The ancient Kishkindha of the Ramayana is believed to have been situated close to Hampi. Kishkindha was ruled by the monkey-chiefs, Vali and Sugriva.
It is said that after a quarrel, Sugriva - who had been driven out - took refuge on the Matanga-parvatam, along with Hanuman. After Sita had been carried away to Lanka by Ravaņa, Rama and Lakshmaņa came south in search of Sita and met the refugees, Sugriva and Hanuman. Rama killed Vali, restored to Sugriva his kingdom and them stayed on the Malyavanta Hill nearby awaiting the results of Hanuman's search for Sita in Lanka.
Hampi and its environs are considered holy ground and many of its sites and names are connected with the episodes of the Ramayana. Thus the Matanga-parvatam, on which Sugriva took refuge, is a steep hili on the south bank of the Tungabhadra and to the east of the Hampi village.
The Malyavanta hill, on which Rama stayed, is on the road to Kampili and has a Raghunatha temple with a large image of Rama. A huge mound of scorious ash in the adjacent village of Nimbapuram is believed to be the cremated remains of Vali.
A cavern on the southern bank of the Tungabhadra is said to be the cave where Sugriva hid Sita’s jewels for safety, while certain marks and streaks on the sheet rock near it are pointed out as the marks made by Sita’s garments.
Prior to the rise of the Vijayanagara dynasty in the mid 14th Century C.E., Hampi and its environs were under the control of various dynasties which ruled over the Karnataka country in succession - the Kadambas, the Chälukyas of Badami, the Rashtrakutas, the Chalukyas of Kalyāni, the Hoysalas, Yādavas and others.
In the first half of the fourteenth century, south India was affected by the inroads of Malik Kafar, the general of Alau'd-Din Khalji, and by the imperial ambitions of Muhammad-bin Tughlaq. The attempt of the southern powers to resist these advances finally culminated in the rise of the Vijayanagara empire and its continuation for nearly four centuries.
The empire soon rose to such heights that it won the admiration of contemporary visitors. Accounts by Abdur Razzaq, the Persian ambassador and Niccolo de Conti, a Venetian merchant and explorer, both of whom visited during the reign of Devaraya II (1422-1446 CE) record the achievements of Vijayanagara's architects and sculptors.
The panorama is from the Vitthala Temple Complex, and pans past the Stone Chariot, an incomparable example of the Vijayanagara Empire's artistic achievements.
Devaraya II's reign ended in 1446 CE. It was followed by several decades of decline and disruption - weak rulers, foreign inroads, political murders and usurpations leading to changes of dynasty.
In 1505, Vira Narasimha became king after the imprisoned boy-king Immadi Narasimha was murdered, and the third or Tuluva dynasty began. He ruled just a few years, and in 1509, he was succeeded by his step-brother Krishnadeva Raya. With this began the reign of one of the greatest Vijayanagara rulers, and the empire passed through a golden age, extending its writ to all of Southern India, and as far north as Orissa. Krishnadeva Raya also maintained friendly diplomatic relations with the Portuguese on the western coast.
Duarte Barbosa (cousin of Ferdinand Magellan, the celebrated world-circumnavigator) and the Portuguese chroniclers Paes and Nuniz were amongst the many foreigners who visited Vijayanagara during Krishnadeva Raya's reign.
They have left glowing and graphic accounts of the magnificence of the capital, its court, buildings and festivals.
Krishnadeva Raya's death in 1529 CE was followed by a period of steady decline. He was succeeded by step-brother Achyuta Raya (1529-1542).
The big defeat came during the regency of Rama Raya, at the Battle of Talikota in early 1565. A million soldiers are said to have been involved. Rama Raya was captured and immediately decapitated by the Sultan of Ahmadnagar.
Tirumala, Rama Raya's brother, fled with the puppet-emperor Sadasiva, the 4000-strong royal harem, and is said to have carried the imperial treasures on the backs of 1500 elephants.
The panorama on the left is of the Elephant Stables at Hampi.
Religious architecture - Vijayanagara Period
The Vijayanagara style occupies a distinct place in the history of south Indian temple architecture. It was more or less coterminous with the history of the dynasty, and despite being fashioned from hard granite, was ornate and exuberant.
The plan of the typical Vijayanagara temple exhibits most of the characteristic features of the temples of the Tamil country. Invariably there is a separate shrine for the goddess slightly to the rear of the main sanctum of the god, and amongst one particular sect, it contains another sub-shrine.
The maha-mandapa - here at the Vitthala Temple complex - is a highly ornate structure with many fine specimens of composite pillars. It is the most profusely embellished part of a Vijayanagara temple, being rivaled only by the kalyana-mandapa. The mandapas often have large elephant-balustrades flanking the entrance steps.
The kalyana-mandapa - featured in this panoramic view - is one of the highlights of the Vijayanagara style. This is usually an open pillared mandapa often with a raised platform in the centre, for seating the deity and his consort during the annual kalyana (marriage) festival of the god.
The sculptor’s skill was fully lavished on these mandapas which contained elaborately carved and symmetrically-spaced compound pillars of various types. The ceilings were also carved. Originally these mandapas appear to have been painted and were often the most ornate of the structures in the temple-complexes.
Most of the civil buildings at Hampi are concentrated in the citadel areas. Unfortunately they are mostly ruined. There is hardly anything left except a few basements, since the brick and timber superstructures have disappeared, and the gorgeous multi-storeyed painted and guilded palaces and mansions of Vijayanagara extolled by writers of those times are long gone.
Important structures like the royal residences (this panorama features the Palace of Vira Harihara, from the 14th Century CE) and other state buildings were razed to the ground. At present, the civil buildings of Hampi include a number of palace-bases, open pavilions, pillared halls, baths and stables. To this class of monuments may also be added some of the long and broad ancient bazaars of the city.
The rulers of Vijayanagara used the natural advantages of the region and terrain, and created a vast enclosed area that was almost impregnable.
With its outer line of fortifications Vijayanagara was more than 26 square kilometres in area. The most prominent and interesting features of this type still existing are the massive walls and the strong gateways.
All the entrances and gateways were high enough to enable elephants to pass through.
This panorama features Bhima's Gate. It is more elaborate than a mere entrance, and has sally ports, bastions and inner courts with guard rooms.
An bas-relief of Bhima is visible on the right.
The various parts of the temple complex are within a long rectangular enclosure divided into two large courts. The eastern gopura (pictured here) gives access to the outer court, while a smaller inner east gopura leads to the inner court containing the main vimana with its numerous subsidiary shrines.
The temple faces east and overlooks the long and broad Hampi bazaar with the dilapidated remains of many ancient mandapas and two-storeyed stone buildings on either side. The lofty east gopura, the main entrance to the temple, is a well proportioned nine-storeyed structure, 52 metres high, with a two-tiered stone base and a superstructure in brick.
The small three-storeyed inner east gopura, named after Krishnadeva Rāya forms the entrance to the inner court. It was built by Krishnadeva Rāya about AD 1510.
Domingo Paes, a Portuguese trader visiting the area in 1520 CE - at the height of Krishnadeva Raya’s rule - wrote about the Virupaksha Temple, and from this account, it can be inferred that the temple-complex had assumed its present form by about this time.
The inner court has a pillared cloister along the four sides, with a number of sub-shrines, while the main sanctum of Virupaksha with its axial mandapa is situated in the central part of the court and faces east.
In the sanctum of the Virupaksha Temple, the sixteen pillars of the central rectangle have rampant yális with chains hanging from their mouths, makaras below their feet, and riders on their backs.
The mandapa is of considerable height with the roof of the central aisle raised up further as a clerestory. On all the four sides, along the beams of the clerestory and above there had been originally friezes with many figures in bas-relief.
The ceiling of the ranga-mandapa is noted for its numerous panels of Vijayanagara paintings. The figures depicted include sage Vidyaranya going in procession, Arjuna shooting the matsya-yantra to win the hand of Draupadi, the Dasavataras, the Dikpalas, Siva as Kamadahanamurti, Tripurari and Kalyaņasundara.
The panels are in a fair state of preservation and are noteworthy as one of the few remaining original specimens of Vijayanagara painting.
This is the most magnificent of the religious structures at Hampi, and stands on the southern bank of the Tungabhadra, dedicated to Vishnu-as-Vitthala.
The existence of the Vitthala temple may be traced at least to the time of Devaraya II (1422-46 CE), and the general opinion is that the temple was neither finished nor consecrated. It occupies a large rectangular enclosure (164 m × 94.5 m).
The Vitthala temple portrays the high watermark of perfection of the Vijayanagara style, and it can be said that there is no building which can stand in comparison to it.
The three lofty Vijayanagara gopuras on the east, north and south sides are now dilapidated. Of these the south gopura is the most ornate.
The enclosed courtyard contains in the centre the god's sanctum with its axial mandapas and around it the Amman sanctum, the kalyāna-mandapa, an utsava mandapa, a hundred pillared mandapa and a stone ratha (car).
The main temple was dedicated to Vishnu as Vitthala. Facing east, the sanctum of the god along with its axial mandapas forms a long and low structural group, about 7.6 metres in height and 70 metres in length. The group comprises the open maha-mandapa, a closed ardha-mandapa with side-porches and a covered pradakshina-prakara enclosing the antarala andd garbha-griha (sanctum)
The large maha-mandapa has symmetrically recessed sides. It measures 30.5 metres at its greatest length and breadth. The mandapa stands on a highly-ornate adhishthana (1.5 metres high) with sculptured friezes of horses and warriors and hansas.
At intervals along the base, there are ornate miniature vimana-projections with figures of the Dasavataras inside.
The mandapa contains fifty-six pillars, each 3-6 metres high, forty of which are regularly disposed to form an aisle all round the three sides, while the remaining sixteen form a rectangular court in the centre.
Hazara Rama Temple
This temple, though small, is highly ornate, and is a veritable picture gallery. Its walls and pillars represent an immensely artistic attempt to capture in stone the legends of the Ramayana.
It was originally dedicated to Vishnu in the form of Ramachandra; however the sanctum is at present empty and the temple is not in use.
These heavy cubical pillars contain well-chiselled bas-reliefs of Ganesa, Mahishamardini, Hanuman and many forms of Vishnu, including the Kalki avatara.
The large and ornate central ceiling consists of the usual diagonally alternating square courses with a finely carved lotus motif in the centre.
This panel features Krishna.
This temple's features ornate and well-finished bas-reliefs. It also has an inscription of Krishnadeva Raya, dated to 1513 CE, recording that an image of Bala-Krishna, which he had brought from a temple in Udayagiri, was enshrined in this complex.
The Krishna temple is therefore also interesting for the numerous sub-shrines it contains, one of which is dedicated to Subramanya - a rather unique occurrence.