10 May 2021

Hampi: Theatre of a Glorious Past

Once upon a time Southern India came to be ruled by one of the most powerful, wealthy and cultured dynasties, which steered the fortunes of the great Hindu kingdom of Vijayanagar for over two centuries. Founded by Harihara and Bukka, two of five brothers who once had served both the Kakatiya and Kampili kingdoms , its fame spread not only across the Indian sub-continent , even the trade network linking Europe and East Asia carried home tales of its enormous hold on southern affairs.

How the mighty have fallen! Only a mute shell of this once great empire resides in the atmospheric ruins of its old bastion Hampi. With four of the ruling Sultans of the south ganging up against it, and its subsequent fall-out, it was a death knell for the empire. When finally routed by the Deccan Muslim confederacy in 1565, Hampi was laid to waste, its population fled. Wandering around the ruins, spread over a circumference of 100 km, you will feel the press of the stamp of its fabled past with each encounter of its monuments. The annals of its history also shed light on the great achievements of Krishna Deva Raya (r. 1509–29), considered to be the greatest of the Vijayanagar kings.Travellers from its glorious past recounted tales of the splendour of its architectural marvels depicted in the palace complex and temples, the amazing variety and quality of goods available in the bazaars and the pomp and pageantry of the festivals such as Mahanavami.

A heritage trail takes in many of the important sites visitors want to explore of this protected UNESCO world heritage site, with a core zone of 42 sq km; this features over 1600 surviving remains, including forts, riverside features, royal and sacred complexes, temples, pillared halls, stables, etc. Of these the celebrated spaces are the Sacred Center, Urban Core, Islamic quarters, Kamlapura and Anegundi.

Of interest here is Hampi’s links with the old Hindu epic The Ramyana. Plenty of visitors arrive to explore the ancient connection between episodes from the great epic and the Kishkinda Valley here. A guided tour is great for shedding light on the myths and legends, of Lord Rama and Hanuman and the abduction of Sita by Ravana of Lanka, associated with this region.

History and culture buffs will surely enjoy glimpses into the prehistoric lives of human settlers in this region; another great high is discovering rock art from the Bronze Age; the hike, led by a local shepherd, is deeply rewarding. What is unforgettable about the Hampi complex is its impressive boulder- ridden terrain. A guide tour is the perfect medium for great insights into the unique geology of the boulder hills, which in fact served for excellent deterrent military strategies for Hampi’s safekeeping. Worthy of exploration are the hidden relief sculptures on the riverside by navigating through boulders. Most inviting too is a coracle boat ride over the Tungabhadra River; for the energetic and adventurous there are excellent possibilities for further explorations the surrounding countryside villages and lake by moped.

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