To explore Hampi in Karnataka is to go back in time and relive the splendour and majesty of the 500-year-old kingdom of Vijayanagara. It is considered one of the most powerful empires in the history of South India. Hampi, as the last royal capital, was a hub of stunning architecture and cultural diversity. The ruins to this day recount the story of the grandeur that must have characterised the city in the past.
Hampi: A World Heritage Site
The Stone Chariot at Vitthala Temple, Hampi (Source)
A group of over 500 monuments at Hampi, in the city of Vijayanagara, was recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site way back in 1986. The rest of the world, including Indians, is only now recognising the sheer beauty and charm of this offbeat travel destination. The ruins are spread over a vast expanse of dry, rough terrain dotted by giant boulders and scanty vegetation everywhere. Organised into two major areas – the Sacred Centre and the Royal Centre – Hampi needs several days at a time to be explored at leisure. The Sacred Centre is situated around Hampi Bazaar, the main hub for travellers. Within this neighbourhood is the famous Virupaksha Temple, standing tall and perfectly intact in the midst of the ruins surrounding it. Just 2 km away is the 16th century Vitthala Temple, another really popular attraction, with its musical pillars and exceptionally sculpted Stone Chariot.
A Walk through the Kings’ Quarters
Tungabhadra Dam lit up at night (Source)
The Royal Centre is near the southern village of Kamalapuram. Here you will come across the erstwhile ladies’ quarters called the Zenana Enclosure, the magnificent Lotus Mahal, and the massive Elephants’ Stables carved out of stone. These are some of the few structures that have remained relatively preserved from destruction over the centuries. The Tungabhadra reservoir further down south is a breathtaking sight – picture yourself walking on the edge between vast expanses of water on both sides! It’s mesmerising, especially at night when it is brilliantly lit up. The Hanuman Temple on Anjaneya Hill, on the other side of river Tungabhadra, is also a must-visit in Hampi, for it is believed to be Lord Hanuman’s birthplace. Fact or faith, you have to pay a visit to find out for yourself!
Plan for a comfortable and enriching experience
Ganagitti Temple perched atop a huge rock (Source)
Plan your visit to Hampi between November and March, for the weather is pleasant during that period. The city is 350 km away from Bangalore and makes for a great road trip of 5-6 hours. To explore Hampi, it is best to hire a car or two-wheeler that are easily available for nominal everyday charges. You could decide to be adventurous and rely on maps and guides to find your way around. For a more informative experience, you could hire a government-approved tour guide (beware of touts and fake guides, though) to help you look beyond rocks and temples and learn the vibrant history of Hampi.
There is so much to see and experience in Hampi, it fascinates me! Every rock, every pillar, every carving has a story waiting to be told. For those who like history, art, culture, or just pure unadulterated beauty, Hampi in Karnataka is an ideal destination for a week off from work. Put on your walking shoes and set out to travel back to the time when kings roamed the Indian soil.