‘Precious diamonds being sold on the streets of an Indian village’ – How would you react to this sentence? You must be astonished and curious to know more about that place so that you can go there and buy diamonds. But hold on, I am talking about an ancient but rich Indian city where in actuality people used to sell diamonds on the streets. The place is Hampi: once the main city of the Vijayanagara Empire from 1336 to 1565. Even today, Hampi in its ruined form, is charismatic and attracts thousands of tourists each year. The city has now been listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site as the Group of Monuments at Hampi.
Hampi near Hospet in northern Karnataka is located on the banks of the Tungabhadra River. It was made the core site during the Vijayanagara Empire because of its strategic location. Hampi was bounded by Tungabhadra River on one side, the remaining three sides being surrounded by hills. At that time, Hampi was also the main religious center and continues to be the same today because of its ancient Virupaksha Temple and many such places. Along with this, there are more than 500 ancient monuments in the form of very old market streets, royal pavilions, remains of ancient aquatic structures etc. This makes Hampi a religious as well as historic place in India that is packed with history in the form of ruins.
Major Temples at Hampi
Virupaksha Temple is located in the Hampi bazaar on the south bank of River Tungabadra and is also known by the name of Pampapathi temple. It is one of the oldest functional temples in India (from 7th century AD). This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva.
Hazara Rama Temple Complex was built for royal families and was a private temple for the king. This temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Walls of Hazara Rama Temple are adorned with scenes from Ramayana and consist of about 1000 such carvings. Elephants, dancing girls, soldiers and horses are also carved on the walls. You can spot the temple from a distance because of its sprawling lawn.
Krishna Temple Complex: King Krishnadevaraya in 1513 AD built this temple and dedicated it to Lord Krishna. The main idol installed in the temple is in the form of infant Lord Krishna (Balakrishna). But this idol is now placed in the state museum at Chennai. Pillars and the entrance of the temple have remarkable carvings of Yalis (the mythical lion). Ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu have been carved on the main tower. Restoration work of the temple is still ongoing as the temple complex has been excavated recently.
Vittala Temple Complex is the most famous in terms of its architecture. Vittala Temple Complex is dedicated to Vittala, a form of Lord Vishnu. The stone chariot and remarkable pillared halls are the highlights of the Vittala Temple Complex. Visit the Temple Complex at night as all the floodlights installed in the temple are illuminated at dusk, thus adding to the magnificence of the construction. Musical pillars in the temple are another very fascinating attraction. To know about the source of the sound from pillars, Britishers had cut two of these pillars. To their surprise they found nothing but empty pillars. You can also see those cut pillars at the temple.
Malyavanta Raghunathaswamy displays an ancient style of architecture and shows off different and unique motifs of marine animals and fish.
Royal Enclosure: It is a fortified campus that used to be the seat of the king. It consists of many structures and one such structure is Mahanavami Platform. This is the platform from where the king used to watch annual parade. Many palace bases, various underground temples and aquatic structures complete this area.
Riverside Trek Path: Ancient Hampi Bazaar and the Vittala temple are connected by this Riverside Trek Path. All along this path are number of shrines, carved artifacts and ruins of old structures.
Kadalekalu Ganesha: On the slopes of the Hemakuta Hill is the giant statute of Hindu god Ganesha that is carved out of a large stone. In the local language, “kadalekalu” means Bengal gram seed as the shape of the belly of the statue resembles a Bengal gram.
Sasivekalu Ganesha: It is another giant statute of Lord Ganesha that is located inside an open pavilion. ‘Sasivekalu’ means mustard seed in local language as the shape of the potbelly of the god is like that of a mustard seed.
You can also visit Lakshmi Narasimha, Queen’s bath, Lotus Mahal, Elephant Stables, Achyuta Raya’s Temple, Matanga Hill, Anjaneya Hill & Temple and many more such attractions at Hampi. October to February is the best time to visit Hampi