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Most of the city lies on the south bank of the Tungabhadra River. The city was
built around the religious center of the Virupaksha temple complex at Hampi. Other holy
places lie within its environs, including the site that legend calls as Kishkindha, which
includes the historically important Hanuman temple (the cave home of Anjana, Kesari
and Shabari) and a holy pond called the Pampasarovar. It is known to house the cave
home of Sugriva, the monkey king in the Hindu epic Ramayana.
The city at its greatest extent was considerably larger than the area described
here; an account is given at the article on the Vijayanagara metropolitan area. The
central areas of the city, which include what are now called the Royal Centre and the
Sacred Centre, extend over an area of at least 40 km². It includes the modern village of
Hampi. Another village, Kamalapura, lies just outside the old walled city, surrounded by
ruins and monuments. The nearest town and railway is in Hospet, about 13 kilometres
(8.1 mi) by road. Hosapete lies within the original extents of the old city, though most of
the items of interest are walking distance of Hampi and Kamalapura.
The natural setting for the city is a hilly landscape, dotted with granite boulders.
The Tungabhadra river runs through it and provides protection from the north. Beyond
the hills, on the south bank on which the city was built, a plain extended further the
south. Large walls and fortifications of hewn granite defended the centre of the city.
The name translates as "City of Victory", from vijaya (victory) and nagara (city).
As the prosperous capital of the largest and most powerful kingdom of its time in all of
India, Vijayanagara attracted people from all around the world.
After Timur's sack of Delhi, North India remained weak and divided up. South
India was better off, and the largest and most powerful of the southern kingdoms was
Vijayanagar. This state and city attracted many of the Hindu refugees from the north.
From contemporary accounts, it appears that the city was rich and very beautiful
city is such that eye has not seen nor ear heard of any place resembling it upon earth",
says Abdur-Razzak from Central Asia. There were arcades and magnificent galleries for
the bazaars, and rising above them all was the palace of the king surrounded by "many
rivulets and streams flowing through channels of cut stone, polished and even." The
whole city was full of gardens, and because of them, as an Italian visitor in 1420, Nicolo
Conti writes, the circumference of the city was sixty miles. A later visitor was Paes, a
Portuguese who came in 1522 after having visited the Italian cities of the Renaissance.
The city of Vijayanagar, he says, is as "large as Rome and very beautiful to the sight"; it
is full of charm and wonder with its innumerable lakes and waterways and fruit gardens.
It is "the best-provided city in the world" and "everything abounds." The chambers of the
palace were a mass of ivory, with roses and lotuses carved in ivory at the top--"it is so
rich and beautiful that you would hardly find anywhere, another such.
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Jawaharlal Nehru, The Discovery of India
The ruined city is a World Heritage Site, known in that context as the Ruins of
Hampi. In recent years there have been concerns regarding damage to the site at
Hampi from heavy vehicular traffic and the construction of road bridges in the vicinity.
Hampi is now listed as a "threatened" World Heritage Site.
The Vijayanagara empire was founded by (Harihara) and Bukka, also called the
Sangama brothers. The empire consolidated under Harihara I and began to expand and
prosper under Bukka Raya. Some time after its original establishment the capital was
established at the more defensible and secure location of Vijayanagara on the south
side of the river.
Contemporary descriptions depict a very large and highly developed metropolitan
area: recent commentators say,
"The massive walls, which can still be traced, enclosed an area of more
than sixty square miles, much of which was occupied by fields and gardens
watered by canals from the river. The population cannot be estimated with
precision, but it was certainly very large when judged by the standards of the
fifteenth century. The great majority of the houses were naturally small and
undistinguished, but among them were scattered palaces, temples, public
buildings, wide streets of shops shaded by trees, busy markets, and all the
equipment of a great and wealthy city. The principal buildings were constructed
in the regular Hindu style, covered with ornamental carving, and the fragments
which have survived suffice to give point to the enthusiastic admiration of the
men who saw the city in the days of its magnificence."
The city flourished between the 14th century and 16th century, during the height
of the power of the Vijayanagar empire. During this time, the empire was often in conflict
with the Muslim kingdoms which had become established in the northern Deccan, and
which are often collectively termed the Deccan sultanates. In 1565, the empire's armies
suffered a massive and catastrophic defeat at the hands of an alliance of the sultanates,
and the capital was taken. The victorious Muslim armies then proceeded to raze,
depopulate, and destroy the city and its Hindu temples and icons over a period of
several months. Despite the empire continuing to exist thereafter during a slow decline,
the original capital was not reoccupied or rebuilt. It has not been occupied since.
The buildings in the city are mostly built in the original native traditions of
southern India, associated with the Hindu religion. Some of them show a certain amount
of Islamic influence due the interaction with the Islamic kingdoms.
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This title has been given by historians to the areas extending from Hampi village
to Matanga Hill to its east. It is sometimes extended further northeast to the Vitthala
Temple. It consists of a hilly region immediately to the south of the Tungabhadra.
This surviving temple and temple complex is the core of the village of Hampi.
Also known as the Pampapati temple, it predated the empire, and was extended
between the 13th and 17th centuries. It has two courts with entrance gopurams. The
main entrance with a 50-meter gopuram faces east into a ceremonial and colonnaded
street, that extends for about 1 km (0.62 mi) to a monolithic statue of Nandi.
The temple is still in use now. It is dedicated to Virupaksha, an aspect of Shiva
and his consort Pampa, a local deity.
The hill is situated to the south of Hampi village. It bears several small temples
that predate the construction of Vijayanagara as the capital of the empire, some being
as early as the 10th century. The hill was fortified when the main city was constructed,
and a number of more recent temples, tanks, entrances, and gopurams exist on the hill,
some of which were never completed.
This is a ruined temple, south of Hampi and Hemakuta hill. It was built by the
emperor Krishnadevaraya after military campaigns in Odisha. The temple is contained
in twin enclosures. Parts of the temple and its compound have collapsed, and while
some restoration has been carried out, it is generally in poor condition. There is now no
image in the inner sanctuary.
Also to the south of Hampi is this massive rock cut idol of Narasimha, the fierce
aspect of Vishnu, 6.7 m high. Originally the idol bore a smaller image of Lakshmi on one
knee; this had fallen off, probably due to vandalism. The Lakshmi statue is now in the
museum at Kamalapuram.
Narasimha is depicted seated on the coils of Shesha. Shesha is shown here in a
form with seven heads, the heads arching over Narasimha to form a canopy. The statue
has recently[when?] been restored. The granite strap binding between his knees is a
recent addition to stabilise it.
The donation of this work is ascribed to either Krishnadeva Raya, or to a wealthy
merchant during his reign.
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This is a natural cave, said to be the original home of the ape king Sugriva,
where Rama is said to have met him and Hanuman on his journey . The cave is marked
by coloured markings, and the attentions of pilgrims.
This is situated to the east of Hampi, near the end of the colonnaded street that
leads out from the Virupaksha temple. It is in the sacred centre of the city, and by a
narrow point of the Tungabhadra river. This temple marks the spot where Rama
crowned Sugriva. The temple is still in use, and the garbha griha contains statues of
Rama, Lakshmana and Sita all carved out a single boulder.
Situated northeast of Hampi, opposite the village of Anegondi, this is one of the
principal monuments of the city. It is dedicated to Vittala, an aspect of Vishnu
worshipped in the Maratha country. It is believed to date from the 16th century.
In front of the temple is the world famous stone chariot or ratha. This is one of the
three famous stone chariots in India, the other two being in Konark and Mahabalipuram.
The wheels of the ratha can be rotated but the government cemented them to avoid the
damage caused by the visitors.
One of the notable features of the Vittala Temple is the musical pillars. Each of
the pillars that support the roof of the main temple is supported by a pillar representing a
musical instrument, and is constructed as 7 minor pillars arranged around a main pillar.
These 7 pillars, when struck, emanate the 7 notes from the representative instrument,
varying in sound quality based on whether it represents a wind, string or percussion
The British wanted to check the reason behind this wonder and so they had cut
two pillars to check anything was there inside the pillars that was producing the sound.
They had found nothing but hollow pillars.Even today we can see those pillars cut by
The road leading to the temple was once a market where the horses were
traded. Even today we can see the ruins of the market on both the sides of the road.
The temple contains the images of foreigners like Persians selling horses.
The temple is the venue of the annual Purandaradasa festival.
The King's Balance
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This structure, the Tulapurushandana, stands to the southwest of the Vittala
temple. consists of two carved granite pillars, spanned by a carved horizontal granite
transom. This was used on ceremonial days, when scales were hung from the transom,
and the Raya (the emperor) was ceremonially weighed against gold or jewels. The
treasure was then distributed, to Brahmins or others in the city.
The Royal Centre
This extensive area consists of a small plateau, which starts about 2 km (1.2 mi)
to the southeast of Hampi, and extends southeast, almost to the village of
Kamalapuram. It is separated from the Sacred Centre by a small valley, now consisting
of agricultural fields, and which carries irrigation canals or streams that join the river
opposite Anegondi. A granite platform overlooks the Royal Centre. The Royal Centre
contains the ruins of palaces, administrative buildings, and some temples directly
associated with royalty. Little remains of the palaces except the foundations, as they
were largely timber structures, for comfort. The temples and some of the other stone
structures survive however, as do many of the surrounding city walls.
An aqueduct runs through much of the Royal Enclosure and into the Great Tank
where water was brought for special events. The west end of the tank is overlooked by
a platform shrine. The aqueduct also runs into the large stepped tank, lined in green
diorite, with a geometric design that has not required restoration.
The temple stands in a rectangular courtyard, with entrances facing to the east.
Reliefs showing daily life and festival scenes occur on the outer walls of the courtyard.
Scenes from the Ramayana occur on the inner courtyard walls, and on the temple itself.
There is a well-relief of baby Krishna on the walls.
The temple may have been exclusively for royal use. It is believed to be
constructed at the site of Vaali's killing in the hands of Rama. It may have been a private
shrine for royalty. It is unusual in that it has four black basalt columns in the mantapa
(columned hall). The inner sanctuary of the temple is now empty.
This is also known as the Hazara Rama temple (temple of a thousand Ramas),
due to the recurrence of images of Rama on the walls. Sometimes it is called the Hajara
Rama temple (the Rama temple in the courtyard).
Underground Shiva Temple
The temple has a Garba griha with an antarala and Aradhamantapa and a
Mahamantapa. The mahamantapa has pillared corridors that fuse with the pillared
Mukhamantapa, making a larger pillared frontal Mantapa which also encloses a
Dwajasthamba. The pillars of this temple are plain.
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An inscription referring to this temple states that Krishnadevaraya donated
Nagalapura and other villages for worship and offerings to the Gods for the merit of his
parents Narsa Nayaka and Nagaji Devi.
At times the base of the temple is flooded and may be inaccessible. When it is
accessible, masses of small bats may be found in the temple.
Lotus Mahal, also known as Kamal Mahal or Chitrangini Mahal is situated in the
Zenana Enclosure of the monuments. It is a ticketed monument and a single ticket
would let you into the Zenana Enclosure covering several monuments including
Elephant Stables. The term Zenana refers to the Women and Zenana Enclosure in
general would refer to the Queens‘ enclosure along with the servants‘ quarters around
and private temples.
Lotus Mahal is a two storied very symmetric structure exhibiting a fine example of
Indo-Islamic architecture. The base of the structure depicts a Hindu foundation of stone
just like in the temples, typical of Vijayanagara Architecture while the upper
superstructure is Islamic in architecture with pyramidal towers instead of regular dome
shapes, giving it a Lotus-like look, originating in the name. Also, this is one of the very
few buildings that have the plaster intact though it is defaced at several places due to
wear and tear, especially; the dampness on the walls is very visible. The exemplary
carvings on the pillar arches including those of birds and delicate art work can be very
mesmerizing, especially with the Makara Torana on top of these arches that can still be
seen on some of them.
It is also believed that the Mahal or Palace was air-cooled and maintained its
temperature during summer. The proof of this can be seen in the pipeline work above
and between the arches.
The entire monument is surrounded by a fortifying wall which is rectangular in
plan. The four corners of the fortifications have watch towers that would have been used
to keep an eye on the intruders into the Womens‘ chambers. While it was a very popular
practice to have Eunuchs hold guards at Queens‘ Palaces in the North India, especially
during Moghul rule, the existence of such a practice has not come to light in the
Vijayanagara kingdom and era.
How to Reach There: The Lotus Mahal is situated in the Zenana Enclosure of the
Royal Center and could be reached from Hazara Rama Temple.
Also called the Stepped Bath, or the Queen's bath, this is a stepped well
designed for bathing. Such sunken wells were created to provide relief from daytime
heat. It would have been covered when the city was occupied.
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A set of large stables, to house the ceremonial elephants of the royal household.
The area in front of them was a parade ground for the elephants, and for troops. This is
another structure that shows Islamic influence in its domes and arched gateways. The
guards' barracks are located right next to the elephant stables.
Other monuments and places of interest can be found outside of the above two
A number of modern populated towns and villages lie within the extents of the
original city. These include;
Anegundi, probably the earliest settlement in the area, on the north side of
the Tungabhadra River.
Hampi, the village lies in the middle of the ruins.
Hospet, a town and railhead, to the southwest.
Kamalapura, a small temple town to the southeast of the Royal Centre,
also houses an archaeological museum.
All of these are in Ballari district, except Anegundi, which is in Koppal district.
The Shiva linga in Somnath is believed to be one of the 12 jyotirlingas in India,
where Shiva appeared as a fiery column of light. The jyotirlingas are taken as the
supreme, undivided reality out of which Shiva partly appears.
The jyotirlinga shrines are the places where Shiva is believed to have appeared
as a fiery column of light. Originally there are believed to have been 64 jyotirlingas and
12 of them were considered to be very auspicious and holy.
Each of the twelve jyotirlinga sites take the name of a different manifestation of
Shiva. At all these sites, the primary image is a lingam representing the beginningless
and endless stambha pillar, symbolizing the infinite nature of Shiva. Even though there
are believed to have been 64 jyotirlingas, twelve of them are considered to be very
auspicious. In addition to the one at Somanath, the others are at Varanasi,
Rameswaram, Dwarka etc.
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The site of Somnath has been a pilgrimage site from ancient times on account of
being a triveni sangam (the joining of three rivers
Kapila, Hiran and the mythical
Sarasvati River). Soma, the Moon god, is believed to have lost his lustre due to a curse,
and he bathed in the Sarasvati River at this site to regain it. The result is the waxing and
waning of the moon, no doubt an allusion to the waxing and waning of the tides at this
sea shore location. The name of the town Prabhas, meaning lustre, as well as the
alternative names Someshvar and Somanath ("lord of the moon" or "moon god") arise
from this tradition.
History of the Temple
According to popular tradition documented by J. Gordon Melton, the first Siva
temple at Somanath is believed to have been built at some unknown time in the past.
The second temple was said to be built at the same site by the Seuna kings of Vallabhi
around 649 CE. In 725 CE, Al-Junayd, the Arab governor of Sindh is said to have
destroyed the second temple as part of his invasions of Gujarat and Rajasthan. The
Gurjara-Pratihara king Nagabhata II is said to have constructed the third temple in 815
CE, a large structure of red sandstone.
There is no historical record of an attack on Somnath by Al-Junayd. However,
Nagabhata II is known to have visited tirthas in Saurashtra, including Someshvara (the
Lord of the Moon) at Somnath, which may or may not be a reference to a Siva temple.
The Solanki king Mularaja possibly built the first temple at the site sometime before 997
CE, even though some historians believe that he may have renovated a smaller earlier
In 1024, during the reign of Bhimdev I, the prominent Afghan ruler Mahmud of
Ghazni raided Gujarat, plundering the Somnath temple and breaking its jyotirlinga. He
took away a booty of 2 crore dinars. Historians expect the damage to the temple to have
been minimal because there are records to pilgrimages to the temple in 1038, which
make no mention of any damage to the temple. However, powerful legends with
intricate detail had developed regarding Mahmud's raid in the Turko-Persian literature,
which "electrified" the Muslim world according to scholar Meenakshi Jain.
The prior temple appears to have been a wooden structure which decayed in
time (kalajirnam) and Kumarpal (r. 1143-72) rebuilt it in "excellent stone and studded it
with jewels," according to an inscription in 1169.
In 1299, Alauddin Khilji's army under the leadership of Ulugh Khan defeated
Karandev II of the Vaghela dynasty, and sacked the Somnath temple. According to Taj-
ul-Ma'sir of Hasan Nizami, the Sultan boasted that "fifty thousand infidels were
dispatched to hell by the sword" and "more than twenty thousand slaves, and cattle
beyond all calculation fell into the hands of the victors."
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