Friday, 24 February 2017


In popular folklore, the foundation of the great city of Vijayanagar in 1336 – 1342 was supposed to be when two brothers of the Sangama family were out hunting and saw a hare being pursued by a hound, the hare suddenly turned and ferociously pursued the hound, a guru interpreted this to be extremely propitious and so a new city was founded on the banks of the Tungabhadra, an excellent strategic point from which to hold back the incursions of the Islamic invasion coming from the North.
It was the start of a Hindu empire which was to become rich beyond dreams, famous throughout the known world as a trading centre. The bazaars swarmed with foreign merchants and buyers of cloth, spices and horses. Four dynasties of rulers invested in art and architecture, for over 200 years the city became a treasure house with successive investments in building stunning temples and palaces. It reached its prime during the rule of Raya Krishna Deva between 1509 and 1522 when international trading flourished and reached great heights due to progressive trading practices. 
Sri Krishna Deva Raya, ascended the throne in 1509, in the same year Albuquerque was appointed the Governor in command of the Portuguese settlements on the west coast.
Krishna deva Raya, congratulated Albuquerque on his success in Goa and also gave permission to the Portugese to build a fort at Bhatkal, which was one of the critical trading posts. It was more of a strategic tie up, the Portuguese had fine Arab, Persian horses, which he needed in his campaign against the Bahmanis, as well as artillery. Another important fact was that friendly relations with Portuguese gave Vijayanagara access to Bhatkal, which helped in trade. During this time, Duarte Barbosa, a cousin of Ferdinand Magellan, visited Vijayanagara and gave his own accounts of the capital. Bhatkal became the chief port for Vijayanagara, they exported iron, spices and drugs, importing horses and pearls. Another benefit of his alliance with the Portuguese was their assistance in improving the water supply to Vijayanagara through a network of aqueducts and canals. During this era, the Vijayanagara empire extended to most of southern India from coast to coast. But in 1565 the Islamic forces could no longer be held back, there was a six month siege which resulted in the dramatic fall and partial destruction of the city, it was pillaged and left abandoned. Gradually the temples, palaces and bazaars became swathed in rampant jungle. For several centuries it lay forgotten until some explorations to find the lost city were started by the British colonial powers. It was Colin Mackenzie who discovered the ruins of Hampi in 1800.
Publications about Hampi encouraged a renewal of interest; Robert Sewell’s (1845-1925), seminal work aptly titled as A Forgotten Empire Vijayanagar. In 1917 A.H. Longhurst’s Hampi Ruins Described and Illustrated became the first travel guide for the visitors to Hampi.
UNESCO’s World Heritage Site was conferred to Hampi in 1986.

An amazing pictorial record of the Ramayana is represented by thousands of intricate stone carvings at the Hazara Ram Temple which was built as the private temple of the royal family in the 14th century.

Domingo Paes, a Portuguese horse trader, who visited Hampi in the 16th century wrote

"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 (most likely the Matunga 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.Below the Moorish quarter is a little river, and on this side are many orchards and gardens with many fruit-trees, for the most part mangoes and areca-palms and jack-trees, and also many lime and orange trees, growing so closely one to another that it appears like a thick forest; and there are also white grapes. All the water which is in the city comes from the two tanks of which I have spoken, outside the first enclosing wall."

Virupaksha Temple and Hemakuta Hill
We approached Virupaksha Temple by Hemakuta Hill, a fabulous walk through the most ancient temples and then the whole spectacle of Virupaksha spread out below.
We walked across ancient lingam symbols carved into the rock.

The origin of Hampi as a sacred place revolves around the myths associated with this temple. Functioning since the 7th century, Virupaksha temple is the oldest and the principal temple in Hampi.
Located on the south bank of the river Tungabadra, it's an important pilgrimage centre for the worshipers of lord Shiva.
Originally, a few separate humble shrines housing the image of Lord Shiva and Pampa devi. Over centuries the temple gradually expanded into a sprawling complex with many sub-shrines, pillared halls, gopuras and a large temple kitchen. The main entrance is from Hampi Bazaar, a long pillared area which became hippy heaven in the 60s and 70s, the original simple stone structure becoming a sprawling sub-cultural mess of camping and food outlets. In one day in the 90s the new illegal building was raised to the ground leaving only the Spartan stone structure we see today.  Here's the link to a small video of the view and surroundings


The east facing gopura leads to the first courtyard of the temple complex. The pastel painted 9 storied tower with a pair of cow horn like projections on top is the most prominent landmark in Hampi. Only the lower two tiers of the tower are made of decorated stone work, the progressively diminishing superstructure is made of brick and mortar. The lower tiers are covered in erotic figures connected with fertility rites, quite explicit but in a jolly sort of way.

The first courtyard houses a 100 pillared hall. A narrow passage gives access to the kitchen where a water channel system connected to the river is built into the floor.
We left our shoes at the entrance to the inner courtyard, well worth the 1 rupee to safeguard my faithful Birkenstocks.

First of all we met Lakshmi, the temple elephant, a gentle and ever patient being, quietly enjoying the endless attention.

Then we met the monkeys which are Langurs, quite stunning, impossibly elegant posers.

All around this open area are pillared cloisters with a series of sub shrines.

The most striking feature of this court is the central pillared hall known as the Ranga Mandapa added to the temple complex in 1510 by Krishadeva Raya.
It has 5 aisles and 38 pillars, it is used for temple rituals including marriage ceremonies.
The highlights include rows of pillars shaped with rampant mythical creatures, Yalis, standing on water creatures,Makara or Crocodiles, warriors ride the fearsome creatures.

Behind the main sanctum a flight of steps leads to the rear exit of the temple complex. Just before the exit on the right side you would find a dark chamber with a slit on the wall. The sunray pass through this slit forms an inverted shadow of the main tower on the wall, a kind of pinhole camera effect created with stonework.

The residential area of the temple priests is interesting with various gurus ensconced in their niches, available for a quick puja.

After the astounding impact of the temple we took some refreshment at a home made soda stall complete, thick green bottles with marbles in the neck, very colonial.


The Queen's Bath was in all probability a royal pleasure complex for the king and his wives. There is a many domed veranda surrounding the pool, each dome unique, projecting balconies decorated with lotus buds around small windows give a view of the pool, sadly now empty but originally fed by aqueduct. Perhaps the Portuguese helped this piece of engineering.
The pool is now open to the sky but there is evidence that once there was a canopy supported by pillars in the water which was filled with fragrant flowers, there are lovely steps which would have given a slow and luxurious entry into the delights of the pool.

The end of a wonderful day, we made our way back to the ferry and entered the tranquillity of Anegundi, after the more spectacular sights of Hampi we looked forward to exploring our immediate surroundings in the village, in some ways no less impressive.


Hampi is inundated with physical sites and buildings which represent and reflect mythological stories
In ancient times Hampi was known as Pampa Kshetra. As always in India, ancient history, mythology and religious rituals are intertwined into incredibly complex liturgies.
For Hampi it’s the story of Pampadevi, daughter of Brahma who conducted a deep meditation by a sacred pond in order to attract Lord Shiva, they were married on the banks of the nearby river which became known as the Pampa, subsequently the Tungabhadra.
Pampa Sarovara is near Anegundi, it is the sacred site where Pampadevi meditated, it is held in equal esteem with the Ganges and attracts many pilgrims. Today the sarovara, a large pond, has some ramshackle but picturesque small temples and rest houses for pilgrims and sadhus, they are provided with food under a huge old Neem tree by the water. We were welcomed by the sadhus who showed us some treasures, two examples of Lord Shiva’s footprints, tiny baby feet imprints decorated with flowers and a less sacred artefact, an amazing percussion machine for temple ceremonies which made a hell of a racket when it was connected by poking two bare wires into an antique socket.

The Hampi area was also known as Kishkinda mentioned in the Ramayana as the monkey kingdom of Hanuman who helped Ram and Lakshman with their search for Sita who was abducted by Ravana and taken to Lanka.
Anjanadri hill is recognized as the birthplace of Hanuman. A long climb through the rock strewn hillside on a path made with 575 steps leads to the temple dedicated to Hanuman where the monkeys almost seem to be standing guard while pilgrims pay homage.
The views of the Tungabhadra river are sensational and certainly worth the climb.


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