Archaeology
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Introduction: Hampi resides on the banks of the Thungabhadra river with a backdrop of the majestic rock boulders and was once capital of one of the largest Hindu Empires in Indian History. Founded in 1336, Hampi was the capital of an alliance of southern Hindu kingdoms that managed to hold off the invading Muslim armies for over two centuries.

The uniqueness of this site lies in vast area of monument complexes, the kingdom’s long reign as an advanced society and its unique architecture (which is Islamic for the secular buildings and purely Hindu for the religious structures). It has come to light in recent research that this capital city was actually the center of a large metropolitan region and not just a deserted city. Its fabulously rich princes built Dravidian temples and palaces that won the admiration of travelers between the 14th and 16th centuries until it was conquered by the Deccan Muslim confederacy in 1565, at which time the city was pillaged over a period of six months before being abandoned.

Physical Landscape The first thing that most visitors notice when they arrive at the Vijayanagara site is the remarkable scenery. The village of Hampi, the precinct of ruins and the green, irrigated fields that surround it, are set in a wilderness of extraordinary beauty. Granite boulders of varying tones of grey, ochre and pink dominate the landscape, distributed either as long ridges or hills or of piles of rock that seem to have been thrown down by some primeval cataclysm.

Mythological Landscape The Vijayanagara Kings were great patrons of art and architecture as evident by the vast ruins of Hampi. The temples in the Sacred Centre of this ruined city are known for their large size and wealth of sculptures depicting subjects from the India epics the Ramayana and Mahabharata. The Hampi complex is famous for the Vithala Temple whose outer pillars, known as the Musical Pillars, reverberate when tapped.

For pilgrims to Vijayanagara the most important aspect of the site is the association with various myths and legends. Many of the granite hills, caves and boulders of the Tungabhadra valley are linked with these stories, which are still very much alive and attract a steady procession of devotees. The Ramayana epic is important in this mythological landscape. For example, Vijayanagara site is believed to be Kishkindha, the Monkey Kingdom whereon of the episodes of the Hindi epic poem, the Ramayana, took place.

Urban and Royal Complexes The Urban Core of Hampi is considered the elite residential zone of the Vijayanagara capital. The Royal Centre is where the Vijayanagara kings and their private households lived and conducted the daily business of ceremony and government.

Virupaksha Temple, Hampi. Photo: Sarah Kenderdine.
Temple at Malyavanta. Photo: Sarah Kenderdine.