A Trip to Hampi

Hampi is a world heritage site located on the banks of the Tungabhadra river in Northern Karnataka. It was one of the richest and largest cities in the world during its prime. It is located within the ruins of the city of Vijayanagara, the former capital of the Vijayanagara Empire. Predating the city of Vijayanagara, Hampi continues to be an important religious centre. Hampi is a great escape from the hustle and bustle of the city and one of the perfect weekend destinations from Bangalore.

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Hampi is a 400-km drive from Bangalore. If you start early morning from Bangalore, you will reach Hampi in the afternoon. You can either opt to stay either in Hospet where there are a number of luxurious hotels or try the less conventional resorts / guest houses located on the banks of the river Tungabhadra. Not quite far from these guest houses is the Monkey Point on the Ajinkya Hill, which is believed to be the birthplace of the Monkey God "Lord Hanuman”. One needs to climb 575 steps to reach the top. The view from the top and specially during sunset is breathtaking and is a sight not to be missed on your trip to Hampi.

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The most famous attraction of Hampi is the Virupaksha Temple located on the banks of the river Tungabhadra. The temple was converted from a shrine to a large complex by the Vijayanagara rulers and further improvised by the Chalukya and Hoysala rulers. This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, also called Virupaksha and is the most important temple for worship in the region.

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Attached to the Virupaksha temple, are the temple ruins atop Hemakuta hill, which looks like a gigantic monolithic rock. This according to me is one of the most scenic and beautiful sites in Hampi. These temples often mistaken for Jain temples due to its pyramid-like roofs are Hindu temples dedicated to deities Shiva, Ganesh and Hanuman, to name a few. It is a treat to both the eyes and the camera to see the sun set behind the ruins.

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Travelling eastward from Hemakuta Hill, through the Hampi Bazaar, you spot this large monolithic bull statue, locally known as Yeduru Basavanna or Nandi, partially mutilated and carved in coarse style. This statue faces the Shiva shrine of the Virupaksha Temple located about a kilometer ahead at the opposite end of the street. Flight of steps along the left side of the Nandi pavilion leads one to the Achyuta Raya's Temple located across the hill. The temple dedicated to Lord Tiruvengalanatha, a form of Vishnu, was constructed by an officer in Achyuta Raya’s rule during the 15th century. The temple complex and the ruined market street in front of it located in a semi secluded valley created by the Gandhamadana & Matanga hills forms a picturesque landscape. This location is not accounted for by most of the tourists in their plans and hence less crowded.

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Vittala temple is another most visited and photographed temple in Hampi, famous for the Iconic stone chariot. But to get a decent shot you need to have some patience as the temple is always crowded.

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In addition to the temples, Hampi also boasts of a royal area tour, which houses the royal palaces and monuments. The Queen’s bath is the first structure to be spotted on entering the royal area. From outside it is a plain rectangular building. On the inside, you have a big pool in the center and surrounded by verandas on all sides. From the verandas, you have a flight of steps to access the pool. 

Another monument in the vicinity is the Royal Enclosure. It consists of a massive platform, called Mahanavami Dibba, 12 meters in height and a sole witness of the royal religious ceremonies of the Vijayanagara rulers like Durga Puja and Diwali.

Lotus Mahal, the palace of the queen was constructed during the fag end of Vijayanagara period and displays Islamic influence in its construction - arched gateways and vaulted ceilings. 

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One architecture that intrigued me was the Royal Elephant Stables which housed the 11 best elephants of the Vijaynagara rulers. Once inside the structure one can never guess that it is just a stable from the past. The architecture, the symmetry in which it was built, was enough to depict the architectural skills of the rulers.

Another monument worth mentioning is the Monolithic Narasimha, a major tourist attraction located in the southern part of Hampi.

Approximately 140 kms from Hampi you have the Badami caves and a visit to Hampi is incomplete without paying a visit to these breathtaking caves. Aihole and Pattadakal are two locations en-route Hampi that are a must visit.Aihole was another prominent city of the Chalukya dynasty and in its present form consists of a museum and a group of temples. During its prime, Aihole had 125 temples spread across the city, but lack of proper conservation and growing population led to the destruction of these temples. The villager’s houses share common walls with the temples. It seems the villagers have been asked to vacate the place so that the temples can be recovered but still no luck.

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Pattadakal is another world heritage site and once hosted the coronation of the Chalukya kings. There are ten temples here, four are in Nagara style and six are in Dravidian style. The largest of all the temples in Pattadakal is Virupaksha temple. Words can’t describe the beautiful architecture of the temples. The effort that had gone into making these temples made me wonder “What else did the kings do other than making Temples? Did it not pave the way for the foreign rulers to enter the country, as the Hindu kings concentrated only on religious activities?” Probably just a random thought that came into my mind.

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The rock cut Badami caves consisted of four caves. The first cave is dedicated to Lord Shiva and it features the Nataraja avatar. The second and the third temple are dedicated to Lord Vishnu and the fourth temple features Jain carvings. The caves depict the Badami Chalukya architecture a diversion from Indian rock-cut architecture. One needs to visit the caves to experience its sheer magnitude and charm.

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A perfect weekend destination and a treat to the shutterbugs. Hampi is a destination not to be missed to capture unique Chalukya architecture.

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