Architectures tell stories that forgotten history books can’t. Not all stories are recorded, but most can be experienced.
I am a 90s kid who grew up reading and watching ‘the tales of Malgudi Days’ and ‘Tenali Raman’- a series about a witty minister at the palace of Krishnadev Raya, the king of Vijayanagara. So when I roamed around the rustic lanes and residual ruins of Hampi, I was fascinated and wished to learn more, but before I delve into history, let me tell you that there are two parts of Hampi, both extreme opposites in vibe. If you want to know all about the Hippie part of Hampi, I have list down some cafes to eat at here.
How the city came to be known as Hampi is a mystery in itself and people know of very different theories behind it. What people know for sure though, is the fact that it has been a city of significant importance in Hindu mythology, history and trade before it got neglected for centuries only to be re-found and bestowed with the honor of being a UNESCO Heritage site.
Situated in Karnataka, Hampi formed the capital of the empire of Vijayanagara that spanned most parts of Southern India back in the 15th and 16th Centuries. Now been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, today what is left of it are ruins and boulders that speak of the life and royalties the city had housed once.
We started our history affair at Hampi with the Virupaksha Temple. What started as a shrine of Lord Shiva, back in the 7th Century was transformed into a temple in the 15th Century.
One can find inscriptions that refer to Shiva, but what steals visitors’ attention is not the architecture or the inscriptions. It is a 26 year old elephant ‘Laxmi’ who ‘blesses’ everyone who gives her 10 bucks!
See for yourself.
The Vijayanagara Markets:
My next stop was the Viajayanagara regular markets which also formed major trade of the times.
The locals told us that the right part of the structures would house the vegetable market while the left was slated to trade diamonds! India must have truly been a gem!
Hazara Rama Temple:
Having had my fair bit of royal history, we ventured to the next stop which was the Hazara Temple. The name comes from the Hindi word ‘Hazaara’ which means ‘a thousand’. The temple has the entire story of ‘Ramayana’ (a Hindu epic known to be twice the length of Illiad and Odyssey combined) on the walls of the temple in over 1000 inscriptions.
The temple also houses pillars of black marble inside which form a major archaeological and architectural monument.
The Underground Shiva Temple:
Hampi has been surprising archaeologists and historians alike with its many findings that keep mushrooming every time you visit the place. The Underground Shiva Temple was found by archaeologists only about 11 years ago and has a similar stone-architecture as the rest of the temples.
The Royal Enclosure:
Hampi being the capital of a major city and most of South India was also the hub of celebrations. A secluded royal enclosure was dedicated for houses of royal families and queens and formed the nucleus of the city. So much so that a special stage was designed to celebrate the Hindu festival of Dussehra.
The enclosure also houses the Queens’ bath as well a secret council chamber
The Vittala Temple:
The setting sun didn’t allow me to explore more, but there is much more to Hampi if you go with a historian’s curiosity. The most popular monument- the Vittala Temple- witnesses a lot of tourists and given that I was there for just a day I could not explore the same.
I wish I had more time to see this sculpture above myself. The temple itself houses its own set of mysteries. Folklore says that one of the pillars inscribed with seven different instruments gives out seven different notes when struck at different places. How true this is, I can’t tell, but I can surely say that the city is a Pandora’s box and something new can be found every time you visit it.
So here’s hoping that I get another chance to visit and re-open this Pandora’s box that treasures history and Indian stories.