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Hampi: A Jewel of South India

July 24th, 2010

hampi-vijayanagar-world-heritage-site.jpgThe capital of the historic Vijayanagara empire, Vijayanagara, or modern-day Hampi, is in a state of ruins now. Yet, the beauty of architectural skill cannot go unnoticed or unacknowledged in this town of rocks and boulders with temples and statues carved out of them. The Vijayanagara empire extended over the whole of south India, and reached its peak between the 14th and the 16th centuries through a unification of smaller states against Islamic invasions from the north. The empire encouraged the arts, which resulted in major contributions in the fields of music, literature, and other fine arts. Hinduism was believed to be a unifying factor during the times, and King Krishnadevaraya was the most important in commissioning several temples and other structures. Hampi is situated between the Tungabhadra River and high hills, so that it was an easily defensible city in the past.

The city of Vijayanagara is a declared UNESCO world heritage site as the Group of Monuments at Hampi. The secular architecture here shows a mingling of many faiths, and northern and southern traditions. Chalukya, Hoysala, Pandya and Chola architectures were combined in granite structures, which were covered with plaster and painted in bright colors. Developments in water technology reflect in elaborate aqueducts and canals. The monuments in the city are divided into the Sacred Center and Royal Center ones. Hampi, because of its overtly religious Hindu identity, has a unique combination of mythology and history to offer. The place is identified as the Kishkindha region from the Ramayana, and temples are dedicated to the deities therein.

The Sacred Center of the city extends from the village of Hampi to Matanga Hill in the east usually with the Vitthala Temple included. The Temple is famous for its musical pillars and the monolithic chariot. The musical pillars have instruments carved out on them, and actually emanate the sound of the respective musical instrument when struck. There are a total of seven such pillars.

The Virupaksha Temple is also known as the Pampapati Temple. Pampa is another name for the Tungabhadra River, from which the name Hampi evolved. The Temple predates the empire, and is still a sacred center for the worshipers of Lord Siva.

The Hemkuta Hill has many small temples, tanks, and entrances, most of which predate the empire.

The Krishna Temple, commissioned by and built for King Krishnadevaraya, has twin enclosures but no idol anymore.

The Kondandarama Temple is built around the place where Rama crowned Sugriva. The monolithic statues of Rama, Lakshmana, and Sita rest in the garbha-griha.

The rock-cut idol of Narasimha, the King’s Balance, Achyutaraya’s Temple and the natural cave where Sugriva is supposed to have lived when Rama met him are also not to be missed.

The Royal Center, almost 2 km away, is separated by a valley from the Sacred Center. This place was the administrative headquarters of the city and has ruins of such buildings, palaces, and temples.

The Ramachandra Temple, often also called the Hazara Rama Temple, has a multitude of Rama’s images carved on walls and pillars along with scenes from the Ramayana. It was possibly used solely by the royalty, which is why it was built inside the Royal Center.


This article on South India travel was supplied by Nidhi Varma.


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