The group of monuments at Hampi are one of the UNESCO world heritage sites. We were spellbound by the beauty of the art and architecture of these monuments. These exquisite structures have stood the ravages of time. Now they stand as symbol of the grandeur of the Vijayanagar Empire.
What? Spend a whole day at temples??
Don’t be thrown off by the fact that these monuments are often referred to as ‘temples’. Historically, the major monuments in the kingdoms were created as temples but they also served as public halls and stages for dance recitals.
During the decline of Vijayanagar empire, the ‘temples’ were attacked and the deity statues were either destroyed or damaged. In Hindu beliefs if the statue is damaged, it not worshiped further. So none of the temples are places of worship now, apart from the Virupaksha temple, which is still a sacred place for the devotees.
Vithala group of monuments
We started our day at Vithala temple, i.e. from outside of the town to inside. This way we avoided the throngs of tourists who head there in the latter half of the day.
The campus from outside is bare except for the imposing gate. An unsuspecting visitor might even cast the place aside as mundane. However, once you step inside the campus you are enthralled by the beauty of Vijayanagar architecture. The majestic “stone chariot” in the center of the courtyard is also the symbol of Karnataka state tourism. The main temple facing the chariot has the famous musical pillars. The other mantaps in the campus are also beautiful. You wouldn’t be able to decide which structure is more attractive than the other.
The captivating carving on the walls and pillars take you back in time. You cannot help but admire the effort gone in carving the minute details on the pillars. The statues and sculptures though silent, seem to be telling a long lost tale – the tale of abundance at Vijaynagar.
Explore the main temple campus and the area around. You may find some hidden attraction among the numerous of interesting structures. If you venture behind the temples to the edge of the hill, you would discover the broken old bridge. We could see it winding across the river in to the distance. Very cool!
Royal enclosure and other monuments
Hampi being an archaeological site, monuments are sprinkled across town. Apart from the many temples, the royal enclosures and buildings of the empire also feature in places of interest. Most of these are worth a visit albeit a short visit.
- Royal enclosure or the royal palace was destroyed and now only the foundation remains. You are still able to make out the outline of the buildings. For us the main attraction here was the ‘stepped water tank’ and the aqueduct system for water supply. The engineering of that time is to be marveled at.
- Zanana enclosure or the ‘enclosure for the royal women’ is the name for a group of civil buildings. You start tour with the rooms for the ladies and the watch tower. But the key attractions lie ahead. Towards right of the garden is the Lotus mahal. This building is uniquely structured like an inverted lotus. As we stood back to admire the architecture we could make out the overlapping leaves of the lotus. When we moved ahead and crossed another gate, we reached the elephant stables. Even though the elephants are no longer around, the imposing edifice still held our interest. The row of 11 domed chambers are beautifully crafted and intricately designed.
- The Krishna temple has detailed carving and complex designs. However, we loved the open expanse of the ancient market area in front of the temple. It was a good place to relax and enjoy cool breeze after a warm day.
- The Ugra Narasimha temple, Shiva temple and Ganesha temples are dispersed over Hampi. But they tied together by the fact that the main idol for each one of them was crafted out of a huge monolithic rock. We were awe struck by the grand scale of the idols.
Hemakunta group of temples
These temples are situated on top of a hill. This is one of the best spots in Hampi for sunset view. We had the evening glow over the historic temples on one side. On the other side Sun was setting in the horizon over the green foliage of the wildlife sanctuary. Absolutely beautiful! You cannot miss this spectacle. We didn’t spend much time at the temples themselves, because we were pressed for time. After sunset, you can climb down the hill to the Virupaksha temple.
At the Hampi bazaar, Virupaksha temple stands tall as a guardian god looking over the city. The temple is still a place of worship, but visitors have to get an entry ticket. The temple is devoted to Lord Shiva and is older than the Vijaynagar Empire. Worshiping at such an old temple gives a peace of mind which cannot be explained. It is also home to the temple elephant Laxmi. You could offer it food and get blessings (and also photographs).
Hampi visit leaves a lasting impression. The beauty of the temples and other monuments has left an imprint in the back of our mind.
Do you have a story to tell about your Hampi experience? Drop in a comment or send us a mail. We will definitely reply. All the interesting tales will be published in a special feature.