top of page

Hampi! An ancient example of historical magnificence

Niranjan Bhombe

Rushikesh Shinde

8 November 2022

"Hampi - One of the largest & the richest cities of the world during the middle ages...."

Upon the banks of Tungabhadra,

The ancient city of Hampi proudly stands

Flaunting a landmark of rich heritage,

Sculptures and pillared halls adorn these lands.

Though only ruins now remain to see,

The world still recognizes its beauty,

Nature still flourishes just as in its prime,

Remind us to preserve it as a duty.

Hampi- One of the largest & the richest cities of the world during the middle ages, was historically the part of the Capital territory of the Vijayanagar Empire which was the last significant Hindu kingdom in South of Bharat. The historical medieval city Hampi is located on the banks of the Tungabhadra River. Hampi at the time of its peak glory was compared with Rome – The Capital of the Roman Empire. After Beijing, Hampi was the second-largest city in the world during the middle Ages. It was also likely the richest city in Bharat at the time, drawing traders from Portugal and Persia.


Hampi is situated 376 kilometers from Bengaluru. In the fourteenth century, Hampi served as the Vijayanagara Empire's capital. Granite stones have created the mountainous terrain where Hampi is situated. This area is part of the Dharwar Craton geologically. A craton is one of the uncommon regions of the earth that has remained unaffected by tectonic or volcanic activity for a million years. The massive monoliths that formerly stood in the prehistoric era have been eroded over many years to create the rocks of Hampi. The UNESCO World Heritage Site's Hampi structures are a subset of the more widely dispersed Vijayanagara ruins. During the Vijayanagara era, between 1336 and 1570 CE, nearly all of the monuments were constructed. The area is 41.5 square kilometers and has roughly 1,600 monuments. UNESCO describes it as an "austere, grandiose site" that contains more than 1,600 surviving remnants of the last significant Hindu kingdom in the South of Bharat. These include "forts, riverside features, royal and sacred complexes, temples, shrines, pillared halls. Building activity in Hampi continued over a period of 200 years reflecting the evolution in the religious and political scenario as well as the advancements in art and architecture.

Hampi predates the Vijayanagara Empire; it is referred to as Pampaa Devi Tirtha Kshetra in the Hindu Puranas and the Ramayana. With the Virupaksha Temple, an active Adi Shankara-related monastery, and other old city monuments, Hampi is still a significant religious hub.


The term Pampa, which is another name for the goddess Parvati in Hindu religion, is derived from Hampi, which is also known by the old names Pampa-kshetra, Kishkindha-kshetra, or Bhaskara-kshetra. Parvati according to the Sthala Purana, Parvati (Pampa) lived an austere, yogini lifestyle on Hemakuta Hill, which is now a part of Hampi, in order to defeat and return the ascetic Shiva to a life of domesticity. Another name for Shiva is Pampapati (meaning "husband of Pampa"). The Pampa River, which flows close to Hemakuta Hill, gained notoriety. The location where Parvati pursued Shiva became known as Hampe or Hampi after the Sanskrit term Pampa changed into the Kannada word Hampa. The location was Pampakshetra, a popular pilgrimage site from the early medieval period.


 The Hindu epic Ramayana's Kishkindha passages, where Rama and Lakshmana encounter Hanuman, Sugriva, and the monkey army while looking for abducted Sita, are where it got its name. The region around Hampi is strikingly similar to the setting of the epic. According to local legend, the location is the one that draws pilgrims and is referenced in the Ramayana. Colonel Colin Mackenzie, an engineer, first discovered it in the 1800s.

The Bellary district was a part of the Maurya Empire in the third century BCE, according to Emperor Ashoka's Rock Edicts found in Nittur and Udegolan, both in Bellary district, between 269 and 232 BCE. During site excavations, two artifacts were discovered that date to around the second century CE: a Brahmi inscription and a clay seal. The settlement is referred to as Pampapura in the inscriptions of the Badami Chalukya, which date from the sixth to the eighth centuries.


A number of inscriptions from the 11th to 13th centuries are about the Hampi site and mention gifts to goddess Hampa-Devi. Hindu kings of the Hoysala Empire of South India constructed temples to Durga, Hampad, and Virupaksha between the 12th and 14th centuries. By the 10th century, it had developed into a hub of religious and educational activities during the rule of the Hindu kings Kalyana the Hoysala kingdom chose Hampi as its second capital, and one of their monarchs was known as Hampeya-Odeya, or "lord of Hampi. “In honor of the historic Virupaksha (Shiva) temple there, Burton Stein claims that the Hoysala-period inscriptions refer to Hampi by other names like Virupakshapattana and Vijaya Virupakshapura.


South India was conquered and pillaged by the forces of the Delhi Sultanate, especially those of Alauddin Khalji and Muhammad ibn Tughlaq. When Alauddin Khalji's soldiers invaded southern Karnataka in the early 14th century and again in 1326 CE, they pillaged and destroyed the Hoysala Empire and its capital, Dvarasamudra. In north-central Karnataka, the Hoysala Empire was replaced by the Kampili kingdom. A brief Hindu monarchy, it had its capital around 33 kms from Hampi. Following an invasion by Muhammad ibn Tughlaq's Muslim soldiers, the Kampili monarchy came to an end. When the Kampili warriors were about to be defeated by Tughlaq's army, the Hindu women of Kampili committed jauhar. The ruins of the Kampili kingdom gave rise to the Vijayanagara Empire in 1336 CE. It expanded into a renowned Hindu empire in South India and ruled for more than 200 years.


Around Hampi, the Vijayanagara Empire constructed Vijayanagara its capital. Many historians argue that the Hoysala Empire's founders, Harihara I and Bukka I, served as army commanders stationed in the Tungabhadra region to fend off Muslim incursions from Northern Bharat who founded the Vijayanagar Empire.

The Vijayanagara Empire saw the heyday of Dravidian architecture, which is distinguished by its colossal proportions, walled-in enclosures, and tall towers over the entrances surrounded by ornate pillars. Hampi in known for its marvelous historical remains. The remains discovered at the site outline the scope of the former political stability and economic affluence, indicating a highly evolved society.


The majority of the monuments are Hindu; reliefs and artwork in the temples and public spaces like tanks and markets portray Hindu deities and themes from Hindu texts. Six Jain temples and monuments are also present, along with a Muslim mosque and mausoleum. The architecture is constructed from the plentiful local stone, and the prevailing design aesthetic is Dravidian, which has roots in the Deccan region's development of Hindu arts and architecture in the second millennium. The Ramachandra Temple's pillars and portions of the Virupaksha Temple Complex's ceilings are examples of the arts that were developed during the Hoysala Empire's control in the south between the 11th and 14th centuries. In a few structures, including the Queen's bath and Elephant stables, the builders also incorporated an Indo-Islamic design, which according to UNESCO reflects a "highly advanced multi-religious and multi-ethnic community."


The Krishna temple complex, the Narasimha, Ganesha, and Hemakuta group of temples, as well as the Achyutaraya, Vitthala, Pattabhirama, and Lotus Mahal complexes, can be emphasized. The vast Dravidian temple complexes were surrounded by suburban townships which were skillfully and seamlessly integrated into the surrounding environment and contained secondary shrines, bazaars, residential areas, and tanks.


Wide Chariot lanes fronted by rows of Pillared Mandapas, another distinctive aspect of the temples at Hampi, were added when chariot festivals became an essential component of the rites. Another illustration of the temple's holy ceremony is the stone chariot in front of it. The majority of the buildings at Hampi are made of native granite, charred bricks, and lime mortar. The most popular construction method was stone masonry with a lantern roofed post and lintel structure. 

The gigantic fortress walls are made of irregularly shaped stones with paper joints that are filled with masonry debris instead of a binding substance. The sanctum itself and the gopuras over the entrances are made of stone and brick.The massive, thick granite slabs that make up the roofing have been installed, and they are covered with a waterproof layer of brick jelly and lime mortar.Within the Hampi Zenana enclosure was the Vijayanagara kingdom's mint. It is thought to be the only location from where coins were made and distributed. Many of these genuine coins with depictions of animals, birds, and Hindu deities may be found in the Hampi archaeological museum. The Vijayanagara empire used coins as its medium of exchange, and they were made of copper, silver, and gold


Vijayanagara architecture is also known for its adoption of elements of Indo Islamic Architecture in secular buildings like the Queen’s Bath and the Elephant Stables, representing a highly evolved multi-religious and multi-ethnic society. The Battle of Talikota (1565 CE) led to a massive destruction of its physical fabric.


The city rose to metropolitan proportions and is immortalized in the words of many foreign travelers as one of the most beautiful cities. According to Niccol de' Conti, an Italian merchant and traveler who visited Hampi in the year 1420, the city had a fortified perimeter that was around 97 km in diameter, and it contained settlements and farms. Abdul Razzaq, a Persian visitor in 1442, described it as a city with seven layers of forts, with the outer tiers being used for agriculture, crafts, and dwelling, and the inner third to seventh layers being incredibly congested with shops and bazaars. Domingo Paes, a Portuguese traveler from Portuguese Goa, visited Vijayanagara in 1520 as part of a trading delegation. He described Vijayanagara as being "as vast as Rome, and very beautiful to the sight... the best supplied metropolis in the world" in his autobiography Chronica dos reis de Bisnaga. Paes claims that "there are many woods within it, in the gardens of the homes, various conduits of water which run into the middle of it, and there are lakes in certain places.


In his book Our Oriental Heritage: The Story of Civilization, historian Will Durant recounts the capture and fall of Vijayanagara and describes it as a depressing narrative. He writes, "its evident moral is that civilization is a precarious thing, whose delicate complex of order and liberty, culture and peace" may at any time be overthrown by war and ferocious violence.

bottom of page