Hampi (Pampakshetra or Kishkindha) – Capital of Vijayanagara Empire!

Further continuation from the previous blog- Part II – Badami, Pattadakal, Banashankari, Mahakut and Aihole, this is the final installment of the series i.e. 5 days Back Pack trip.

Bright day for us and also for our much anticipated visit to Glorious Hampi – to soak in the golden period of the gone by during Vijayanagara Empire. Got up by 6.00 am, we had packed our sacks day earlier. Had breakfast and were off to Hampi via Hospet on road. It takes around 4 hours from Badami through Hospet Highway.

On the way, we took a halt at Tungabhadra Dam, tributary of Krishna River. It was a picnic spot complete with landscaped Garden. We parked the car and waited for the bus to take us to the top near the light house. Some of the vehicles were allowed in after they flaunted their ID or something. Only state managed buses are allowed to run in. Buses were available every 10 minutes, and as expected, it packs up to the brim. After the winding upward ride, we alighted at the top. Saw the massive Tungabhadra Dam. It provides water to two states i.e. Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. In the night, different color lights are lit to render colored hue to the flowing water, which is yet another spectacle to watch. No, we did not stay till night. We rounded off the visit with some photographs & were back on Hospet Road. In next 30-45 minutes, we reached Hampi in the afternoon, around 2.00 pm. Before entering the quaint town, we thought of covering some places, so as to keep the schedule lighter for next day.

Shri Vijayavitthala Temple:

As per the original plan, we were supposed to visit Hemkuta hills & Virupaksha complex. Instead, we steered towards Vitthala Complex which was little farther from the town.  Vitthala temple complex is approximately 2 kms away from the road. To get there, one can walk on foot or take mini open buses operated by the government to & fro from the complex. The entire mud road is through the stone ruins of a bazaar. We also saw a water tank and some mantapa like monuments on the way.

Because of the historical importance of the place, we hired a guide for Rs. 200. Anyways, they have their own way of story-telling and some secrets which we usually don’t find on websites. Complex is located on the banks of the Tungabhadra River. One can see the Anegundi hill opposite to the River with 600 stairs(as it was said) to climb. The mini bus directly dropped us at the main grand but burnt entrance of Shri Vijayavitthala Temple, dedicated to Lord Vishnu.

It is said that, the rulers of the Vijayanagara Empire were quite open to experimenting with building materials and styles. Their temples were experimented upon with regard to building material. Brick towers were seen as compared to the heavier granite towers seen later in the Virupaksha Temple. It made it easier to build but vulnerable to destruction by fire. And that is what it seemed to happen to Hampi after the loss of the Vijayanagara Empire at the Battle of Talikota, most of the Vijayanagara empire is in ruins now.

The temple has a typical South Indian Dravidian architecture. Built in 15th Century AD, the temple is built in the form of sprawling campus with many halls, pavilions, temples located inside the campus. The Mahamandapam’s base is chiseled with friezes of the swan, the horse and the warrior. One can see the ten avataras of Vishnu carved on the pillars.

The steps on the east of the Mahamandapam are flanked by an elephant balustrade. The facades are lined with forty pillars, each over 10 feet in height. Each group of pillars has a central pillar with slender shafts around. The center of the Mahamandapam has sixteen pillars decorated with Narasimha and Yali, forming a rectangular court. The ceiling of the Mahamandapam is also covered with sculptural work.

The main attraction of this temple is 56 musical pillars when tapped gently these pillars produce musical sounds. These pillars are popularly known as Musical Pillars or SAREGAMA Pillars and the Palace is known as ‘Sangeet Mahal’. As we went around, we were totally awestruck with the craftsmanship on the pillars, walls, depicting the Mahabharata, Ramayana, short stories, hunters, traders who came from far off land etc.  in different dimensions which now we call as 3-D. The ornately crafted design on the walls, made us wonder, how glorious that era would have been, such intricate motifs & pattern all around. Imagine the music being played at Sangeet Mahal or the lights that are lit in the grooves on the walls. It would have been a sight to behold.  We all wished for time machine.

The main attraction of Hampi, show stealer is the Stone Chariot. Main symbol of Hampi. Its stone wheels, each shaped in the form of a lotus, are capable of revolving. Temple chariots are often mobile reproductions of a temple. After the photo sessions, we went around and saw path going further ahead towards the river. We just followed it. We saw the kings balance and went ahead towards the Tungabhadra river. There was a temple half immersed in the river. We sat there for some time, watching the Anegundi hill in the opposite direction.  A re-visit plan was already playing in my mind, with Anegundi on the list, slowly, we retraced our step back to the entrance of Vitthala Temple. There was a small queue to catch the mini-bus.

We got into the bus and were dropped at the starting point. What surprised us most was women bus drivers & conductors. It seemed that there were equal opportunities for Men & Women. At some restaurants we saw female waiters too, which is a rare sight in Mumbai.  We were happy to see women empowerment via jobs encouraged by Karnataka Government.

Virupaksha Temple:

It was already 5.00 pm, We hurriedly left for Virupaksha Temple, which was located in the main Hampi Bazaar.  Parked the car on one side & dashed into the complex. We went around admiring the architecture; it was located on the south bank of Tungabhadra river at the base of the Hemkutta Hills. The Virupaksha Temple, also called Pampapathi temple, is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is renowned as one of the most sacred temples in Karnataka. Each major Temple complex had its own bazaar around which a township was developed. This is the only bazaar around which a township of a sort still exists. This bazaar is flanked by the main gopura if Virupaksha temple called Bishtappa’s gopura on the one end and the monolithic Nandi at the other end. The 9 storied, 53 meters high gopura adds elegance to the 732 meters long and 28 meters wide Virupaksha Bazaar.

Historically speaking, this temple has an uninterrupted history from about the 7th century. the temple contains the shrines of Lord Shiva, Pampa and Bhuvaneshwari. What was once a small shrine, in course of time, developed into a large complex under the Vijayanagara rulers. At present, the main temple consists of a Sanctum, three ante chambers, a pillared hall and a Mukha Mantapa also called Ranga Mantapa or an open pillared hall. A pillared cloister, entrance gateways, courtyards, attendant shrines and other mantapas surround the temple. The Ranga mantapa consists of 38 pillars, relieved with sculptures. The ceiling as well as the beams supporting the ceilings is covered with painted panels. the panel depicts themes from the Mahabharatha, the Ramayana and the Shiva Puranas as well as from the contemporary life.

The other temple of significance in this complex is the shrine for Goddess Bhuvaneshwari. This shrine was rebuilt in the vijayanagara days, over an 11th century temple. This temple is chiefly noted for its marvelously worked door-frame, pillars and articulately chiseled ceiling panels.

We tried to click as many pictures as possible before the darkness hit. As per the original plan we were supposed to stay at Hampi itself, hence I enquired around and found a pleasant accommodation at Padma Guest house with landscaped view of Virupaksha Temple. But, on insistence of another interfering friend, we had to shift to Hospet. We landed at Pai Lodge, which was 5 minutes from Hospet Bus Stand.

Next day was supposed to be light but exhausting one. We got up early, had breakfast and boarded the bus to Hampi from Hospet bus stand.

It was 20 minutes dusty ride. Instead of going towards Hampi Bazaar, we alighted at the turn that lead to the Hampi Town. It was the rear end area of Royal Complex enclosure. We covered the Royal complex on foot. First we came across the Queen’s Bath.

The whole building is surrounded by moat, with small bridge like structures around to cross over. The whole building is made with a veranda around facing a big open pond at the middle. Projecting into the pond are many balconies. An aqueduct terminates in the pond.

The balconies are decorated with tiny windows and supported by lotus bud tipped brackets. The whole pool is open to the sky. This brick lined pool is now empty. But it’s believed once fragrant flowers and perfumed water filled this bathing pool. At one end of the veranda you can see a flight of steps giving access to the pool. The domical roof of veranda is a spectacle itself. It looked very plain from outside, but once we were inside it was pure marvel. We went around, clicked pictures and hoped further.

Mahanavami Dibba:

There are signboards at every nook & corner. Temples were scattered all around, some small some grand. Next was Mahanavami dibba. This is the tallest structure in this area, The whole structure is made as a giant square structure in three layers.  There was large wooden doors lying on the ground, which was supposed to be the entrance.

There are two stairways to reach the top  with carvings of elephants, horses and a host of other things. On the top, it is flat, gaint stage, whole campus can be seen. The sides of this three layered platform is basically fluted design with chains of sculptures (largely of elephants one behind the other). The most celebrated of the carvings are of the panels at the sidewall in the bottom portion.

King Krishnadevaraya from Tuluva Dynasty constructed this in commemoration on the victory over Udaygiri (now in Orissa). The king used this platform to watch the army march-pasts, war games, aquatic sports, shows of the royal animals, musical performances and also the most important Navarathri celebrations, the nine day-nine night state festival. And this was the annual occasion the governors of various provinces under the king visited the capital to pledge their loyalty to the king’s dominion. For the king it was an event to demonstrate the imperial pomp and power at his disposal.

We hopped in and out of the elaborate stage, and went further towards Stepped Tank.

Stepped Tank:

Also called Pushkarni, is a geometrically fascinating tank built in chlorite schist, used by royals for religious purposes. The small but neat tank is about 22 square meters and about 7 meters deep. It has five distinct tiers, each fitted with steps set in a pleasing pattern.

The mason marks on the individual blocks indicating the direction, the row and the location of the steps reveal that the layout of this stepped tank was well thought out in advance and all the different block stones were prepared in accordance with the plan elsewhere and assembled on the site later. This tank was discovered during the recent excavations.

The waterflow to the tank was connected very well from outside. We headed further to the underground secret chamber.

It can be easily missed if one doesn’t know about its existence or location. This sub-terrain chamber was probably used a treasury of a secret discussion room, located inside the citadel area. It was dark & cold with narrow stairs that led one in & out.

Once out, we followed the path, it forked into two. There was a sign post, giving directions to the further marvels. Dusty path further straight ahead leads to Underground Siva temple, while on the right side, there was Hazara Rama Temple, Zenena Enclosure.

Hazararama Temple:

Opposite to the Hazara Rama temple was the ruins of Pan Supari (Beetle nut) Bazaar.

Hazararama Temple as the name  itself implies as thousand Rama, because of Ramayana panels on its walls. It is not a big temple as compared to the other temples in Hampi, but it has its charm of its own. The peculiarity of the Mahamandapa of the Hazara Rama Temple was  4 pillars made from black Cuddapah stone—brought all the way from present day Andhra Pradesh. The carvings on these pillars are also from the lives of Rama and Krishna, intricately sculpted. This is the only temple in Hampi where the exterior walls have boldly chiselled bas-reliefs. These bas-reliefs are narrative in nature.

The Ramayana epic is carved in detail. Incidents in the story like Dasaratha performing a sacrifice to beget sons, the birth of Rama, his exile into the forest, the abduction of Sita and the ultimate fight between Rama and Ravana are all carved in a vivid manner.

Instead of going out from front side towards Pan supari Bazaar, we followed the narrow dusty trail on the back side and reached an open space, where the Prince Palace and Mint area was located.

Being hot sunny afternoon, we rested for sometime at the Palace.

After fueling our body, we retraced our way to the main dusty path, which lead to Zenana Enclosure. It was a detailed place on its own.  There was Archeological Musuem, Lotus Mahal, Elephant Stable, sunken Pattanada Yellamma Temple and the Ranga Temple beyond it.

Zenana Complex:

There is an entry ticket to visit the Zenana complex, it will take minimum one hour to tour the whole area. Sun was raging on the top, last few days the weather was pleasant, but today it was hot, and most of the tanning of skin took place on this day. We went around gulping water, taking photographs of one monument after another.

It was located in one secluded corner, reserved for the royal women. First thing that catches our sight is the Queen’s Palace basement. As per some website, this has been the largest palace base excavated in the Hampi ruins so far. Also the three-tired elaborate base structure speaks of its importance as a palace. The super structure was made of wooden or less durable materials compared to the stone base. Along with the other royal structures, a fire during the war could have destroyed the palace. A rectangular deep tank (now empty) just at east of this probably used as a water source to the palace.

The major attraction in the zenana complex is the architecture of Lotus Mahal.

It is a two-storied arched pavilion. The intricate designs on the pillars makes you wonder about its glory during its heydays.

There are three watchtowers, around two storied, built in the hybrid Indo-Islamic architectural style. It was also considered as a vantage position to survey this area and the Elephant stables behind the Zenana Enclosure.

The whole Zenana enclosure is encircled with a tall and broad walls made out of cut stones arranged in interesting patterns. The construction style of the wall is noteworthy.

There was a site map, also the whole area had a landscaped garden, some people were resting on the green grasses. We went further ahead following the path towards the Elephant Stable. It was a magnanimous  structure.  One of the least destroyed structure. The building consisted of eleven large rooms with very high ceilings. Large dones crown ten of these.

These domes are of brick and mortar, and are of different shapes drum-shaped, ribbed and octagonal. The superstructure of the central upper pavilion is lost. The center one is specially decorated and big. It probably had a Hindu Shikhara in consonance with Indo-Islamic architecture.

The rooms were used as Elephant stables. The elephants were tied to the chains hanging from the centre of the ceiling as can be made out from the iron hooks embedded in some of the ceilings. These were not the military elephants but were the ceremonial ones which were used by royal household.

We rounded up the elephant stable tour in next 20 minutes. Because of excessive heat, we replenished our body with coconut water, which was being sold under the shade of large tree next to elephant stable. After that, we veered towards the Yellamma Temple, ruined structure and retraced our way to the large tree and went left towards Ranga Temple.

 There is one guard positioned in each one of the structure. When we reached the Ranga Temple, we enquired with him regarding the path back to the junction of Hazara Rama temple. It was almost 2 kms away. And walking under the blazing sun would have caused more damage. Hence, we asked for short cut. Luckily there was one, we followed that and reached the entrance of Zenana complex. Some autos were waiting at the entrance, struck the deal for Rs. 500 to tour rest of the places with one of the Auto driver. It was a big relief for all of us.

First, we went to the underground Siva Temple, which was on the way.  For some reason, this temple was built several meters below the ground level.  During Monsoon season this temple remains submerged.  When we arrived, the water was there in the inner sanctum of the temple. Also, there was very strong stench emanating from the inner sanctum, mostly because of bat dwellings. It was repulsive enough to round of the visit in five minutes.  There was a water canal system around the main temple.

Before going towards Hampi town, we caught the road in the opposite direction to visit the Octagonal Bath, Chandrashekara temple & Saraswati Temple. Octagonal Bath, as the name suggest is a gigantic bathing area made in the shape of octagon. Chandrashekara temple & Saraswati Temple were nearby, which was covered on foot.

The bath shelter is designed with an octagonal shaped platform at the middle and an encircling pillared veranda around it. The circular section between the veranda and the platform is the water  area.  This area is barren with blazing sun on top.

If you look around, one can find many mantapa like structures erected on rocks located faraway.

Next on the list was Pattabhirama temple, which was grand like Vitthala Temple in comparision. It’s location was bit off from the main Town, hence it was deserted, we had ample time running around. Kaveri kept practicing her musical skills on those musical pillars, while I just lied down on those cold floors, which seemed like bliss, after hours of going around.

As per the legend, the whole temple campus was once paved with granite slabs. The main tower was built with brick superstructure and granite lower portions.

The terracotta images typically part of such towers is non-existent. However the details on the lower granite portion are intact. Township around the Pattabhirama Temple was known as the Varadadevi Ammana pette. Varadadevi was the queen of the Tuluva dynasty king Achyuta Raya.

Driver showed us two huge rocks, known as Sister rocks.

Recently, one had broken in two due to natural cause.  We moved further towards the Hampi Town, on the way stopping at one place where sign post suggested – Lakshmi -Narshima  Temple & Badavalinga Temple.  There was a small mud path extending to 500 metres, that lead to these monumental structures.

Lakshmi-Narashima is the largest statue in Hampi. Narasimha is sitting on the coil of a giant seven-headed snake called Sesha. The heads of the snake acts as the hood above his head. ASI managed to built the pieces together.

The god sits in a cross-legged Yoga position with a yogapatta (belt) supporting the knees. Sometimes this is referred as Ugra Narasimha (i.e. Narasimha in its terrifying form). The protruding eyes and the facial expression are the basis for this name.

It is said that, the original statue which was destroyed, had the image of goddess Lakshmi, consort of the god, sitting on his lap. But this statue has been damaged seriously during the raid leading to the fall of Vijayanagara. Even the damaged portion of such a large statue of Lakshmi carved on his lap is missing. Probably it may be laying around in tiny pieces. But the goddess’s hand is visible resting on his back in embracing posture. If you get a chance to go inside this enclosure, it is possible to see the hand of the goddess. Even the nails & the rings on her fingers are so perfectly executed. Well, we missed to see that, next time!

Located next to Narasimha Statue is the closed Chamber of Badavilinga with a door on the front, largest monolithic Linga in Hampi.

There are three eyes carved on it. As per the signpost, it was commissioned by a peasant woman and hence the name (Badva means poor in local tongue). The sanctum in which the Linga is installed is always filled with water as a water channel is made to flow through it.

Went back to the main road, next halt was Krishna Temple, with Krishna bazaar & Pushkarnni located exactly opposite this temple.  Krishna Temple was built by the king (Krishnadevaraya) in 1513 AD to celebrate the conquest of the eastern kingdom of Udayagiri or Utkala (in the present day Orissa state).

The main idol installed in the temple was the figure of Balakrishna (Lord Krishna as infant). This idol is now displayed in the state museum at Chennai. A huge slab installed inside the courtyard of the temple states the story of this temple and the conquest of Utkala. The carvings are especially spectacular with the Yalis (the mythical lion) on the pillars and the entrances to the temple hall flanged with impressive carvings of elephant balustrades.  The main tower at the east is an impressive sight with numerous carvings on it. There are carvings of the 10 incarnations of Lord Vishnu in this temple. Also, epic stories are carved on the walls of the tower. This is fairly an intact specimen of a Vijayanagara era temple.

Exactly on the opposite side of the road, once led to the temple called the Krishna Bazaar. The long pavilions were shops in the market street. Also, a structure called Pushkarni.

It was almost 4.00 pm by now, we had to catch the sunset on the top of Hemkuta hills first. Because, before embarking on this trip I read in one of the sites, that the sunrays during evening give out a beautiful tinge on the entire area. Hence, told the auto driver to directly drop us at the base of the Hemkutta hills i.e. entrance of Virupaksha Temple.

We hiked through the adjoining steps, took a nice view spot to rest for sometime, before sun starts going down. We noticed some DSLR equipped photographers on top, maybe waiting to get the famed shot. We too sat for sometime in anticipation of some magic. After resting for a while, the color & texture shade on the large rocks began to change, slant sunlight was really playing magic on those beige rocks. We got the opportunity to photograph it all well.

One can view the Anegundi Hill from here. Then, there were hordes of monkeys, who too were assembling with their kids to enjoy the sunset. Since, my friends were extra worried about missing out the last bus to Hospet, we descended from the other side, where the Sasivekalu Ganpathi was seated in a round mantapa, the idol is shown holdind the ankusa, broken tusk and a looped pasa. 

This is a giant monolithic Ganesha statue sculpted out of single boulder. In Hindu mythology, Lord Ganesha is notorious for his food habits. One day, he ate so much of food that his tummy was almost about to burst, so he just caught a snake and tied it around his tummy as a belt to save his tummy from bursting; as seen on the sculpture.

I was upset about missing out the sunset, but then I noticed that sun had hidden itself behind the clouds, giving out a beautiful hue to the entire sky. this was unexpected and all my sadness vanished. I clicked as many photos I could and we dashed back to the main road, where after inquiring with locals, came to know that bus is going to stop at that junction. We got the bus to Hospet.

Trip came to an end. with next day, being about our return journey to Mumbai through Chalukya express. We reached at dawn by 6.00 am.

All in all, apart from some annoyance that I had to face, during this trip, seemed negligent when compared to great places, I just witnessed in all these five days. It was certainly a big bliss. Being a Shiva fan, visiting so many temples specially dedicated to him, from bygone era was worth the pain. As it is said, no pain no gain 😉

The budget for this trip was set at 4k, including everything. Next year, again, with a hope of revisiting these places, I will try to incorporate all those places missed out and also include some new adjoining ones to explore!!!

P.S. This is Part III of the trip – Bijapur, Badami, Pattadakal, Banashankari, Mahakut, Aihole and Hampi. Information on places incorporated in the blog, are sourced from net.

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