Ruins evoke a strong sense of history, reflections on times gone by, the lifestyle of royals, royal adventures and many a thing which we can only imagine. In this context, India does not lag behind being the mother of ancient civilizations, dynasties and kingdoms which used to rule for several centuries. Sons and grandsons only carried forward the legacy and grandeur of several kingdoms before finally the kingdom was destroyed by some invading armies.
Today,I am talking about the erstwhile vijayanagara kingdom and the Hampi ruins. The Hampi ruins have been declared as a world heritage site by UNESCO and it lies in the Indian state of Karnataka. It was the centre and capital of the famed Vijayanagara Empire which flourished in the 14th century. Situated on the banks of the tungabatra river, Hampi was a prosperous, grand and a wealthy city with many temples, water tanks, public spaces and markets where trade in all forms flourished. It attracted travelers and traders from Persia and Europe till the empire was finally attacked by Muslim Sultanates in 1565 and since then Hampi has remained in ruins. As you wander around visiting the palace sites, temples and market area, you can re imagine a grand city in all its glory. One can also find slabs with sculpted figurines lying beside the meandering tungabatra river. You can visualize what a maginificant city it must have been where gold and other precious stones and metals were traded.
But, let’s go back a little into the prehistoric era. As per the Hindu legends, Hampi existed much before the vijayanagara empire and is associated with the ‘pampakshetra’ which is mentioned in the epic ramayana. It is derived from the name Pampa which is another name for the goddess Parvati’. As the site is associated with the epic ramyana, we can also visit ‘Anjanikshetra’ which is the birthplace of Lord Hanuman.But,we will come to that lateron.
In and around the ruins of Hampi, several temples are located. Notable among them being the ‘Virupaksha ’, achutaraya, vittala , hazararama and pattabirama temples, Hemkuta hill monuments, and jain monuments. There is also a shiva temple which is immersed in water and you have to wade through the water to reach the lingam kept in the inner sanctum. Quite an adventure!
Near the ruins of the Krishna temple is the largest statue of yoga narasimha avatar of lord Vishnu seated in a yogi position. The statue shows extensive damage, but it has been cleaned and partially restored. The Mahanavami or the great platform is a grand structure with three ascending stages leading to a large square platform .There is also a water pavilion which is also called the queen’s bath. It has the usual advanced technology of receiving and flushing away water which we can find in all old monuments in India. Hampi also had a good system of drainage and aqueducts.
Hampi can be approached from both the states of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. I went from Bangalore and took the overnight train to Hospet. You can stay in either side of the Tungabatra river and I found many foreigners staying across the river. However, the boat service to cross the river is stopped in the evening. We took a room nearer to the bus stand and stayed. From here you can arrange a taxi to visit all the nearby places in Hampi.
In my next post,I shall take you to the anjani temple on top of the hill across the river.