By Sid Viswakumar, M.S.
Hampi (pronounced hump-e), an outstanding historical city, is in Karnataka State, India. It’s also one of the UN World Heritage Sites in this country. It’s no wonder that thousands of foreign tourists throng Hampi every year. If you plan to travel to India, place Hampi in the top spot on your travel itinerary.
Hampi was the capital city of the Vijayanagara Kingdom, which was established in 1336 AD. An outstanding king of Vijayanagara was Krishnadevaraya. Numerous foreign travelers of that bygone era, including Paes and Nueniz, who visited his kingdom, heaped praise on his rule and on the pomp and splendor of the kingdom.
Krishnadevaraya was a brave leader who led from the front, and a genius and scholar. During his tenure agriculture and commerce thrived, art and architecture reached greater heights, artists and scholars were respected and honored and people lived in harmony.
Here’s a testimony to the glory of Vijayanagara: pearls, gold, silk and other expensive items were sold on the streets of Hampi! Here, even today, you can see the ruins of the ancient bazaar where the bartering took place. In fact, when you enter Hampi you’ll find a whole new world. A word that perhaps best describes this historical city is “mystic.”
A few hours or even an entire day isn’t enough to see the wonders of Hampi. Set aside at least a few days to explore its outstanding architecture and pay tribute to the talented artisans of that historic era.
Here are just a few of the jewels of Hampi you shouldn’t miss:
Bazaar: This is the place where people sold exquisite items like gold, pearls and silk. The official information says that the bazaar has a length of 3,100 feet and a width of 131 feet.
Vitthala Temple: It’s an astounding architectural marvel of Hampi. Here’s what the official information board outside the temple says: “The Vitthala Temple represents the highest watermark of the Vijayanagara style of art and architecture…”
The main hall that leads to the temple has slender pillars. These are marvelous pillars because they produce musical tones when they are gently tapped. As some of the visitors over the years have rampantly tested the pillars, causing damage to them, tapping is no longer allowed.
Stone Chariot: The chariot is a masterpiece and testimony to the outstanding skills of the sculptors of the Vijayanagara kingdom. Give attention to the stone wheels, whose surfaces have floral motifs etched in concentric circles.
The Stone Chariot is actually a small temple built in the form of a chariot. It’s an example of the excellent creativity of the designers and implementers of the monument.
Marriage Hall: Known as Kalyana Mantapa in Kannada, the official language of the state of Karnataka, the Marriage Hall is in the same complex as the Vitthala Temple and the Stone Chariot. It has beautiful pillars, some of which have carvings of elephants and lions.
Ugra Narasimha Idol: This magnificent idol, symbolic of the destruction of evil, is perhaps the tallest idol you’ll find in Hampi. The height of the idol is about 23 feet. The damage to this idol was caused by the invaders of the Vijayanagara kingdom. It is one of the great monuments of Hampi that will remain in your mind for a long time.
Hampi is about 7.5 miles from a town called Hospet in the state of Karnataka. It is well-connected by buses and trains from various parts of that state. Another travel mode to reach Hospet is by car.
If you reach the town in the evening, stay overnight there. Then reach Hampi the next morning by taxi. If you’re short on budget, take a state government bus or a private bus, which are aplenty and ply from and to Hospet all day long.
If you’re a budget traveler, guest houses and huts could fit your needs. Where are these guest houses? At three locations in and around Hampi. The first location is in Hampi at the Hampi Bazaar. On either side of its street, you’ll find a number of guest houses. Keep in mind that these guest houses are simple living spaces. They may not have the amenities you would expect to find in a hotel.
The second place is known as Virupapura Gadde, which is to the north of the river Tungabhadra. At the Gadde, you’ll find huts.
Kamalapura, which is a little less than 2 miles from Hampi, is the third and last place to stay close to Hampi. It has very few guest houses in comparison to Hampi and Gadde. Kamalapura has the Hotel Mayura Bhuvaneswari. It belongs to a state agency, the Karnataka State Development Corporation (KSTDC). It is a star hotel and a better option over guest houses and huts, if you’re not too short on funds.
Hospet, which is the place you land at to reach Hampi, has good hotels. These are, however, expensive in comparison to the guest houses and huts in and near Hampi.
If you’re adventurous or want to explore the great wonders of Hampi at your own pace, use a bicycle, moped, scooter or even a motorbike to reach the many magnificent ruins, which are a distance from one another. There are quite a few cycle shops in Hampi that rent two-wheelers. Some such shops take a refundable deposit for security.
[Editor’s note: Accompanying photos are available for purchase with this article. Click here to contact the author directly.]