You approach Hampi from Hospet, through the south. Hampi villagehas one main street – Hampi Bazaar, which is closed to all traffic. At the western end is Virupaksha Temple, one of the many places to visit in Hampi. At the eastern end of the street, the museum is located at the foot of Matangi Hill. The ruins are scattered southeast of Hampi Bazaar and northwest of Kamalapura. Be prepared for a bit of walking, even if you rent a car or take a tour – bring your walking shoes. If you can ride a bike or motorcycle, this is a great way to see the place. Whichever you choose, wear some sort of headgear to protect you from the sun and bring a picnic lunch (and water) – you can always buy bread and bajjias, boiled eggs or paranthas from any of the eateries to take with you.
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The ‘sacred center’ of Hampi lies along the river and consists of temple complexes such as the ancient Virupaksha Temple, as well as those dedicated to Pattibhirama, Raghunatha, Balakrishna and Vittala. The distinctiveness of the Vijaynagara architectural style lay in the construction of mandapas and huge gopurams called rayagopurams. Around each of these temples rose robes consisting of “residential quarters” with quarters named after the king who built them or after the main deities of the temple itself. So we have Virupakshapura and Krishnapura, each with major bazaar streets in front of the respective temple.
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I walk around the Kamla Mahal and the elephant stables and they seem to be in remarkably good shape. Some historians believe these were built after the sack of the city, but recent evidence suggests they were of the same era as the other ruins. The secular buildings are also examples of Indo-Islamic architecture. For example, in the Kamla Mahal, the arches are conspicuously curved and the chajjas or canopies are also bracketed, as found in Islamic structures. Even the elephant stables have a dome over each individual stable, reminiscent of Muslim architecture elsewhere. There is a small museum near the base of Matanga Hill. It houses a permanent exhibition of 60 enlarged photographs of Hampi, taken in 1853, by a British photographer. There is another set of photos taken 130 years later (same angles) by an Australian photographer. Discover the changes (or lack thereof) that have taken place since then.
In Royal Center, I found palaces, zen-zen and baths, as well as the Hazara Rama Temple intended for royal worship. No other kingdom has survived such a wealth of secular structures, not even the mighty Cholas of the Tamil Nadu region. Vijaynagara reached its peak under its great king, Krishnadevaraya. Temple building was given top priority and no aspect of life was ignored. Travelers’ travelogues talk about the wrestling matches, dance, processions, mock battles, astrology and music. You can imagine such activities taking place in open mandapas laid out all over the place. Most impressive is the Mahibavami dibba, a huge platform probably dating as far back as the 14th century, with rough-hewn masonry, but neat joints and some fine statuary. There are steps but no superstructure so it’s impossible to tell what exactly it could be. Foreign visitors of the time describe wooden or fabric superstructures on this. It is speculated that it was a throne room or audience hall of some kind used for royal ceremonies.
Location: Hampi is located on a desolate, rocky terrain, on the cusp of the Tungabhadra River and Reservoir, in the Bellary area of northern Karnataka.
Distance : 350 km NW of Bengaluru
Travel time: by road: 8 hours ; By rail: 10 hours; By plane: 45 minutes
When to Go: The monsoon and winter are best. The temperature varies between 16 ° C and 35 ° C.