Hampi was the capital of the famous Vijayanagara Empire of South India. The Empire, one of the largest in India, covered the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra.
The erstwhile capital city is now in ruins that cover an area of about 26 square km. The river Tungabhadra is to its north. The ruins bear witness to the great wealth and splendor of a bygone era. There are remains of magnificent palaces and towering gateways that still retain some of the majesty of their golden years. Today Hampi is a World Heritage Centre.
The seat of the Vijayanagara Empire was set up by Saint Vidyaranya along with his disciples Hakka and Bukka in 1336 AD. The powerful empire made an enormous contribution towards reconstruction and support of temples throughout India. The heydays of the Empire were also a golden era for cultural and artistic activities. Literature, art and architecture and music flourished under the patronage of the Vijayanagara kings. The Empire was at its best during the time of Krishnadevaraya.
The empire’s destruction was sudden, caused by the attack of Mughal invaders who reduced the city to ruins within a matter of a few days.
The road from Kamalapura to Hampi is close to most of the ruins. The Malyavanta Raghunathaswamy temple is three km down this road. This temple, built in the Dravidian style is noteworthy for its fantastic carvings of sea monsters and fish on the outer walls.
The majestic Virupaksha Temple is on the western side of Hampi Bazaar. The style of the temple is said to be of the 11th century. The temple has a 120 feet tall tower on its entrance. Also close by is the 6.7 metre tall Ugra Narasimha monolith statue, built during the era of Krishnadeva Raya.
The Vithala Temple with its 56 musical pillars is undoubtedly the most interesting of the monuments in Hampi. The Stone Chariot with its revolving stone wheels and the grand Mantapa and the close by Purandara Dasara Mantapa are the structures of interest here.
The House of Victory was constructed by Krishnadeva Raya. Hazara Ramaswami temple west to House of Victory was the worship center of the royal family. It has scenes from Ramayana carved on the inside walls of the mantapa.
Other interesting sights include the Kings’ Balance and the Queen’s Bath. The kings of the Empire were weighed on the Balance against food grains, gold or money which was then given to the poor.
The Lotus Mahal, elephant stables, Pushkarini Tank, Mahanavami Dibba, Sasivikalu Ganesha, and the recently discovered Noblemen’s Palace are other monuments of interest in Hampi.
The Daroji Bear Sanctuary, a habitat for Indian Sloth Bears, is close by.
Best time to visit
October through March is pleasant. The Government of Karnataka organizes a cultural fest at Hampi in December every year.
Nearest airport is at Tornagallu, 32 km from Hospet. There are chartered sightseeing flights available from Bangalore, organized by Taneja Aerospace and Aviation Ltd. Bellary, about 75 km, has another airport.
Hospet, the nearest railhead is 13 km from Hampi. It is connected to Bangalore, Bijapur, Hubli, and Guntakal. The nearest big city is Bangalore, at a distance of about 350 km.