Hampi was in our bucket list for long. The place has everything that could possibly pull us towards itself – the story of a lost kingdom, architectural marvels from our past that we could boast of and a rugged yet alluring landscape. Hampi being a UNESCO World Heritage site was an added attraction (my love for these old, dull, decaying structures is now well known to my readers). So Hampi had to be in our trip when we visited Karnataka this year.
Where is the historical city Hampi?
Hampi, the historical and mythological city is located in Karnataka. From Bengaluru, the distance of Hampi is about 365 km and from Hyderabad, it is 380 km. So you can easily access the place from both Bengaluru and Hyderabad. Hospet is the nearest town. Thus Hampi can serve as a great weekend destination from Bangalore and Hyderabad.
What is the History of Hampi?
Hampi is full of stories – stories from the historical past as well as the mythological anecdotes. Infact, the history of the place gradually mingles with the folklore and then subtly blends with mythology.
Hampi is also known as the Pampa Kshetra and Kiskinda Kshetra. These magical stories of Hampi are inexorably linked with the Hindu mythology.
Pampa was the daughter of Lord Brahma. She was a fierce devotee of Lord Shiva. The Lord pleased with her devotion wanted to grant her a boon. She wanted him as her husband. Lord Shiva had to give in to Pampa’s demand, but before marrying her, the Lord did penance at the Hemakuta Hills (He was already married to Parvati). And then it rained gold on the hill. “Hema” is the Sanskrit term for gold and hence the hill came to be known as Hemakuta Hills.
Hampi is also known as Kiskinda Kshetra. It is said that the Vanara kingdom of Kiskinda of the Ramayana was actually here. The Kiskinda episode of the Hindu epic Ramayana was based here at Hampi. Infact, it is believed that Anjaneya Hills was the birthplace of Hanuman, the faithful devotee of Lord Rama.
Those were the mythological stories around Hampi. The history starts with the popular folklore that two local chieftains Hakka and Bukka were on a hunting expedition when they viewed an unusual sight. A hound was chasing a hare which was normal. But suddenly, the hare became all-powerful and started chasing the hound. Hakka and Bukka reported this strange incident to their guru (master) Vidyaranya. The Guru could foresee the place to be special and asked his disciples to shift their local capital to that very place. Thus one of the richest and most beautiful kingdoms were born. This was during 1323 when the two brothers laid the foundation of the Sangama dynasty, the first rulers of Vijaynagar, the City of Victory. From 1323 to 1565 for almost 200 years, four dynasties ruled over Hampi and made the Vijaynagar empire one of the richest and famous empires. Hampi was also one of the biggest trading centres of those times and the markets of Hampi were always abuzz with traders and merchants not only from India but also from other parts of the world. No wonder that we see so many market areas in Hampi!
Hampi had reached its pinnacle during the reign of Krishna Deva Raya of Tuluva dynasty who ruled between 1509 to 1529. Hampi at that time reached great heights under the progressive and international trading practices. Also, the art and architecture flourished with beautiful and magnificent temples being made around the city.
But the golden era of Hampi did not last long. The empire was brutally attacked by the Deccan Sultans during 1565 and Hampi fell under their attack. The Deccan Sultans looted and ransacked the city for almost six months leaving only mass destruction everywhere. The temples were damaged and the markets were robbed; ultimately nothing left of the great empire. The empire was ruled by different kings after the massive attack, but it could never regain its lost glory. Gradually, the city lost its strategic importance and gradually lost into oblivion. The city became a ghost city.
The story about the boulders of Hampi:
The boulders in Hampi has the composition of granite. They belong to what is known as Eastern Dharwar Craton. A craton is a piece of the Earth’s crust that has existed as a solid, without being modified by plate tectonics, since they were formed. These boulders are highly metamorphosed.
However, Hindu mythology has a more dramatic and colourful answer to the boulders of Hampi. The place was believed to be Kiskinda and there was a battle for power between the two monkey brothers Bali and Sugreeva. In the fierce battle between the two brothers, the army threw boulders at each other and thus these boulders were piled up all around Hampi. Well, almost everything in India has a mythological essence linked to it.
What is Hampi famous for?
Hampi is a wonderland. The place is like an open museum – you just have to explore the place at your own pace and discover its charm. And be ready to get surprised even at nondescript places; because even in ruins, Hampi is charismatic. So we have collated a list of places that should not be missed while you are at Hampi.
- The Virupaksha Temple
One of the most prominent structures of Hampi is the Virupaksha Temple located on the southern banks of the Tungabhadra River. Standing tall near the market area, it is not easy to miss the temple. It is an important place of worship for all the Shiva worshippers. The temple is a grand structure sprawling over a large area with many smaller shrines, pillared halls and gateways. The temple also has an interesting engineering marvel – working of one of the first pinhole cameras can be seen here.
- The Vijaya Vittala Temple
The Vijaya Vittala Temple is the most extravagant architectural wonder of Hampi. The temple is spread across a large complex where there are numerous halls, pavilions and gateways. Outside the main temple complex, there are other ruins also. Seems like an entire town had been set up there. In fact, it is the remains of the ancient town of Vittalapura. Vittala, another form of Lord Vishu was worshipped in the temple. The most extraordinary feature of this temple is the stone chariot.
- Hampi Bazar
Near the present day market of Hampi, also stands the old Hampi Bazar. The bazaar is also known as the Virupaksha Bazar and is located in front of the temple. The sides of the street are lined by old pavilions that used to the yesteryear markets.
- The Lakshmi Narasimha Temple
The Lakshmi Narasimha statue is the largest statue in Hampi. Narasimha is sitting on the coil of Seshnag, a giant seven-headed snake. The statue presents a menacing look of Lord Vishnu in his Narasimha avatar (incarnation). The original statue had Goddess Lakshmi sitting on the lap of the God. But the statue was damaged heavily during the fall of the Vijaynagar empire.
- Krishna Temple
The Krishna Temple was built by the King Krishnadevaraya in 1513 AD to commemorate his victory over the kingdom of Udaygiri or Utkala (in the present day Odisha). The main idol inside the temple was the figure of Balakrishna (Lord Krishna as an infant). This idol is now displayed in the state museum at Chennai. There is a huge slab inside the temple that tells the story of the conquest of Utkala.
- Hemakuta Hills
The hill is just near the Virupaksha Temple. The hill provides a gorgeous sight of the Virupaksha Temple and the other ruins of the Vijaynagar empire. The hill itself has a large number of ruins of temples, archways and pavilions. This is one of the places to view the splendid sunsets at Hampi.
- Sasivekalu Ganesha
The temple is situated very near to the Hemakuta hills and a little south of the Kadalekalu Ganesha Temple. This is a giant statue of Lord Ganesha.
- Kadalekalu Ganesha Temple
This temple is situated on the north-eastern slope of the Hemakuta Hills. Here a giant statue of Lord Ganesha is present that is carved out of a single stone.The belly of this statue resembles a Bengal gram (Kadalekalu, in local language) and hence the name.
- Matanga Hills
The Matanga Hill is just at the centre of Hampi and you can get a bird’s eye view of the entire place from here. while at Hampi, do not forget to view the spectacular sunset from the Matanga Hills. We missed the sunset at Hampi this time because it was raining heavily on both the evenings of our stay!
- Hazara Rama Temple
The Hazara Rama Temple was built in the early part of the 15th century by Devaraya II, the emperor of Vijaynagar. This small but beautiful temple is located in the centre of the royal area. The temple once served as the private temple of the royal household of the Vijaynagar empire. The “Hazara Rama” literally means “a thousand Rama” and the temple carries the story of Ramayana carved on stone. The relics found in this temple is one of the most extensive ones found in India.
- The Anjaneya Hill and Temple
The Anjaneya Hill is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Hanuman. The hill is located on the other side of River Tungabhadra on the Anegondi Area. There is a temple on the hilltop dedicated to Lord Hanuman.
- Pampa Sarovar
The Pampa Sarovar is one of the sacred ponds among the Hindus and is located near the Anjaneya Hills. There is a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and his consort Pampa Devi beside the pond.
- Durga Temple
The Durga temple is also located on the Anegondi side on a small hillock. The temple is located at the base of a fort. Hence it is also believed that its name is derived from the word “Durg”, meaning fort. We moved further from the temple towards the gate of the fort. There were a number of tombs belonging to the Vijayanagar dynasty. We trekked a further up and came to the edge of a rock. The place was simply out of the world. The whole of Hampi was in front of us – we got a panoramic view of the whole place. Didn’t I tell you that Hampi would surprise you at the strangest of places? We never thought that the place would be so beautiful.
Other places of interest at Hampi are the Queen’s Bath, Mahanavami Dibba, Zenana enclosure, Courtesan’s Street, Royal enclosure, Sugreeva’s cave and Bhima’s Gateway.
How to Reach Hampi?
The nearest railhead to Hampi is Hospet. Hospet is well connected to Bangalore by buses and train. From Hospet, you can take an auto to Hampi. We took an overnight bus from Bangalore to Hospet. From Hospet we took an auto to Hampi. The auto took Rs.150 from us. There are local buses from Hospet to Hampi that you can get from the Hospet bus stand.
The nearest airport to Hampi is the Bengaluru airport.
Places to stay & eat:
Hampi has a lot of accommodation options for various ranges. You can stay near the market area near the Virupaksha Temple where you will find a lot of options according to your choice. We stayed at the Rocky Guest House.
You can also opt to stay on the other side of the Tungabhadra River. There are a number of homestays in this area. This area has a Goa like feel to it. The foreigners mostly stay in this part.
Hampi has a number of restaurants for eating out. Most of the guest houses have restaurants on their top floor where you can eat.
If you want cheaper eating options, the best places are the roadside shops. We had great South Indian fares at the roadside at a very cheap rate.
What is the best time to Visit Hampi?
Hampi can be visited all round the year. but given that you have to roam around a lot around Hampi, the winter season are the preferable time. Also, the Hampi Festival is held during the month of November.
What is the best way to travel around Hampi?
Hampi is a place that should be explored and discovered by yourself. At Hampi, you will get bicycles at rent at very cheap rate. You will get bicycles without gear at Rs.100/- per day and with gear at Rs.150/- per day.
You can also get moped for rent at Rs.200/- per day. You will not get scooty and bikes for rent at the temple side of Hampi.
At the Anegundi site, you will get scooty and bikes for rent at Rs.250-400/- per day depending upon your vehicle.
The rate of the vehicles may also vary with seasons.
There are also autorickshaws that you can take to see the various places in Hampi.
Why should you visit Hampi?
If heritage and history is your thing, if you get intrigued by the stories of the past, then Hampi is a place that you must visit. Each stone in Hampi tells a story, be it stories about the Vijaynagar kingdom or the mythological stories that are so good to listen.
If you like the architecture of the past, visit Hampi. The Virupaksha Temple and the Vittala Temple are the finest examples of architectures. You will simply get awed by the intricate designs and craftsmanship of these structures.
If you like adventure, then you must visit Hampi. You will get wonderful opportunity to do bouldering. The coracle ride at the Tungabhadra river is also a beauty.
If you love nature, visit Hampi. A small temple town beside the Tungabhadra river dotted with numerous boulders seems a playground for nature’s architecture.
Simply visit Hampi. Unless you visit the place, you will definitely not know why you should visit Hampi.
Some important tips:
- Ideally, it would take around 3 days to visit Hampi. But you can see most of the important places in two days. We did a two days trip to Hampi and covered almost all the places. Unfortunately, we had to miss the Matunga Hills as it was raining heavily in the evening on both the days.
- Most of the places are opened from sunrise to sunset.
- Wear comfortable clothes and shoes as you have to roam around a lot in Hampi. That is why shoes are very important.
- Reserve one day for the Anegondi side of Hampi. Believe me, this also a wonderful place. The views from the Anjaneya Hills and the top of the Durga Temple is simply breathtaking.
- While at Hampi, do not forget to take a coracle ride at the Tungabhadra River. This is going to be an experience of a lifetime.
- Do not forget to meet Lakhsmi, the elephant of the Virupaksha temple. Lakshmi goes for a bath every morning at the Tungabhadra River. try not to miss the scene.
- You can cross the Tungabhadra River near the Virupaksha temple to go towards the other side. There are motor boats that take Rs.25/- per head. And if you want, you can also get a coracle to cross the river to the other side.
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