They say every stone in Hampi has a story to tell and I guess so does every visitor. so here I am narrating the historical and mythological stories associated with the Spectacular Hampi.
If you wondering if Hampi is worth the visit? Then the answer is Yes, Hampi which is a UNESCO world heritage site is a must-visit site for History and Art loversfor its spectacular monuments, riverside shrines, temple complexes with beautiful carvings, emerald paddy fields, best Sunset, and Sunrise viewing spots.
All these make Hampi a must visit place.
Hampi attracts a lot of tourists from across the world.
The UNESCO Heritage site is still under excavation.
ASI officials excavating around Hampi’s tourist-attracting Virupaksha Temple expect many centuries-old structures connected with the existing temple buried underground.
History of Hampi
Hampi famously called the city of ruins is an ancient village in the southern Indian state of Karnataka.
History of this place dates back to as early as 3rd century BC and known to be a part of the Mauryan empire. Later Sangama dynasty brothers Harihara 1 and Bukkayaya 1 formed Vijayanagara empire and named Hampi as its capital.
After Sangama dynasty it was ruled by the Hindu dynasties of Saluva, Tuluva and Aravidu.
Hampi became one of the richest cities in the world and a center of trade during the 14th century under the Tuluva king Krishnadevaraya, where there were rich bazaars selling rubies, diamonds attracting merchants from Persia and Portugal.
Cotton and spices were grown here in abundance which was bartered.
Fine arts, literature, Carnatic music reached its heights during this time. Great administration brought foreign traders and new technologies like water management system for irrigation.
All the glory came to an end when the Deccan Sultanate attacked the Vijayanagara empire which is called the battle of Talikota.
After its fall Vijayanagara empire was looted for months and numerous monuments were destroyed, thus making it a city of ruins.
Hampi was formerly known as Pampa kshetra or Pampapura named after the river Pampa which now is Tungabhadra and Pampa was also the name of Brahma’s daughter.
Pampa was a devoted worshipper of Lord Shiva and impressed by it she was granted a boon and she asked Lord Shiva to marry her!
On Lord Shiva’s marriage with Pampa gods from the heaven showered heaps of gold on this place which is now the Hemakuta hill in Hampi, Hemakuta literally means a heap of Gold.
It has also been said that Hampi was the Kishkinda kshetra or the Kingdom of Vanara (Monkeys) where Lord Rama and Lakshmana met Hanuman and stayed while they were en route in search of Sita who was abducted by Ravana.
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Places to visit in Hampi
The ruins of Hampi are spread over 40 km and easily takes 3-4 days to cover the majority of it. Must visit places include:-
1. Virupaksha temple
Virupaksha temple is the most famous temple in Hampi, dates back to the 7th century and is built by Chalukyas.
The temple has a tall gopuram and has many inner corridors with beautiful carvings. The temple is located on the banks of Tungabhadra river and is the abode to Lord Shiva or Lord Virupaksha.
The walls of the temple have beautiful and ancient inscriptions and carvings. At the back of the temple is a small room which has a small hole, through which we can see the gopuram of the temple inverted which acts as a natural pinhole camera.
The opposite side of the temple is the famous bazaar which was bustling with activity centuries ago. On the whole, this temple is a pure delight to architecture and history lovers.
2. Vittala Temple Complex
This temple complex has the most beautiful structure in Hampi, the stone chariot. This has become an iconic symbol of Hampi showcasing its rich architecture.
The entrance to this temple has an arch which has beautiful carvings and then opens into a huge courtyard.
The courtyard has other smaller shrines and also the stone chariot at the back of which is the Vittala temple which is beautiful with splendid carvings on pillars and walls.
We reached this place by walking along the river from Virupaksha temple. There are numerous riverside shrines to be visited in this route.
3. Hemakuta hill temple complex:
This hill temple complex is right behind the Virupaksha temple and houses many small temple shrines which look beautiful on the small hill against the beautiful skies.
This place was my favorite as it is super scenic and can witness the best sunset from here.
4. Kadalekalu Ganesha
This small temple is located on the Hemakuta hill temple complex and a famous attraction.
Ganesha idol is carved out of a monolith rock and is around 15 feet making it one of the largest of its kind in the world.
The name of the idol Kadalekalu Ganesh is due to the shape of belly of Lord Ganesha while is like Kadalekalu (Bengal gram).
5. Sasivekalu Ganesha
This is located in the same Hemakuta temple complex and is a monolith Ganesha idol of around 8 feet.
In this idol, Snake can be seen around the belly of Lord Ganesha.
6. Elephant Stables
Elephant stables once served as an enclosure to royal elephants of the Vijayanagara empire. It has 11 domed chambers to accommodate the elephants.
7. Riverside ruins
This was also one of my favorite spots in Hampi, these are clusters of ruins and small shrines along the river Tungabhadra.
The famous being an array of Shivalingas, one of 108 and other 1008 carved on a flat rock surface. Also can spot many temples and mandapas, some of them half submerged in the river.
There is an option to explore these ruins in a Coracle which can be opted in the non-monsoon season when the water levels are not too high.
The best activity for me here was to sit at the corner of an ancient mandapa which was a bit submerged where my feet could easily reach the river and to get lost in my thoughts about how was this place centuries back and who was here!
8. Mahanavami Dibba
This structure was the place where the king of Vijayanagara empire Krishnadeva Raya witnessed Mahanavami celebrations.
It was said that this structure was erected as a victory symbol for one of the battles that were won by the ruler.
Though most of the structure is ruined, we could see a platform rising in 3 ascending and diminishing stages, each being square in shape. Whatever was on this is however not clear from the ruins, but it probably was a pillared hall or something.
9. Lotus Mahal
This structure is named Lotus Mahal as the domes of it are arranged in the form of a Lotus and are quite different from the other structures in Hampi.
This is built using indo-Islamic architecture style. Lotus Mahal was the place where the women of the kingdom rested.
10. Pushkarani or Stepwell
This is a beautiful stepwell located in the Royal Enclosure. Stepwell has a lot of steps leading to the water, but yeah one is not allowed to reach up to the water and need to witness it from the top.
11. Pattabhirama temple
This is a beautiful temple, little away from the main sites of Hampi. The temple has a splendid architecture with intricate carvings on the pillars exuding the true craftsmanship of the Vijayanagara era.
Temple is surrounded by a huge rectangular walled complex and a pillared walkway runs around the inner courtyard. There is another shrine in the courtyard dedicated to the goddess.
It was a prominent place of worship during the Vijayanagara empire. This place had a unique charm and a serene atmosphere that left me mesmerized.
12. Ugra Narasimha monolith
This is also one of the trademark monuments of Hampi and not to be missed.
This structure was partially ruined and now has been restored to whatever we can see today.
It earlier had goddess Lakshmi sitting on the lap of Lord Narasimha but now has been kept in the museum after it was vandalized in the battle.
13. Anjaneya hill temple
This temple is located on the other side of the river and is known as the birthplace of Lord Hanuman.
There are a lot of steps to climb to reach the temple and is quite a climb. Temple can be sighted from far as the temple at the top is whitewashed and the zig-zag steps leading to it as well.
Once at the top the view is marvelous and also good for watching the sunset.
Apart from these, there are numerous other places and temples to explore. I would suggest visiting Matanga hill to view the sunrise, which we missed as we were super tired due to our previous day’s exploring of the ruins.
Opening & closing time at Hampi
Ruins in Hampi don’t have any open or close timings, like Hemakuta hill temple complex or riverside ruins.
But few places which have entrance tickets like Virupaksha temple, Lotus Mahal, Elephant stables, Vittala temple are open from sunrise to sunset (6 am to 6 pm).
If you are planning to visit any museum, it is better to visit after 10 am and before 5 pm.
Lunchtime is from 1 pm to 2 pm so plan your visit accordingly.
Wheelchair accessibility at Hampi
Not all places in Hampi are wheelchair friendly.
For the convenience of the tourists, the Hampi World Heritage Area Management Authority had introduced 25 Battery-operated buggies in 2010 (Source).
The movement of other vehicles has been banned on the 1.3 km stretch between Gejjala Mantap and Vijaya Vittala temple complex as a precautionary measure to protect the monument from the threats caused by vibrations and pollution.
The Battery-operated buggies shuttle tourists from Gejjala Mantap to the Vijaya Vittala temple complex.
For want of proper maintenance and periodical repairs, only 8 to 10 buggies can be seen operational at a time.
Toilet facility at Hampi
There are few public toilets in the main temple complex, one near Hampi Bazaar and also at other ticketed attractions like Lotus Mahal, museums, etc.
Where to stay in Hampi
I would suggest staying in Hospet or the road leading to Hospet which has a lot of resorts.
Another option is to stay on the other side of the river known as Virupapar Gadde which has nice homestays with beautiful views.
Boats or coracles are available to cross the river.
How to Commute Within Hampi
If you do not have your private vehicle there are lots of options like autos, mopeds or bicycles which can be hired.
It would be great to walk some stretches as walking will be the best way to explore in detail without missing anything.
Best time to visit Hampi
The best time would be between October to February when the weather is pleasant. During summer the heat will be extreme owing to lots of boulders and rocky terrain.
In the monsoons, you would miss clear skies and spectacular sunsets and sunrises.
Travel Tips for visiting Hampi
- In the main Hampi temple complex side of the river alcohol and meat is not allowed. It can only be taken on the other side of the river like Virupapar Gadde or Anegundi or Hospet.
- There are no restrictions or any particular dress code, however, it would be best to wear something comfortable so as to get good protection from the sun.
- There will be a lot of walking involved, so get a comfortable pair of shoes.
- If interested in knowing the history and stories and like to avail guide services, better to take the guide from the tourism office at Virupaksha temple where there are licensed guides charging standard fees.
- Food could be a problem in the main temple complex side as there are no good restaurants, so better to pack something from your hotel or place of stay.
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How to reach Hampi?
By Road: Hampi is well connected by road from cities like Bangalore and Hyderabad from where buses can be taken to Hospet.
It takes around 7-8 hours to Hospet from both Bangalore and Hyderabad. From Hospet, there are multiple options like private buses or autos to reach Hampi.
It is also feasible to rent cabs from Bangalore or Hyderabad which helps in using the same to travel in Hampi as well.
By Rail: the Nearest railway station is at Hospet which has trains running from several places like Bangalore.
By Air: Nearest airport to Hampi is Bellary, Belgaum or Bangalore.
If you would like to explore more places in Karnataka read about the Crown Jewel of Bangalore by clicking here.
Overall the lost city of Hampi left an everlasting impression on me and I would definitely visit the glorious site again! It was no less than a rollercoaster ride with all the stunning monuments taking you back to another era, mystical stories, scenic landscapes, boulders and best sunsets which left me asking for more!
PS. Don’t miss the Coracle ride on the waters of the River Tungabhadra. A coracle, also known as Dongi, is a bowl-shaped boat made of reed, saplings and hide.
These coracle boats have been in use in Hampi since the time of the Vijayanagara Empire.
Video on Top Things To Do In Hampi, Karnataka
In this video by Curly Tales discover the UNESCO Heritage site of Hampi.
“The austere, grandiose site of Hampi was the last capital of the last great Hindu Kingdom of Vijayanagar. Its fabulously rich princes built Dravidian temples and palaces which won the admiration of travelers between the 14th and 16th centuries.” (quote from unesco.org)