Hampi (sometimes also known as Humpi or Hampe) is a place of both historic and religious significance in India. Once the capital of the Hindu Empire, Vijaynagara who ruled the South of India during the 14th – 16thcentury AD today the ruins of this empire and what remains of it form a vast open museum of abundant History, Architecture and Religion. Spread over an area more than 10 square mile, the ruins in Hampi is packed with temples, market streets, palaces and other ancient monuments.
Hampi, as it is popularly known today was the medieval capital of the Hindu empire Vijayanagara (the City of Victory). Hampi in the state of Karnataka in India is listed as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Hampi today is charismatic even in its ruined state. Thousands of tourists and pilgrims flock every year to this place. What adds o the immense beauty of the place is the vast stretches of boulder strewn hill which make the backdrop.
Walking around in Hampi one could find more than 500 monuments dotted around the hills and valleys, from temples, basaement of palaces, ancient market streets, remains of aquatic structures, bastions, treasury buildings, royal pavilions and much more. Hampi is both a backpacker’s paradise and a pilgrim’s delight.
In Hampi every turn is a surprise. Like an open museum Hampi has many monuments each with their description hiding more than you think. One could go on long walks exploring the immense beauty of this place whilst being taken back to an era that was so rich and full of culture.
Hampi is located in the state of Karnataka on India’s map Hampi, a southwestern province of India. It’s about 350 kilometers north of Bangalore, which is the state capital.
With Railway lines’ running through everywhere in India getting to Hampi is not much of a task. Hampi is primarily connected to the rest of the places by road, followed by the trains and then by air. The nearest railway station of Hospet located just 12 km away and is the main gateway to Hampi. Hospet is well connected to other important stations in the state like Bangalore,Hubli, Bijapur, Gutakal, Hyderabad in Karnataka and Vasco Da Gama in Goa. Train is the preferred mode of transport among people travelling to Hampi.
Hospet also has a bus station with frequent buses to the above mentioned places. The local bus services to Hampi also start from Hospet. The nearest airport to Hampi 60 kms away is Bellary. Other airports are Belgaum (190 km) and Bangalore (350 km). Flight connectivity depends on the destinations. Once you are in Hospet catch the local bus or hire a taxi/auto-rickshaw, in about 30 minutes you would be dropped at the centre of Hampi.
Once in Hampi there is so much to discover see and learn. You would be in awe of the majestic empire that once stood there. The ruins still have the power to intoxicate you with what it has to offer.
Like I mentioned earlier Hampi has both historic and religious significance. The ruins are a wonderful place to catch up on your history while the numerous temples stand as significant sites of religious importance.
I would like to list a few significant places that one should not miss while visiting Hampi. The Viatala Temple is dedicated to Lord Vitala, who is a form of the Hindu God Vishnu. This temple is a marvelous architectural highlight of Hampi. The temple complex is filled with many shrines and halls and the numerous pillars with animated carvings on it have been treasured for centuries. There is also a set of pillars called the musical pillars which resonate when tapped. A huge chariot completed whose wheels are carved out of stone stands right in front of the temple.
The Virupaksha temple is dedicated to Hindu God of destruction and is located on the riverbanks. This is believed to be amongst the oldest active temples in India from the 7th century AD. The temple complex consists of Gods statues, pillared halls and giant entrance towers.
For the historic freaks the Royal enclosure forms the most significant and awe striking feature of Hampi. It was once the seat of the erstwhile kings of the empire and now stands as a fortified campus. The Royal enclosure is a huge area with the ruins of many structures. Like the Mahanavami platform which the king used to watch the annual parade of the imperial majesty. This area is packed with palace bases, aquatic structures and underground temples etc.
Hemkuta Hill is also one of the most important tourist attractions. This stretch of rocky sheets has a large number of pre vijaynagar temples on the hilltop. The places of interest of this place are the triple chambered temples with a pyramid like graphite roof.
The riverside trek path that connects the old Hampi Bazaar and Vitala temple is filled with numerous shrines, carved artifacts. Ruins of ancient structures are also scattered all over the place.
The kadalekalu Ganesha and Sasivekalu Ganesha are both giant statues of Lord Ganesha, the Hindu God. According to mythology Lord Ganesha is the God of removing all obstructions. Kadalekalu which means gram seed in the local language Kannada and the name is aptly given because of the shape of this Ganesha Idol. Interestingly so even the Sasivekalu Ganesha has been coined its name because of the potbelly of the Idol which is the shape of a mustard seed.
Lord Krishna who is one of the ten incarnations of the Hindu God, Lord Vishnu has a temple dedicated to him called the Krishna Temple. This temple has been dedicated to lord Krishna in his infant form. The Temple complex is comprised of main shrines of Gods and Goddesses, the market place, the chariot and the temple tank. The main hall is a sequence of pillars carved with mythological creatures.
Laxmi-Narasimha is a giant monumental statue of the Man-lion God and is also the largest iconic symbol in Hampi. Lord Narsimha is also one of the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu who is shown to be seated in a legged position. Legend has it that the original image had his companion Laxmi seated on his lap. This image was destroyed during the invasion by the enemies. Today we can see only the hand of the Goddess resting on Lord Narsimha’s waist.
The Queen’s bath which is a part of the Royal region of the capital. This indoor aquatic complex was probably used by the royal ladies or the king. This majestic form has a large verandah and protruding balconies facing the main pool.
Some of the places you could also visit are the Lotus Mahal with its striking Islamic form of architecture in its roof and arches whereas the base is that of a typical Hindu architecture. The Elephant stables which used to house the elephants are long structures made of a succession of chambers designed with domical roofs. Each chamber could easily accommodate two elephants.
If walking is not your forte you could easily hire a bike or a moped to cover a wider area. You could also take an auto rickshaw ride across most of the common spots in Hampi. Families could also hire a large vehicle and a tour guide who is a trained guide and could assist you with your tour.
The best time to visit Hampi is undoubtedly during the Hampi festival which happened around January 27-29, 2011 this year. However, normally the festival is organized from November 3rd to 5th. The Hampi festival is a joyful festival packed full of music, dance, puppet shows and an array of other cultural activities that highlight the rick culture of this region and the rest of Karnataka. Otherwise the popular tourist season for visiting would be anytime in between October and February. This time of the year has the most pleasant weather conditions to make your trip favorable.