Tucked away in the northernmost corner of the state of Karnataka in India, Hampi is a small village with a great treasure and a charm that is unlike anything anywhere else. The small village of Hampi near the town of Hospet in Karnataka is special due to it being the site of the ancient capital city of Vijayanagar belonging to the Great Vijayanagar Empire around the 14th and 15th century. Once a thriving, golden capital of one of southern India’s greatest empires; this small village surrounded by giant boulders, thick forest and nurtured by the mighty waters of the Tungabhadra has today become an open-air exhibition of some of the finest architectural marvels of the medieval era in Indian history. The creations of the Kings of the Vijayanagar Empire who ruled the lands here for two centuries are a great example of India’s culture and heritage.
What is Hampi today used to be the capital city of the Vijayanagar Empire called Vijayanagar and was one of the greatest cities in Southern India and a representative of it might. The Vijayanagar Empire rose out of the need for the southern Indian Kingdom to protect their lands against the barrage of Muslim invaders from the northern part of the country. The founders of the empire were Harihara I and Bukka Raya who are believed to have belonged to the Sangam Dynasty and the erstwhile Hoysala Empire which later merged with the Vijayanagar Empire to form a solid counter to the Muslim invaders. The Vijayanagar Empire soon became a very powerful player in the region’s economy, politics and trade soon after occupying Goa the empire established trading relations with European civilizations which brought new methods of building, irrigation and trading prospered.
The rulers of the Tungabhadra River and most of southern for over two centuries, the Vijayanagara Empire that started from around the Deccan Plateau started to cover almost the entire Indian peninsula by the turn of the 16th century. During this rein its capital at Hampi became more and more beautiful, elaborate and fortified representing the pride of the empire and a symbol of the Vijayanagar style of architecture. By the middle of the 16th century, the empire had a stronghold on the regions wealth and had done a lot to promote art, culture and heritage of the Karnatic culture which also the development of the Carnatic house of music in Indian Classical music. The empire went into a continous decline after the loss in the Battle of 1565 in which the Deccan Sultanates were finally able to defeat the Vijayanagar Empire.
The legacy of the Vijayanagar Rulers, Hampi is truly a gift from them to the world which showcases the inherent creativity, intellect and love of humans for changing their surroundings into sights of true marvel. The five hundred odd monuments which are in themselves small pieces of history of one of the greatest period in southern history dot the mighty landscape of Hampi attracting thousands every year to tell them the story of the glorious past that they once belonged to. Each street and corner of Hampi is a mystery which waits for some explorer to unravel it, if traveled well Hampi is a delight for any lover of adventure, heritage and culture. Hampi is in many ways an open air museum spread in an area of 26 sq. km near the Tungabhadara River and the small town of Hospet. Hospet is the gateway to this erstwhile capital of the Vijayanagar Empire; it is the main entrance to Hampi as it connects it to various parts of the country due to the presence of a well-maintained Railway Junction and a Bus terminal.
To get into the this UNESCO World Heritage Site you can take Indian Railways trains from Hubli, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Goa which will drop you at Hospet from where you can take a cab, or a bus to Hampi. If traveling by plane the nearest airport will be at Hubli some 150 km from Hampi from where you can take a cab or catch a train till Hospet. Once in Hampi, you will be awestruck by the site of this marvelous place, a whole ancient city ruins located in the middle of thousands of big rock boulders with marvelous ruins of temples, palaces, courthouses, markets and many more. One can do so much in this quaint and rustic place from exploring the wilderness nearby to visiting the ancient ruins, from cycling around the town through rock boulders to bouldering in the thousands of boulders around the ruins the list goes on. Getting around the city should not be a problem as Hampi is not a big place one can easily travel and explore the city through rented bicycles, on a pre-booked ca or a hired rickshaw. The must visit attractions are the Hampi Bazaar, the Monolith Bull, the Virupaksha Temple, Hemakuta Hill Temple, Big Shivaling, Vithala Temple, Royal Enclosures, the Queen’s Bath and many more temples that dot the entire area. A must try when in Hampi is trekking and bouldering both are adrenaline pumping activities, trekking to nearby hills will provide a stark and beautiful view of the whole ruins.