January 4, 2017

Hampi- Where Stones Narrate a Thousand Tales

Boulders, boulders and boulders everywhere! Hampi welcomes everyone with its dramatic undulated landscape lined with mammoth boulders of varying sizes and shapes precariously placed over one another. Meander through the roads of Hampi, and you notice the stones are chiseled, have brilliant carvings and tell many stories from the years gone by. 

A UNESCO world heritage centre presently, Hampi was at its prime in early 16th century during the Vijayanagara empire when it was ruled by King Krishnadeva Raya, and was even considered to be bigger than Rome those days. A fully functional and well equipped capital city until it was ransacked in mid 16th century, Hampi lay in a state of ruins and excavations until it got itself on the UNESCO list. Though much of its sculptures and art works have been restored, the sites display works marred by the vanquish in the war and plundering post that, which apparently also brought Hampi's downfall. What remains are the reminiscences of a glorious empire, however, one can envisage the majestic city at its zenith in full pomp and glory as you walk through its trails and gaze at the magnificent stone works. It is probably the most significant ruined city in India.

Located by the Tungabhadra river, Hampi has been a favourite with hippies and foreign visitors for the past many years. Listed as a group of monuments under the UNESCO list, almost all the sites are spread across either the sacred centre (mostly temples) and royal enclosure (palaces). Hampi has sites which would require you to walk for long, past many boulders to visit the next sculpture or a temple. It is recommended to get a local guide to help you go around and also to narrate history about a temple or stories from a carving. However, if you are a map lover, then go on your own to explore Hampi through its temples, sculptures, structures, friendly people, hippies and much more.

The royal enclosure has most of the structures related to the royal family and a few temples. Mahanavami Dibba  is a raised platform built by Krishnadeva Raya in the 16th century and was used as audience hall to view ceremonies. The base has wonderful carvings depicting stories from mythology. Climb on top to have a view of the excavated surroundings.

Pushkarni is a huge pond which has beautiful symmetrical steps accentuating its beauty.

Queen's bath was built for Krishnadeva Raya's favourite queen and was known for its beautiful arches, ornate stucco and plaster work.

Lotus mahal was built for queen Tirumala devi and is known for its secular architecture. The Indo- Islamic architecture is very evident with its beautiful arches. There are also watch towers here near to this palace, one of which was guarded by eunuchs.

The elephant stables are another excellent example of Islamic architecture with drum shaped adomes. They used to house eleven royal elephants.

Mint area is believed to be where the royal complex of Viraharihara, one of the earliest rulers on Vijayanagara empire existed. It presently only has ruins and a skeletal marking of the whole enclosure.

Hazara Rama temple is the most important temple inside the royal enclosure with numerous stories from Ramayana carved on its walls. It was the private temple of the royal family.


The underground Virupaksha temple has a magnificent entrance tower.

The other popular sites inside royal enclosure include octagonal bath, guard's quarters, basement of queen's palace, bhima's gate, jain temple etc.

Sacred site on the other side is known for its numerous temple complexes, Virupaksha and Vittala being the most popular ones. Most of these complexes have residential areas in its surrounding along with markets.

A functional temple, Virupaksha has a majestic entrance tower (gopura) with intricate works and is dedicated to Shiva.

Hemakuta temple on a hill is known for its unique architecture. Next to it lies the sunset point which offers lovely views in the evening.

Sculpted out of a single granite boulder is the shrine of Kadlekalu Gnesha. It has numerous carved pillars too.

Krishna temple built by Krishnadeva Raya has nice carved pillars and a open courtyard.

Opposite to Krishna temple is a beautiful pushkarni (temple pond) with pillared corridors lined on either side, which probably were markets earlier. 

Though mutilated, the 22 feet tall Ugra Narasimha statue is an absolute stunner. Next to it lies the 12 feet high shivalinga built of black granite.

The other end of the market, across Virupaksha temple leads to the base of Matanga hill. Lined with large boulders, steps lead to Achyuta Raya temple. The base also has a museum which displays photographs of Hampi from various eras.

The walkway to Achyuta Raya temple is known as Shooley bazaar. Achyuta Raya temple stands ruined amidst boulders and coconut groves when seen from the top. It has two enclosures and extensive carvings on its pillars. 

Further ahead lies Vittala temple, probably the most celebrated temple in Hampi and dedicated to Vishnu. The extensive carvings on the mandapas (halls), numerous pillars and the stone chariot are the biggest attractions here. The open courtyard has structures such as Sabha mantapa, Kalyana mantapa and Saptasvara mantapa. 

King's balance is where the kings used to weigh themselves in gold on coronation day.

Tungabhadra river and the huge boulders give Hampi and its structures a beautiful backdrop. Pay the local oarsman to go on a coracle ride on Tungabhadra.

A visit to Hampi is always to look back at the glorious Vijayanagara empire and to gaze at the marvelous stone works narrating grandmother stories from a bygone era.

Travel Tips:
  • It get pretty hot during the day time and is advised to visit the site early in the morning or late afternoon.
  • Avoid the summer months, as it can tire you soon.
  • Hire a guide if you would like to know the stories in detail. They can be arranged by your hotel or the guest house you stay at.
  • Daroji Sloth bear sanctuary and Anegundi are the other popular attractions near Hampi.


Located in north Karnataka, Hampi lies 13 Kms away from Hospete, the nearest railhead. The closest airport is at Hubli, 167 Kms away. Bangalore is 345 Kms away, there are both trains and buses connecting Hampi with the capital city.

Food and Accoommodation:

There are numerous small eateries and stalls in Hampi bazaar near Virupaksha temple. Mango Tree restaurant, Funky Monkey and Laughing Buddha are nice ones. Hampi has numerous budget home stays such as Padma guest house, Rahul guest house etc. Hospete has more luxurious options such as Hotel Malligi, Hotel Krishna Palace, Royal orchid etc.


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