There are very few places in this world where one can return to the forgotten kingdom of great kings, elephant stables, temples, and marvellous architecture.

Hampi is located in Karnataka, India, near the city of Hospet. It is one of thirty-seven UNESCO Heritage sites in India, and a collection of more than 1,600 remains, including forts, temples, royal complexes, mandapas, and shrines. The area is located amidst striking and beautiful scenery depicting nature at its best.

Why “The City of Ruins”- Hampi must be on every Architect’s bucket list. - Sheet1
The Chariot _©Tanvi Dixit

Forgotten History of Hampi

The grand and affluent capital city of the Vijayanagar empire was once located in the small village of Hampi, which it is today. According to historians, during the height of its power in 1500, Hampi – Vijayanagar was the richest city in India and the second-largest medieval city in the world.

The town of Hampi attracted several Portuguese and Persian travellers, who gave a grandiose description of the town. These factors led to its inscription on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2003.

Harihara and Bukka, two young Hindu princes of unknown ancestry, founded Vijayanagar in 1336. However, the brothers soon received the blessings of the influential mahant of an important temple in Shringeri. They built upon this foundation to create a Hindu-ruled empire in a part of the world that Muslim dynasties had dominated for over a century.

Why “The City of Ruins”- Hampi must be on every Architect’s bucket list. - Sheet2
Marvelous Ruins _©Surabhi Nair-Author

Getting to Hampi

Hampi is well served by road and rail. 

The nearest airport is in Bellary, about 65 kilometres from Hampi

Hosapete, about 15-20 km from Hampi, is the nearest railway station and bus station, with connections to nearly all major cities in south India.

City Layout of Hampi

Why “The City of Ruins”- Hampi must be on every Architect’s bucket list. - Sheet3
Map of Vijayanagar _©Hampi: Discover the splendorous of Vijayanagar

Hampi was built on a hill formed by granite boulders. 

More than 1600 temples, shrines, riverside features, royal and sacred complexes, forts, pillared halls, mandapas, and water structures are scattered across thousands of hectares of Hampi’s ruined landscape.

The picturesque beauty of these ancient and medieval structures perched on the peaks of hills and boulders transforms Hampi into an open museum, a “historian’s paradise” indeed.

The two brothers planned a large city in the shape of a mandala—a diagram representing the cosmos.

The Sacred Center – The most ancient temple, located along the river, dates back to the Vijayanagara period.

The Royal Centre contains over 60 temples built during the empire’s reign, as well as numerous public utility features such as aqueducts, gateways, markets, and monasteries.

Metropolitan Vijayanagar – the outermost area, Temples here showcase the Dravidian style of temple architecture, with features like gopurams and mandapas adding to the praise of the complex.

Brief on Hampi’s Architecture

The ancient city of Hampi was entirely constructed of burnt bricks and local granite, with lime mortar applied. It is widely acknowledged that Hampi’s architecture is inspired by and similar to Indo-Islamic architecture as well as Dravidian architecture

Hampi was a well-fortified city that dates back thousands of years. No mortar or cementing agent was found in Hampi’s architecture or walls. In Hampi, they built elaborate orchards and pleasure gardens with sculptures and motifs such as the lotus and corbels. 

Their goal was to interlock them and weld them together. The royal complex’s buildings featured grand arches, halls with massive columns, and domes with sculpture niches.

Why “The City of Ruins”- Hampi must be on every Architect’s bucket list. - Sheet4
Doomed Pillars_©Surabhi Nair-Author

Places not to miss

Virupaksha Temple – The Virupaksha temple is the oldest shrine, a popular pilgrimage and tourist destination, and an active Hindu worship site. It was built around the 11th century and expanded during the Vijayanagara era. The temple stands in the centre of Hampi, surrounded by the Hampi Bazaar, or the main village of Hampi. It is part of the Hampi Group of Monuments and is located on the banks of the beautiful Tungabhadra River. 

The inscriptions found on the structure date from the 9th and 10th centuries. The fascinating aspect of this temple is the stunning three gopurams and the large, high tower that stands 160 feet tall and serves as the main entrance.

Why “The City of Ruins”- Hampi must be on every Architect’s bucket list. - Sheet5
Virupaksha Temple _©Dmitry Rukhlenko

Vijay Vittala Temple & Golden Chariot – 

This temple is beautiful because it has many hallways, gateways, towers, and pavilions. 

Since the Vittala temple was constructed in the fifteenth century, numerous kings have further attempted to improve its aesthetic appeal. The stone chariot is the centrepiece of the Vittala temple. A musical instrument is depicted on each temple’s pillars, which also act as the temple’s main structural support. This is set up around the temple’s central pillar, which, when struck, emits the seven notes from each of the instruments it symbolises.

Another popular attraction is the King’s Balance, also known as Tulapurushandana. It is located on the southwest side of the Vittala Temple. The King’s Balance is only five meters tall and shaped like an archway. The structure is made of stone, and one pillar bears the King’s image. The carved image is thought to be of King Krishna Deva Raya and his wives.

Why “The City of Ruins”- Hampi must be on every Architect’s bucket list. - Sheet6
Utsav Mandap _©Sam J- Flickr

Elephant Stables – 

Elephant Stables are made up of eleven square chambers that run north to south. The stable doors are arched, and fluted and plain domes are above the ten chambers. A garden forms the common courtyard of the elephant stable, and the guard’s quarters are on the palace’s grounds.

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Lotus Mahal _©Surabhi Nair-Author

Queen’s Bath – 

The Queen’s Bath, also known as the Square Water Pavilion, is located southeast of the royal centre. It has a pavilion, a water basin, and a system for bringing in fresh water and removing wash water and overflows. An ornate, pillared, vaulted bay surrounds the basin. The beauty of the Queen’s Bath ruins strikes you the moment you gaze upon the incredible architectural style of this ancient royal pool.

Queen’s Bath _©Surabhi Nair-Author



Surabhi is an Indian-born Interior designer. She is fond of heritage revitalizing and reusing. A complete nerd when it comes to anime, books and visual novels. Her keen wish in writing about unspoken ideas that can contribute to architecture and design is now realised through RTF.

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