Hampi: Ancient Hindu Capital of Vijayanagara

The magnificent World Heritage site of Hampi was the capital of the last and the most famed Hindu kingdom of Vijayanagara, the largest empire in post-Mughal India, covering the present-day Indian states of Karnataka, Andhra and Maharashtra. Although in ruins today, Hampi once boasted of a treasure trove, reflected in its lavish Dravidian temples and palaces, and under the rule of king Krishnadevaraya, it became the seat of re-establishment of Indian culture with a flourish for music, art, sculpture, and literature.

The Empire of Hakka & Bukka

The Vijayanagara Empire was established in 1336 A.D. by two brothers Hakka and Bukka under the guidance of their patron saint Madhva Vidyaranya. Hence, Vijayanagara is also known as Vidyanagara. However, the origin of the capital state dates back to the age of the Hindu epic Ramayana when it was the site of Kishkinda, a monkey kingdom. Hampi still has a complete chariot made of stone, along with a large statue of Narasimha (one of the Avatars of Lord Vishnu). The monuments of Vijayanagara city were built between 1336 and 1570 A.D. from the times of Harihara-I to Sadasivaraya. Travelling chroniclers who visited India from far off countries, such as Arabia, Italy, Portugal and Russia and came to Vijayanagara, have left graphic and glowing accounts of the city.

The Prosperous Kingdom of Krishnadevaraya

This period in Indian history witnessed an unprecedented resurgence of Hindu religion, art, architecture.

During the reign of Krishnadevaraya, the official court languages were Telugu and Kannada (with a common script, known as Vijaya Lipi today). Several poets and ministers were in attendance in his court, the most renowned of them was Tenali Ramakrishna who entertained the emperor and others with his wit and sheer brilliance (his wits are popular in Andhra and Karnataka even today).

The main port was at Kalyan, now a part of Mumbai or Bombay, which added to the glory of the kingdom. A large number of royal buildings were raised by Krishnadeva Raya, the greatest ruler of the dynasty.

Hindu Temples of Hampi

Various awe-inspiring structures of Hampi include several Hindu temples, the royal hall, the magnificent throne platform used to witness festivals and other events, and the king's balance or scale. Hampi’s temples are noted for their stature, ornamentation, delicate carvings, stately pillars, magnificent pavilions and a great wealth of iconographic and traditional depictions from the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata.

The largest extant temple at Pampapati, was extensively renovated and is now used for Puja. The monolithic statues of Lakshmi, Narasimha and Ganesha are noted for their massive dimensions and utter grace. The Krishna temple, Pattabhirama temple, Hazara Ramachandra and Chandrasekhara temple are other significant examples of Hindu architecture of the kingdom. The Vitthala temple is an excellent example of this ornate Vijayanagara style.

The Archaeological Importance of Hampi

Hampi is acclaimed for its archeological importance. In 2002, the Government of India announced Hampi to be developed as an international destination and a separate body called the Hampi World Heritage Area Management Authority was constituted for the overall development and conservation of Hampi.

Recent excavations have revealed a large number of palatial complexes and basements at this site. A large number of stone images, beautiful terracotta objects and stucco figures that once embellished the palaces have also been discovered. Further, many gold and copper coins, household utensils, a square stepped-tank or ‘sarovara,’ and a large number of ceramic and porcelain items, inscribed Buddhist sculptures of 2nd-3rd century A.D. have also been found from these excavations.

Archaeological Survey of India built a museum here in 1972 and the antiquities including the collection of sculptures and architectural remnants from various locations of the ruins are presently housed in this museum.

The Popularity of Hampi as a World Heritage Tourist Site

Tourists throng to the 14th century ruins of Hampi, located near Hospet, in Bellary district in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, which silently narrate the story of grandeur and fabulous wealth of the bygone era, of men's infinite talent and power of creativity and his capacity for senseless destruction.

Covering an area of about 26 sq. km, the ruins lie scattered amidst giant boulders and vegetation, protected by the tempestuous river Tungabhadra in the north and rocky granite ridges on the other three sides. The Tungabhadra dam across the eponymous river is another attraction to the tourists.