Being a history buff, Hampi has been on my to do list for a while now. The last time I visited Hampi was in 2007 and we were 4 men who just wanted to hit the road & chase the wind. The destination did not matter then.
But this time we wanted to do justice to this open air museum. Invested time in reading what we could find and the entire experience was exhilarating & at the same time mind numbing.
For ease of reading, breaking down this travelogue into 3 posts.
The Past: Where I will highlight whatever little history I have been able to absorb.
The Present: Will cover the journey, stay & other facts to consider while planning a Hampi trip.
The Past – A bloody affair
Hampi has several mytholigical references & gets its name from Pampa – the daughter of Bramha who married Lord Shiva. The Virupaksha temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and the means ‘the one with the oblique eye’ – Source & more history
It is also believed that Kishkindha – the monkey kingdom of Vali & Sugriva was located in the surroundings of Hampi. Anjanadri hill is beleived to be the birth place of lord Hanuman.
Relatively new history:
Based on what we have read from multiple sources, Here is a quick reference guide to the history of Hampi-
Our search for the history, geography and places of interest in Hampi led us to the following sources, which are primary sources for any information that is shared here:
1. http://hampi.in/ – Great website with detailed plans as well as enough information for the average traveller.
2. A forgotten empire – by Fernao Nunes. Nunes was a portuguese traveller who visited Vijaynagara empire during the reign of Krishna Deva Raya.
3. A forgotten empire – by Robert Sewell. This is a translation of the above book and also includes references from other Portuguese as well as Persian travellers.
A new beginning
Muhammad Taghlaq of Delhi, having reduced Gujarat, marched southwards through the Dakhan Balaghat, or high lands above the western ghats, and a little previous to the year 1336 seized the town and fortress of Anegundi. Its chief was slain, with all the members of his family. After a futile attempt to govern this territory by means of a deputy, Muhammad raised to the dignity of chief of the state its late minister, a man whom Nuniz calls ‘Deorao,’ for ‘Deva Raya or Harihara Deva I. The new chief founded the city of Vijayanagar on the south bank of the river opposite Anegundi and made his residence there, with the aid of the great religious teacher Madhava, wisely holding that to place the river between him and the ever-marauding Moslems was to establish himself and his people in a condition of greater security than before. He was succeeded by ‘one called Bucarao’ (Bukka), who reigned thirty-seven years
This is how the kingdom of Vijayanagar supposedly began and Bukka is believed to have consolidated all the Hindu rulers under Vijaynagar in the short span of 30 odd years. This feat was achieved in this short span primarily because the smaller Hindu states feared the moslem sultans of deccan will occupy their lands and wipe out all Hindu dynasties.
Hampi is believed to have been a thriving city at its peak under the kingship of Krishnadeva Raya. Quoting from the letter that was believed to be written by Domingo Paes – a Portuguese traveller who visited Hampi during 1520-22 –
The size of this city I do not write here, because it cannot all be seen from any one spot, but I climbed a hill whence I could see a great part of it; I could not see it all because it lies between several ranges of hills. What I saw from thence seemed to me as large as Rome, and very beautiful to the sight; there are many groves of trees within it, in the gardens of the houses, and many conduits of water which flow into the midst of it, and in places there are lakes; and the king has close to his palace a palm-grove and other rich-bearing fruit-trees
The people in this city are countless in number, so much so that I do not wish to write it down for fear it should be thought fabulous; but I declare that no troops, horse or foot, could break their way through any street or lane, so great are the numbers of the people and elephants
Below is another extract from A forgotten empire – As stated by Nicolo Conti an italian traveller who is said to have visited Vijaynagar in 1420/21 AD –
“The great city of Bizenegalia is situated near very steep mountains. The circumference of the city is sixty miles; its walls are carried up to the mountains and enclose the valleys at their foot, so that its extent is thereby increased. In this city there are estimated to be ninety thousand men fit to bear arms.”
Robert Sewell further clarifies the above statement –
I must here interpose a correction. There were no “mountains” properly so called at Vijayanagar; only a confused and tumbled mass of rocky hills, some rising to considerable altitude. The extent of its lines of defences was extraordinary. Lofty and massive stone walls everywhere crossed the valleys, and led up to and mounted over the hillsides. The outer lines stretched unbroken across the level country for several miles. The hollows and valleys between the boulder-covered heights were filled with habitations, poor and squalid doubtless, in most instances, but interspersed with the stone-built dwellings of the nobles, merchants, and upper classes of the vast community; except where the elaborately constructed water-channels of the Rayas enabled the land to be irrigated; and in these parts rich gardens and woods, and luxurious crops of rice and sugar-cane, abounded. Here and there were wonderfully carved temples and fanes to Hindu deities, with Brahmanical colleges and schools attached to the more important amongst their number.
The remains of palaces, temples, walls, and gateways are still to be seen, and these abound not only on the site of Vijayanagar proper, but also on the north side of the swiftly rushing river, where stood the stately citadel of Anegundi, the mother of the empire-city. The population of this double city was immense, and the area occupied by it very extensive. From the last fortification to the south, beyond the present town of Hospett, to the extreme point of the defences of Anegundi on the north, the distance is about twelve miles. From the extreme western line of walls in the plain to the last of the eastern works amongst the hills lying in the direction of Daroji and Kampli the interval measures about ten miles. Within this area we find the remains of the structures of which I have spoken. The hovels have disappeared, and the debris lies many feet thick over the old ground-level. But the channels are still in working order, and wherever they exist will be found rich crops, tall and stately trees, and a tangle of luxuriant vegetation. On the rocks above are the ruins of buildings and temples and walls, and in many places small shrines stand out, built on the jutting edges of great boulders or on the pinnacles of lofty crags, in places that would seem inaccessible to anything but monkeys and birds.
Based on this, there are multiple section of history that one can cover while visiting Hampi. On reserching online, we stumbled upon this map that lists almost all the notable places of interest in and around Hampi.
Source – http://hampi.in/
Based on what we have read, 2 interesting snippets of information that we infered –
- The Kings of Vijayanagar were in constant conflict with the Sultans of Deccan – This pre-dated Babur and his capture of Delhi i.e before the Moghul empire came into existence. Every ruler of Vijayanagar at some point or the other was fighting with the one or many of the deccan sultans and apart from the Battle of Raichur in 1520, the Hindu rulers of Vijayanagar did not win much and ended up paying vast sums of ransom & taxes to the Deccan sultans.
2.The Portuguese influence – Some passages in ‘A forgotten empire’ clearly mention the support that Krishnadeva Raya received from the Portuguese to defeat Adil Shah at Raichur in 1520.
Its fall was due in great measure to the assistance rendered by some Portuguese, headed by Christovao de Figueiredo, who with their arquebusses picked off the defenders from the walls, and thus enabled the besiegers to approach close to the lines of fortification and pull down the stones of which they were formed
The most renowned King
At the beginning of his reign Krishna built a GOPURA or tower, and repaired another, at the Hampe temple, which had been built by the first kings in honour of Madhavacharya, the founder of the fortunes of Vijayanagar. The great KRISHNASVAMI temple was built by him in 1513, after his return from the successful campaign in the east. In the same year he commenced the temple of HAZARA RAMASVAMI at the palace, the architecture of which leads Mr. Rea to think that it was not finished till a later period.
The Vittala Temple (Krishnaswami temple) and the Hazara Rama temple are some of the most famous landmarks in Hampi today.
Gopura of Virupaksha temple While the base solid granite, the top of the goupura is made using a mixture of bricks and wood as was one of the tallest in Karnataka till the recent past. Wooden rafters are visible in the square openings.
In 1528 was constructed one of the most curious and interesting monuments to be seen in the city. This is an enormous statue of the god Vishnu in his AVATARA as Narasimha, the man-lion. It was hewn out of a single boulder of granite, which lay near the south-western angle of the Krishnasvami temple, and the king bestowed a grant of lands for its maintenance.
The above refers to the Yoga Narasimha statue south of Hemakuta Hill.
Trade flourished and the empire grew with the king building a big lake with the help of Portuguese engineers near hospet.
The bazaar outside Virupaksha temple While visiting the ruins around the kings palace & vittala temple, we see many such similar ruins.
The fall of Vijayanagar
The four moslem deccan princes unite to out an end to the threat that was vijaynagar and managed to do so at the battle of Talikota.
The Nizam Shah’s front was covered by six hundred pieces of ordnance disposed in three lines, in the first of which were heavy guns, then the smaller ones, with light swivel guns in the rear
600 pieces of firearms must have been quiet a big arsenal at that point in time and inflicted great damage to center of the vijayagar army.
The third day saw the beginning of the end. The victorious Mussulmans had halted on the field of battle for rest and refreshment, but now they had reached the capital, and from that time forward for a space of five months Vijayanagar knew no rest. The enemy had come to destroy, and they carried out their object relentlessly. They slaughtered the people without mercy, broke down the temples and palaces; and wreaked such savage vengeance on the abode of the kings, that, with the exception of a few great stone-built temples and walls, nothing now remains but a heap of ruins to mark the spot where once the stately buildings stood. They demolished the statues, and even succeeded in breaking the limbs of the huge Narasimha monolith. Nothing seemed to escape them. They broke up the pavilions standing on the huge platform from which the kings used to watch the festivals, and overthrew all the carved work. They lit huge fires in the magnificently decorated buildings forming the temple of Vitthalasvami near the river, and smashed its exquisite stone sculptures. With fire and sword, with crowbars and axes, they carried on day after day their work of destruction. Never perhaps in the history of the world has such havoc been wrought, and wrought so suddenly, on so splendid a city; teeming with a wealthy and industrious population in the full plenitude of prosperity one day, and on the next seized, pillaged, and reduced to ruins, amid scenes of savage massacre and horrors beggaring description.
Sassetti, who was in India from 1578 to 1588, confirms the others as to Portuguese loss of trade on the ruin of the city: “The traffic was so large that it is impossible to imagine it; the place was immensely large; and it was inhabited by people rich, not with richness like ours, but with richness like that of the Crassi and the others of those old days…. And such merchandise! Diamonds, rubies, pearls … and besides all that, the horse trade. That alone produced a revenue in the city (Goa) of 120 to 150 thousand ducats, which now reaches only 6 thousand.”