Hampi - Capital of Vijayanagar Empire and its History

Hampi Vijayanagar on the bank of Tungabhadra river

Vijaynagar, the forgotten empire of Indian history, which had ruled  over most of south India between 14th and 16th century. Travelers and ambassadors from Europe, Iran and China has mentioned about the glory and grandeur of Vijaynagar. 

Hospet is the nearest station for Hampi. Hampi is UNESCO world heritage site and key tourist destination of South India. you will get all type of options for lodges and hotels but it is advisable to do the advance booking if you are going with family especially in winter season that is from October to January.

From Hospet, There are frequent buses and Jeeps to Hampi. The ruins of Vijaynagar’s imperial capital are spread over 26 square kilometer area which includes Hampi and several other villages known as Hampi ruins.

Our train arrived to Hospet in midnight. All the lodges around station were full and we had hard time finding a room for overnight stay. Next morning, we checked out the lodge and kept our luggage in locker of bus stand so that we can save lodging charges. In a short while, we started our journey to Hampi by auto Ricksha. There are multiple options like motor bikes, cycle or bus but as a first time traveler, we preferred to hire an auto assuming auto driver will be a good guide. The first place we visited was Virupaksha Temple.

Virupaksha Temple: Situated on the southern bank of the Tungabhadra River one of the biggest and well maintained structures in Hampi is Virupaksha temple. The temple complex lies within a long rectangle enclosure with 52 meter high gopura at the entrance.

virupaksha temple hampi vijayanagar

Virupaksha Temple

Virupaksha Bazar (market):  Facing Virupaksha Temple, about 12 meter wide and 730 meter long double-storied impressive structure is Virupaksha Bazar which gives an idea about the prosperity of Vijaynagar.

virupaksha bazaar hampi vijayanagar

Lakshmi-Narshimha: It is a huge monolithic, about 6.7m high four armed Narshimha (one of the Vishnu’s Dashavtar). but all the arms are broken know. Large seven-hooded naga curls above its head and originally there was a figure of Lakshmi (wife of Vishnu) seated on Narshimha’s left thigh, but know only a part of her arm is remain which was placed around Narshimha’s waist. There was big temple in the Vijaynagar period where this statue was placed. It was made by Vijaynagar’s king Krishnadeva Raya in 1528 AD, but now only this statue is remained.

lakshmi narshimha hampi vijayanagar

Mahanavami-dibba (Platform) and Royal Citadel: The massive 12 m high three tier granite plat form is Mahanavami-dibba. This platform was used religious ceremonies like Durga Puja, Navaratri, Dipawali etc. which were publically celebrated by the Vijaynagar kings. There are three different phases of this platform. On the first phase well-dressed big granite blocks are decorated with the scenes of Vijaynagar people’s life style like festivals, hunting, horses etc. Second phase is decorated with elephants, dancers, musicians and medallions, and on the third phase there are beautifully carved schist blocks.

mahanavami dibba hampi vijayanagar

Royal Citadel is a large area that includes Royal enclosure; it is the largest extent enclosure. Occupying an area of 59000 square meters and a wall which protects 45 buildings including King’s audience hall, which was a loftiest building in palace at its time with hundred pillars. Now we can see the base of those pillars.

One more beautiful structure of Royal enclosure is stepped tank. Made of well-dressed schist blocks, square on plan, this tank has five landings, each connected by ornamental steps and a stone channel has used to provide water in this tank.

Queen’s bath: Queen’s bath is a large square structure with an ornate interior. It has a bath 15m square and 1.8m deep, surrounded by decorated corridors and projecting balconies. It was used by women of noble families and occasionally by the king himself.             

Elephant Stables: Eleven large chambers with beautiful arched entrances, decorative ceilings and domes over the roof. These are the chambers for royal family’s elephants; it is like today’s days top brand car collection.

elephant stable hampi vijayanagar

Lotus Mahal: This two storied building is fine example for combination of Indian and Islamic architectural styles. It is built in an adhisthana style where arches supported by twenty-four pillars. The ceiling consists of number of vaults and symmetrically arranged domes. The central bay has a plain flat-coffered ceiling decorated with a lotus bud at the center. The upper storey has a number of balconies with windows having recessed and foliated arches. In its original state this building was fully decorated, painted and covered with polished lime-plaster.    

Vitthal Temple:This temple has no comparison; it represents the culmination of the Vijaynagar style of art and architecture. It stands in a large rectangular enclosure of 164X94.5m, dedicated to lord Vishnu as VItthala. The mandapas of temple contain beautifully and detailed crafted pillars which are a composite sculptural unit, sometimes measuring as much as 1.5 m across and may be termed as a monolithic sculptural group. Also there is big market structure outside the Vitthal temple; this is bigger than the Virupaksha market and looks like it was the main market place in Vijaynagar.

vitthal temple hampi vijayanagar

There are many more monuments in Vijaynagar which takes at least two days to see in details.


History of Vijayanagar/ Hampi  :  

Prior to rise of Vijaynagar this area of Hampi and Tungabhadra River was sequentially under the Kadamba, Chalukyas of Badami, Rastrakutas, Chalukyas of Kalyan, Hoysalas of Dorasamudra (Halebidu) and Yadavas of Devgiri (Daulatabad of Aurangabad). But in the year 1294 AD Yadavas came under the attack of Delhi sultan Allaudin Khilji and till the 1318 AD Yadav dynasty and most of the south India came under the control of Delhi Sultan.

Then in the 1325 Muhammad-bin-Tughluq became Sultan of Delhi and led several attacks towards south India. In the 1327 he conquered Kampili dynasty (Hampi) and made lots of prisoners and take them to Delhi. Among those prisoners there are two brothers Harihara and Bukka the son of Sangama which was a treasury officers of Kampili. These brothers are converted to muslim and became chief in Tughluq's army and send back to Kampili in 1331 under the flag of Tughluq for a campaign.

When Harihara and Bukka reach Kampili they meat Vidyaranya swami, who was a Shankarachayra of Sankeshvar pitha, a scholar and a writer. Then under the guidance of Vidyaranya swami Harihara and Bukka became Hindu again and threw up the slavery for Tughlaq. After that these three people started establishing a new dynasty called Sangama, in the 1336 they choose the area to the south of Tungabhadra River which is surrounded by mountains for their capital and named it as Vijaynagar (city of victory). Harihara became the first king of Vijaynagar and Vidyaranya Swami became the chief of ministers and laid a strong foundation for growing empire. After Harihara, Bukka became the king and after Bukka his son Harihara II.  In this period of Sangama empires Vijaynagar extended their boundaries to Krishna River and Orisa in north and Vijaynagar was started growing. They had taken most of south India under their flag and known as Vijaynagar Empire (dynasty). They had trading with Persia, Europe and China, also an embassy sent to China and a successful expedition to Ceylon.

The travelers and ambassadors from Europe, China and Persia has visited the Vijanagar and written about its glory and grandeur. “The city is such that eye has not seen nor ear heard of any place resembling it upon the whole earth”, says Abdur-Razzak from Central Asia. There were arcades and magnificent galleries for the bazaar where people can get silk, diamonds, pearls, spices, potteries and so many things. The city was full of gardens and lakes and rising above them all was the Palace which was a best example of Vijaynagar architecture and stone carving. Every king of Vijaynagar has continued contributing in his beauty, out of those kings Krisna Dev Raya was the most feared and perfect king. He was not only a great warrior and political administrator, but an accomplished scholar and a poet. Paes a Portuguese is among the many foreigners who has visited Vijaynagar during Krishna Dev Raya, he said “The city is as large as Rome, so rich and beautiful that you would hardly find anywhere another such”.

While Vijaynagar was flourishing, on the other side new Muslim empire was growing. When Muhammad-bin-Tughluq left the Deccan, he kept his minister Hasan Gangu behind; he gave him a command of Deecan and south India region. But in 1346 Hasan Gangu founded his own dynasty, called Bahmani dynasty in Gulbarga which was on the north side boundary of Vijaynagar and clashes were started between these two Hindu and Muslim empires.

(Hasan Gangu was an Afghan Muslim and in his early days of Delhi he had a Hindu patron Gangu Brahmin, in gratitude to him he took his name and his dynasty called Bahmani which comes from word Brahmin)

By the time passes Bahmani Sultanat splits in to five pieces, which was Adil Shahi of Bijapur, Imad Shahi of Waradh, Kutub Shahi of Goval Konda(Hyderbad), Nizam Shahi of Ahmadnagar and Bidar Shahi of Bidar they are also known as Deccan Sultans. Out of these the founder of Ahamadnagar’s Nizam Shahi dynasty Ahmad Nizam was the son of Nizam-ul-Mulk who was the son of Vijaynagar’s Brahmin accountant Timappa Bhariu, and got converted in to Muslim.  In 1490 Ahmad Nizam was separated from Bahmani Sultanat and founded his own dynasty Nizam Shahi and established Ahmadnagar as his capital. Same kind of story was with the Imad Shahi.

Here in Vijaynagar royal families were changed but the Empire was remained undivided and victorious over the Deccan Sultans.  

In 1565 as result of Vijaynagar’s King Ram Raya’s policies of interfering in Deccan sultan’s affairs and play against each other, the Muslim rulers formed a confederacy against Vijaynagar. A huage army gathered from both the sides. Hundreds of thousands of army, horse men, war elephants and artillery came face to face on the ground of Talikota. One of the biggest wars in the Indian history has begun on the 26 Jan 1565.  The army of Ram Raya was bigger than Deccan Sultans, the old age king had fought bravely like young man but that  was not enough, he got captured by enemy and the tragedy was Nizam who has a blood origin from Vijaynagar has cut Ram Raya’s head. After seeing his king’s head on the enemy’s spear the leaderless army of Vijaynagar had left the ground and that was the beginning of more than two hundred years of Glories Empire’s end. After that Vijaynagar was ruthlessly destroyed by the Deccan sultans’ armies, the city was burned continuously for six months and more than one lakh people were killed.  Vjaynagar was never get up from this destruction and became a ruin.

Today what we see in Hampi are the remaining parts of this destruction and without knowing the history they are just mute and broken structures.


Reaching Hospet

By Road:

Bengalore to Hospet 337 km

Belgaum to Hospet 265 km

Mangalore to Hospet 408 km

Pune to Hospet 453 km

Mumabi to Hospet 609 km

Panji Goa to Hospet 276 km

Hyderabad to Hospet 322 km

By Train:

Direct route from Bengalore is not available so from Bangalore – Dos Ballapur – Gauribidanpur go to Andhra  Hindupur – Penukonda – Dharmavaram – Anantapur – Guntakal then change the route towards Karnataka Bellary – Hospet

From Pune – Solapur – Bijapur – Bagalkot – Badami – Gadag – Koppal – Hospet


Airport Nearby





Heading Out:

Badami a capital Chalukya Empire is 163 km.

Chitradurga is 140 km.

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+- Vishnu

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