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HAMPI: The Ancient Capital of the Greatest Hindu Empire Vijayanagara

The great monuments and the rich heritage tell us allot about the grandeur and fabulous wealth of the bygone era and the infinite talent and creativity of its people

  • The World Heritage site of Hampi is filled with lavish Dravidian temples and was the capital of the kingdom of Vijayanagara
  • The great monuments and the rich heritage tells us so much about the grandeur and fabulous wealth of the bygone era
  • A superb blend of styles from various schools of architecture created  awe-inspiring structures

The ravishing beauty of Hampi, the capital of the most famed Hindu kingdom of the past does not only lie in the majestic architectural structures but also in the landscapes, the trees and the scenic Tungabhadra river on its side. This World Heritage site filled with lavish Dravidian temples was the capital of the kingdom of Vijayanagara, the largest empire in post-Mughal India, covering the present-day Indian states of Karnataka, Andhra, and Maharashtra. Under the rule of king Krishnadevaraya, the empire succeeded in reviving the Indian culture with a flourish for music, art, sculpture, and literature.

Though in ruins, tourists still flock in large numbers to Hampi which is located near Hospet, in Bellary district in the southern Indian state of Karnataka. The great monuments and the rich heritage tells us so much about the grandeur and fabulous wealth of the bygone era and the infinite talent and creativity of its people. Amidst the giant boulders and plantations, and protected by the turbulent river Tungabhadra in the north, these ruins stand tall, reminding us of a beautiful era of the past. The Hampi World Heritage Area Management Authority was constituted in 2002 for the overall development and conservation of Hampi after the government made it an international destination.

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The dilapidated main mantapa at the Vitthala templein Hampi Image Source: Wikipedia Commons
The dilapidated main mandapa at the Vitthala temple in Hampi Image Source: Wikipedia Commons

Established in 1336 A.D. by two brothers, Hakka and Bukka , the Vijayanagara empire held its ground for centuries restoring Hinduism and keeping the Turks at bay. Vijayanagara is also known as Vidyanagara because Hakka and Bukka built the empire under the guidance of their patron saint Madhava Vidyaranya. However, it is believed that the kingdom dates back to the period of the epic, Ramayana when it was the site of Kishkinda, a monkey kingdom.

After successfully driving away the Khilji Dynasty of Delhi which had invaded South India and destroyed the Kakathiya Empire, Hoysalas and the Pandian Kingdom, the kings of Hampi restored peace to the land and revived their great culture. Hindu religion, art and architecture saw a tremendous growth and many institutions were set up to strengthen their common culture. The famous Tenali Ramakrishna, known as Tenali Raman to the people of today was one of the several poets and ministers in the court of by Krishnadeva Raya, the greatest ruler of the dynasty. The economy of Southern India grew to new heights under his leadership. Trade with the Portuguese and Dutch were established.

Travelling chroniclers from Arabia, Italy, Portugal and Russia came to this blessed land to visit the monuments of the city. Most of the monuments were built between 1336 and 1570 A.D. from the times of Harihara-I to Sadasivaraya.

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Over the years, a unique style of architecture came into form. A superb blend of styles from various schools of architecture created awe-inspiring structures like the majestic Hindu temples, the royal hall, the magnificent throne platform used to witness festivals and other events, and the king’s balance or scale. The ornamentation, delicate carvings, stately pillars, magnificent pavilions and a great wealth of iconographic and traditional depictions from the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata, make the temples of Hampi a marvelous spectacle, says the About Religion article. Worship is still carried out at the largest extant temple at Pampapati after it was renovated.

A large number of palatial complexes, stone images, household utensils, beautiful terracotta objects, inscribed Buddhist sculptures of the 2nd-3rd century, and stucco figures that once embellished the palaces have been discovered in the recent excavations.

– prepared by Ajay Krishna of NewsGram. Twitter: @ajkrish14

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