Hampi is a small modern village that sits within the ancient city of Vijayanagar in southern India. In Sanskrit, the name means “City of Victory,” and from 1336 to 1565, the city was the capital of the Kingdom of Vijayanagar, which came to rule most of Southern India. In 1565, the city was conquered by the Deccan confederacy and pillaged for many months. Modern archeologists unearthed splendid palaces and temples, elaborate waterworks and other infrastructure, and the ancient city became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1986.
Of the more than 500 temple complexes in the area, the Vitthala Temple is the most ornate structure. It is a masterpiece of Dravidian architecture, which combined massive dimensions with minutely detailed decoration. The complex includes gateways, temples, shrines, towers, and cloistered courtyards.
The most popular attraction in Hampi is an immense stone shrine carved to resemble a chariot. The shrine honors Garuda, the mount of Lord Vishnu. He was considered the king of the birds.
The shrine was probably once topped by an idol of Garuda, whose form was like that of a bird. Evidence also suggests that the granite wheels once turned.