Located on the banks of Tungabhadra River about 350 kilometers north of Bangalore and 13 km from Hospet, the village of Hampi in North Karnataka alludes to tremendous historical importance. Sprawled over more than 25 square kilometers, Hampi, the erstwhile major trading center is home to giant temples, market streets, palaces, and aquatic structures, forts and a plethora of other ancient monuments.
Familiar as we are with the glory of Hampi through the leaves of history, it highlights the ruins of the Vijaynagar kingdom of the late fourteenth century. Accordingly, the city has been drawing several tourists for a long time now.
Hampi has numerous temples, monolithic structures, figures and monuments – all exhibiting rich Hindu architectural culture. The Vittal temple, Virupaksha temple, and Kodandarama temple are examples of the same. Owing to the later influence of the Muslims in the mid 16th century, have come up the Lotus Mahal and Queen’s Bath which show signs of Muslim culture during that era.
The 15th-century Virupaksha Temple rises majestically to the western end of the famous 35 yards wide and nearly 800 yards long Hampi Bazaar area. The temple has a 120 feet tall tower at its eastern entrance. The temple houses the shrines of Shiva, Pampa and Bhuvaneswari.
Located 3 kms down the road, the temple of Malyavanta Raghunathaswamy is constructed in the Dravidian style of architecture. Strange motifs of fish and marine monsters engraved along its outer walls deserve appreciation.
The Vithala Temple Complex with its 56 musical pillars is one of the most splendid monuments and one of the finest tourist attractions in Hampi. To the east of the hall is located the famous Stone Chariot with stone wheels that actually move. Facing the shrine stands the great mandapa on a richly sculpted basement. Its roof is pillared with granite, around 15 feet in height, each again consisting of a central pillar enclosed by detached shafts, all cut from one single block of rock.
House of Victory was built to commemorate the victory of Krishnadeva Raya against the King of Orissa. The internal spaces between the rows of the plinth-moldings here are most intricately carved.
Westwards from the House of Victory, guiding through two ruined gates, the way leads to the Hazara Ramaswami temple which is believed to have been the private place of worship of a royal family. The chief attraction of the temple is the sequence of scenes from the Ramayana engraved on two of the inner walls of the mantapa.
The King’s Balance is where kings were weighed against gold, grain, or money which was later distributed amongst the poor. The Queen’s Bath used to be a swimming pool, 50 feet long and 6 feet deep, flaunting arched corridors, balconies and lotus-shaped fountains of perfumed water.
Sculpted in the shape of a lotus flower, the two-story structure of the Lotus Mahal with beautiful archways set in geometric pattern was an air-cooled summer palace of the queen.
The Elephant Stables is a beautiful example of the blend of Hindu and Muslim style of architecture, and was home to around 11 elephants in separate sections.
Mahanavami Dibba is a lion story wooden structure from which the kings and princes viewed the town with pomp, colour and revelry at the time of the Mahanadu festival.
Daroji Bear Sanctuary a rather new set up near Hampi in the eastern plains of Karnataka has proved a home for the Indian Sloth Bears.
Visit the village of Hampi during the Vijayanagar Festival which is organized by the Government of Karnataka in the month of December to make your trip worth remembering.