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Vijayanagara Empire – The Hampi - Tollybeats

Vijayanagara Empire – The Hampi

Updated | February 25, 2017 19:38 IST

Hampi a village located on the banks of the Tungabhadra River is regarded as one of the most important world heritage sites in India. It was counted amongst the largest and most prosperous cities of the world during its period of power and vigour. This site that holds significance both historically and architecturally has several monuments, particularly the Virupaksha Temple that is dedicated to the patron deity of the Vijayanagara rulers, Lord Virupaksha, which is why it is often referred as Virupakshapura and Vijayanagara. Traces of grandeur and culture of this lost city of Asia that lie within the Vijayanagara city, which remained capital of the Vijayanagara Empire, is reflected from the remains of the city that include temples, masjid, civil and military buildings among others. Recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (Group of Monuments at Hampi), this site has emerged as one of the most visited historical destinations by tourists.

Emperor Ashoka in Udegolan and Nittur, during the 3rd century BC, this site remained under the jurisdiction of the Maurya Empire. It saw its first settlements in 1CE. Hampi remained an integral part of the capital city of the Vijayanagara from 1343 to 1565 – being located in a strategically favourable position with the abounding Tungabhadra River flowing on one side and hilly terrains surrounding the other three. The powerful Vijayanagara Empire had two million men in its army and during 1500 AD the capital city had an impressive 500,000 inhabitants that came to around 0.1% of the worldwide population between 1440-1540, thus positioning it globally as the second largest city after Beijing. While the conventional names of the place included ‘Bhaskara-kshetra’, ‘Kishkindha-kshetra’ and ‘Pampa-kshetra’, it derived the name Hampe from the old name of the ‘Tungabhadra River’, ‘Pampa’. ‘Hampe’, the Kannada name was later anglicized as Hampi.

The Deccan Muslim confederacy conquered the city in 1565. It was plundered for more than six months following which it was abandoned. The yesteryear splendour of the place including the royal, cultural and religious systems is manifested from the remains that comprise of around 1600 structures encompassing royal buildings, temples, mandapas, shrines, pillared halls, stables, defence check posts, water structures and gateways among others. These remains speak volumes of the socio-economic and political developments of Hampi.

In 1800 Colin Mackenzie discovered the remains of Hampi. Over the years the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has been conducting excavation works in the site. Archaeologists opine that the ‘Islamic Quarter’, also referred as the ‘Moorish Quarter’ built amidst the Talarigatta Gate and the northern slope of the Malyavanta hill were used for residential purpose by the top ranking Muslim officers and military officers of the king.

The Virupaksha Temple also called the ‘Pampavathi Temple’ located in Hampi Bazaar is one of the earliest monuments of Hampi even preceding the foundation of the Vijayanagara Empire. Originally a small shrine, it was later developed into an imposing and rich temple during the Vijayanagara Empire. Dedicated to Lord Virupaksha, the patron deity of the Vijayanagara rulers, this temple has three entrance towers or gopuras with the main entrance tower being the highest measuring 49 m, a second entrance tower comparatively smaller leading to inner courtyard of the temple.

It is the largest monolithic Linga in Hampi measuring 3 feet, dedicated to Lord Shiva. Housed within a chamber, this Linga is situated beside the Lakshmi Narasimha statue. Three eyes of the Lord are etched on the Linga. According to legends a peasant woman commissioned to build it which is why ‘Badya’ meaning poor in local language became associated with its name. A water channel is linked to the sanctum of the Linga which always remains submerged in water.

Being one of the best historical place, Hampi is still one of the places we are proud to have as a part of our country.