A religious place, a historical destination, a UNESCO World Heritage site- Hampi is all rolled into one. Situated about 350kms north of Bangalore, Hampi is a unique and legendary place to visit. Once the capital of the popular Hindu empire Vijayanagara, the monuments of Hampi signify the grandeur, opulence of the era gone by. Apart from the historical and archeological magnificence Hampi is also popular for its natural beauty and wildlife and ecological retreats.
The peculiarity of this place lies in the giant boulders that can be spotted across the hills, the lush green surroundings, the beautiful river that flows bisecting the town and making a spectacular sight. The complete landscape is filled with ancient monuments, forts, temples, palaces which have stood the test of times. The ruins that are spread in an area of 25 square kilometers are a complete tourist’s delight owing to the diversity of its offerings.
While Hampi is a round the year destination for tourists, the best time to visit this historical town is in winters.
While summers can be extremely hot and dry, monsoons can be a spoil sport as most of the places across have to be visited on foot.
During winters the weather remains extremely pleasant and is a convenient time to explore and discover the ruins.
How to Reach
The key mode of transportation to this historical town is by road. The nearest railhead is in Hospet which is about 12 km away and is connected to all the major cities and towns in South India like Bangalore, Hyderabad, Hubli, Bijapur, Guntakal and Goa. Regular state bus service is available from Hospet to Hampi. Bellary is the nearest airport which is about 60 km away and Hubli is about 170 km away. Belgaum is about 190 km and Bangalore is about 350 km away.
The humble and serene destination Hampi is all about exploring the rich and diverse culture of this place. Given its location, Hampi has a distinct mark of both Hindu and Islamic culture apart from Jainism, which was the third major religion followed in the place. The diverse culture is evident from the archeological ruins of this destination.
One can spend about 3-4 days easily exploring these ruins. Hampi boasts of many grand temples and monuments of the grand era of the Hindu empire of Vijayanagara. Some of the key temples and monuments include:
Vittala Temple dedicated to Lord Vittala, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, according to the Hindu mythology. The temple is a live example of the archeological magnificence as it comprises of many shrines and halls. The pillars in the halls have exquisite carvings and also have a set popularly known as ‘musical pillars’ which exude musical sounds when tapped. The main entrance of the temple has a huge chariot made of stone. Even the wheels of this chariot are carved out of stone.
There are many other small and elaborate temples around the Vittala temple.
Dedicated to the God of destruction, as per Hindu mythology, is the Virupaksha temple, which is also believed to be one of the oldest and active temples in the country dating back to 7th century A.D. It is a monument of both mythological and historical importance and is extremely popular for carrying out sacred and age old Hindu religious functions. The architecture of this temple is extremely intricate and exquisite.
Another area one must visit is the Royal Enclosure, an extensive campus comprising of the seat of the erstwhile Kings and many stately structures. This is the place from where the Kings used to watch annual proceedings and conduct day to day affairs. The area is filled with an underground temple, various bases of the palace and water structures.
Another interesting area to visit is the ruins alongside the river. The path that connects the ancient bazaar/market place of Hampi to the Vittala temple is filled with ruins of carved structures, artifacts, shrines, etc. One of the most enthralling structure is on a boulder on the river shore having a matrix like pattern of 1008 shiv lingas. A lot of people come to have a look at this magnificent piece of art.
On the top of a hill are built triple chambered temples with pyramid like granite roof tops dating back to the pre Vijayanagara dynasty era. These are Hemakuta temples which are of mythological significance according to the local folklore and are built in large numbers on this hill top.
On the slopes of the Hemkuta hills is carved the 4.6 meters or about 14 feet tall sculpture of Lord Ganesha, known as the Kadalekalu Ganesha temple. The shrine has tall and slender granite pillars which are decorated with carvings around the various mythological stories. The statue of the Lord is in the form of a gram seed which is called Kadalekalu in local language. And hence the temple was named as Kadalekalu Ganesha.
Another giant statue of Lord Ganesha, situated in an open exhibition style area is called the Sasivekalu Ganesha. The statue of the Lord has four arms and the potbelly is in the form of a mustard seed. The temple is an exquisite example of the artistry from the era of Vijayanagara dynasty. Since mustard seed is called Sasivekalu in local language so the temple is named as Sasivekalu temple.
Dedicated to the infant form (crawling form) of Lord Krishna is the Krishna temple comprising of the main shrine of the Lord, shrines of goddesses, chariot, market place, a water tank and pillars having mythological carvings.
The largest iconic temple in Hampi is the Lakshmi Narsimha temple. The Lord is one of the tenth incarnations of Lord Vishnu and is in the form of a Man-Lion God. In the statue the Lord is seated in cross legged position. It is believed that the original image got destroyed in one of the enemy invasions where one could see Goddess Lakshmi sitting on the lap of the Lord. Now only her hand is visible resting on his waist.
The private temple of the king depicting the special feature of the temples of the Vijayanagra dynasty is the Hazara Rama temple. The temple houses exquisite carvings on the outer walls with story of the great Hindu epic Ramayana. The inner walls of the shrine have four polished pillars with carvings based on mythological themes.
Another temple dedicated to Lord Rama is the Pattabhirama temple with an expansive campus and series of pillars having carvings of tall mythical beats. Other temples of importance in Hampi are the Achyuta Raya’s Temple, and Anjaneya Hill & Temple.
A fine example of the Indo-Islamic architecture is the Queen’s bath, a structure that belonged to the king or the royal ladies of the kingdom and was a apart of the royal area of the kingdom. The complex has a large verandah with protruding balconies facing inside towards the central pool.
Another flamboyant structure having Indo-Islamic architecture is the Lotus Mahal. This structure is like a huge exhibition area which is believed to have been used by the queens for their entertainment or the military head as his office. The roofs and base of the structure are like any Hindu temple and one can find numerous arches which are typical of Islamic architecture.
A long structure with many chambers and dome style roofs meant for the royal elephants is the Elephant Stable. The structure comprised of a central hall with an intricate tower perhaps used for the ceremonial band troop and the chambers which could accommodate about two elephants each.
The first museum established by the Archeological Survey of India, the Archeological Museum of Hampi displays the artifacts and ancient sculptures from the past dynasties that have ruled Hampi, particularly from the era of King Krishnadevraya of the Vijayanagara dynasty.
Hampi also boasts of an elaborate festive calendar that spreads throughout the year. Starting with January/February is the Purandaradasa Aradhana festival which is typically a classical music festival celebrated every year to commemorate the birth anniversary of ancient poet Purandarad who resided in Hampi. The festival spreading over a period of 2-3 days is attended by musicians of national and international repute.
Sivaratri is celebrated across the various Shiva temples in Hampi during the period of February and March. Nightlong religious offerings are made to the Shivalinga at the Virupaksha temple.
In the month of March/April is the largest religious festival of Hampi, Virupaksha Car festival. The festival marks the annual ritual marriage of the God and Goddess. As part of the festival a giant wooden chariot also known as the temple car is taken through a procession in the main chariot street in Hampi. The idols of the God and Goddess are kept on the chariot which are the main highlight of the procession.
While Diwali is a national festival and is not just particular to Hampi, one can look forward to the local procession of the Virupaksha temple where the temple elephants participate followed by ceremonial functions during the evening.
The Hampi festival in November is the largest festival of the town and is primarily scheduled for a period of 3 days. The festival is a grand mix of dance, music, puppet shows along with fireworks and a gala procession as a finale showcasing the cultural richness of Hampi. Renowned artists from across the country participate in this mega festival. Recently activities like water sports, rural sports, rock climbing, rappelling, cycle rides, cycling, hot air ballooning have been included in the festival.
In the month of December is celebrated the Phalapuja festival held at the Virupaksha temple to mark the ceremonial betrothal of the God and the Goddess.
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