Hampi - “The Lost Dynasty" or the "Forgotten Empire" or the or the “Living Ruins” is how this place has been variously described. What ever you choose to call this place it has an aura of mystery and fascination and a feeling of an unknown planet as you do not know what is in store for you. And when the scene unfolds before you it can take your breath away. That is Hampi.
This small town is located about 11 kms North of Hospet in Karnataka State has its history spread over about 350 sq.kms. The entire place is strewn with rocks of different shapes and dimensions and if collected would weigh many million tonnes. Many temples and icons have been excavated, laid out and chronicled and many more areas are under excavation to unearth some more marvelous architecture of the Great and Mighty Vijaynagara Empire which is credited with construction of the various structures in solid hard rock and the magnificent architecture, carvings with intricate details on the hard rock of unparalleled beauty.
Hampi is also a place of mythological importance. This is the abode of Lord Virupaksha (another form of God Shiva – Virupaksha – the one with the oblique eyes) and his consort Pampadevi or Parvati. God Shiva was the presiding deity of the Vijaynagara Kings. It is believed that God Shiva was in penance here. Parvati wanted to marry Him and felt that the only way she could get Him would be thru penance. Hence she also sat in penance on the opposite side and when God Shiva came to know of this he agreed to marry Her. It is believed that the location of their marriage is the location of the Virupaksha Temple.
The Vijaynagara Kings were not only devotees of God Shiva but paid equal importance to God Vishnu. This is evident from the many shrines that they built for Lord Ram and Krishna. Their Royal Emblem was Varaha – an incarnation of God Vishnu. Vishnu in the form of Varha destroyed the demon Hiranya who had captured the Earth. This Emblem seems to signify their goal.
It is also understood that the mythological place Kishkinda (mentioned in the Hindu epic Ramayan) is located near Hampi. Hampi is also the site where the battle between Sugriva and Vali (Hindu epic Ramayan) took place with the killing of Vali. This is also the place where Lord Ram and His brother Lakshman rested before going to Sri Lanka in search of Sita who was abducted by Ravan.
Hampi or Hampe is generally known to be a later Kannada (the language spoken in the State of Karnataka) form of the word Pampa which is the ancient name of the mighty river Tungabhadra which flows near Hampi. This place became the natural choice of the Vijaynagara rulers to establish their Capital being protected on one side by the River and on the other side by endless stretch of hard rock hillocks. Over a period of time the word Pampa and Hampe disappeared and now the place is called Hampi and the river Tungabhadra.
It is said that two brothers Harihara and Bukka established the Vijaynagara Empire under the guidance of sage Vidyaranya. Subsequently four dynasties ruled over the Vijaynagara Empire. These are:
The Sangamas: 1336 to 1485 AD The Saluvas: 1485 to 1491 AD The Tuluvas: 1491 to 1570 AD and The Aravidus: 1571 to 1646 AD
While the Kings of the various dynasties contributed to the growth and at times to the downfall of the Vijaynagara Empire the period reigned by the Tuluva King – Krishnadevaraya saw the maximum growth in art, architecture and expansion of the Vijaynagara Empire. Despite Krishnadevaraya the Vijaynagara Empire suffered damages the hands of the Muslim invaders and many a shrine here as well as elsewhere in India were severely damaged or brought down.
We owe to this great King for preserving the Hindu culture, architecture and monuments as also for protecting, building and renovating the various shrines in South India. They built these magnificent structures with mind boggling architectural details in hard rock for us to see and admire. How they managed to carve out such intricate details in hard rock with the then existing facilities will forever remain a mystery. These are the monuments which can never be built or emulated. But for the Vijaynagara Kings our temples especially in South India would have disappeared long ago.
Many Hindus would start an auspicious event with a prayer to Lord Ganesh – The Elephant God and the remover of all obstacles. He is also known by numerous other names and the popular ones being Ganapati and Vinayak. Therefore I open my albums of Hampi with photographs of two huge Ganeshas – known as the “Sasivekalu Ganesh” and the “Kadlekalu Ganesh”. More details are given in the respective photographs.