the abduction of Sita by Ravana, Lord Rama along with Lakshaman visited Hampi to seek help from Sugreeva who resided in the Sugreeva caves in Hampi and the carved footprints in the caves are till date sacred for Hindus as footprints of their deities Ram and Lakshaman. 

3. Technique is not bounded by Modernisation

This city built with local granite, burnt bricks and lime mortar not only showcases architectural brilliance but also excels in unique technical detailing. The craftsman of Hampi discovered photography 700 years ago, yes you heard it right! The tower at the Virupaksha Temple reflects the inverted shadow of the inner side of the temple wall through a lens-like slit in the wall.

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Shadow of Tower_©Gautham Sampath

Adding to this are the 56 musical pillars of the Vittala temple blessing your ears with Carnatic music when tapped with fingers or sandalwood sticks. It is a mystery how mere stone pillars were made to play music.

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Musical Towers_©www.themysteriousindia.net

4. Hampi Architecture Glorifying Hinduism

Delicate carvings and ornamentation narrating scenes from Ramayana in Pattabhirama temple or engraved figures of lord Vishnu in Varaha temple depict Hinduism as a connotation of respect and belief. The walls of temples or the pillars in a courtyard are carved with dancing figures, war scenes, stories of triumph, and cultural deeds all portraying the grandness of Hindu culture and traditions. 

The temple complexes built in the city also lead to a story behind its construction presenting an excerpt of life events of Deities to their followers.

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Carvings on the outer wall of Hazara rama temple_©Mukul Banerjee photography

5. Chariot Architecture is an inspired structure

The chariot on the 50 rupee note in your pocket is the chariot from Hampi. A part of Vittala temple premises, it is a shrine dedicated to Garuda built by King Krishnadevarya around the 16th century. The beauty of the architecture lies in how the craftsmanship conceals the joinery details of granite slabs with artistic designing and appears as a single-piece stone structure. 

The chariot was erected as a result of the king’s fascination with the chariot of the sun temple Konark in Odisha with depictions of war scenarios at its base. 

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Chariot at Vittala Temple_©www.insightsonindia.com

6. Lord Ganesha Being Foodie in Hampi

Amidst many different intricate temples of Hampi, lies an interesting Ganesha temple called Sasivekalu which narrates Lord Ganesha’s love for food. The statue of Ganesha depicts a snake tied around the stomach which was tied to keep his stomach from busting after consuming ample amounts of food. The finest example of sculpture making, the statue is believed to be erected in the memory of King Narasimha II around 1500AD.

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The name of the temple simplifies to a mustard seed in Kannada which is kept so implying that the stomach of the lord is identical with the mustard seed in the statue.  

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Sasivekalu Temple_©arun/www.karnataka.com

7. Not only Humans but Birds and Animals are also Welcomed

Pampa Kshetra is famous for its exquisite architecture but to your surprise, it is heaven for birds and wildlife enthusiasts. The terrain and other geographical conditions make it a wanna-be place for wildlife. Around 200 different species of birds were recorded in Hampi in one of the surveys; Yellow-Throated Bull, Spurfowl Female, Jungle Bush Quail, Painted Sandgrouse, Indian Eagle Owl, and Baya Weaver to name a few.

Not only ostentatious architecture but varying endemic species of wildlife is the heritage of the city and also an attractor towards Hampi.

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Gold coins of Vijaynagar empire_©www.vcoins.com

8. Fusion of Different Religious Beliefs

The captivating grandeur is not the only attractive feature of Hampi, the harmony between people of different religious beliefs is a praiseworthy characteristic. The harmony and tranquility amongst people are showcased through its built forms symbolic of different religions.

Among the grand Vittala and Pattabhirama temples lies beautifully constructed Islamic style Ahmad Khan mosque and tomb named after an army officer who built it in 1439. The cubical tomb with a dome on top depicts the peacefully led life by the people of Vijayanagara. The elephant stables and water ponds were also adapted from Islamic constructions.

The Ganagitti temple; one of the earliest and simplest constructions of the empire, also roots for brotherhood as it is a Jain temple located on the way to Bhima’s gate. 

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Ahmad Khan’s Mosque_©www.hospet.online
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Ganigitti Temple_©www./commons.wikimedia.org

9. Coin Mint of the kingdom

The city was the main hub of coin mint for the Vijaynagar Kingdom with gold, silver, and copper coins being cast. Coinage was engraved with figures of birds, animals, and deities. The ruins of the coin mint can still be found in the west of the royal enclosure. It is believed to be the only place where coins were produced at that time. Special coins were made to commemorate triumphs and the reverse sides were inscribed by the king’s name who ordered to mint the coins.

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Gold coins of Vijaynagar empire_©www.vcoins.com
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Excavated remains of coin mint, Hampi_©ephotocorp

10. Hippies find a Spot Everywhere

The tale of Hampi has an adventurous, joyous, foodie, and carefree life lying across the Tungabhadra river. Hippie island is a spot portraying a unique side to the historic and religious city where people come to do nothing and relax in peace. 

Boulder climbing, coracle rides, and cliff jumping in Sanapur lake, spending all the time in the world watching sunrise and sunsets, or exploring through Anegundi village nearby are some of the intriguing activities on the island. The cafes with varying boho interiors to retreat and interact with people coming from across the globe are a must-visit.

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Cafe at Hippie Island_©Krit Srini

“The city is such that the pupil of the eye has never seen such a place like it, and the year of intelligence has never been informed that there existed anything to equal it in the world,” exclaimed medieval traveller Abdur Razzak and somehow each word said by him falls short in describing how amazingly splendid Hampi is!

Have you discovered this gem of a place yet?

References

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https://www.backpacknxplore.com/historical-hampi-facts

https://factins.com/30-interesting-facts-hampi-temple-chariot-architecture/

https://www.insightsonindia.com/2020/12/07/hampi-chariot-cant-be-touched/

https://www.themysteriousindia.net/singing-pillars-hampi/

https://www.yatrablog.com/facts-about-hampi

Author

Aastha is an architecture graduate who is enthusiastic about playing with words and inditing the stories waiting to be told. Apart from being an expressionist she is an avid reader and a philomath on a journey to make a difference with her deeds.

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