An ancient town which is a monument in itself, somewhat like an open museum of archaeology and history; Hampi speaks of the rich heritage of India. Abandoned with the ruins of broken empires and obscured by time, this place is a living testament to the grandiose of Deccan history that existed once upon a time. Hampi is a small town in Karnataka which dates back as far as six or seven centuries and is regarded as the largest open monument of Asia.
Hampi saw its golden years of existence during the rule of the Vijayanagar Empire, with opulent palaces, temples, forts, public buildings, water systems, etc. Today, a UNESCO World Heritage site, Hampi stands with traces of the bygone era on the background of a rusty and rocky landscape, rendering a picture-perfect sight to the beholder. Pack your bags, book a taxi and head straight to this splendid time-capsule in Northern Karnataka.
The ancient town has managed to keep urban trappings at bay and still remains a quiet place, except for a few marketplaces catering to tourists. There are about 500 ancient monuments, temples, forts, and of course, the captivating remains of the prosperous Vijayanagara Empire.
Here are the best landmarks to discover Hampi in its true essence:
Dedicated to the patron deity of the Vijayanagar Empire, this temple is as old as the dynasty itself. The temple is dedicated to Lord Virupaksha, an avatar of Shiva. The 7th-century temple reflects exquisite stone carvings architecture, characteristic of Dravidian architecture and tops your ‘must-see’ list for history buffs and art lovers. The temple boasts sky-high gopurams (towers) and ornately designed inner sanctums. The entire site comes alive during the festivals when pilgrims throng from all over to pay homage to the revered gods.
This is perhaps the most impressive structure of Hampi. Dating back to the 16th century, this temple features rich architectural elements. The highlight of this temple premise is the huge stone chariot, also intricately carved and designed, and has come to be an iconic symbol of Hampi. You can explore the expansive temple complex flanked by impressive arches and a large courtyard. The smaller temples within the premise have carvings of various Hindu gods and goddesses.
Like horse stables, ancient royal families also had an elephant stable to house their royal rides. But the historic Elephant Stable in Hampi remains one of the most magnificent animal sheds you would have ever seen. The ornate façade makes way for 11 domed chambers which served as the enclosure for the royal elephants of Vijayanagar Empire.
Where there is royalty, there must be a special bathing arrangement for the queen and her acquaintances. And hence, the Queen’s Bath in Hampi. This bathhouse used to be a part of the royal enclosure of the Vijayanagar Empire. Though in ruins today, the remnants still reflect what would have been a magnificent place with a huge pool surrounded by stone steps and encircled by connecting corridors with windows.
Daroji Bear Sanctuary
As surprising as it may sound or seem, Hampi boasts a sanctuary dedicated to bears. What used to be a thorny shrubland, was turned into a lush green expanse of natural forest and house sloth bears. There are about 120 bears inhabiting the sanctuary. You can also find other wildlife species like jackals, leopards, and wild boars.
Hazara Rama Temple
Located in the center of the erstwhile royal territory, the Hazara Rama temple dates back to 15th century. As the name suggests, the temple is dedicated to Lord Rama. To add to its significance, the temple walls and pillars have sculpted narrations of the entire Ramayana. There are also intricately carved forms of other gods and goddesses. The entire site of the Hazara Rama temple renders an exquisite view of the sand-colored façade against the open sky. And that is why probably, this temple makes for the most photographic locale of Hampi.
Walk around, engage in rock climbing, explore the markets, and bask in the glory of the bygone days of this ancient town. Because even if time flies, it leaves behind its footprints for us to cherish. Savaari provides convenient car rental services from Bangalore to help you soak in this glorious chapter of history.