Set in an awesome boulder-strewn landscape along the banks of the Tungabhadra River, Hampi was the capital city of the magnificent capital of the mighty Vijayanagara Empire. Founded by Harihara and Bukka in 1336, it fell to the Muslim rulers of the Deccan in 1565, and the city was pillaged over a period of six months before being abandoned. The once-proud city of victory is now a city of desolation. However, the ruins of these historical monuments have withstood the ravages of man and time, and still evoke memories of the grandeur of a bygone era. Classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, this historic town is also the “World’s Largest Open-air Museum” and covers an area of nearly 29 sq km.
Vijayanagara Empire at its peak was very prosperous and was believed to be larger than Rome with palaces grander than of Lisbon “The city is such that the pupil of the eye has never seen a place like it, and the ear of intelligence has never been informed that there existed anything to equal it in the world”, marvelled a 15th century Persian ambassador Abdul Razaak. There were opulent palaces, marvelous temples, massive fortifications, baths, markets, aquaducts, pavilions, stables for royal elephants, and elegantly carved pillars. This was a city whose merchants traded in diamonds, pearls, horses, fine silks and brocades.
Most of the important structures and ruins are located in two areas, which are generally referred to as the Royal Centre and the Sacred Centre. The Royal Centre in the south-west part of the site contains structures that seem to have been palaces, baths, pavilions, royal stables and temples for ceremonial use. The Sacred Centre stretches around the Virupaksha Temple and the Hampi Bazaar area and is along the banks of the holy Tungabhadra River.
The ruins of Hampi are extensive and fascinating enough to absorb your attention for several days.
The best way to experience this UNESCO World Heritage Site is to take a leisurely stroll through the eloquent ruins or take a bicycle/ bike ride. If you are hard-pressed for time, a day or two will suffice to see all the important structures. However, photography, archaeology buffs, yoga enthusiasts should plan on staying a little longer.
Stone Chariot, Hampi
Stone Chariot is an iconic monument located in front of Vijaya Vittala Temple in Hampi, central Karnataka. Hampi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Stone Chariot is a shrine dedicated to Garuda, the official vehicle of Lord Vishnu. Stone Chariot in Hampi is one of the three most popular stone chariots in India. Other two are in Konark (Odisha) and Mahabalipuram (Tamil Nadu).
Design: Built in Dravidian style, chariot has carvings depicting mythical battle scenes. Standing on two giant wheels, two elephants are seen pulling the chariot. Stone Chariot is made of multiple smaller stones assembled to perfection. Stone Chariot was partially damaged by invading army towards the end of Vijayanagara Empire.
History: Stone Chariot was built in the 16th century by the orders of King Krishnadevaraya of Vijayanagara Empire. The emperor is said to have been impressed by the Sun temple of Konark during the war with Kalinga and wanted to recreate a similar one in Hampi.
Recently released INR 50 currency notes of India have stone chariot images.
Virupaksha Temple, Hampi
Virupaksha Temple is the 7th century Shiva temple in Hampi, Central Karnataka. Hampi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Lord Virupaksha, also referred to as Pampapathi is the main deity in Virupaksha Temple. Virupaksha Temple complex also houses shrines of Bhuvaneshwari and Vidyaranya.
Virupaksha Temple complex is surrounded by three gopuras (towers). The main tower, on the east is an imposing structure, 9 stories, 50 meters tall, built in the fifteenth century. Eastern tower forms the main entrance to Virupaksha Temple. Eastern tower has extensive craftsmanship on each of its floors featuring hundreds of Hindu gods and goddesses. The inverted shadow of the main tower falls on a wall inside the temple. Your tour guide will help you see this spot.