Ruins of Hampi

About Hampi

Stone Chariot, Hampi

Hampi, a temple town in northern Karnataka, was once the capital of the historical Vijayanagara Dynasty. This quaint place, lying amidst striking ruins of the past, has been receiving tourists from far off for ages. The magnificence of the ruins of temples and other structures of Vijayanagar, dating back to 1500 AD, is the main attraction of this place. According to some accounts, Hampi used to be the second largest city of the world.

There are innumerable boulders around Hampi that are easy to climb. One can get a stunning view of the ruins spread around Hampi by mounting one of the boulders. Located on the bank of the Tungabhadra River, Hampi has quite a number of tourist attractions like Virupaksha Temple, Vithala Temple and Nandi Statue. It is best to visit Hampi during the three day long Hampi festival held around October-November every year. 

The magnificent city of ruins, Hampi is not far from Bangalore. A world Heritage Center, Hampi is the most beautiful and evocative of all the ruins in Karnataka. This erstwhile capital of the Vijayanagar Empire boasts some exquistite examples of temple architecture of that period. One can still glimpse the splendor of Vijayanagara- one of the largest empires in the history of India- in its ruins. The Vijayanagar Kings were great patrons of Art & Architecture as evident by the vast ruins of Hampi.

Hampi, the land of surprises was founded in the middle of 14th Century by two local princes, Hakka & Bukka. The Vijayanagar Empire came to be celebrated for its might and wealth and as a show piece of imperial magnificence.

Although in ruins today, this capital city once boasted riches known far beyond the shores of India. The ruins of Hampi of the 14th Century lie scattered in about a 26 sq. km area, amidst giant boulders and vegetation. Protected by the tempestuous river Tungabhadra in the north and rocky granite ridges on the other three sides, the ruins silently narrate the story of grandeur splendor and fabulous wealth.

The splendid remains of palaces and the gateways of the broken city tell a tale of men with infinite talent and the power of creativity together with their capacity for senseless destruction. The Vijayanagar Festival organized by the Government of Karnataka in December recreates the grandeur of the bygone era.

Hampi is the former capital of the Vijayanagara Empire in northern Karnataka. The site, located near Hospet, was originally a religious center that may have predated the establishment of the city. The village contains several of the monuments of the old city and extends into one of the old ceremonial streets of the ruins.

On a commanding site, stands the temple of Malyavanta Raghunathaswamy. It is built in the Dravidian style. Strange-looking fishes and marine monsters carved along its outer walls are worth noticing.

The Hampi Bazaar is a broad, dusty boulevard lined with stalls and restaurants. It leads to a vast temple complex consisting of the Virupaksha Temple and the spectacular Vitthala Temple, dedicated to an incarnation of Vishnu, and is one of the most fabulous and famous of Hampi’s monuments.

One of Hinduism’s most enduring images, an ornate stone chariot, is found here. With solid stone wheels that can turn on their axles, the chariot faces a shaded dance hall where ancient musical dramas were once played out and from where you can now enjoy panoramic views of Vijayanagara. The pillars of the temple are commonly referred to as “musical pillars,” each one producing a different note when tapped.

The royal enclosure incorporates the ruined palaces where the Vijayanagara kings lived and held court. There is the Hazara Rama temple where the royals went to worship, a small stepped tank, and the Mahanavami Dibba, a platform where performances and entertainments were held.

On the outskirts of the royal complex, is the Lotus Mahal shaped like a lotus flower from top. This two-story structure has beautiful arc ways set in geometric regularity. It was an air-cooled summer palace of the queen having massive pillars, delicately punctuated arches and fine stucco ornamentation; its unusual design blends elements of Muslim and Hindu architecture.

Some of the must see monuments are the House of Victory, where the kings of Vijayanagar used to sit on a grand throne in the House of Victory and witness the nine-day Dussera festival and the Hazara Ramaswami temple which is believed to have been the private place of worship of the royal family. The chief attraction of the temple is the series of scenes from the Ramayana carved on two of the inside walls of the mantapa.

Hampi is not just about the ruins but the whole setting that makes it a surreal retreat that it is.


Hampi is also known as Pampa Kshetra, Kishkindha kshetra and even Bhaskara kshetra. These names were derived from the famous Tungabhadra River Pampa. According to mythology, it is said that Pampa was Brahma’s daughter who was later married off to Shiva. It was here where the city was built. Hampi word in is another version of Hampe, a Kannada name. Today, Hampi is also known as Vijayanagara who used to rule the city. As you walk through the remains of Hampi’s magnificent forts, palaces and gateways, you will get a glimpse of the excellent architecture of those times. The monuments speak volumes about the history of Hampi that used to be a prosperous and rich kingdom in the 14th century which was eventually ruined owing to the attacks made by the Moghuls.

The history of Hampi dates back to the 2nd and also the 3rd century that is the Neolithic and Chalcolithic era. This fact has been established from the ceramic potteries that have been found here from those centuries. The popular folklore is that two local chiefs called Hakka and Bukka one on a hunting expedition report of an unusual sighting to their guru Vidyaranya. And the fascinating sight was that of a hare who was being chased by their hound. The hare suddenly becomes all brave and powerful and turns around to chase the hound. This made the Guru believe that the place where they found this unusually beautiful sight is very special and hence decided to shift their local capital to this very place. This was the start of an empire that went on to become one of the richest. In a span of over 200 years, a total of four dynasties ruled Vijayanagar that is also called the City of Victory.

At one point Hampi was also one of the biggest trading centers of the world. Vijayanagar brought a lot of wealth, fame and splendor to Hampi. In those times, most markets in Hampi were always crowded and swarming with buyers and also merchants. These merchants were not just Indians, but also people from various parts of the world. In no time, the markets grew tremendously and goods were exchanged for spices and cotton. In ancient times, the currencies were all silver and gold.

Hampi was also rich in art and architecture. The rulers who ruled the region were great lovers of religion and art and hence most Kings put in a lot of effort to set up magnificent empires using one of the best architectural designs, which is for you to see now. Hampi had reached its prime during the rule of Krishna Deva Raya who ruled this city between 1509 and 1529. This was the same period when international trading had flourished and reached great heights under the progressive trading practices and also several international trade agreements that were carried out. During this era, Vijayanagara Empire had almost taken up most of South India and also beyond. However, Hampi succumbed to the attacks carried out by five Deccan Sultans called Bidar, Bijapur, Ahmednagar, Golconda and also Berar. They attacked Hampi in 1565 and looted them for a long period, approximately six months. An attack of six months long definitely had to bring such massive destruction that it would have taken them forever to rise again. The temples of Hampi were damaged and most of the markets were robbed. This was one of the biggest attacks that Hampi witnessed and their golden era with this came to an end. After the attacks, the empire was ruled by different Kings; however, nobody really could bring back the lost glory.

The city did function, but it had lost its strategic importance and thus got lost in time. Even today, the loss and destruction of the 1565 attacks can be seen in many parts of the city. During the colonial period, Hampi had stirred up some curiosity in the mind of archaeologists from abroad. For those who love watching ancient historical stories, you must definitely watch Robert Sewell’s ‘A forgotten Empire Vijayanagar’ that was made as an attempt to narrate the incidents that occurred during their ruling. Also, there is a travel guide that was also the first-ever, named Hampi’s Ruins Described and Illustrated by Longhurst. In today’s time, the monuments, which are almost hundreds of them, are very popular among tourists as well as pilgrims.


Hampi is located in the central part of Karnataka in the southern part of India. It is 353 km from Bangalore, and 13 km from Hospet. It is located on top of the rugged terrain and is 467 m above sea level. Tungabhadra River flows through Hampi. It has a tropical climate with hot summers (April-June), and cool winters (October-February). It experiences the southwestern monsoon rains from June to August.

Near the banks of the Tungabhadra river in southern India are an ancient group of monuments known as the Hampi. These grand ruins were once part of a much larger, sprawling metropolis known as Vijayanagar or the city of Victory, that occupied much of the southern peninsula. Vijayanagar was the capital of the historic Vijayanagara Empire, established in 1336 CE. Over the centuries, Vijaynagar served as the capital city of four dynasties.

Stone Chariot, ca.16th century, Hampi, India.
Stone Chariot, ca.16th century, Hampi, India. Hampi Tourism.

Ancient Origins

Under the Vijaynagara regime, the Hampi truly flourished and became one of the largest cities in the medieval era. Archeological studies have evidenced that the city predated the Vijaynagara regime. Brahmi inscriptions and terracotta seals dating to the 2nd and 3rd century BCE have been revealed during excavations.

The Kings Balance, Hampi, India
The Kings Balance, Hampi, India. Wikimedia Commons.

Stone Construction

Hampi is a popular tourist attraction owing to its breathtaking architecture, comprising of a number of temples, shrines, aquatic structures, pillared halls, and royal complexes. The structures are primarily carved into monolithic granite found in abundance in the region. It is believed that to cut the rock, a sequence of holes were drilled into the surface of the stone. Wooden pegs were then inserted into these holes and the pegs were doused with water. The moisture would cause the pegs to expand in size and the mounting pressure would cause the rock to split. Skilled stonemasons were employed to painstakingly carve these stones into intricate works of art.

Hazara Rama Temple, Hampi, India.
Hazara Rama Temple, Hampi, India. Wikimedia Commons.

The ornamentation on most of these grand structures greatly varies. There are multiple layers of moldings, intricate columns, and friezes, abundant with reliefs, and statuary both divine and demon-like, and animals both real and mythical. The palaces and living quarters were made of wood and other materials that did not survive the ravages of time and war, as evidenced by the ash and remains found in the excavations. 

Significant Contributions

There are incredible and iconic attractions worth visiting in the temple complex of Hampi that serve as a testament to the unparalleled skill of this era. These include a large 22 ft high statue of Narasimha, the fierce avatar of Vishnu; there is a 10 foot tall Shiva Linga encased in a cubical chamber; the Kadalekalu Ganesha on the slope of the Hemakuta Hill, which is one of the largest Ganesha statutes in the southern part of India; the famous stone chariot inside the Vijaya Vittala temple complex, and many, many others.

Stepped Well, Vijanagara era, Hampi, India
Stepped Well, Vijanagara era, Hampi, India. Wikimedia Commons.

SaReGaMa Pillars

A particularly fascinating aspect of the Vittala Temple architecture are the 56 melodic columns or the musical pillars, known famously as the SaReGaMa pillars. In Indian classical music, Sa, Re, Ga, Ma are four of the seven musical notes (the ancient equivalent of Do, Re, Mi, Fa in western music). The SaReGaMa pillars are load-bearing columns that are made entirely of granite and emit musical notes or rhythmic sounds when tapped gently. You can enjoy some music from these mysterious pillars here!

Balakrishna temple, Hampi, India
Balakrishna temple, Hampi, India. Wikimedia Commons.

Diverse Architecture

While most of the buildings in the Hampi region were Hindu temples and complexes that predominantly followed the South Indian or Dravidian style of architecture, among the ruins are also the remains of Jain, Indo-Islamic and Buddhist constructions. Chronicles left by the foreign travelers from Persia and Europe describe in depth a grand and prosperous city of unfathomable proportions.

Lakshmi Narasimha Temple, Hampi, India.
Lakshmi Narasimha Temple, Hampi, India. Wikimedia Commons.

Association with Ramayana

Hampi has attracted Hindu pilgrims over the centuries. The importance of Hampi as a religious site is believed to be due to the close resemblance of the region to a place described in the Hindu epic of the Ramayana. It is believed that it was in this region that Rama and his brother Lakshman met with Hanuman, Sugriva, and the monkey army in their search for the kidnapped Sita.

Sasivekalu Ganesha temple, Hemakuta hills, Hampi, India.
Sasivekalu Ganesha temple, Hemakuta hills, Hampi, India. Wikimedia Commons.

Association with Shiva and Parvati

Hampi has also been popularized in Hindu folklore due to its association with Shiva. A mythological tie that has bolstered the importance of Hampi in the Hindu tradition is the union of Shiva and Parvati. Legends tell of the tale of Shiva’s immeasurable grief upon the loss of his wife, Sati. Devastated and heartbroken, Shiva retired himself from the world to meditate and grieve the loss of his beloved wife.

Goddess Parvati (interestingly, a reincarnation of Shiva’s previous wife, Sati) however, had her heart set on winning over the reclusive God and removing him from his isolation. Her desire was well-known and discouraged, for Shiva was known for his tumultuous demeanor and his terrible rage, particularly if he was disturbed during his yogic meditation. Parvati sought the help of the Gods to awaken Shiva to claim his attention. Indra, the king of Gods, sent Kama, the God of Desire to awaken the hermit God. When Kama shot Shiva with an arrow of desire, Shiva opened only his third eye and burned Kama to ashes. This did not dissuade the brave Parvati who attempted another approach. She decided to win him over by herself giving up royal luxuries and herself engaging in meditation and asceticism. This eventually got the attention of the hermit God and they were eventually married.

It is believed that it was upon the Hemakuta Hill in the Hampi that Shiva had chosen to meditate, and it was here that he was married to Parvati.

Rest assured, once Shiva had arisen from his meditative state and Parvati had his attention and affections, she ensured that Shiva brought Kama back to life. According to lore, Shiva could revive Kama’s being but not his body, so Kama existed in a bodiless form thereafter.

Octagonal Bath, Hampi, India
Octagonal Bath, Hampi, India. Wikimedia Commons.

Battle of Talikota

After having fended off conquerors from the north and the Deccan region for over 200 years, in 1565, a coalition of sultans entered into a large-scale war with the Vijayanagara Empire. During the fateful Battle of Talikota, the ageing king, Aliya Rama Raya was defeated and beheaded on the battlefield, and large-scale destruction ensued. There exist accounts of the widespread slaughter and the fires that ravaged many temples and royal complexes. Significant exquisite stone buildings and statuary were demolished and plundered, and the once-great city was brought to its knees. In the months that followed, the city was slowly abandoned. One can only imagine the grand effect of all the monuments when they stood in all their glory!

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Hampi is from October to March.

How to Reach

Hampi does not have a Railway station. The nearest railhead is at Hospet, which is 13 km from the ruins of Hampi. Travelers use Hospet as a base to commence their journey to Hampi.


The prime bus station in Hampi is located in the Hampi Bazaar area. We would provide you all India tourist permit vehicles for the local transportations and the intercity drives.

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