Hampi: A huge open-air museum – I

Asia | | November 9, 2010 at 12:42 am


Welcome to the hub of temples in Karnataka! A parish town in the south Indian state of Karnataka, India; Hampi is today the center of attraction for many locals and tourists alike because of its historical monuments scattered vastly along with tranquil places to stay in Hampi. Seems to be less like a town and more like a big open-air sanctuary preserving the religious and historical past, the Hampi ruins here speak about its glory and significance in the olden days. Formerly the capital of the Vijayanagara dynasty from 14th to 16th centuries, Hampi today is very appealing with its bizarre landscapes boasting giant rock-spread hills, intersecting Tungabhadra River, and mammoth stones once used for making giant statues of Hindu deities. Each step of yours here will give you some knowledge on its historic and religious aura. This is the main reason as to why a Hampi tour is just not possible to be covered within a day for the architecture lovers.

The name ‘Hampi’ itself is taken from the old name of the river here. This 25 square km land now is the holder of giant temples, palaces, market streets, aquatic edifices, historic structures, and fortifications. There is no doubt that these ruins are designated as a World Heritage Site after which they are together termed as the Group of Monuments at Hampi, an identity well known among the tourists.

A majority of the relics reside on the way from Kamalapura to Hampi. The most important of all the Hampi ruins is the Virupaksha Temple (Pampapathi Temple), a pilgrimage shrine devoted to the Hindu god of destruction Virupaksha. Nestled at the river bank in the west of the market, this is the temple from the 7th century and is also the home of Lord Shiva as well as two goddesses, Pampa and Bhuvaneswari. The complex is packed with the sanctum, giant entrance towers, and pillared halls. And yes, this is the venue of the many festivals such as the Virupaksha Car Festival (largest) in March/April celebrating the marriage of the god and goddess and the Phalapuja Festival in December (bathing ceremony).

Next, the Vittala Temple devoted to Vittala as a form of Lord Vishnu is an architectural wonder. The most astonishing features here are several halls and shrines, the pillars with the lively carvings, a series of 56 pillars that echoes upon a hit giving them a name of ‘musical pillars’, a unique stone chariot, and luxurious roof on giant granite pillars.

The Stone Chariot is a wonderful huge chariot standing on revolving wheels just ahead of this temple.

The Royal Enclosure, a fortified complex, is a vast zone that was the seat of the previous kings. Here, there are many relics of structures including the Mahanavami Platform from where the king viewed the annual parade of royal dignity, several palace bases, aquatic edifices, and underground temple. Connecting the old Hampi market and the Vittala temple is the Riverside Trek Path – a walkway packed with shrines, carvings, and ancient structures like the phallic form of Shiva and 1008 Shiva lings in a matrix form at the shore.

A group of among the most attractive temples in Karnataka is here as the Hemakuta Hill Temples dating prior to the Vijayanagara Empire. The most appealing feature is the triple chambering with pyramid-shaped granite roofs. Besides these ones, Hampi is the home to some giant temples in Karnataka – Kadalekalu (gram seed shape) Ganesha as an elephant-headed and four-handed deity carved on the Hemakuta Hill, Sasivekalu (mustard seed potbelly) Ganesha in an open pavilion boasting a superb skill of the Vijayanagara’s artisans, and Balakrishna Temple of small Lord Krishna adorned with the shrines of the goddesses, temple tank, chariot/market street, and the primary hall of carved pillars.

Greet the largest emblem of Hampi, the Lakshmi Narsimha that is a monolithic statue of Lord Narsimha who is a lion-headed with human body god. He is the reincarnation of Lord Vishnu and is made from a single rock. Posed in a cross-legged position, it is said that his consort Goddess Lakshmi was shown on his lap with today leaving her hand on his waist.

Queen’s Bath, a royal area, is actually an indoor swimming pool surrounded by a big veranda with balconies in the Indo-Islamic hybrid style. Explore for the arched corridors and lotus-like aromatic fountains here. This is among the most admired Hampi ruins. Next, the Lotus Mahal is a royal edifice in lotus exhibiting the Islamic architecture in its roofs as well as arches along with the style of Hindu temples in its base. It acted as an AC palace for the queens in the past.

Okay, this is not all what Hampi has to offer. There is still much more that will be covered in the next article. For places to stay in Hampi, there are many guesthouses here in its market and bus stand area. Among the places to stay in Hampi, the famous ones are Shanthi Guest House from 700 Rs onwards, KSTDC Mayura Bhuvaneshwari from Rs. 1200, Kishkinda Heritage Resort from Rs. 2000, and Hampi Boulders from Rs. 6000, and Padma Guest House from Rs. 600.

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