Poetry of Stones- Vijaynagara temples I: Hampi

Hampi, Karnataka

October 2016

Distance from Bangalore – 350 kms

I know it sounds like I spend a considerable time formulating titles for the posts, but I really do love word play and puns. And they are the best when it comes to catchy titles. So Let’s be Hampi!! (No pun intended here!!)

I have dreamt of Hampi for as long as I can remember. Scouring through numerous travelogues, lusting after exquisitely captured photographs, listening to word-of-mouth raptures. But none of them can ever do justice, until you actually set your foot on this bouldering UNESCO heritage town of Karnataka. It’s so ironic that while I was living in Karnataka, I seldom ventured outside the youthful activities, and now that I am living in a metropolitan city, I crave to visit every nook and cranny just to fulfill the whims and fancies of my itchy feet.


The seed of an empire for two chieftains who accidentally stumbled upon it because of a rabbit during a hunting excursion, Hampi can only be described as a tribute to cultural evolution of 200 plus years of rise and fall of four separate Vijaynagara dynasties. When the glory days ended in a battlefield, Hampi and its history ended up paying patronage to nature. Trees takes root in the royal courts; weeds grow in abundance amidst the once meticulous palace gardens; Langurs leap across boulders where once stood soldiers and sentries. Evolution of a rich culture to a ghost centre! What was once a sprawling city of dreams, is now a countryside interrupted by ruins. Scornful of history or protocol, only the true course of nature can bring down the lofty ambitions of man. 


The city, which starts and ends in a span of 26 sq.km, came into historical limelight with the publication of the first travel guide ‘Hampi Ruins: described and illustrated’ by A.H. Longhunt. What is it about Hampi that makes it so special that a girl convinces her stubborn father to not stay within the premises of Mumbai and venture out, even though the number of days on hand is less than ideal? How about a photo journal please, shall we?

The Fluorescent tinge is courtesy of my camera who voluntarily and unwillingly tries to oversmart me with its unknown and unexplored features. Strolling along the banks of Tungabhadra river, originally called as Pampa.

The granite slope of Hemakuta Hill is dotted with more than 30 shrines, varying from elaborate structures with multiple sanctums to rudimentary and solitary construction, forming one of the earliest group of structures, dating from 9th to early 14th century A.D. According to ancient stories, it was imperative Shiva married to Parvati and restore balance in the word, the God of Love, Kama was enrolled to ensure that the ascetic God fell in love with Parvati. He strung his bow made of sugarcane and affixed a flower tipped arrow to it. Impelled by his incantations, the arrow flew from the bow and struck Shiva squarely on his chest. Having disturbed Shiva from his deep meditation, in his anger, Shiva burned Kama with his third (fiery) eye. Rathi, Goddess of Passion and Kama’s consort pleaded for mercy. Shiva reassured Rathi that only his corporeal body, of which he was inordinately proud, has been destroyed. He shall live only as a disembodied spirit, and as a wife only she shall be able to perceive his physical form. On Shiva’s marriage with Parvati, Gods from the heaven showered gold on the place. And hence this hill in Hampi is called as Hemakuta, literally meaning heap of gold.

Being a popular and prominent landmark where the majority of the lifestyle and livelihood of the local Hampians is located, Virupaksha temple attracts a lot of tourists and pilgrims. Also known as the Pampavathi Temple, named after Lord Shiva aka Virupaksha and his consort goddess Pampa, this majestic structure towering over 120 feet is a typical Dravidian structure built in dedication to Lord Shiva, with inscriptions dating back to 9th and 10th century.

Boasting of a monolithic statue of Ganesha standing 5 meters tall, the Kadalekalu Ganesha Temple is an advertisement for minimalism as opposed to the obvious grandeur of Virupaksha temple. The belly of this statue resembles a Bengal gram (Kadalekalu, in local language) and hence the name. The entire sanctum is built around the statue. The open hall is constructed by unusually slender and tall pillars, each of them is highly carved ornately with mythical themes.

Sasivekalu Temple consists of an open pavilion with a four-armed monolithic statue of Lord Ganesha, measuring 2.4 meters (8 ft), along the southern slopes of the Hemakuta hill. In Hindu mythology, Lord Ganesha (also known as Ganapathi or Vinayaka) is notorious for his food habit. One day he ate so much that his tummy almost bursted. He just caught a snake and tied it around his tummy as a belt to prevent this from happening. Also he holds the goad, pasha (noose), and his broken tusk. According to inscriptions found nearby this pavilion was built by a trader from Chandragiri (in present day Andhra Pradesh) in 1506 AD, in memory of one of the Vijayanagara king – Narasimha II (1491-1505 AD)

The iconic stone chariot is located at the Vijaya Vittala temple, making it the highlight of any visit to Hampi. It is rightfully said the the value of an idea has more merit, though in this case the sheer excellence of the master piece can not be discounted. Apparently, the structure was made after King Krishnadevaraya returned back from war on the eastern side and narrated the beauty of the stone chariot of Konark Sun Temple in Orissa.

The infamous stone chariot is an architectural marvel that is not a chariot as the name suggest, but a shrine built in the shape of a chariot, housing Garuda, the eagle god, who is also the vehicle of Lord Vishnu. Often referred as a monolithic structure, in reality, this stone shrine was composed of numerous giant granite blocks. Look at human ingenuity – all the joints are smartly hidden in the carvings and other decorative features that adorn the Stone Chariot.

The other unique highlight of Vittala temple complex is the 56 musical pillars, originally called as the Saptaswara, which on a gentle tap could produce musical sounds that can be heard throughout the entire complex.

Hazararama Temple is a temple which truly captures the feeling: walls have ears, and sometimes they talk too. This is not a huge temple by Hampi’s yardstick. But this temple, at the heart of the royal area, has some unique peculiarities. Firstly it used to function as a private temple for the royal family, hence the prime location in the royal area. Secondly, this is the only temple in the where the external walls are decorated with bas-reliefs from the Hindu mythology, Ramayana, hence the name Hazararama or Thousand Rama.

Mahanavami Dibba is the tallest structure in the Royal Centre, constructed in the form of three -tiered square structures, just like a cake layer. But don’t be fooled by the appearance. As you go closer, you will find details depicting the purpose of it. King Krishnadevaraya constructed this in commemoration of his victory over Udaygiri (now in Orissa). The king used this platform to watch the army demonstrations, war games, aquatic sports, shows of the royal animals, musical performances and also the most important Navarathri celebrations – basically a place to demonstrate the imperial pomp and power at his disposal.

Reference of this royal platform has been made by Abdur Razak and Domingo Paes who were visitors to this Vijaynagara city in 1520 AD and 1442-43 AD respectively. Archeologists believe that this platform had undergone systematic enhancements by successive kings who came into power. The greenish schist stone additions in the front portions stands out from the rest and vouch for this theory. 

Here is a look of the Krishna Temple!

Lakshmi Narasimha Temple houses the Ugra Narasimha, the largest monolithic statue (6.7 mts) in Hampi where Lord Narasimha (means half-man’half-lion in local the languages), the 10th incarnation of Vishnu, is sitting on the coil of a giant seven-headed serpent called as Sesha Nag. It is said that this is not the original statue; the original statue contains the image of Goddess Lakshmi, consort of Vishnu, sitting on his lap. Despite the ferocious appearance, this is actually supposed to be happy representation of the married divine couple.

Badavalinga Temple, located adjacent to the Lakshmi Narasimha temple, has the large Shiva Linga in Hampi. Legend has it that this was commissioned by a peasant woman and hence the name (Badva means poor in local tongue). It is said that the sanctum in which the Linga has been installed is always filled with water.

3 metre high monolithic shiva lingum has been carved out of black stone

Those who end up in the bouldering capital, often wonder how the desolate landscape compliments the art and history of the place. Well, you have two choices: either you find solace in the adrenaline rush of exploring the geology or get lost in the glory days of history. No matter what you choose, at the end of the day, Hampi will emerge victorious. My journey in Hampi was the shortest, but I know this much that Hampi and Me are far from over.

Related (and not-so related) Posts:



  1. Absolutely beautiful post, very enjoyable to read, so very well written and your photos are fantastic too! Thank you for sharing your link at Blogger’s World 🙂 What a wonderful place, so steeped in history and so lovely to be able to take a virtual tour with you 🙂 Very best wishes and Happy 2017, hopefully.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s