Historic Hampi, Capital of the Vijayanagara Empire

Story posted: Friday, 27. May 2011 by CPA Media

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Historic Hampi, Capital of the Vijayanagara Empire


'What I saw… seemed to me as large as Rome, and very beautiful to the sight… There you will find all sorts of rubies, and diamonds, and emeralds, and pearls, and seed-pearls, and cloths, and every other sort of thing there is on earth and that you may wish to buy'.

Domingo Paes, Portuguese visitor to Hampi, c.1520




Today Hampi is a village in southern India's Karnataka State. But it is unlike all other Karnatakan villages in that it was once the capital of Vijayanagara, the great empire that dominated southern India between the 14th and 16th centuries CE. At its peak, Vijayanagar is believed to have been the largest city in India, with around 500,000 inhabitants. Today, with its extensive ancient ruins remarkably well preserved, it is a UNESCO World heritage Site listed under the rubric: 'The Group of Monuments at Hampi'.

The name is derived from Pampa, which is the old name of the Tungabhadra River on whose banks the city is built. The name "Hampi" is an anglicized version of the Kannada Hampe (derived from Pampa). Over the years, it has also been referred to as Vijayanagara and Virupakshapura (from Virupaksha, the patron deity of the Vijayanagara rulers).

Hampi is identified with the historical Kishkindha, the Vanara (monkey) kingdom mentioned in the Ramayana. The first historical settlements in Hampi date back to 1 CE.

Hampi formed one of the core areas of the capital of the Vijayanagara Empire from 1336 to 1565, when it was finally laid siege to by the Deccan Muslim confederacy.  Hampi was chosen because of its strategic location, bounded by the torrential Tungabhadra river on one side and surrounded by defensible hills on the other three sides.

The site is significant historically and architecturally. The topography abounds with large stones which have been used to make statues of Hindu deities. The Archaeological Survey of India continues to conduct excavations in the area, to discover additional artifacts and temples.

Hampi has various notable Hindu temples, some of which are still active places of worship. Among the most notable are:

Virupaksha Temple known also known as Pampapathi Temple is a Shiva temple situated in Hampi Bazaar. It predates the founding of the Vijayanagar empire. The temple has a 160-foot (49 m) high tower at its entrance. Apart from Shiva, the temple complex also contains shrines of the Hindu goddesses Bhuvaneshwari and Pampa.

Hazara Rama Temple Complex: This ruined temple complex is well-known for elaborate frescos from Hindu Mythologies and a sprawling courtyard well-laid with gardens.

Krishna Temple Complex: This temple complex has been recently excavated through the last decade, and restoration work is still in progress.

Vittala Temple Complex: This is perhaps the most famous and well-known among the ruins of Hampi. The iconic stone chariot in the vicinity of this temple complex is a symbol of Karnataka Tourism. Off late, floodlights have been installed in the temple complex that provide illumination at dusk, thereby adding to the grandeur of the architecture.


Hampi was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986.




Main article adapted from Wikipedia: 'Hampi', June 2011

Category:  India

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