Incredible India, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India
A queen's bath, a spectacular Lotus Palace (shown here), a royal stable and a temple which is said to have been where the wedding of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati took place, this UNESCO World Heritage site reveals a facet of history at every turn.
Although in ruins, the magnificent structures stand in testimony to Hampi's rich past under the powerful Vijayanagara empire, which existed between 1336 and 1646 AD.
View: Carvings on a rock, showing Hanuman and others
Hampi finds mention in the Hindu epic Ramayana as well. It is said to be the location of Kishkinda, the monkey kingdom. It is no wonder then that Hampi has ranked second in New York Times' must-visit destination list for 2019.
Hampi was the last capital of the Vijayanagara kingdom, one of the most significant in Southern India. Its wealthy kings built exquisite temples and palaces that gained the admiration of travellers in the 14th and 16th centuries.
Though plundered later, Hampi still retains more than 1600 monuments, including palaces, forts, memorial structures, temples, shrines, pillared halls, baths and gateways.
View: Rock-cut temples
Hampi's architectural ruins are set against a surreal landscape. Dotted with heaps of giant boulders perched precariously over kilometres of undulating terrain, it attracts rock-climbers, trekkers and other adventure sport enthusiasts.
The rust hues of these rocks are offset by the jade green of palm groves, banana plantations and paddy fields. Today, this laid-back town is a tourist hub, and is flocked by devotees, adventure-lovers and thrill-seekers.
During the Vijayanagara Empire, the Virupaksha Temple was built to achieve epic proportions. The approximately 49 metre-high tower or gopuram of the temple is said to have been constructed in 1442.
Today, the main shrine is dedicated to Lord Virupaksha, an incarnation of Lord Shiva.
Virupaksha Temple’s towering gopuram dominates Hampi’s skyline. It has a distinct presence in the area, as do the stucco figures around its exterior.
Virupaksha Temple, Hampi’s only continuously-functioning temple, includes a sanctum sanctorum and pillared halls. The most elaborate of these has 100 pillars, with ante chambers, elaborate gopurams and a number of smaller shrines, along with a temple kitchen and administrative offices.
The main gateway boasts of nine elaborate tiers, while the smaller gateway gives access to the temple’s inner courtyard. The three-headed statue of Lord Shiva’s sacred mount, the Nandi bull, is a major tourist draw.
In December, when the temple celebrates the marriage of its presiding deity to his consort Goddess Pampa, the temple draws thousands of devotees. Another popular time to visit the temple is February, when the annual chariot festival is celebrated.
Hampi’s 16th Century Vitthala Temple is one of the most ornate monuments in the area and represents the best of Vijayanagara architecture. The temple, decorated with extravagant carving, is popularly known as Hampi’s showstopper. The highlight of the Vitthala temple is the spectacular stone chariot that stands in the courtyard.
The Stone Chariot is one of the finest examples of the Vijayanagara style of architecture. It is said to be a shrine of Garuda, a bird-like mythical being believed to be Lord Vishnu’s vehicle.
Legend says that the wheels of the chariot, decorated with intricate floral patterns, were once capable of being turned. Even now, looking at its spokes, it seems as if they would turn at a divine command.
The chariot, the main temple, and a few smaller structures are housed within a vast walled courtyard with three imposing gateways. The main temple is dedicated to Lord Vitthala, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu.
The Vitthala Temple’s mahamandapa - the main hall - is flanked by elephant balustrades. It is said to have been used as a venue for cultural performances.
The Vitthala Temple is a fully developed temple complex with associated buildings like the Kalyan Mandapa and the Utsav Mandapa. It also has a large pushkarani, or a stepped tank, with a Vasanthotsav Mandapa (a ceremonial pavilion), and a network of water channels.
One of the unique features of Hampi’s Vitthala Temple are its elaborately carved musical pillars, which are said to produce the sounds of 81 different musical instruments when tapped with a wooden stick.
According to folklore, the British were so fascinated by the pillars that they took a few down to investigate how the music was produced.
Virtual Tour courtesy Archaeological Survey of India