1336 - 1565

Hampi: Between Myth, History and Wonder

Incredible India!

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.

Vijayanagar was a sacred place long before it became the capital of an empire. Many temples lined the banks of the Tungabhadra River. One reason this area became sacred was its unusual and incredible natural beauty.

Across a wide, boulder-strewn valley lie the remains of over 1,600 temples, palaces and other ancient buildings. The Virupaksha Temple was founded in the 7th century and has been functioning as a place of worship, without interruption, ever since.

The granite hills around Hampi are some of the oldest exposed surfaces on Earth. Over millions of years, huge granite monoliths have been eroded to form smaller hills, many of them apparently made of stacked boulders. This ruined temple is at the top of Hemakuta Hill.

Click on the arrows in the image to explore the area around the Hemakuta Hill. The Virupaksha Temple can be seen in the distance.

According to Hindu mythology, the region was once a monkey kingdom. The real descendants of those mythical ancestors still cavort atop the granite hills.

In the present day, boulderers - people who like to climb boulders - consider these hills the ultimate challenge.

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.

Click on the arrows in the image to explore the Vitthala Temple Complex.

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.

Click on the arrows in the image to view The Stone Chariot from all sides.

Almost every surface in the Vitthala Temple is carved with inscriptions and figures showing the exploits of gods and mythical heroes.

The Vitthala complex includes an interior courtyard with three ceremonial entrances, surrounded by cloistered walkways. Like most of the structures in Hampi, the columns are constructed of granite and elaborately carved.

A rangamandapa is a pavilion with an interior platform that is used for religious ceremonies. This rangamandapa is part of the Vitthala Temple and has 56 pillars.

Click on the arrows in the image to explore more of the Vitthala Temple Complex.

The ancient ruins of Vijayanagar represent one of the golden eras of Indian history. Few visitors have the time to explore its wonders in full, but even a casual tourist leaves Hampi with a sense of profound awe at the complexity, creativity, and continuity of India's history and culture.

Incredible India!
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