Hampi is a village and temple town recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, listed as the Group of Monuments at Hampi in northern Karnataka, India. It is located within the ruins of the city of Vijayanagara, the former capital of the Vijayanagara Empire. Predating the city of Vijayanagara, Hampi continues to be an important religious centre, housing the Virupaksha Temple and several other monuments belonging to the old city. Hampi was traditionally known as Pampa-kshetra, Kishkindha-kshetra or Bhaskara-kshetra. The name is derived from Pampa, which is the old name of the Tungabhadra River (Pampa was Lord Brahma’s daughter, who was later married to Lord Shiva) on whose southern banks the city is built. The name “Hampi” is an anglicised version of the Kannada name Hampe (derived from Pampa). Over the years, it has also been referred to as Vijayanagara and Virupakshapura (from Virupaksha, the patron deity of the Vijayanagara rulers). Due to the presence of several mineral deposits in this region, such as iron-ore and manganese, mining has been done for a number of years. A recent boom for the supply of iron-ore in the international market has led to increased levels of mining in this district. Some feel that the World Heritage Site at Hampi as well as the Tungabhadra Dam is under threat as a result. The climate here is hot and dry. The temperature ranges from peaking high of 45°C in the summer to 22 °C in the winters. September to March is the best time to visit.
History: Emperor Ashoka’s Rock Edicts nearby, suggest that this region was part of the Maurya Empire during the 3rd century BC. There are many mythological and historical references to Hampi. Even the folklores has their own share of stories. Hampi’s history is a rather compelling story of how a tiny hamlet had grown into the sprawling medieval metropolis, the capital of the grand empire, Vijayanagara. Also, it tells how they ruled the whole of south India from its eastern seashores to the west. And finally, at its imperial climax fallen from the crest, and crept back to where it all began – a cluster of humble villages.
The monuments of Vijayanagara city, also known as Vidyanagara in honour of the sage Vidyaranya were built between AD 1336-1570, from the times of Harihara-I to Sadasiva Raya. A large number of royal buildings were raised by Krishnadeva Raya (AD 1509-30), the greatest ruler of the dynasty. The period witnessed the resurgence of Hindu religion, art, architecture on an unprecedented scale. The contemporary chroniclers who came from far off countries such as Arabia, Italy, Portugal and Russia visited the empire, have left graphic and glowing accounts of the city. It covers an area of nearly 26 sq km and is stated to be enclosed by seven lines of fortifications. Hampi was one of the best areas of the capital of the Vijayanagara Empire from 1343 to 1565 when it was besieged by the Deccan Muslim confederacy. Hampi was chosen because of its strategic location, bounded by the torrential Tungabhadra river on one side and surrounded by defensible hills on the other three sides. The Islamic Quarter sometimes called the Moorish Quarter is located on the northern slope of the Malyavanta hill and the Talarigatta Gate.
As per the mythological account, Hampi is believed to be the mythical monkey kingdom, Kishkindha. It is believed that many of the events mentioned in various Hindu sacred texts of the Hindus had happened in and around Hampi. The Hindu mythology together with a plethora of local folklores makes the script of Hampi interesting. The Hemakuta Hill in Hampi is the place, according to the myth, Shiva did his penance before marrying Pampa. Kama, the God of Love, felt sympathy for Pampa for her love towards Shiva. He disturbed Shiva from his deep meditation. That attracted Shiva’s wrath. Known for his anger, Shiva burned Kama with his third (fiery) eye. Rathi, Goddess of Passion and also Kama’s consort pleaded for mercy with Shiva. Shiva grants Kama’s life back, but only as a character and not as a physical being. On Shiva’s marriage with Pampa Gods from the heaven showered gold on the place. This hill in Hampi is called Hemakuta, literally means a heap of gold.
*(All the above information are from Wikipedia, http://hampi.in/history-and-myths and http://asi.nic.in/asi_monu_whs_hampi.asp.)
Airport: Hubli is the nearest airport, located at distance of 143 km from Hampi.
Rail: The nearest railway station is Hospet junction which is located at a distance of 14 km. Hospet is connected to Bangalore, Hyderabad and Goa via express trains.
Road: Hospet connected via NH 13 which is connected to NH 4. Thus it is connected to major cities like Bangalore and Sholapur. Hampi is approximately 14 km from Hospet. Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation operates daily buses to Hospet from Bangalore, Mysore, Gokarna and other nearby places. Private Bus Operators also has bus services to Hospet from many cities in Karnataka and Maharashtra.
Local: Auto rickshaws are available for transportation within the town. Tour operators provide vehicles for hire. One can even hike bike or bicycle or can even walk around the town. The prime attractions are located within an area of 10-12 km² area.
Boats: Most of the guest houses are on another side of the river ( an area called Virupapur Gadde). To access them, you need to cross the river by Motor boat.
Virupaksha Temple: Also known as the Pampavathi temple, it is an ancient temple situated in the Hampi Bazaar. It predates the founding of the Vijayanagara empire. The temple has three gopurams (entrance towers). A large 160-foot (49 m) high tower as its main entrance towards the east, a smaller second entrance tower leading to inner temple courtyard after the main gopura, and another one towards north known as the Kanakagiri gopura, leading to a small enclosure with subsidiary shrines and eventually to the river Tungabhadra. The smaller inner gopura and the beautiful mandapa (an open pillared hall or pavilion) were dedicated to the temple by king Krishnadevaraya on his coronation in 1510 CE, making them over 500 years old. The Apart from Shiva, the temple complex also contains shrines of the erotic statues Bhuvaneshwari and Pampa.
Vitthala Temple Complex: This is perhaps the most famous and well-known among the ruins of Hampi. The iconic stone chariot in the vicinity of this temple complex is a symbol of Karnataka Tourism. The great “swing-pavilion” of this temple is one of the technical marvels of Vijayanagara architecture. The temple houses the famous musical pillars.
Achyutaraya Temple: The temple dedicated to Lord Tiruvengalanatha, a form of Vishnu, was constructed by a high officer in Achyuta Raya’s court and hence the name.
Monolithic Bull: Locally known as Yeduru Basavanna or Nandi, this monolithic bull marks the east end of the Virupaksha Bazaar. The statue is housed in a twin storied pavilion built on an elevated platform.
Malyavanta Raghunathaswamy temple: Its inner walls flaunt peculiar and interesting motifs of fish and marine creatures.
Hazara Rama Temple Complex: It is well known for more than many thousand carvings and inscriptions on & in the temple depicting the mighty story of Ramayana.
Jain Temple: Hemkuta Jain temples, Ratnantraykut, Parsvanath Charan and Ganigatti Jain temple. Most of the idols are now missing from these temples. Ruins suggest that these temples belong to 14th century.
Krishna Temple Complex: This is an ASI protected monument, which was built in 1513 CE during the reign of king Krishnadevaraya after his successful campaign against the Gajapatis of Orissa.
Sasivekalu Ganesha: This monolithic statue carved out of a huge boulder. On this statue, you can see the snake carved around his tummy. Also, he holds the goad, pasha (noose), and his broken tusk.
Kadalekalu Ganesha: This giant statue of Ganesha was carved out of a huge boulder at the northeastern slope of the Hemakuta hill. The belly of this statue resembles a Bengal gram (Kadalekalu, in local language) and hence the name.
Archeological Museum: This is a tiny but worthwhile museum located at Kamalapura. Apart from the usual suspects in a museum, this one contains an immensely useful exhibit to a novice visitor: A scaled model – in fact two – of the Hampi topography with the monuments located on it.
Lotus Mahal: The style of it is a pleasant departure from the typical architecture you see in Hampi. The exact function of this is not surely known. Located inside the Zenana enclosure, most probably this was a socialising area for the women folks in the royal family.
Elephant Stable: One among the few least destroyed structures in Hampi, Elephant Stable is a major tourist attraction. This long building with a row of domed chambers was used to ‘park’ the royal elephants.
Royal Enclosure: The most imposing structure in this area is the Mahanavami Dibba or the Dussehra Platform or the ‘House of Victory’. King’s Audience Hall or the 100 Pillared Hall is located within the enclosure in the north-west area. The stepped tank is located in the southeastern part within this area.
Zenena enclosure: Zenana enclosure was a secluded area reserved for the royal women.
Queens bath: 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.
Laxminarasimha- Badavilinga: This is the largest Linga image in Hampi. Located next to the Lakshmi Narasimha statue the Linga is housed inside a chamber with an opening in the front. A close look at this icon can reveal three eyes (depicting the three eyes of Shiva) carved on it. Legend has it that this was commissioned by a peasant woman and hence the name (Badva means poor in the local tongue).
Anjeyanadri Hill: It is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Hanuman ( The monkey warrior God). According to Hindu mythology, Hanuman was born to Anjana and thus Hanuman was also called as Anjaneya, and his birthplace Anjeyandari (Anjana’s Hill).
Chakratheertha (Riverside Trek): Located close to the Kodanda Rama Temple, this spot is considered the holiest bathing spot in Tungabhadra River. Local legend has it that at some special occasions the swirl in the river forms into the images of Rama, Sita and Laxmana.
Sugreeva’s Cave: This cave you would find on your way to the King’s balance from the Kodandarama Temple. Located almost on the river shore, this is a naturally formed cave by huge boulders one leaning over the other.
Anegundi: On the other side of the river Tungabhadra, in Anegundi there are many attractions like Pampa Sarovar, Gagan Mahal, Anegundi Fort, Nava Brindavana, Entrance Gates, Tara Parvat and more.
Daroji Bear Sanctuary: The sanctuary was created exclusively for the preservation of Indian Sloth Bear.
The other places of interest are Lake near Sanapur, Tungabhadra River, Uddana Veerabhadra temple, Virupapura Gaddi, Yeduru Basavanna, Talarigatta Gate, Bhima’s Gate, Tenali Rama Pavilion and more.
The scale and spread of the sites in Hampi demand you to plan for many days to explore Hampi. Keeping aside the detailed tour one can even cover all the major site in a two to three days trip. This tour planner is made on the basis of the location of the destinations. One can make changes as per their interest, convenience and accessibility and duration of the trip.
Day 1: Reach Hampi and in the afternoon visit the Daroji Sloth Bear Sanctuary and watch the sunset from the watchtower.
Day 2: The major sites are located close to one another and can be grouped in one. Firstly the (Hemakuta Hill – Sasivekalu Ganesha, Kadalekalu Ganesh – Virupaksha Temple – Hampi Bazaar), (Achyutaraya Temple – Courtesan’s Street – Kodanda Rama Temple – Chakratheertha the Riverside Trek – Sugreeva’s Cave), (Laxminarasimha- Badavi Linga – Krishna Temple – Chandikeshwara – Uddana Veerabhadra Temple), (Bhima’s Gate – Ganagitthi Jain Temple – Malyavanta Hill – Talari Ghata Gate). After lunch the cover the other groups – (Lotus Mahal – Watch Tower – Elephant Stable – Guards Quarters – Underground temple), (Queens Bath – Mahanavami Dibba – Pushkarni – Secret Chamber – King Audience Hall – Hazara Rama Temple), (Purandara Mantapa – Ruined Bridge – King’s Balance – Vittal Temple – Vittala Bazaar) and if time permits watch the sunset from the Matanga Hill.
Day 3: Cross the Tungabhadra river and visit all the places in and around Anegundi and the Anjeyanadri Hill.
Hotels: Online booking is always preferable for discounts in tariff. Hotels in Hampi are The Jungle Resort and Lodge, Lakshmi Heritage Tourist Home, Clarke’s Inn, Gowri Resort, Rocky Guest House, Kishkinda Heritage Resort, Mowgli Guest House, Hampi’s Boulders, Waterfalls, Whispering Rocks and more.
Read my experience while exploring the ruins.