Initially known as the capital city of Vijayanagara Empire, Hampi is now one of the finest historical sites of ancient age in the world. It has served as the capital for more than 200 years, the city is decorated with temples, palaces, market streets and monuments making it one of the famous ancient metropolises in India.
According to the Hindu mythology, Hampi is also known as Krishkindha, the kingdom of monkeys before Vijayanagara Empire in the pre-ancient age. It is settled between a dramatic landscape of granite boulders and Tungabhadra river. Structures located in Hampi whether it is the forts, palaces, tanks, canals, are vibrant and speak from themselves. The surroundings of Hampi are filled with stories and myths imbuing it with a very special sacred geography.
Apart from being the kingdom of monkeys and capital city of Vijayanagara Empire, Hampi and its surroundings are filled with agricultural land.
The significance of the Vijayanagara Empire in the words of Dr.A.L.Srivastva
“The Vijayanagara Empire served a high historical purpose by acting as a champion of Hindu religion and culture against the aggressions of the Muslims in Southern India”
The 16 rulers of the empire were from the four dynasties: The Sangma Dynasty (1336 – 1486), The Saluva Dynasty (1486 – 1509), The Tuluva Dynasty (1510 – 1570) and the Arvinda Dynasty. The empire was at its highest peaks of success when it was under the rule of King Krishna Deva Raya in 1509. The empire met its untimely decline after King Krishna Deva Raya death, the Unity of Deccan Sultanates and defeat in battles of Talikota which ultimately caused destruction in Hampi.
Architecture of Vijayanagara Empire
The rulers of Vijayanagara were the inheritors of the rich traditions in art and architecture of the Chalukyas, Hoysalas and Pandyas.
The city was surrounded by seven mountains and the spaces between were used for various purposes such as temples, palaces, agriculture etc. The city has its own water system which is spread over 40 kilometres and can be seen near the structures.
The palaces are the most impressive buildings which included halls for public and private meetings, temples which were only accessed by royals and bathing areas. The structures were not only painted but were carved with ornate design consisting of sculptures made of stones and wood.
The temple architecture of Vijayanagara Empire reached new highs and not only has it astonished the present world but the architecture was also appreciated by the foreign traders who visited Vijayanagara Empire. The important feature of the architecture are the monolithic pillars, ornate brackets decoration on the exterior side of the walls. The water tanks were also an important part of the empire as they were also decorated and celebrated throughout the city. The market places were elegant and functionally colonnaded structures.
Most of the architectural work was done or renovated during the rule of the illustrious King Krishnadevaraya.
1. Tungabhadra River
The Tungabhadra river in India starts from Karnataka,ultimately joining the Krishna River. The river is formed by the merger of two rivers: Tunga and Bhadra. Next to the river we can see corales boats and local people fishing. Hampi is located at the south bank of the river. Tungabhadra River is also known as Pampa in the epic Ramayana, named after the daughter of Lord Brahma who later married Lord Shiva.
2. Sri Ranganatha Temple
Sri Ranganatha Swami Temple is the resting place of Lord Ranganatha, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The temple is located in Anegundi. The temple contains simple pillars and elephant balustrade. The temple complex also has areas where pilgrims used to stay but today it has been used as a Post office by the government. The temple has visible elements of the Vijayanagara era. The most attractive elements are the 8 black Cuddapah pillars located before the temple. The temple observes an annual festival of Rath Yatra every year.
3. Anegundi- City of Vali-Pampa Sarovar
As per the geologists, Anegundi is about four billion years old. Situated on the left bank of the river Tungabhadra. Anegundi is also known as the monkey kingdom of Kishkindha. There are forts, palaces, temples and green padi ﬁelds located alongside the road. Many of the boulders still bear the intact paintings called the Onake Kindi,which belong to the Iron Age.
Pampa Sarovar, is one of the ﬁve sacred sarovars located in the Koppal District dedicated to Goddess Parvati, who performed self-punishment to show her devotion for Lord Shiva.
The pond is rectangular in shape and is ﬁlled with water throughout the year, on special occasions people hold puja in the pond.
Located next to it is a whitewashed shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati (Pampa). The shrine has a musical instrument that plays drums, metal plates and a couple of bells with the help of a motor. The series of temples also includes a meditation place in which once lived Shabri, the devotee of Lord Ram.
4. Hanuman Temple or Ajana Matha Temple
Anjaneya Hill in Anegundi is believed to be the birth place of Lord Hanuman. The hill itself resembles a resting monkey. At the top of the hill,a temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman is situated, with 575 steps to climb while experiencing pleasant air and beautiful views. It is the second most worshipped shrine of Hanuman. The idol of Hanuman is in a mediating position constrained by a six-sided amulet. The outside of the amulet has 12 monkeys holding each other’s tails.
At the starting of the temple, we ﬁnd many stalls that sell holy water, prayer products etc.
5. Assembly Hall
A good king is the one who not only rules but also listens to his public. These individual assembly halls, situated in the village areas were meant for the kings and his public, here kings were accompanied by his ministers and the village members. The assembly hall is in a rectangular shape with a total of 60 granite columns and 8 black stone columns which are beautifully hand carved representing the epic Ramayana.
In the centre of the hall, there is a statue of four Nandi, looking in all four directions. Right above the Nandi, the roof is lifted by 16 small columns at
a height of 2 metres, so the smoke while performing the rituals can be released directly into the air. Around the hall we can see tall coconut trees while sensing a pleasant breeze.
6. Royal Enclosure
Spreading over 59000 sq. metre in Hampi, the Seats of Kings is one of the largest structures with structures like Jain temples, Hindu temples, Audience hall, Aqueducts, etc.
The Royal Enclosure was the seat of power for the Vijayanagara Empire with almost 45 strictures, today turned into ruins yet being a wonderful attraction for tourists. The Royal Enclosure has 3 main entrances, to the north and one to the west. The architecture of this place also shows the inﬂuence from Mughal Architecture. Most of the palaces face the east or north directions and were built on raised granite platforms. The platforms are decorated with carved details of ﬂowers, geese, elephants, militants etc. The ruins of these palaces suggest that the palaces were built using wooden beams and rafters, while the domed structures were built with a stone rubble and mortar mixture.
The Royal Enclosure consists of many structures which are listed below:
a. Mahanavami Dibba
The Mahanavami Dibba also known as the House of Victory, is the most impressive structure in the area as the processions for Navarathi festival were held here. The 3-tier structure stands tall at a height of 8 metres with base measuring to 40 sq.mt and the topmost platform measuring to 24 sq.mt The staircase hands rails are formed by elephants and Yaali’s trunk while the friezes of the carvings on the exterior showcase the processions, animals and hunting scenes.
b. Stepped Well
Today for preserving precautions the tank might remain empty but the 3-tier step well tank with an area of 22 sq.m and is the most well-preserved structures in the Royal Enclosure. The well reminds of the beautiful Modhera Sun Temple Water Tank. An inlet is given in the tank which is connected to an elevated water canal around the Royal Enclosure.
c. King’s Audience Hall
It is a 100 pillared structure but today only the slots of the pillars remain. These pillars stood in rows of and columns of 10 which were accessible by two staircases from east and west respectively, which led to the ﬁrst ﬂoor.
d. Stone Doors
Not too far away there are two giant granite doors laid down on the ground. The location is not known but is considered to be the doors of the citadel wall that was built by the Vijayanagara Empire for protection. These doors look similar to the wooden doors with the intricate carvings. These doors are complete with bolts, sockets and knobs.
Elephants were used to open or close these doors as they stand tall at a height of almost 4 metres.
7. Hazara Rama Temple
The temple is an attraction for numerous devotees during the Dussehra and Ram Navami even though the temple is inactive in terms of religious activity but it remains a major tourist spot in Hampi.
The temple is located in the core area of the Royal Enclosure between the residential and ceremonial area. The temple is a ﬁne example of compact yet extravagant design in the Dravidian temple architecture.
Hazara Rama Temple was only accessible by the royal family. The friezes depict the Mahanavami festival by depicting the militants, dancers, animals and processions. On the outside of the compound wall the link between the royal families is shown by relief work. Inscriptions inside the temple indicate that Devaraya I built it in the early 15th century as a shrine to the god Rama under the name Ramachandra. The dedication to Lord Rama is depicted by the illustrations of the epic Ramayana all over the temple. These relief works are the most extensive of any series to be found anywhere in Indian Architecture therefore they justify that Vijayanagara Empire had fabulous intricacy for artwork.
8. Sasivekalu Ganesha
It is the ﬁrst monument a tourist sees when they enter Hampi from Hospet.Sasivekalu in Kannada means Mustard Seed. This Ganesh temple is known to be used by the common people of Vijayanagara Empire. The statue of Ganesh is 2.5 metres tall and is seated in an open manadapa with square pillars all around. The statue depicts a story from the Hindu Mythology where Ganesh ate so much that his stomach was about to explode, ﬁnding no option, he tied a snake to his stomach to prevent it from bursting. The deity is seen in half lotus position with four arms. The right and left hand at the upper side holds a goad and broken tusk and the lower arms hold a sweet (modak) and noose.
The inscription on the pavilion suggests that the temple was built by the traders of Chandragiri (Andhra Pradesh) dating back to 1500 AD and was erected in the memory of the King Narasimba II.
9. Kadalekalu Ganesha
Kadalekalu Ganesh means Bengal gram,which is depicted by the chiselling of ganesh belly in a similar way. The temple was built for the kings, ministers and their families. The statue is a made monolith granite stone at the northeastern slope of the Hemakuta Hill. The statue is 4.5 metres tall. The pillared hall was made after carving the Ganesh statue. The tall slender cubical granite pillars constructed in typical Vijayanagar Style have sculptures not only from the epic Ramayana but also of the traders who visited the Empire from Portugal, China, Japan, etc.
10. Queen’s Bath
The Queen’s Bath is located close to the Royal Enclosure. It was a private bathing area for the kings and queens. The 30 sq.m. building which is in a rectangular shape has plain exteriors and extravagant interiors the building speaks different architectural stories. The interiors of the buildings are in Indo – Saracenic Architecture.
The building is made with a veranda around facing a big open to sky pond in the middle. The veranda consists of windows projecting into the pool. As the city was connected by the water canals, the pond also consists of an inlet in the centre of the veranda.
The balconies are decorated with tiny windows and supported by lotus bud and tipped brackets. It is believed that the servants sat in the balconies and poured down the perfume which they made by using inbuilt mortar and pestles for grinding natural elements like ﬂowers into the water while the kings and queens took baths.
The domes in the building are also individually treated with different designs. The building also has a staircase which leads to a passage on the top, it was used by the guards for look-outs.
Outside Queen’s Bath there is a long water canal encircling the building as a protective measuring from invaders. To access the building the users had to cross a bridge.