Hampi – City with a Iconic Heritage

By Somali K Chakrabarti

It was 1 PM in the afternoon. After lapping up all there was to seen in Pattadakal and Aihole, we proceeded towards Hampi, which is at distance of around 150 km from Aihole. The stretch of road between Aihole and Hampi being smooth, we had an easy drive.

On the way, as we passed through Kamalapur, we saw a lake in which the water had a pinkish tinge, appearing as if it had borrowed its shade from the nearby reddish hills.

Kamalapur lake

Kamalapur lake

Reaching Hampi by 3.30 pm, we checked into KSTDC. As it was very late, we ordered for a simple Daal Khichdi. While having food in the food court, I heard some loud thud sounds from the roof. I wondered if some tree branches had fallen on the roof, only to realize that it was the sound of monkeys jumping on the roof. The waiter told us not to worry as they would not come down. Quickly finishing up our lunch, we left for seeing Hampi.

A UNESCO heritage site, Hampi was the capital of the Vijayanagar empire from the 14th to 16th century.

‘A city as large as Rome and very beautiful to the sight’.

is how the ancient foreign tourists described the city of Vijayanagara, as it was then known.

Rocks and Boulders

Rocks Hampi

Many forts, ramparts, temples and statues can be seen all throughout the city, aesthetically blending with the rocks and boulders.

Virupaksha Temple

We started our tour of Hampi with the Virupaksha Temple, the oldest of all temples in Hampi. Also called Pampapathi, the temple is dedicated to Shiva.

VirupakshaTemple, Hampi

The 165 ft tall entrance of the tower is visible from a distance. As we parked and walked towards the temple, a vendor girl told us that there is an elephant inside the temple and sold us a bunch of bananas for the elephant. But she didn’t tell us about the monkeys inside the temple, who were  quick enough to snatch some of the bananas just as we entered the temple complex.

By the way, Hampi also finds mention in the epic Ramayana as Kishkinda, the kingdom of monkeys, ruled by Vaali and later by Sugreeva.

Coming back to the temple elephant, the interesting thing I noted about the elephant was that when someone offered money, the elephant would deftly pick up the money with its trunk, give it to his handler and bless the person.

Here I am getting blessed. 🙂

Blessings, hampi

After sometime, the elephant was taken away for a dip in the water of Tungabhadra river that flows by the temple.

The light at the tip of the temple peak now glowed in the twilight. We stood for darshan as the priests performed the Puja, and took the prasadam.

Vittala Temples 

On the next day we went to the famous Vittala (Vishnu) temple, the exquisite architectural showpiece of Hampi.

The car park is at quite some distance from the temple. An electric cart took us to the temple. From the cart, we could see pillars on both sides of the temple, which used to be the open shops on the way to the temple. It is said that diamonds, crystals and other precious stones were sold openly in these shops. Religion and commerce have co-existed since ages.

Vittala Temple

Inside the large complex are many pillared halls, temples and a chariot. It must have been an extraordinarily beautiful sight in its prime.

The main attraction of this temple are the monolithic pillars, with the most intricate carvings. The outermost pillars in one of the elevated open halls called the Maha-Mantapa are popularly musical pillars. These emit musical tones when tapped.

Musical PillarsChariot, Hampi

The famous stone chariot stands right in the centre of the complex. The Vijayanagar Kings seem to have built the chariot after being inspired by the Sun Temple at Konark in Odisha.

 

Lotus Mahal

A place worth mentioning is the eight angled Lotus Mahal built in the Indo- Muslim style. This used to be the place where the King would relax and have conversations. A garden around the structure enhances its beauty.

Lotus Mahal, HampiElephant Stable, Hampi

Adjacent to the garden of the Lotus Mahal, separated by a high stone wall are the royal stables which sheltered the royal elephants of the king of  Vijayanagar.

Lakshmi Narasimha

Hidden away from the main road is a huge idol of Narasimha. This idol is not inside a temple but in an open place. The 22 ft tall idol is carved of a single stone. Unfortunately many parts of the idol are damaged.

Narasimha

Other than these place, we went to the Museum, Queen’s bath, a podium known as Mahanavami Dibba, which once had a hall with fragrant sandalwood pillars standing on it, a pond known as Pushkarani and Sasivekala Ganesha, and Sri Krishna Temple.

Next day we started off for Manipal, with my mind and heart filled to the brim with the richness of the cultural past of the places.

The Karnataka government sponsors a 3- day celebration called ‘Hampi Utsav’ each year between November and January. They have also proposed a tie up with Peru for promoting Hampi and Machu Pichu as twin heritage sites.

 


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Readers Comments (61)

  1. Wonderful post. The photographs are lovely. 🙂

    Reply
  2. I keep reading about Hampi – hope to go there some day soon. I absolutely love the photo of you with the elephant. Adorable!

    Reply
  3. Hampi is an ancient and historical town town . Since the rule of Vijayanagar king it is almost same as it was then at that time. really beautiful site to visit. Kamalapur lake is looking very nice and pink as you mentioned . I have a question Somali ji, here in a picture, The Virupaksh temple is tilted ,it is in actual or in pic only ?

    Reply
  4. I keep coming back here Somali, like bees to the honey…captivating pictures especially the elephant’s trunk on you! Truly blessed! The Virupaksha temple is an archaeological marvel !

    Reply
  5. Amazing photos…India continues to surprise me with astonishing pictures of their ancient civilization…thanks for sharing these…

    Reply
  6. I had read about Hampi during my college days in our syllabus : The Indian Architecture by Percy Brown, so somewhat knew about what to expect. But, I wasn’t prepared for such beauty!

    I believe, those are carved in sandstone. Loved that Temple Elephant and his tricks with money. 😀

    It seems like very lovely place! Thanks for sharing it, Somali! 🙂

    Reply
    • Thank you Rakesh. The pillars are supposed to be monolithic granite pillars designed to produce musical sound by tapping. Indeed these are lovely places and they showcase how architectural styles from different parts of India blended and evolved over time.
      The elephant looked rather special with a big orange tika on its forehead. 🙂

      Reply
      • Actually!

        Monolithic to samjha, but how about musical? It seems, they were hollowed out to produce the timber. Can you imagine the efforts taken to hollow out a huge pillar of granite, which is considered the hardest of all the igneous rocks?

        It’s actually great to have friends, who wander around the world and make one cognizant of the wonders, which hitherto one had seen only in magazines and books! Keep discovering new horizons! 🙂

        Reply
        • Nahi nahi Rakesh, they are not hollowed out. That is what baffled many people. In fact , during the British period, they took away some columns, tested them and confirmed that these were solid. How these produced musical sound could not be deciphered. That remains a mystery till now.

          Reply
          • Wow! Reminds me of the 5 fountains of the Mughal Garden at Agra Fort. No pipelines, still they function. British dismantled one and couldn’t find any connection. It stopped working, but the remaining four still worked. Don’t know if it’s the truth, but have read about it somewhere.

          • Yes, they say that for Agra Fort. The ducts for cooling the walls are interesting too. The jali work at Fatehpur Sikri is also pretty attractive and was designed so that the ladies could see the events without themselves being seen.

  7. Wonderful narrative, Somali. I love your photo with the elephant. It’s so cute. 🙂

    Reply
  8. Thanks for this post… I am planning to be there soon… looking forward to it

    Reply
  9. Such amazing architecture! What wonderful artistic minds! Thank you for bringing it into my little world, Somali!

    Reply
  10. Thank you for sharing your photos and your thoughts. I have to admit, monkeys jumping on to the roof of my car might be a little anxiety producing. :0

    Reply
  11. Wonderful post. The photographs are lovely.

    Reply
  12. So much history in 1 single place! Can’t imagine how the 165 feet tall temple and the 22 feet deity carved from single stone would have been made without “modern tools” as we call them today. They already had them back then I should imagine. Amazing. Very nice pics and write up. Thanks Somali

    Reply
  13. Good post Somali!
    Very interesting to find out about the historical site which we only studied in school. We all are fascinated by Roman architecture and thousands go there every year to visit but such places in India are not advertised well for people to go and visit.
    I will need to put it in the list of places to visit.

    Reply
    • Exactly Nitish. We are fascinated by Roman architecture but do not really know about these exquisite places in India. Lack of awareness and access could be the reason. Thankfully some of the places are being restored to look like how they originally looked during the prime time.

      Reply
  14. You have compressed so much into this post Somali! I marvel at your narration, you can be a good historian. It seems you had a wonderful time and those blessings from an elephant adds so much charm to this pictorial treat. Thanks for making me a part of your visit to these sites of our iconic heritage.

    Reply
  15. Great post, Beautiful photos

    Reply
  16. bhudeb chakrabarti November 23, 2015 @ 8:43 am

    Delightful post and colourful photographs about Hampi.

    Reply
  17. Somali, this temple site is so brilliant in its architecture and you have very beautifully captured its magnificence. Loved the pic where you are taking blessings from the smartly trained elephant 🙂

    Reply
  18. Amazing article and great pictures
    Kanchan had been sharing a few URL s in the past and this article of yours interested me.
    Have worked with Kanchan (KC) in PG and Makers as we used to call him in RIL

    Reply
  19. Great description. Beautiful pictures. It is in my bucket list for a visit.

    Reply
  20. Indeed a city of Iconic heritage. The picture of you with elephant, adorable. Lovely post S.

    Reply
  21. Lovey pictures and excellent narration. Love your images of getting blessed by an elephant. 🙂

    Reply
  22. I’ve heard so much about Hampi! The famous stone chariot, the status..all singing paeans of the heydays of Indian architecture. Great pictures and I loved your pic…the elephant blessing you..so sweet..:-)

    Reply
    • Thank you Maniparna. I think I had read about Hampi mainly in some blogs and always wanted to see the chariot and pillars. Its amazing to see how deftly the elephant uses its trunk to pick up the note. 🙂

      Reply
  23. Lovely post and photos especially the photo were you are being blessed by the elephant.:)

    Reply
  24. Planned a long back to Hampi but couldn’t go.Lovely write up and beautiful photos.Love the blessing shot so much.

    Cheers,
    Sriram & Krithiga

    Reply
  25. Nice Writing… good Information too!

    Reply
  26. Wow amazing post! I love the photos and your descriptions!

    Reply

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