HAMPI: Fascinating ruins of the 15th century Vijayanagara kingdom

The fascinating ruins of the 15th-century city of Vijayanagara, near the village of Hampi, are set in an extraordinary landscape of giant granite boulders, lush paddies and banana plantations.

Hampi is situated in Hospet taluk in Bellary district of Karnataka State.

In the Hindu legends of Ramayana, this area was Kishkinda, the realm of the monkey gods. In 1336 the Telugu princes Harihara and Bukka founded the city of Vijayanagara, which over the next couple of centuries grew into one of the largest Hindu empires in Indian history. Vijayanagar’s busy bazaars were centres of international commerce, brimming with precious stones and merchants from faraway lands. This all came to a sudden end in 1565 when the city was ransacked by a confederacy of Deccan sultanates; it subsequently went into terminal decline. Although it was declared a World Heritage site in 1986, only 58 of the 550 monuments in the area hold heritage-protection status. The businesses occupying Hampi Bazaar have been given their marching orders and a new complex for the area’s modern-day needs is under slow construction away from the monuments.

Some important monuments and sites at Hampi are:

  • Laxminarasimha Temple
  • Shiva Temple
  • Krishna Temple
  • Krishna Bazaar
  • Pushkarni
  • Prasanna Narasimha Temple
  • Basava Mandapa
  • Vishnu Temple
  • Sasivekalu Ganesha
  • Kadalekalu Ganesha
  • Ragalingeshwara Temple
  • Jain Temple
  • Virupaksha Temple
  • Sri Shivananda Ashram
  • Manmatha Honda
  • Hampi Bazaar Street
  • Tungabhadra River
  • Jain Asharama
  • Veerabhadra Temple
  • Ranga Mandapa
  • Banni Mahakali
  • Kodandarama Temple

Virupaksha temple

The main shrine is dedicated to Virupaksha, a form of Shiva. The Bistappa Gopura or the tower in main entrance of Virupaksha temple is 165 ft tall, 150 ft wide, and 120 ft long and has eleven storey’s. Entering through the main entrance one can find a wide prakara of the temple (open place), which is 135 ft long and 510 ft wide. The floor of the prakara is covered with flat stones. In the centre of the prakara there is a canal through which the Tungabhadra river flows. On the right side of the prakara there is a puja mandapa, also called Kalyana Mandapa. There are two prakaras in the Virupaksha temple. The second prakara lies towards the west of the first after crossing the Raya tower. It was apparently built to commemorate the coronation of Krishnadevaraya. Dhwaja stambha and deepa stambhas can be seen in the second prakara. On the left side are the Pathaleswara, Mukti Narasimha, and Suryanarayana temples and on the right are the Lakshmi Narasimha and Mahishasura Mardhini temples. Virupaksha temple also called Pampapathi temple is the oldest of all the temples in Hampi which lies opposite to the second prakara. The doors, pillars and ceiling of this temple are beautifully and intricately carved.

As mentioned by Longhurst, an archaeologist, Hari Kara built additional temples around this temple. In 1509-10, during the time of his coronation, Sri Krishnadevaraya built the Ranga Mandapa. There are steps to enter the Virupaksha temple from the east, south and north. But there is no entrance from the east.

On the northern side of Virupaksha temple lies a tower called Kanakagiri Gopura. In this Gopura are the Ratnagarbha Ganapathi and Devi idols. As one emerges from the tower, to the left side is a big pond called Manmatha’s pond, where Virupaksha’s Theppotsava is performed.

In front of the temple is the Mathanga Mountain. Near the mountain is a beautiful two-storeyed mandapa comprising carved dandu kambas made up of black stone. The structure is dated back to the time of the Chalukyas. Near the mandapa is a gigantic Nandi idol. Opposite to this is the Pampapathi temple. Because it is opposite to Shiva idol of Virupaksha temple it is called Eduru Basavanna, means Basava facing Shiva.

One can climb the mountain from the western side. Atop is the Veera Bhuvaneswara temple.

Eduru Basavanna and Stage

The fort on this mountain is very beautiful. To the west lies the Virupaksha temple, car street and the Hemakuta mountain, and the Tungabhadra river on its north side. Towards the east side lies the Achyutharaya temple. On to the south lies the elephant stable, royal palace and other retinue. Added to the sight of the structures is the most mesmerizing and serene view of sunset and sunrise. The panoramic view of nature from the top of the mountain looks spectacular. Longhurst describes the view thus: ‘In the whole of South India you can’t see a more beautiful scene than this’, its pomp, riches and glittering might not have been far behind.

Achyutharaya Temple

Located at the foot of the Matanga hill immediate to the west, this large temple complex is also known as Tiruvengalanatha temple, as mentioned in the inscriptions. The temple facing north with the bazaar described as Achyutarayapete was constructed by Hiriya Tirumalaraja, the Mahamandaleshwara under the Vijayanagara king Achyutharaya (1599-1542 AD.) in the year 1534 AD. The main temple consists of a garbhagriha, sukanasi, an antarāla a rangamandapa and a spacious pillared mahamandapa. Within the complex to the south west of the main temple is the Devi shrine. Her, a sculpture of Devi with ten hands, each hand holding a different weapon is installed. She is hence called Hattu Kai Amma or goddess with ten hands.  Particularly note worthy is that the temple complex is enclosed with two prakaras and the temple is in the central area of the inner prakara having there mahadwaras. The outer prakara has only one mahadwara, most imposing on the north. The inner sides of the prakaras, are series of mandapas with pillars in the facade. From the front of the northern mahadwara runs the Achyutarayapete with a series of pillared mandapas on both sides.

Apparently it was the two rows of mandapas where the trade of precious stones and diamonds was carried on. This is also called the ‘Sule Bazaar’. The kalyanamandapa in the Achyutharaya temple is similar to that in the Vittalaswamy temple. There are twin pillars in the temple carved from a single rock. The pillars that support the temple doors are on the base which comprises carvings relating to dashavatara figures, the ten incarnations of lord Vishnu. On the base, elephants, horses ,Arab traders and other foreigners figures are carved in natural and beautiful style.

The roof over the rangamandapa has given way. The figures of dwarapalakas are broken. On the right side of this temple there is a Lakshmi temple and on the left are some other temples with missing idols.

From the Achyutharaya temple along the way to the Vittalaswamy temple, on right side at a height is the Narasimha temple. There are Garuda and Anjaneya idols in this temple.

Lokapavana Vishwavidyalaya

In front of Sugreeva Cave amidst the remnants of a building lies the Lokapavana University, as experts opine, established by Vyasaraya, in which the students of the Vijayanagara empire as well as the students from other countries used to study.. There is a stone carving at the main entrance door of the university, which suggests to be the emblem of that university.

In the emblem, there is Goddess Saraswati and on either side of her, are elephants holding a holy pot of water pouring it over the head of Saraswati. Goddess Saraswati sits on eight petalled Lotus which is within an outer and bigger eight petalled lotus. On northern side wall of the building there are nine windows and on the southern side there is a tower. At the top, there are many floors and stairs. In front of the building on the left side there is an image of Hanuman and on the right side there is an image of  Garuda, vehicle of lord Vishnu in a standing position. Further on, to the left side is the purandaramandapa. Purandaramandapa The purandaramandapa, after the name of Sri Purandarasa is situated in a calm and serene place on the banks of Tungabhadra. Sri Purandarasa lived in the Vijayanagara empire during 1540. He propagated the Bhakti marga and also the use of Kannada language. An idol of Purandarasa is found within the mandapa.

Vijaya Vitthala Temple

The Vitthala temple, represent the highest watermark of the Vijayanagara style of art and architecture. Vitthala is the Krishna aspect of lord Vishnu. It is one of the largest temples of that period, built under the patronage of Devaraya II (1422-46 ad.). Substantial portions of the present structure were added during Krishnadevaraya’s (1509-1529 ad.) reign. The hundred pillared mandapa (pavilion) to the southwest of main temple and the eastern and northern gateways carved with depictions of Vishnu and his other forms, are attributed to Krishnadevaraya and his queens. The temple is built on a sculptured ornate plinth, the composite pillars of the sabhamandapa (congregation hall) are massive, hewn out of single granite blocks, which are designed as clusters of slender pillars. Some of these, when tapped gently, produce musical notes. To the northern bay of the sabhamandapa is the Narasimha mandapa, where a pillar has the sculpture of a yogavarada Narasimha and various other forms. The stone chariot, at the entrance, a reproduction of a processional wooden chariot, is perhaps the most stunning achievement, typical of the Vijayanagara period. It houses an image of Garuda, the vehicle of lord Vishnu. The Vijayanagara kings seem to have been inspired by the sun temple at Konark, Orissa. . Experts opine that they might have built this monolithic stone in place of Garuda. On this stone car figures of soldiers, hunters, riders, Portuguese, Arabs and Persians have been carved.

Approximately 50 pillars are there in the temple. 8-10 pillars produce sounds similar to Mridangam, Jalatharanga, Sapthaswara, Thalam, DamaruOn the southern side of the rangamandapa of Vitthala Temple is the kalyanamandapa (pedestal for marriage) built by Krishna Devaraya in the year 1513. This is also called the mandapa of hundred legs. Outside the temple, to the east, is a huge bazaar, measuring 945 mts. in length and 40 mts. in width leading to a sacred tank known as Lokapavani.

Temples on the Hemakuta hill

On the Hemakuta hill there are many temples and a Jain Temple. On the east-south direction lies a big temple called the Kadlekalu Ganapathi temple. The monolithic Kadlekalu Ganesha is so called, for the closeness appearance, of the shape of its belly to the unsplit Bengal – Gram. The sculpture is carved out of a single boulder in situ, and stands 4.5 mts high. Dated to the 15th century, the seated Ganesha sculpture is four armed and bears in each hand a tusk, goad, noose, and a bowl of sweetmeats, respectively. It is enshrined in a simple sanctum with a vestibule and an open ornate pillared pavilion in front. The tall slender pillars are sculpted with depictions of various Hindu Gods and Goddesses. 

Sasivekalu Ganesha

Situated on the south eastern slopes of the Hemakuta hillock, this 12 feet monolithic Ganesha is four armed and referred to as the Sasivekalu (mustard seed) Ganesha. The statue, seated in half lotus posture (ardha padmasana) bears a tusk, goad, noose and bowl of sweets in its four arms, respectively. An inscription engraved on the rock nearby records that this vinayaka mandapa (pavilion) was built in 1506 AD, by a trader belonging to Chandragiri (near Tirupathi, Andhra Pradesh) in memory of Narasimha II (1491-1505 AD.), of the Saluva dynasty.

Krishna Temple

Situated to the north of the image of Lakshmi Narasimha is a temple with an inscription of Krishnadevaraya, dating to AD 1513. The inscription records that an image of Bala Krishna was brought here by the king from a temple in Udayagiri during his Orissa campaign, and enshrined in the mahamandapa. The temple walls are carved with depictions of the Bhagavata, the puranic story of lord Krishna and the life of the times. The pillars of the mahamandapa has sculpted depictions of the ten incarnations of lord Vishnu.

This large and ornate east-facing temple complex is built in the typical Vijayanagara style. One of the pillars in the ardhamandapa is noteworthy as all the ten avatars of Vishnu, including the rare one of Kalki, are carved on it. Kalki is depicted as a seated figure with a horse’s head.

The temple complex built in panchayatana style with two enclosures, has the main shrine with the sanctum, a vestibule, pillared pavilions and halls, a Devi shrine and many sub shrines. In addition there is a kitchen towards the southeast of the main shrine and a separate store, housed within the first enclosure to the southwest. The grand towered eastern gateway is an outstanding example of Vijayanagara architecture. The main entrance leads out to a 500 mts. street bazaar and a sacred water tank thereafter, to the east.


This magnificent monolithic Lakshmi Narasimha, the fourth incarnation of lord Vishnu stands at a height of 6.7 mts. It is one of the finest examples of Vijayanagara sculpture. Narasimha is seated on the giant coils of adishesha, the sacred guardian snake of Vishnu. its seven hoods acting as a canopy arched by a kirtimukha torana in front. the roof of the chamber enshrining the statue is missing which has led to much weathering and damage to this monolithic sculpture. The four arms of the statue with its various attributes have been broken and the seated figure of his consort Lakshmi on his left lap is missing. The face too has been damaged which misled people into believing that it was the ugranarasimha or angered Narasimha. The presence of the right hand of the gods embracing the lord at the back is proof of it being that of Lakshmi Narasimha. The statue was consecrated by priest Krishna Bhatta at the behest of Krishnadevaraya in 1528 ad as per the lithic record nearby.

Badavilinga Temple

This is 3 mts. high large Shiva linga is also a monolith similar to Lakshmi Narasimha, carved out of one rock in situ, the pedestal, remains in bed of water, within a small damaged shrine. Referred to as the Badavilinga, legend has it, that it was commissioned by a poor woman. The Shiva linga has a fairly large circular pedestal (yone pitha), drawing into a pranala (outlet). The central median line (somasutra) has the three-eye mark, drawn in line carving. The sanctum chamber that houses it, is a large stone, brick and mortar structure.

Royal Centre

This area of Hampi is quite different from the area around Hampi Bazaar, since most of the rounded boulders that once littered the site have been used to create beautiful stone walls. Within various enclosures here are the rest of Hampi’s major attractions including the walled compound known as the zenana enclosure and the Elephant Stables

Archaeological museum

The archaeological museum in Hampi has well-displayed collections of sculptures from local ruins, Neolithic tools, 16th century weaponry and a large floor model of the Vijayanagara ruins.


References :

  1. www.globalheritagefund.org/where/hampi.html
  2. ‘A glimpse of Hampi’ by Mohan Kuntar, Hospe