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hampiThe splendid city of ruins, Hampi, located not far away from Bangalore. As a World Heritage Center, Hampi offers the most stunning and reminiscent of all the ruins in Karnataka. This erstwhile capital of the Vijayanagar Empire possesses some exquisite models of temple architecture of that period. One can still have the glance of the majesty of Vijayanagara - one of the largest empires in the history of India – even in its ruins. The Vijayanagar Kings were great benefactors of Art & Architecture as apparent by the immense ruins of Hampi. Hampi is also considered to be the historic place Kishkinda in Ramayana.

Hampi is an abode of as many as 500 monuments, each with a story behind it, reflecting a captivating history reaching the apex of glory and then stumbling to a decline of absolute negligence. The name Hampi derived from the word Pampa, the ancient name for the River Tungabhadra that flows through the city. Hampi is renowned by many names - Vijayanagara named after the ruling kingdom and capital city, and Virupakshapura named after the revered deity Shiva. Hampi is considered as a sacred place for the Hindus as it is believed that Pampa was Lord Brahma's daughter, who married Lord Shiva, and thus the place was called Pampakshetra. Around it grew the biggest ever empire of South India, the Vijayanagar Empire in 1336 A.D. till it succumbed to the attacks of the Mughals.
History of Hampi
Hampi has a history from dating back in the epical age of Ramayana. During “Tretha Yuga” Hampi served as the capital city Kishkinda- the Vanara Empire. Hampi has an empirical history as the capital city of the Vijayanagara Empire. The history of Hampi in the epical age begins and ends with the Ramayana in Threta Yuga. There are a lot of evidences in support to prove that Hampi might have been the capital of the mighty monkey kingdom - Kishkindha. The entire Kishkindha Kanda depicted in Valmiki Ramayana was taken place in and around Hampi. This is believed to be the very place where Hanuman was born and where he met his idol Lord Rama; and the fight between Bali and Sugriva taken place.

It is a well accepted fact that Vijayanagara Empire was built by the two brothers Harihara and Bukka Raya in the year 1336 on the order and with the blessings of their religious Guru Saint Vidyaranya. It was not just the largest Hindu empire of its time, but was also one of the largest trading centers in the world during that age. Merchants from all over the world used to gather in the markets of Hampi to barter their goods in exchange of spices and cotton, grown abundantly in the area. Hampi was so prosperous that precious stones like rubies, diamonds etc were sold on the streets in the scale of seers. Hampi was a flourished place and had a population of over half a million during Vijayanagara Empire. The city was significant not just for the traders but for devotees and poets as well. There were temples built in hundreds, which stand as a confirmation for the religious inclination of Hampi. Public ceremonials and fiestas were celebrated in their true meaning. Renowned persons like Shri Purandhara Dasa and Tenali Rama are connected with Hampi.

After seeing its golden days during the reign of King Krishna Deva Raya (AD 1509 - 1529), Hampi fell down to the attacks of the five Sultans of Deccan - Bidar, Bijapur, Golconda, Ahmednagar and Berar in the year 1565. The city was looted for a period of 6 months. The temples were destroyed and the markets were plundered. The golden empire had come to an end.
Air :The nearest airport is Bellary (74 km). Other convenient airports are at Belgaum (190 km) and Bangalore (350 km).

Rail : Hospet, the nearest railhead (13 km), is linked by rail to Bangalore, Bijapur, Hubli and Gunfakal.

Road : 350 kms from Bangalore by road. Hampi is also connected by road to Hubli (150 km) and Hospet (122 km).
Hampi’s climate is generally warm and dry. During the summer season (March to May) the temperature reaches a maximum of 40°C. Monsoon (June to August) brings some wet weather with good showers. The winter period in Hampi is from November to February, during which the climate is very pleasant and cool. During winter day temperature is less than 30°C and night temperature can go as low as 12°C.
Tourist Attractions
Vittala Temple
As the center of attraction of Hampi, Vittala Temple displays the most extravagant architectural showpiece of Hampi. Words cannot express the beauty of this monument. This astonishing monument is dedicated to Lord Vitthala or Lord Vishnu. There is a myth connected with this temple which states that Lord Vishnu found it too ostentatious to live in and thus returned to his own modest home. This temple id dated back to 15th century AD. The temple is built in the form of an extensive campus with compound wall and gateway towers. One can find numerous halls, pavilions and temples sited inside this campus. The best part of Vittala temple is the imposing pillared halls and the stone chariot. The halls are engraved with devastating array of sculptures on the massive granite pillars. The stone chariot positioned inside the campus is almost an iconic construction of Hampi.

Built mainly on the original Dravidian Temple architecture, this temple has all the stuff a typical South Indian temple would have. The statuettes on this temple give an insight into the architectural majesty attained by the artisans of Vijayanagara Empire. The temple consists of 56 musical pillars. When tapped gently, these pillars produce musical sounds. These pillars are popularly known as Musical Pillars or Sapta Swara pillars after the Saptha Swaras – ‘Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Da Ni’ of Indian Classical Music.
Stone Chariot
Though located inside the Vittala Temple complex, the Stone Chariot deserves a special attention because of its marvelous architecture. In fact the Stone Chariot is a shrine built in the shape of a temple chariot. A figure of Garuda (the eagle god) was initially enshrined within its sanctum. According to Hindu mythology, Garuda serves as the vehicle of lord Vishnu. Thus the Garuda shrine in front of the temple’s sanctum is emblematic. This chariot is constructed by numerous huge blocks of granites so creatively that it resembles a monolithic one.

The construction is so marvelous that one cannot spot the joints easily. They are artistically veiled in the carvings and other ornamental features that adorn the Stone Chariot. The chariot is constructed on a rectangular dais of a feet or so high. This rectangular platform is beautifully engraved with mythical battle scenes. Despite the fact that the chariot is not resting on it, the four giant wheels attached impersonate the real life ones completely with the axis shafts & the brakes. A sequence of concentric floral motifs adorns the wheels. It seems from the marks on the podium, where the wheels rest that they were free to move around the axis. One can find the remnants of the painting on the carvings of the chariot, perhaps as it was relatively protected from the natural wearing elements. It is supposed that the whole of the Vittala Temple’s sculptures were once brilliantly painted in similar fashion using the minerals as medium. Two elephants are positioned in front of the chariot as if they are pulling the chariot. It is considered that two horses were originally carved in that position. The tails and the rear legs of the horses can be still seen just behind these elephant sculptures.
Lotus Palace
One can find an exquisite pavilion called the Lotus Palace in the walled area of zenana (women's quarters). It is assumed that the women of the royal family, who lived in the nearby Queens' Palace, disported themselves in the water pavilion within their sheltered area and met in the Lotus Palace. This palace is a complex and intricate blend of Indo-Islamic architecture and gets its name from the lotus bud carved on its domed and vaulted ceiling. This palace is also called as Chitragani Mahal and Kamal Mahal. Lotus Palace can be placed under the secular or nonreligious categories of structures in Hampi. It is strange to note down that this is one of the stunning structures that were left intact during the siege of the city. Yet there are a few signs of mutilations on some sculptures to be found on the outer surface. Unlike other chief structures in Hampi, this one is constructed out of lime mortar and brick made composition. The night illumination in this place is a spectacular sight.
Hazara Rama Temple
The Hazara Rama Temple built within a rectangular complex lies at the heart of the Royal Centre. This temple is dated back to early 15th century. The hall of the Hazara Rama Temple houses beautifully carved basalt pillars illustrating the incarnations of Vishnu. Around the outer walls of the hall one can find three rows of sculptures depicting the main events from the Ramayana. This temple is held to have been the private worship place of the Royal family. This unused temple consisted of a sanctum, an ardha mantapa and a pillared hall to which an open porch with tall and elegant pillars was added subsequently.

As the name depicts, this temple is famous for its panels carved displaying the story of Ramayana. This is the only temple in Hampi where one can see bas-reliefs boldly chiseled on the exterior walls. These bas-reliefs are narrative in nature. The Ramayana epic is carved in detail. Incidents in the story like Dasaratha performing a ritual to beget sons, the birth of Rama, his exile into the forest, the abduction of Sita and the ultimate fight between Rama and Ravana are all carved in a vivid manner. In these panels, the narrative of Rama and through it the conquest of good over evil is brought out. The origins of Hampi dated back to Threta Yaga when it was the monkey kingdom Kishkindha. Inside the holy sanctum, on the wall there are two rare depictions of Vishnu as the Buddha. Even if the temple is small it is a fine model of the skill of Vijayanagara's sculptors. Only master craftsmen can wheedle filigree and lace out of Deccan stone.
Stepped Tank
One of the stunning relics in the Durbar area is tile Stepped Tank constructed in chlorite schist, used by the royals and for religious purposes. The petite but tidy tank is about 22 square meters and about 7 meters deep. It has five distinct tiers, each fixed with steps set in a pleasant pattern. The mason marks on the individual blocks demonstrating the direction, the row and the spot of the steps disclose that the layout of this stepped tank was well thought out in advance and all the different block stones were prepared in accordance with the plan elsewhere and assembled on the site later. This tank was discovered during the recent excavations.
Prasanna Virupaksha Temple
More popularly known as Underground Virupaksha Temple, this is situated to the west of the Danaik's Enclosure. One can find a large broken loose slab containing an inscription that records a grant to the temple of Prasanna Virupaksha by King Krishna Deva Raya on the occasion of his coronation. This temple is constructed many meters below the original ground level. For this reason, almost all the time the sanctum and the core parts of the temple are under water, restricting entry to the inner areas. A water canal system too is visible around the main temple. But this canal is dry and you can walk down to a point from where it's impossible to go further. The temple is much ramshackle. The large and wide two-tiered gupura on the east has no superstructure extant. The main sanctum has many axial mantapas. The easternmost of these is a pillared seven-aisled maha-mantapa with a tall and tapering dipa or dhwaja stambha protruding through its roof top. It has been believed that this is one of the oldest temples in Hampi.
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