What is the historical significance of Hampi and which places do I visit there?

View of Hampi from Anjaneya

I’m in love with this city and this is going to be my pilgrimage destination forever! I have a love for it’s ancient archaeological structures and it’s association with the mythological references of Ramayana. That apart, there is this beautiful aura about the place that mesmerizes you to the core. That is why I make it a point that I visit this place every year. Also, my great grandfather from my mother’s side was a great Late Shri. N.S Rajpurohit, was a famous historian who has a lot to do with the excavations of certain parts which marked significance to Hampi / the Kingdom of Vijayanagara.

Pampa River

Hampi is called Hampi cause of the river Pampa now the Tungabhadra. Pampa was an ancient name for Hampi. According to legends, Pampa the daughter of Bramha did penance to please Lord Shiva. Impressed with her devotion Shiva married her and took the name Pampapati. On the banks of the river (Tungabhadra) there are numerous shrines of Shiva being worshipped.

History of Hampi

History of Hampi dates back to the chalcolithic and the Neolithic era… Could be proven from the ceramic and handmade pottery found from those ages. Also from the 2nd and the 3rd century there are rock edicts of the asokan empire found here…

Rulers of Hampi

Pre-Vijayanagara era it was ruled by many rulers primarily Chalukyas of Badami, Hoysalas, Yadavas and others. But the main founders of this empire are primarily two kings Harihara and Bukka raya. Also known as Hakka and Bukka who were disciples of Swami Vidyaranya…

Around the 14th century when Mughals made inroads to South India, they captured most part of Hampi and the Kampili chiefs Hakka and Bukka were prisoners… But soon they overthrew the Mughal empire after they were assigned to govern under Mughal Sultanates and retook Hampi… They then gave the name Vijayanagara (Land of Victory) also dedicated to Swami Vidyaranya so it’s also referred to as Vidyanagara.

Over the years Vijayanagara (hampi.in) (popularly called as Hampi) developed a unique style of architecture, came to be known as Vijayanagara (hampi.in) Architecture

That was mostly during the reign of Krishnadeva Raya under whose rule this empire saw its peak! He was abig fan of architecture and also was open to various styles of architecture Indian and Islamic… He also was a good ruler and had diplomatic relationship with the Spanish across the east coast and hence Hampi was quite open to trade with Europeans and usually gems and stones were traded for cotton and spices which were abundantly available here.

However after his death and during the reign of Ramraya Hampi faced a gruesome destruction. His son in law Ramraya was captured and killed during the battle of Rakkasatangdi after which the empire was left undefended when the Mughals ransacked this place, destroyed many buildings and later it was left abandoned for a long while for it to become a jungle and ruins remained. It was later on because of the curiosity of many western archaeologists and authors to great books namely Robert Sewell and A.H Longhurst that this place gained significant interest across the world. UNESCO’s World Heritage Site was conferred to Hampi in 1986.

Mythological Association of Hampi

There’s also a mythological association with Hampi. Locals and folklore has it that this area was the mythical Kishkinda Vanara kingdom from the Ramayana and this is where Rama and Lakshmana stayed before they headed off to Lanka in search of Sita. There are a couple of mountains and places which are believed to be the places where Sugreeva, Vali, Hanuman and Ram stayed back then…

Hazara Rama Temple

Which brings me to the Hazara Rama Temple. Hazara Rama… 1000 Rama? Cause of the 1000 inscriptions / sculptures of Rama on the walls of the temple? Well no… actually Hazara Rama comes from the word Hazarumu which in telegu means Entrance Hall This place has one of the most beautiful and intricate carvings lot of them describing what happened back in Ramayana and some of them depicting various Vishnu avatar. It was also a private temple of the royal family.

Stone Chariot in The Vittala Temple

The stone chariot is one of the most amazing structures in Hampi… If you get around clicking photographs of this monument, you wouldn’t just stop… its so beautiful. It’s made of big granite blocks and even though we may think it’s a monolithic structure it actually isn’t. The big granite blocks get covered cause of the intricate carvings on the chariot.

Musical Pillars of Hampi

Another very interesting thing in the vittala temple are the musical pillars in the photo shown above… Check out this video… to see what I mean

Well now if you go there this may not be possible as it has been restricted as there were incidents of damage to the structure in the past.

King’s Balance

Just outside the vittala temple, you’ll find the Kings Balance… I belive this custom still exists and it existed back then of course. The kings were kept in the balance which was put on this structure. Weighed against gold and jewellery which was then given away to the priests and the needy.

Lotus Mahal Complex

The lotus mahal and the elephant stables are one of the most intact pieces of architecture in Hampi… This temple was in a Zenana enclosure was believed to be a recreational area for the women folks of the royal family. There are hooks to tie up curtains and you’ll also find these terracotta pipes which are on the ceiling of this structure. They were filled with water from the well besides it and they acted as ventiatory ducts which provided cooling due to the breeze. Ancient air conditioning so to speak. The elephant stables are symmetrical set of stables with central one them being the biggest. These are unlike any other pieces of architecture as they are a mixture of Indo Islamic architecture.

Octagonal Bath

Octagonal public baths are something you’ll find. These are probably one of the oldest bathing structures which are still properly maintained… They weren’t just made out there. The stepped stones were assembled block by block after being made somewhere else. Very beautiful sight to your eyes.

Underground Shiva Temple

The underground shiva temple is in shambles… The most you can do is go and visit it from the outside. It’s completely dilapatated inside a cave filled with stench and loads of black water. There were a 1000 lingas inside, but since I’vent gone I wouldn’t know… After a point it becomes very eerie. The queens bath is a small structure, much like a swimming pool of the ancient times… or a humongous jacquzi if I may say…

Queens Bath

This is the first ruined structure you would see when you enter into the Royal center from the Kamalapura (hampi.in)-Hampi main road. For some mysterious reasons this was called as the queen’s bath. But in all probability this was a royal pleasure complex for the king and his wives. It’s a bit an assuming plane rectangular building from out side. But when you get inside, the story is different.The whole building is made with a veranda around facing a big open pond at the middle. Projecting into the pond are many balconies. An aqueduct terminates in the pond.The balconies are decorated with tiny windows and supported by lotus bud tipped brackets. The whole pool is open to the sky. This brick lined pool is now empty. But it’s believed once fragrant flowers and perfumed water filled this bathing pool. At one end of the veranda you can see a flight of steps giving access to the pool. The domical roof of veranda is a spectacle itself.

The Krishna Temple

The Krishna temple is one temple that was commissioned by Krishnadeva Raya and the architecture is significantly his. Interesting and very beautifu carvings such as that of the Mythical lion called the Yallis and the beautiful Gopis can be found here…You can also see carvings of 10 incarnations of Lord Vishnu and as soon as you enter the temple you’ll find a tortoise there… Like in temples of Halebeid and Belur.

Lakshmi Narsimha Statue

The Lakshmi Narsimha statue is probably one of the most damaged yet magnificient and huge creations. It’s the largest statue of Hampi. Narsimha is seen sitting on a coil of giant seven headed Snake. Shesa. It originally had Goddess Lakshmi sitting in his lap. However when the mughals raided Hampi they hugely damaged it thinking there would be gold and jewellery hidden inside the statue.

Badava Linga Temple

Right next to it is badava linga temple. A monolithic Shiva Linga believed to be carved by a poor woman (badava) in order to praise shiva

Sasvekalu Ganesha & Kadalekalu Ganesha

The Ganeshas of Hampi are well revered. Sasvekalu and Kadalekalu Ganesha. They are named because of the resemblance of their tummies to Mustard Seed and Bengal gram respectively. There’s a story behind the Sasivekalu ganesha. Once Ganpati was very hungry and he ate so much that his tummy burst.. He immediately found a snake nearby and tied it across his tummy and that is what is depicted in the sculpture. Both are monolithic statues.

Monolithic Bull

At he foothills of the great Matanga parvat / Matanga hill near the Hampi bazaar you’ll find this Monolithic bull, much similar to the one in a temple in Halebeidu. You trek for an hour or so you get on top of the Matanga hill from which you can get the most spectacular view of the city and it’s beautiful just before Sunset! A must visit.

Coracle Ride to Other side of the River

One of the best experiences is a ride in the coracle / boat to the Anjaneya hills The place revered to be the birth place of Hanumana. There’s also a cave where Sugreeva hid before he fought Vali to get him killed.

 Virupaksha Temple

Last but not least the most famous Virupaksha temple of Hampi which also is the only functioning temple in Hampi since the 14th Century which also makes it the only functioning temple in India. Among all temples this is the only one which the Mughals never attacked. Why? Cause of the insignia or the emblem of a pig on the door of the temple. During the Hampi Festival, this is quite the place to go, in fact during Diwali as well this place has a lot of festivities and is totally decorated. One thing to look out for is the Local Elephant inside the temple… He’s always there been there for many years now…

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6 thoughts on “What is the historical significance of Hampi and which places do I visit there?

  1. Veeresh

    Nice posting. In Kannada word Hazara had same meaning as Telugu word Hazaramu as mentioned by you.
    In Karnataka this statue is mostly known as Ugra Narasimha never heard Lakshmi Narasimha for this.
    It is Badavi(Woman) not Badava(Man) in Kannada.

  2. gaurav5430

    After the battle of talikota in 1565, it was not the mughals who ransacked the city, it was the Deccan sultanates.


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