Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The lost empire - Hampi

One word to describe my feeling - OVERWHELMING.

Such rich heritage and architecture all bound in one place. No one leaves without astonishment and awe after witnessing all those marvelous architecture, culture and heritage that was once the Vijayanagar empire. 

Each and every item needed for everyday life then is carved in stone - the weights, the massive doors, the beams, the Gods, the bells, the culverts, the canals, the plate to serve food, even the musical instruments are carved out of stone. You can see why - Vijayanagar is all surrounded by hills and mountains, barren and rocky. These mountains served as natural fortress and provided the much needed raw material - the stones. One one side is the much needed river Tungabhadra for civilization.

The town was made to be self-sufficient - temples, quarters, rest area for travelers, community hall, kitchen, bathing area, stables, wedding halls, recreation area, court of law, punishment yard and nobleman's quarters. You name it and they had it! Having read about the richness of Vijayanagara empire(precious stones being sold in bazaars and on roads heaped up like vegetables), I had this long waited wish to visit Hampi. It took me so long to finally experience the richness called Hampi.

The kingdom was so powerful that none of the kings lost their life in war battle; no one dared to wage war with them. Their death occurred due to diseases and old-age. Krishnadevaraya died due to gonorrhea; they were connoisseurs of women and art. This one weakness led to the decline of the Vijayanagar empire much later; when Krishnadevaraya's son-in-law fell for a wicked political conspiracy by the Deccan Muslim confederacy.

 We spent one entire day at Hampi; yet left with lots more to explore. Hired a guide who told us a lot about its origin and the background of each temple and its architecture.

The Virupaksha temple complex. On the right is the group of Jain temples.

The Sasuvekalu Ganesha - sasuvekalu means 'mustard seeds' in Kannada. This monolithic stone has Ganesh in the foreground and behind is the carving of his mother Gauri.

The gopuram of the Virupaksha temple at a height of 49m. This temple predates the Vijayanagara empire. We could see musical instruments used during those period. The main God is Lord Shiva and this temple is still used for worship and thus is the oldest functioning temple in India since 7th century. 

Inside the temple; at one corner at the rear is the inverted shadow of the gopuram - the pin-hole camera effect formed due to a slit on the wall.

The English restored major portion of the temple during their rule in India. One such instance is the beam installed here during the early 1900s to support the massive pillars. On closer look; you can make out the "Made in England" tag. Its strong and functional even to this day

Long before Michelangelo painted the ceilings of the Sistine Chapel, the people of Hampi had painted the ceilings of the Virupaksha temple with rich stories of the Ramayana with elaborate details. Its legible and clear even to this day. One can not help but marvel and your eyes can never say enough!

The world famous bazaar street where gold and precious stones were heaped up like vegetables in front of the Virupaksha temple. The Chinese traded silk for gold and precious stones while the Turks and Arabs traded horses with them. What we see now is a dusty lane showing no signs of splendor and pomp that it held once. Behind these makeshift shops are the centuries old buildings belonging to then era. Efforts are in progress by the ASI to reclaim them.

The Kadalekalu Ganesha - Kadalekalu meaning 'Bengal gram'. It denotes the belly of the Lord which resembles a Bengal gram. It is monolithic and the idol has been destroyed. The belly and the right hand were destroyed by the Muslim invaders. The effort to restore by ASI was challenged by the Kannada poet Shivaram Karanth. He was against restoration so that the generations after us never missed the history and its originality.

Ugra Narasimha.

Remains of foundation of what earlier housed quarters for travelers and noblemen. Travelers came from far away lands. They were well taken care.

Lotus Mahal temple. Served as a recreation area for royal women. Its architecture and decorations are a curious mix of Hindu and Islamic style.

Elephant stables. The mid one has a Dravidian style gopuram. Found alternatively are the Islamic and Jain style gopurams - Nonreligious and secular.

Hazara Rama temple complex - carvings of the story of Ramayana.

Well laid aqueducts and canals to supply water through the town.

Remains of what used to be the palace. The palace was built of wood; which was destroyed along with others when the Deccan confederacy  attacked the empire. 

Plates on which food was served. Hmm.....

Stepped tank also called Pushkarni. This tank was delicately excavated so as not to damage the intricacy.

Remaining in the next post :)


  1. As usual, you are taking us down the lanes of history.Beautiful pictures.Your new camera serves you good.
    I am surprised. We have such a rich history to boast about.How come we deterioted in culture andv civic sense? Countries with no past or history are leading the world now!

  2. I agree with dr.anatomy. We have so rich and can-be-proud-of history and culture yet today we all know where our country stands in terms of it.

    Anyway, back to your post your travelogues are so very detailed and a nice read. of course not to mention with beautiful photographs!

    It's nice you get a chance to explore these wonderful places! :)

  3. What a wonderful place to be in... rich in tradition, art, culture and history!
    The stone plates are fascinating!! Would love to visit it some time!! Very interesting travelogue and lovely clicks!

  4. I was once asked by a friend (while playing a game), "Where would you like to go if you get a time-machine?" I remember answering, Vijayanagara empire of 16th century.
    It's so beautiful, isn't it? It's been a long time since I visited, and I was meaning to visit it again soon. This post just intensified that urge.
    Excellent pictures. :)
    But I was hoping to see one more picture. Stone Chariot. It has fascinated me since childhood. :)
    Thanks for writing this post. :)

  5. it's been on my wishlist for a long time now!! I wanna visit this place..dunno when though! great post and clicks..makes me all the more curious to visit it! :)

  6. Insignia,

    Superb post. Short and sweet history lesson and beautiful pictures. I would say it is perfect travel post.

  7. dr.antony,

    I fail to understand the same. When did we lose our civic sense and character? Was it after Mughal invasion? Was it after British invasion?

    We have so much to offer to other countries; yet we know where we stand.


    Thanks, glad you liked them. Dont miss a chance to visit Hampi.


    Yes! its worth. Thank you


    Long time no see. Happy to see you here.
    Yes, its time you make a trip soon :)

    I am yet to share the Vittala temple complex. The chariot of course! How would I leave Hampi without taking a picture of it? Next post for sure. It has fascinated me since as long as I can remember :)


    Madam, make it a reality. Its worth, I am sure you will go blank.


    Thanks, glad you liked it.

  8. B, this has become a certain part of your blogging- going back into the past and with good visuals. Well done indeed.
    The pity part of such places of historical and medieval significance is the absence of educated and resourceful men or women to act as guides. My journey to Agra and Fathepursikri , not to forget the Padmanabhapuram palace in Tamilnad, south of Trivandrum were marred by stupid guys who were guides for me.they lacked knowledge, education and words . One ended up wishing having not gone there. In contrast the wonderful time we had in Vatican and Rome with guides who were masters in history and earnest students of the ancient history was an unforgettable experience.

  9. OMG , I visited there last week and about to put the post for the saem :P . Wat a coincidence ;)
    I missed that thali in which they serve food :(

  10. Very good read and sharp photographs!

  11. Beautiful!! narration and photos too. I have to check your earlier posts also , had taken a break.
    The inverted image on the wall is amazing.

  12. wow gal you have travelled to so many places :D
    awesome captures. Thnaks for such a wonderful tour.

  13. Beautifully written and awesome snaps...

  14. As always, super post. Excellent narration of this historic place. Thanks for sharing the pictures. Loved the elephant stables and the food plates.

  15. anil,

    Yeah, doing my bit. I always wonder how it would have been to be living in that era. Every task required physical labor, no technology, no computers, no internet....

    How people lived, how did they diagnose illness?

    History is rich and it always makes me curious. I agree with you about the absence of educated and resourceful guides. Fortunately, the guide we hired was comprehensive and gave us detailed insights about Hampi. He was one of the best among the lots we hired everywhere else.

    You say Vatican and Rome? Now! Now! I have my plans and to-do list but dont know when :( You just woke up the sedated mind. Europe I am coming!!


    Oow it was fantastic isnt it? I am sure you enjoyed.
    I was staring at the thali for a long time; I was like "This is impossible"


    Thanks a lot, glad you liked them


    Thanks chitra. Yes the pin-hole camera effect was discovered by an English gentleman in the early 1900s


    Yeah yeah and I have to travel a lot more. Thanks


    Thank you, glad you liked them


    Thanks, glad you liked. The elephant stables is so majestic and the food plates are huge and heavy

  16. Hello Insignia,

    I stumbled upon your blog while researching for our trip to Hampi. No doubt, your writing is awesome and gave lot of insight into the historical facts of Hampi with illustrative pictures. This is great.

    If you can tell us, when will be the right time to go to Hampi. We are planning for 1st week of April. Will it be too hot then? How about lodging and fooding and other places to visit nearby Hampi. If you can guide us..it will be great...

    Thanks in advance..

  17. sourav,

    Thank you. Glad you liked this post.

    Avoiding summer is advisable. I went in mid-January and yet it was hot(I must add that I have low tolerance to heat)

    Hampi is in Bellary district and its very dry and hot in summers. Entry point to Hampi is Hospet. Hampi site is about 14 kms away from Hospet. You can find lodging and boarding there. There are few restaurants in the ruins; and KTDC hotels as well. A simple North Karnataka meal is worth trying.

    Nearby places to Hampi would be the historical towns of Badami, aihole and Pattadakkal which is about 175 kms away in further north. If you have time, dont miss these places. Further north 60 kms is Bijapur - home to Bahamani Sultanate. All these are worth visiting.

    Hope this helps.

    you can check my earlier posts on Bijapur, Badami, Aihole and Pattadakkal for a gist.

  18. beautiful shots
    like your title
    Lost Empire perfect

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