When it comes to the important world heritage sites in India, the ruins of Hampi hold the top position in the prestigious list. Hampi is basically a village located in the Northern part of Karnataka, which forms an integral part of the ruins of Vijaynagara (the once capital of the Vijaynagara Empire).
This place, apart from being an important religious centre, is home to several other monuments that belonged to the old city. One of the interesting facts about Hampi apart from its history and culture is that this place is closely associated with the incidents of Ramayana. According to the mythological epic, when Lord Rama and his brother were wandering in the forest searching for the trails of Devi Sita (Lord Rama’s wife), who was abducted by the demon king Ravana, both these brothers came to this region in search of Vail and Sugriv (two monkeys brothers) who ruled in this region.
Later Lord Rama went and sought help from Sugriv to form an army of monkeys and other animals in order to rescue his wife. Owing to such historical and religious significance, this place was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In terms of etymology, the name of Hampi has been originally derived from the word ‘Pampa’, which used to be the earlier name of the Tungabhadra River. From the word ‘Pampa’ was derived the Kannada word ‘Hampe’, which went on to be anglicised as ‘Hampi’.
The most important attraction of this place, which also serves as an eminent religious centre of the region, is the Virupaksha Temple (a temple dedicated to Lord Virupaksha, who is considered to be the deity of the Vijaynagara rulers). Because of this, Hampi is also at times referred to as Vijaynagara and Virupakshapura.
Hampi is considered to be the largest open monument and lost city of Asia. At the same time, it is easy to understand the past grandeur of this city and realise what it used to look like some 6-7 centuries back. The first historical record of settlement in Hampi dates back to 1 C.E. Dating from 1336-1565 Hampi was considered to be one of the core areas of the capital of the Vijaynagara Empire with palaces, temples, fort walls, civil buildings, tanks, irrigation channels, etc. spread over an area of 25 sq km.
This place reflects the power and prosperity of the Vijaynagara Empire, not forgetting the fact that only an empire so big and powerful could have created it. Religion, which played an important role in the construction of this place, also had a crucial role to play in its destruction, thereby justifying the fact that one man’s fundamentalist is another man’s infidel.
The Muslim states of Bijapur, Golkonda, Ahmednagar and Bidar formed an alliance in order to ravage the Hindu shield. This led to the battle of 1565 where the army of the Vijaynagara Empire was brutally defeated by the alliance and the army of the invading soldiers marched on the beautiful city with the determination to tear it into pieces. This caused a prevalence of loot, pillage, rapine and destruction of the beautiful buildings including Hampi temple and statues of Hindu Gods.
Thus an empire that marked its beginning with ascribing to Islamic invasions met its end being invaded by the Islamic army. One of the major reasons why Hampi laid siege to the Deacon Muslim Confederacy was its strong topography and geographical location which refers to its bounding by River Tungabhadra on one side, while the rest of its three sides are covered by defensible hills. Since the terrain is more hilly and raggedy, there is abundance of large stones in this region, which were eventually used for the construction of the various statues of Hindu deities. Hampi is also known for the mineral deposits of iron ore and manganese leading to the prospects of mining, which has been going on for many years now.
Apart from this, the Archaeological Survey of India keeps conducting excavations in Hampi to discover something new every now and then. In current times, Hampi is one of the favourite tourist spots of India visited by people from across the world. In simple terms Hampi is a must-visit destination when one is travelling in India especially South India.
Thousands of people visit the ruins of Hampi every year for the purpose of sightseeing, study or research thereby reinforcing the cause of tourism in this region. This helps the government in two major ways, first of all having so many tourists every year boosts their economy, and tourism helps in several ways to protect this beautiful site from negligence and destruction.
Here’s a list of some of the best places to visit in Hampi: