Hampi, now a UNESCO world heritage site, was once a thriving city of the Vijayanagara kings of the 14th century, complete with a busy marketplace, gardens, farms, and massive temples. The mute vestiges of a glorious kingdom, with over a thousand surviving relics, are all that remains now on the banks of the Tungabhadra River.
The Archaeological Survey of India continues to excavate in Hampi, and more heritage treasures are being discovered every day, providing a plethora of tourism prospects. Tourists from all over the world visit Hampi for a glimpse into the past, and the ruins remain silent and serene. Our travel guide will assist you in planning a trip to Hampi if you are interested in visiting the historic heritage town.
Hampi’s ruins are spread over 4,100 hectares (16 sq mi) in Karnataka, near the modern-day city of Hosapete, and have been described by UNESCO as a “austere, grandiose site” of more than 1,600 surviving remains of the last great Hindu kingdom in South India, including “forts, riverside features, royal and sacred complexes, temples, shrines, pillared halls, mandapas, Hampi predates the Vijayanagara Empire; it is mentioned to as Pampaa Devi Tirtha Kshetra in Hinduism’s Ramayana and Puranas. The Virupaksha Temple, an active Adi Shankara-linked monastery, and many monuments from the old city continue to make Hampi a significant religious center.
Hampi is in the eastern part of central Karnataka, close the state border with Andhra Pradesh, on the banks of the Tungabhadra River. Bengaluru is 376 kilometers (234 miles) away, and Hubli is 165 kilometers (103 miles). The nearest railway station is at Hosapete (Hospet), which is 13 kilometers (8.1 miles) away, while the nearest airport is Jindal Vijaynagar Airport in Toranagallu, which is 32 kilometers (20 miles) distant and has connections to Bengaluru.
Hampi is also connected to Goa and Bengaluru via overnight buses and railways. It lies 140 kilometers (87 miles) southeast of the archaeological sites of Badami and Aihole.
Pampa-kshetra, Kishkindha-kshetra, and Bhaskara-kshetra are all synonyms for Hampi, which is derived from Pampa, another name for the goddess Parvati in Hindu mythology. According to legend, the young Parvati (a reincarnation of Shiva’s previous wife, Sati) resolves to marry the reclusive ascetic Shiva. Her parents find out about her desire and try to discourage her, but she persists.
Shiva is engrossed in yogic meditation, blissfully unaware of the outside world; Parvati prays to the gods for assistance in reawakening him and gaining his attention. Kamadeva, the Hindu god of desire, sensual love, attraction, and devotion, is dispatched by Indra to rouse Shiva from his slumber. Kama reaches Shiva and fires a desire arrow.
Shiva burns Kama to ashes by opening his third eye in his forehead. Parvati does not lose hope or resolve in her quest to win Shiva’s affection; instead, she begins to live like him and engage in the same activities—asceticism, yogin, and tapasya—awakening and attracting Shiva’s attention. Shiva appears to Parvati in disguise and tries to discourage her by revealing Shiva’s flaws and personality flaws. Parvati is unyielding in her resolve and refuses to listen. They marry after Shiva finally accepts her.
After Shiva and Parvati’s marriage, Kama was brought back to life. According to the Sthala Purana, Parvati (Pampa) lived an ascetic, yogini existence on Hemakuta Hill, which is now part of Hampi, in order to win and return ascetic Shiva to householder life. Shiva is often called to as Pampapati (meaning “husband of Pampa”). Pampa River was named after a river that flows near Hemakuta Hill. The Sanskrit word Pampa became Hampa in Kannada, and the location where Parvati pursued Shiva became known as Hampe or Hampi.
Pampakshetra was a pilgrimage site in the early medieval period. In their quest for kidnapped Sita, Rama and Lakshmana meet Hanuman, Sugriva, and the monkey army in the Kishkindha chapters of the Hindu epic Ramayana. The Hampi area bears numerous resemblances to the epic’s described location. According to local legend, it is the site mentioned in the Ramayana that draws pilgrims. During the 1800s, an engineer named colonel Colin Mackenzie discovered it.
Emperor Ashoka’s Rock Edicts in Nittur and Udegolan, both in Bellary district, suggest that this region was part of the Maurya Empire in the 3rd century BCE. During site excavations, a Brahmi inscription and a terracotta seal from the 2nd century CE were discovered. Pampapura is mentioned in Badami Chalukya’s inscriptions, which date from the 6th to 8th centuries.
During the century of the Hindu kings Kalyana Chalukyas, it became a center of religious and educational activities, and inscriptions show that the kings granted property to the Virupaksha temple. The Hampi site is mentioned in several inscriptions from the 11th to 13th century, with presents to goddess Hampa-devi.
According to an inscription dated around 1,199 CE, Hindu princes of the Hoysala Empire of South India built temples to Durga, Hampadevi, and Shiva between the 12th and 14th centuries. One of the Hoysala monarchs was known as Hampeya-Odeya, or “lord of Hampi,” and Hampi became the second royal residence. According to Burton Stein, inscriptions from the Hoysala period refer to Hampi as Virupakshapattana and Vijaya Virupakshapura, after the old Virupaksha (Shiva) temple there.
The armies of the Delhi Sultanate attacked and pillaged South India, particularly those of Alauddin Khalji and Muhammad ibn Tughlaq. The Hoysala Empire and its capital Dvarasamudra in southern Karnataka were ravaged and destroyed by the armies of Alauddin Khalji in the early 14th century, then by Muhammad bin Tughlaq’s army in 1326 CE.
Following the demise of the Hoysala Empire, the Kampili kingdom arose in north-central Karnataka. It was a short-lived Hindu monarchy with a capital located approximately 33 kilometers (21 miles) from Hampi. After an invasion by Muhammad ibn Tughlaq’s Muslim armies, the Kampili monarchy came to an end. When the Kampili warriors were defeated by Tughlaq’s army, the Hindu women of Kampili committed jauhar (ritual mass suicide). From the ruins of the Kampili kingdom sprang the Vijayanagara Empire in 1336 CE. It flourished into one of South India’s most famous Hindu dynasties, ruling for almost 200 years.
Vijayanagara was the name given to the Vijayanagara Empire’s capital, which was built around Hampi. Many historians believe that the empire’s founders, Harihara I and Bukka I, were commanders in the Hoysala Empire’s army stationed in the Tungabhadra region to fend off Muslim invasions from Northern India. Some suggest they were Telugu people who seized control of the Hoysala Empire’s northern regions after its demise.
They were treasury employees of Pratap Rudra, the King of Kakatiya Kingdom, according to scriptures such as Vidyaranya Kalajana, Vidyaranya Vritanta, Rajakalanirnaya, Pitamahasamhita, and Sivatatvaratnakara. When Muhammad Bin Tughlaq arrived in search of Baha-Ud-Din Gurshasp (who was hiding in Pratap Rudra’s court), Pratap Rudra was deposed and Kakatiya was destroyed.
During this time, the two brothers Harihara I and Bukka I arrived in Vijayanagara, Hampi, with a small army. In the year 1336, Vidyaranya, the ringeri arada Ptham’s 12th Jagadguru, took them under his protection and installed them on the throne, and the city was called Vidyanagara.
They built more temples and improved the infrastructure. By 1500 CE, according to Nicholas Gier and other scholars, Hampi-Vijayanagara was the world’s second-largest medieval-era city, after Beijing, and India’s richest. Its prosperity drew traders from all over the Deccan, Persia, and the Portuguese colony of Goa in the 16th century.
The monarchs of Vijayanagara encouraged academic and artistic pursuits, maintained a powerful military, and fought multiple battles with sultanates to its north and east. They put money into roads, water systems, agriculture, religious structures, and other public infrastructure. “Forts, riverside features, royal and religious complexes, temples, shrines, pillared halls, mandapas (sitting halls), memorial structures, gateways, check posts, stables, water structures, and more,” according to UNESCO. The site was multi-religious and multi-ethnic, with Hindu and Jain monuments coexisting.
The Lotus Mahal, the public bath, and the elephant stables were all built in the Aihole-Pattadakal style of South Indian Hindu arts and architecture, but the Hampi architects also employed features of Indian architecture in the Lotus Mahal, the public bath, and the elephant stables.
According to historical memoirs written by Portuguese and Persian traders who called Hampi, the city was “one of the most magnificent cities” in the world. The Muslim-Hindu battles between Muslim Sultanates and the Vijayanagara Empire continued despite the Empire’s prosperity and infrastructure.
A coalition of Muslim sultanates waged war against the Vijayanagara Empire in 1565 at the Battle of Talikota. They kidnapped and beheaded King Aliya Rama Raya, then wreaked havoc on Hampi’s and Vijayanagara’s infrastructure. After the war, the city was pillaged, looted, and burned for six months before being abandoned as ruins, which are today called as the Hampi Group of Monuments.
Throughout the 18th century, Hampi and its surrounding region was a contested and fought-over region claimed by local leaders, Hyderabad Muslim nizams, Maratha Hindu monarchs, and Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan of Mysore. When the British soldiers and the Wadiyar dynasty allied in 1799, Tipu Sultan was defeated and murdered.
The region was thereafter influenced by the British. In 1800, Scottish Colonel Colin Mackenzie, India’s first Surveyor General, inspected the ruins of Hampi. According to Mackenzie, the Hampi site is abandoned and only animals lives there. The damage to the Hampi monuments was blamed on the 18th-century armies of Haidar Ali and the Marathas, according to 19th-century speculative publications by historians who followed Mackenzie.
The Hampi site was mostly disregarded until Alexander Greenlaw visited and photographed it in the mid-nineteenth century. He compiled a collection of 60 calotype pictures of temples and royal sites in 1856. These images were held in a private collection in the United Kingdom until 1980, when they were published. For scholars, they are the most useful source of information about the state of Hampi monuments in the mid-nineteenth century.
In the early 1880s, a translation of Abdul Razzaq’s memoirs, a Persian diplomat in the court of Devaraya II (1424–1446), was published, which described some of the abandoned site’s monuments. For the first time, Arabic terminology such as “zenana” are used to describe some of the Hampi monuments in this translation.
Some of these terms were later given names. In 1885, Alexander Rea, an officer with the Madras Presidency’s Archaeological Assessment department, published his survey of the site. In 1900, Robert Sewell published A Forgotten Empire, a scholarly essay that brought Hampi to the attention of a wide range of scholars. Rea and his successor Longhurst were inspired by the growing interest to clean and repair the Hampi collection of monuments.
For the Vijayanagara period and prior, the site is historically and archaeologically significant. In the area, the Archaeological Survey of India continues to excavate. Hampi is located amid granite boulders in a hilly terrain.
The Hampi monuments, which are site of the larger Vijayanagara ruins, are a subset of the larger Vijayanagara ruins. During the reign of Vijayanagara, nearly all of the monuments were built between 1336 and 1570 CE. There are over 1,600 monuments on the site, which spans 41.5 square kilometers (16.0 sq mi).
The Hampi site has been divided into three zones, the first of which has been dubbed the “holy centre” by scholars such as Burton Stein, the second the “urban core” or “royal centre,” and the third the rest of metropolitan Vijayanagara. The sacred center, which runs alongside the river, houses the oldest temples with a pilgrimage tradition as well as monuments that predate the Vijayanagara dynasty.
Beyond the sacred center, there are over sixty ruined temples in the urban core and royal center, however all of the temples in the urban core date from the Vijayanagara dynasty. Roads, an aqueduct, water tanks, mandapa, gateways and markets, and monasteries are all part of the urban core’s public utility infrastructure. Seventy-seven stone inscriptions have helped to establish this distinction.
The majority of the monuments are Hindu, and reliefs and artwork representing Hindu deities and themes from Hindu texts may be seen in temples and public infrastructure such as tanks and markets. Six Jain temples and monuments, as well as a Muslim mosque and tomb, may be found here. The architecture is built of abundant local stone, and the dominating style is Dravidian, with roots in the Deccan region’s advances in Hindu arts and architecture in the second millennium.
The pillars of Ramachandra temple and the ceilings of some of the Virupaksha temple complex are examples of the arts that emerged during the Hoysala Empire’s control in the south between the 11th and 14th centuries. In a few monuments, such as the Queen’s bath and Elephant stables, the architects used an Indo-Islamic architecture, which UNESCO believes reflects a “highly advanced multi-religious and multi-ethnic culture.”
The Virupaksha temple is the oldest shrine, the most popular pilgrimage and tourist destination, and it is still used for Hindu devotion. The Shiva, Pampa, and Durga temples were built in the 11th century, and they were expanded throughout the Vijayanagara period.
A Hindu monastery dedicated to Vidyaranya of the Advaita Vedanta school, a water tank (Manmatha), a community kitchen, various monuments, and a 750-meter (2,460-foot)-long ruined stone market with a massive Nandi shrine on the east end make up the temple.
The temple faces east, aligning the sanctums of the Shiva and Pampa Devi temples with the rising sun; its entry is marked by a massive gopuram. The superstructure is a pyramidal tower with pilastered floors on which sexual sculptures are displayed. The gopuram leads to a rectangular court, which leads to a smaller gopuram, which was built in 1510 CE.
A 100-column hall on its south side has Hindu-related reliefs on all four sides of each pillar. A community kitchen is connected to this public hall, a characteristic common in other prominent Hampi temples. Water is delivered to the kitchen and feeding hall via a canal carved into the rock. After the little gopuram, there is a courtyard with a dipa-stambha (light pillar) and Nandi.
After passing through the little gopuram, the courtyard leads to the Shiva temple’s main mandapa, which is made up of the original square mandapa and a rectangular addition made up of two fused squares and sixteen piers built by Krishnadevaraya. The Shaivism legend of Shiva-Parvati marriage is painted on the ceiling of the open hall above the mandapa, while another section depicts the Vaishnavism legend of Rama-Sita.
The legend of the love deity Kama throwing an arrow at Shiva to make him interested in Parvati is depicted in the third half, and the Advaita Hindu philosopher Vidyaranya is carried in a procession in the fourth section.
The intricacies and color tones suggest that all of the ceiling paintings are from a 19th-century reconstruction, according to George Michell and other scholars, and the themes of the original paintings are unknown. Outsized yalis, a legendary beast combining the traits of a horse, lion, and other animals with an armed warrior riding it, adorn the mandapa pillars, a hallmark Vijayanagara feature.
A mukha-linga, a Shiva linga with a brass-embossed face, can be found in the temple’s sanctum. To the north of the main sanctum, the Virupaksha temple features lesser shrines for two aspects of Parvati-Pampa and Bhuvaneshwari. The Chalukyan architecture of Bhuvaneshwari shrine is distinguished by the use of granite rather than pot stone.
The northern gopura, which is smaller than the eastern gopura, leads to the Manmatha tank and a route to the river, which is lined with stone reliefs depicting scenes from the Ramayana. Shaktism and Vaishnavism shrines, such as those for Durga and Vishnu, are located to the west of this tank.
Some of the shrines along this pilgrim’s road were bleached in the 19th century on the orders of British India commander F.W. Robinson, who was attempting to rehabilitate the Virupaksha temple complex; whitewashing of this cluster of historic monuments has become a tradition.
According to local legend, the Virupaksha is the sole Hindu temple that has survived the devastation of Hampi in 1565 and continues to be visited by pilgrims. The temple draws big audiences; in the spring, there is a chariot procession to commemorate the marriage of Virupaksha and Pampa, as well as the solemn Maha Shivaratri celebration. Tourists have criticized the temple for its treatment of the temple’s resident elephant, Lakshmi, who lives in a tiny lane at the back of the temple.
How To Reach Hampi
Hampi is one of the ancient Indian empires’ archaeological sites. The world heritage site, located alongside the Tungabhadra River and suitably named “the group of monuments,” is one of Karnataka’s most popular tourist destinations. Hampi is easily accessible from the nearby town of Hosapete, formerly known as Hospet, which is located in the east central portion of Karnataka, adjacent to the state of Andhra Pradesh. The most convenient method to go to Hampi is to take the train to Hosapete and then continue by road.
1. By Air
The closest airport is Hubli Airport, which is around 160 kilometers distant. Another option is to fly to Bengaluru’s Kempegowda International Airport, then take the Hampi Express train to Hospet, and then drive to Hampi from Hospet. Bengaluru is well connected by air to most of India’s main cities, as well as international airlines.
2. By Train
Hospet, about 13 kilometers from Hampi, has the nearest railway station. Several long-distance trains, including as the Hampi Express (Hubli-Mysuru) and the Garib Nawaz (Bengaluru–Ajmer), stop at Hospet en route. You may take a bus to Hampi from Hospet. Buses arrive at the Hospet train station, eliminating the need to trek to the major bus station. From major cities such as Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Kerala, Delhi, and Goa, there are direct train connections to Hospet.
3. By Road
Hospet is served by KSRTC buses from major towns in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Goa, and Andhra Pradesh. You can take a rickshaw or a bus from the Hospet KSRTC terminus to the main bus stand, where you can get a bus to Hampi. You could also take the Chitradurga-Hospet or Ballary-Ananthapur routes from Bengaluru to Hampi.
Weather In Hampi And The Best Time To Visit
Hampi is primarily a historical zone with many of opportunities for sightseeing and visiting the numerous ruins and massive constructions. It has been named by UNESCO as one of the best places to visit in the world, and it makes for an excellent educational vacation at any time of year. The best time to visit the ruins of Hampi is between October and February, though the weather in Hampi does play a role. At this time of year, it is winter, and the weather is ideal for a stroll around the heritage site.
1. The season of summer (March-May)
During the summer, Hampi is hot and miserable. Walking about the ruins, clambering on boulders, and riding are all lot of the exploration. A scorching day could surely put a damper on things. The temperature ranges from 27°C to a scorching 37°C. Make sure you have water bottles, sunglasses, and hats with you at all times.
2. Monsoon season (June-September)
On the banks of the Tungabhadra River and its dam, Hampi’s ruins can be found. As a result, heavy to moderate rainfall is expected, with the chance of a river flood. During the monsoon, bring an umbrella and a raincoat, and be careful not to slip on the slick rocks. If the weather is nice for the day, you can go sightseeing because the rains make the countryside around the ruins lush and lovely, making it worth a visit. However, most outside plans must be canceled if it rains excessively. Overall, Hampi is not the best place to visit.
3. After the Monsoon (October-December)
After the monsoon, the season improves for a trip. The weather is warm and comfortable, with a light breeze and a few drops of rain from the northeast monsoon winds. It’s an excellent time to go exploring with a camera in hand, because the ruins look fantastic against the backdrop of a gorgeous warm misty sky.
4. The season of winter (January-February)
Hampi’s winter is dry and pleasant. There are no rains or burning sun to worry about. All of the heat and dust has been washed away by the recent rains, and everything now appears lush and spotless. It’s the perfect time to stroll through the ruins and perhaps take a river coracle ride. The nights are cool, so bring some warm nightwear! This is unquestionably the best time to visit Hampi.
Tourist Attractions in Hampi
Between the 14th and 16th centuries A.D., Hampi was the capital of the southern kingdom of Vijaynagar, which governed the Deccan. Even in ruins, Hampi is beautiful and charismatic, rising over an incredible landscape marked by massive boulders, coconut and banana palms, and sugarcane farms.
The Hampi group of monuments, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a reservoir of artistic, architectural, and historical treasures unrivaled in scope and magnitude. Hampi, untouched by the modern world’s ravages, is a haven for weary souls and a place of peace for the heart. From Virupaksha Temple to Stone Chariot to Elephant Stables and more, here are some of the best tourist attractions in Hampi.
1. Virupaksha Temple
The Virupakha temple, also known as Pampapati temple, is the most revered of Hampi’s temples. The temple complex is a lengthy rectangular enclosure located on the southern bank of Tungabhadra and north of the Hemakuta hill. The inner gopura (temple entrance) leads to the inner court, which contains the vimana (temple or shrine) and minor shrines.
The ardhamandapa (pillared outdoor hall) and mandapa (pillared outdoor hall) have organically bent pillars, which are a characteristic feature of all Hampi temples. The Virupakha linga is enshrined in the garbhagriha, or sanctum (representation of Hindu Lord Shiva).
2. Hemakuta Hill And Temples
Many shrines and mandapas dot the hallowed Hemakuta Hill, the majority of which are in ruins now. With a shared ardhamandapa, it has three shrines facing east, west, and north. Sunset is the best time to visit Hemakuta Hill. The silhouetted aspect of the stone structures against the setting light.
3. Vitthala Temple
In terms of magnificence, perhaps no other structure or architecture in Hampi compares to Vitthala temple. It is the pinnacle of the Vijaynagar art and building style. It is housed within a rectangular enclosure with pillared colonnades along the length of the enclosure walls. Each structure inside the complex is a beautiful show of craftsmanship, from the gopura to the hundred-pillared mandapa.
4. Stone Chariot
The Vitthala temple’s stone chariot is a spectacular structure that symbolizes the architectural talent and tenacity of Hampi’s craftsmen in many ways. The stone chariot has the same intricate and delicate carvings that one finds in a wooden ratha or chariot. Within it, there is a Garuda image.
5. Statue of Ugra Narasimha or Lakshmi Narasimha
This 6.7-meter-high monolithic statue is a work of art to behold. The statue is a four-armed seated figure of Narasimha made out of a single granite boulder, which is now all fractured.
Above its head, a seven-hooded naga (snake) curls. The sculpture is precise and intricate, despite its vast size. It is now one of the most outstanding relics of a time when artistic brilliance was attained to unprecedented levels. The Sasivekalu and Kadalekalu Ganesa statues on the slope of Hemakuta hill are two more monolith monuments worth highlighting at Hampi.