By Swami Harshananda
Hampi was situated in Vijayanagara, the great capital of Vijayanagara empire. The present Hampi, a small town in the Bellary district of the Karnataka State, is situated on the south bank of the river Tuṅgabhadrā at a distance of 360 km (225 miles) to the north of the capital city of Bangalore and 77 km (48 miles) from the Bellary town.
According to the local legends this place was originally known as Pampā, a name of the goddess Pārvatī. She performed tapa (austerities) here to get Śiva as her husband and ultimately succeeded in marrying him here. Lord Śiva of this place (Virupākṣa) is also known as Pampāpati (husband of Pampā or Pārvatī).
Historically, this city was built by the princes Harihara and Bukka in CE 1343 under the inspiration of the great sage Vidyāraṇya (CE 1296-1386).
Rulers of Kingdom
The kingdom that developed around it was ruled by the kings of four dynasties:
During the reign of the king Kṛṣṇadevarāya (CE 1488-1529), it attained maximum prosperity and fame. Many foreign travelers like Nicolode Comte (15th century CE), Abdul Razak (CE 1413-1482) and Domingo Paes (CE 1520) have left glorious accounts of the empire.
It is an important tourist spot with several sites and ruins of historical and archaeological significance. Many of these are connected with the local legends, based on the Rāmāyana of Vālmīki, with Rāma, Sītā, Sugrīva, Hanumān and Vāli of yore. The following are the important places of sight-seeing :
- Elephant Stables : It is a ten domed chamber and is located in the north of the complex. Here, the elephants were chained and kept.
- Ganeśa Idols : These idols are situated on the south-eastern slope of the Hemakuṭa hill. The smaller one is 2.5 meters (8 ft.) high and the larger one is 4.5 meters (15 ft.).
- Hajāra Rāma Temple : It is believed to be the private temple of the royal family. It has several relief figures on its walls that depicts the scenes from the Rāmāyana. Most of the scenes are related to the events in the town of Kiṣkindhā, capital of Vāli/Sugrīva.
- Hampi Bazaar : It is the main business center of the Vijayanagara city and starts from the Virupākṣa Temple. It is 10 meters (33 ft.) wide and 730 meters (2400 ft.) long. On either side of the market, there are ruins of the old buildings.
- Hemakuta Hill : It is a small hill overlooking the Hampi Bazaar. It contains a group of temples belonging to the period 9th to the 11th century CE, that is prior to Vijaynagara period.
- King’s Balance : It is situated near the famous Viṭṭhala temple. It is a granite arch 4.5 meters (15 ft.) in height and 3.6 meters (12 ft.) in width. It was used to hang a balance to weigh the king against valuables to be gifted away on special days.
- Kodandarāma Temple : It is situated at the spot where Rāma is said to have crowned Sugrīva , as the king of Kiṣkindhā (before killing Vāli). This temple contains large images of Rāma with his bow Kodaṇḍa and Lakṣmaṇa.
- Lotus Mahal : It is a part of the zenana or women’s quarters. The ground floor is an open pavilion and upper floor has windows and balcony. There is also a moat around the building.
- Mahānavami Dibba : This is a massive stone basement. It is the remains of a multi-storey pillared hall where the great festival of Navarātri was celebrated.
- Narasimha Idol : It is a monolith idol of Narasimha, near the Hemakuṭa hill. It is 7 meters (22 ft.) in height and is badly mutilated.
- Virupākṣa Temple : It is the main temple of the whole campus. It's deity was the god of the royal family.
- Vitthala Temple : It is one of three World Heritage Monument in South India and situated on the southern bank of the Tuñgabhadrā river. It is the most ornate of all the temples in the campus. It is dedicated to Vitthala, an aspect of Kṛṣṇa. This temple was never completed. Its special features are:
- Musical pillars of stone
- Sculptures of Varāha and other incarnations of Viṣṇu
- Pillars with carved forms of Narasimha
- Stone ratha or chariot
- Archaeological Museum : There is an Archaeological museum in the nearby Kāmalāpuram village.
- This is generally called ‘tulāpuruṣadāna’.
- Narasimha is the Man-lion, the fourth incarnation of Lord Viṣṇu
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore