Monuments of Hampi in the UNESCO world heritage list

Hampi, one of the most famous tourist destinations in Karnataka, is a worth seeing place due to its archeological and cultural excellence. Hampi which was previously called as Pampa Kshetra because of its nearest proximity to the river Pampa (now called as Tungabhadra) was the former capital of the Vijayanagara Empire, alternatively known as the ‘City of Victory’. There has been raising concerns about the damage to the monuments of Hampi and for that reason the place is declared as the world heritage site by UNESCO in 1986. Apart from the archeological significance the place is associated with many mythological narrations that are dated back to Ramayana even before the establishment of Vijayanagara Empire.

Hampi is said to be one of the most visited site in India by international tourists as many of them go to this place to explore the ruins and understand the historical legacy of Vijayanagara Kingdom. The magnificent ruins are spread across the vast area of 26 sq kms, that are broadly classified into three distinct groups: civil, religious and courtly style. Most of the sacred temples and ghats are concentrated in and around Hampi Bazaar and the nearby riverside area, whereas the rest of the remains like palaces, pavilions, royal temples, elephant stables, guardhouses etc are situated in Royal enclosure, which is 3 km to the south of the river, in the northwest direction of kamalapuram village.

History of Hampi:

The ruins of Hampi has great historical significance, even before the Harihara I and Bukkaraya I in the 14th century, with evidences suggesting its existence in 1 CE and during Asoka period in 3rd Century BC. Hampi, which is a part of Hindu Vijayanagara empire was ruled by various kings belonging to four dynasties before it was attacked and destroyed by the Mughal invaders. The place saw its peak during the reign of famous King Krishnadeva Raya of the Tuluva Dynasty between 1509 to 1529 AD. During his period, Vijayanagara empire was spread over the entire south Indian region and many temples, palaces, monuments and other structures were built, in and around its capital city of Hampi.

Each dynasty that ruled the place such as Chalukyas, Cholas, Hoysalas and Pandyans, left their mark in the form of beautiful creations, sculptures and paintings. The magnificent ruins of Hampi is almost like a open air archeological museum which includes different shaped rocks of granite & limestone and the scattered remains of various temples, shrines, pillared halls, mandapas, bathhouses, palaces, memorial structures, gateways etc. However, the monarchy of Vijayanagara collapsed when it was captured and defeated by the five deccan kingdoms of Islamic power at the Battle of Talikota in 1565. Despite its abundant natural resources and strong fortifications, the place has been abandoned for 400 years until 1981, when the restoration of the site started through Vijayanagara Research Project.

Famous monuments of Hampi:

The Virupaksha temple: The virupaksha temple also called as Pampavathi temple, is one of the oldest temples of Lord Shiva from 7th century. The rulers of Vijayanagara empire, especially Krishnadevaraya was a major patron of this temple. The temple is about 120 feet tall, and its architecture is based on the traditional Hindu style consisting of majestic pillared structures, smaller shrines, court yards and complex entrance gateways.

Vittala Temple: It is one of the largest temples which is built in the first half of the 16th century during Krishnadevaraya reign as a memorial of his success in the war against the Orissan kingdom. The temple has a lofty gopura over the entrance, different mantapas to perform the ceremonies, sculptures of gods and goddesses on the inner and outer walls and a huge compound wall enclosing the temple surroundings. In addition to the main temple with three gateways and various shrines, the temple has splendid architecture which includes 56 musical pillars that produce glorious musical notes when tapped gently.

Hazara Rama Temple: One of the main attractions of this temple is the presentation of the Hindu mythology, Ramayana on the thick stone walls in the form of fine carvings. This remarkable middle-sized temple in Royal Center of Hampi, functioned as a personal temple for the king, and other royal family members. Constructed in 15th century, the temple is associated with various shrines, pavilions, lampposts and other decorated structures on the outside face of the enclosure walls.

Achyutraya temple: This is one of the best examples of famous Vijayanagara temples that projected the advanced form of Dravidian style of architecture. The temple dedicated to Lord Tiruvengalanatha, a form of Vishnu Style was constructed in 16th century, just before the fall of the Vijayanagara empire.

The Royal Court Yard, Zenana: Zenana enclosure, a private area specially built for royal women, includes famous creations like queens palace, lotus mahal and water pavilion inside the closely constructed walls. The royal structures were designed based on the Indo-Islamic styles which is a total deviation from the traditional Vijayanagara architecture. The enclosure has tall walls surrounding the area on all sides, and includes four watch towers that were used to keep guard of the royal women. Today, most of this area is in the state of ruined condition, except Lotus Mahal which luckily, is left untouched by the Mughal attackers.

Other attractions: The Royal Platform is another major attraction that is worth watching in Hampi area. The Royal Platform is a high carved stone structure on which the king used to sit and watch the procession, games and royal marching during the celebrations particularly in Dasara festival days. One more enchanting site to visit in Hampi is the dome shaped tall structures of Elephant stable, that were built in a line, inter connected with each other, where royal elephants were kept tied in a row.

Another example for Vijayanagara architectural excellence that has lost its shine is the Queen’s Bath, located near the Royal Enclosure, which is exclusively built for kings and queens. Similarly, there are many religious and traditional monuments, with extensive and varied collections of ruined architectural masterpieces in the rocky landscapes of Hampi area.

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