Hampi, in my dictionary, would mean “Beauty in ruins”. You could read that as the beauty (that once was) now in ruins, or, even the ruins of this erstwhile Vijayanagara empire are so breathtakingly beautiful.
I love to visit historical places. Every stone I look at, makes me think of that one person, who would have placed it there, centuries ago. The person has gone but the stone/sculpture/carving, part of a beautiful structure, is still there, frozen in time! Another reason why I love visiting historical places is to stand in awe of the things humans are capable of – good and bad! And no place, I’ve been to till now, represents this better than Hampi.
Hampi, by far, one of the most beautiful place I’ve been to. So rich in culture, so many stories, so many sculptures, so much beauty to take in. Of course, this all depends on what you love!
The basics, you will do well knowing these, before visiting the place:
- Hampi/Vijayanagara was the capital of the Vijaynagara empire from AD 1343 to 1565
- Hampi is located in the southern bank of river ‘Tungabhadra’ (also known as Pampa)
- Has strong mythological associations. The birthplace of Ramayana, Kishkinda-kshetra, is believed to be situated close to it
- Don’t hesitate to get a guide. Don’t worry, you don’t have to find them, they’ll find you!
Things humans are capable of – good and bad! – Hampi
The good thing – the beauty that this Vijayanagara empire must’ve been once. All built by human hands, with so less technology, so much time, dedication and passion it would’ve taken.
The bad thing – that would be the reason the empire lies in ruins now. It was attacked and conquered by the Bijapur sultan. When the war was won, the Sultan burnt down the palace, which was wholly built of Sandalwood, and the story is, it took 6 months for the whole palace to be burnt down. Yes, the palace is no more, one can only see the foundation stones of the palace.
As for the stone temples and structures, the sultans couldn’t burn it, so they broke whatever they could. Example, most of the tusks of the elephant sculptures are broken off, the tummy of Ganesha is sliced off, broke off Lakshmi from this beautiful 6.7m monolith Lakshmi-Narasimha Statue (below) and below that is a carving (smaller sample) of this statue from one other temple pillar:
Below: This is a carving I found in one of the pillars of another temple. The above statue was supposed to have Lakshmi sitting on the Narasimha’s lap, like shown below. Imagine how beautiful that would have been.
I don’t blame the Sultan for doing this, I’m sure any triumphant king would have done the same. All is fair in love and war.
There are still remains of bazars, so well organized:
The beauty is in the details and stories:
That’s exactly why you need a guide. They charge Rs.1000 for a 7-hour guided tour. They know the order in which the vast empire has to be covered. Take help, pay them, tip them, it’s no harm. Buy a guide book as a souvenir.
There is always a story to any historical structure, about the reason and significance. There is a temple called ‘Hazararama Temple’ which depicts the whole story of Ramayana in three tiers. What a beauty!! Like a medieval cartoon strip! The guide explained the story to me and it was very helpful.
Below: our guide giving us a crash course in Ramayana
So like I said, if you want to know the stories around a structure, getting a guide is a wise decision. Also, without a guide you might miss out on lot of details, such as:
Below image depicts the trade with various other races, such as chinese, persians, mongols (thanks to the guide for pointing it out):
Obviously, I am not gonna write about each and every monument I saw here, rather, I want to leave with you a travel idea, an inspiration for you to pack your bags and go!
One more thing: Will blog about how we reached Hampi, where we stayed and budget, later. Also there are two sides to any river, same for River Tungabhadra. Another post will talk about that!
A message to travellers: Travel, don’t trash!
PS: you can view all my Travel Photos here.