Hampi: Lest We Forget

The city of Vijayanagara, known by its modern name, Hampi, is a small town in the Indian state of Karnataka. The city of Vijayanagara was founded around the year 1336.

Hampi is located on the banks of River Tungabhadra. When I first visited Hampi, the ruins were rarely visited and my first impressions were the sights of behemoth red and brown granite stones. They left me with a vivid and lasting impression of this once glorious city that was destroyed by invaders in 1565.

Today, Hampi is a destination for tourists and travelers. The glory and splendor of the Vijayanagara Empire is evident in the ruins.

Entrance Tower of Vitthala Temple

Built in the 15th Century, the Vitthala Temple is dedicated to Lord Vitthala, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. An outstanding example of Dravidian style of architecture, the Vitthala Temple exhibits features that are characteristic of South Indian temple architecture. Dravidian architecture, which flourished under the Vijayanagara Empire, is characterized by large dimensions, cloistered enclosures, and lofty towers over entrances that are encased by decorated pillars.

Stone Chariot

The Stone Chariot, a shrine for Garuda, was built in the 16th century. Garuda, a mythical bird-like creature, is the mount of Lord Vishnu. The chariot might seem like a monolithic structure carved out of a giant stone. Instead, the structure was built using several granite blocks and the joints are hidden by exquisite carvings. Elephants appear to be pulling the chariot but they do not belong to the original structure. Tails and hind legs of the original horse structures can be seen behind the elephants.

Ranga Mantapa

Situated in the Vittala Temple complex, the Ranga Mantapa is renowned for its musical pillars. Visitors are restricted from tapping on the pillars due to damage that has resulted from tapping over the years. The emission of musical notes from stone pillars has been a mystery for centuries. Two pillars were cut to see if they were hollow on the inside and those cut marks are still visible. The pillars are carved out of single pieces of resonant stone.

Musical Pillars

Each main pillar that supports the ceiling of Ranga Mantapa is surrounded by smaller musical pillars. You can see the wear that has occurred on the smaller musical pillars. Tapping on different pillars emit the musical notes 'DO RE MI' and so on. There are a total of 56 musical pillars.

Pushkaranis – Sacred Water Tanks

The water tanks with large stone steps allowed people to get to the water easily. The water tanks are connected to an extensive network of stone aqueducts and canals. Around 1339, a huge dam was built in the Tungabhadra river as well as an aqueduct several miles long from the river into the city, cut out of the solid rock base of the hills.

The Queen’s Bath

The Queen’s Bath is an elaborate structure with a simple exterior and an ornate interior. The bath is a rectangular pool, surrounded by arched corridors with pillars, and ornate balconies with windows. Only women of the royal family were allowed to use the bath.

Haraza Rama Temple

Hazara Rama translates to "a thousand Rama" and refers to a host of relics depicting the deity of the temple, Lord Rama. Inside you will see the famous relics and panels depicting the story of the epic Ramayana. The outer walls portray processions of elephants, horses, soldiers, etc., who are taking part in the Dasara festival.

Lotus Mahal

The Lotus Mahal [Palace] is situated among the ruins of Hampi. A wider view of this structure manifests the shape of a lotus bud. The archways are designed to resemble petals of a lotus. Viewed from the inside, the arches are covered with intricate carvings. An interesting feature about the Lotus Mahal is that it was air-cooled with a water pipeline that runs above and between the arches and on the sides of the roof.

Elephant Stable

This stable for State elephants has a row of eleven domed chambers, large enough to accommodate two elephants at a time. The domes represent different styles of architecture and there are remnants of stucco and plaster ornamentation on both the inside and outside the stable.

Lakshmi Narasimha Statue

The most imposing sculpture of Hampi, the Lakshmi Narasimha statue, is also its largest monolith statue. Narasimha is the fourth incarnation of Lord Vishnu and appeared on Earth in the form of half human [nara] and half lion [simha]. The sculpture portrays Narasimha sitting on the coils of Adishesha, the sacred guardian snake of Lord Vishnu, which rises behind him with its seven hoods that acts as a canopy.

Chandikesvara Temple

The Chandikesvara temple has a hall situated at the front of the structure and it's most interesting aspect is the richly carved pillars. A brilliant piece of architecture in itself, these pillars have been crafted out of stones and depict several themes of the Hindu mythology.


This ornate structure in Hampi has weathered 500 years of natural and man-made destruction. Although damaged to a large extent, the structure reflects the beauty and grandeur that was once attached to it. Under the initiative of the Archaeological Survey of India, the Archaeological Museum at Kamalapura was established to undertake the responsibility of preserving the ruins of Hampi.

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