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India

True Glimpse of Vijayanagara Empire – PART 1

18 Mar 2021 By Montu Makadia

Whenever I plan a vacation, I run short of options, as I have already explored most of South India. While looking up places to visit, heritage sites pop up constantly, prompting me to explore that category. Somehow I have been skipping them intentionally. It would not be a lie to say that I had a false belief about heritage places, as they look similar and mundane. However, after my travel to Hampi, my perception changed about Hampi and other heritage places. It was amazing to learn about the fascinating history of Hampi, a Hindu Kingdom of Vijayanagara dynasty. There are ruins of Hampi everywhere since Muslim Sultanates defeated King Aliya Rama Raya in 1565.

I won't be able to do justice to Hampi tourism and its rich heritage if I cover this stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site in a single story. Hence, I am sharing my experience in two parts. The first part is all about Hampi monuments of the 14th Century during the rule of Vijayanagara Empire.

Hampi was the capital of Vijayanagara Empire during the 14th century. History of Hampi attaches a huge significance to Hindu Kings, their kingdoms and state-of-the-art ancient architecture. Its architecture also depicts the history as described in Ramayana. It has a strong mythological story associated with it. There are ruins of the era of Kishkinda Vanara Kingdom where Lord Rama and his brother Lakshman stayed when they set out in search of Goddess Sita (Lord Rama's wife), who was abducted by demon Ravana.

Mythological significance of Hampi Temple

Many people say HAMPI is the Angkor Wat of India. Hampi is an ancient town, which is a monument in itself; it's like an open museum of archaeology and history. Hampi is located on the bank of River Tungabhadra from which the largest open monument of Asia was named HAMPI. Hampi was previously known as Kishkinda Kshetra and its Kannada name Hampe was derived from the Tungabhadra River Pampa. It is said that Pampa was Brahma's daughter who was later married off to Lord Shiva.


List of Monuments at Vitthala Temple in and around Hampi


Hampi also has a strong mythological story associated with it. There are several spectacular mountains that are said to be the places where Lord Rama, Hanuman, Sugreeva and Valee had stayed. Since, Ramayana and Hampi are associated with each other, the first thing that comes to mind is the Hazara Rama Temple at Hampi, one of the thousands of temples in Hampi. The word Hazara was derived from a Telugu word Hazarumu that means an entrance hall. Hampi temple in Karnataka has many intricately done carvings depicting many stories of Ramayana. The Hazara Rama Temple used to be a private temple for the royal family. Hampi temple complex has more than 500 ancient monuments.


Vimanam on top of the sanctum at Hazara Rama Temple Hampi

Travel to Hampi through Hospet Town

Bangalore to Hampi distance via Chitradurga and Hospet is 370 kms, Hospet is located on the banks of River Tungabhadra. Hospet dam, a massive reservoir is built over this river. It is popularly known as Tungabhadra dam. Hospet to Hampi is just 11 kms so, we decided to stay at Hospet and explore this rich UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Tungabhadra Dam Hospet

We started on our Bangalore to Hampi road trip early morning and hence, reached Hoaspete (now pronounced as "Hospet") by noon. We straightaway went to the car parking lot for a visit to Tungabhadra dam and garden. This way we could beat the queue and crowd to explore Hospet dam at our own pace. The only way to visit Tungabhadram dam and garden is through a Government operated tourism bus. It takes you to the top from where you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the Tungabhadra Dam. The bus usually runs full so, you may need to wait longer if you arrive late. While returning, we took a small trek to enjoy scenic view of the dam and the river and capture few pictures.


Scenic view of Tungabhadra Dam (Hospet Dam) while trekking down to the parking lot


We were tired and hungry. It was time to check-in at Royal Orchid Hospet, have a scrumptious lunch and take some rest. We then had a short tour from Hospet to Hampi. On the way, we met a few Govt. of Karnataka notified Hampi travel guides who kept chasing us to offer a guided tour of Hampi. There are many places to visit in Hampi. One of my friends had recommended me to engage with a knowledgeable tourist guide in Hampi. They are trained to explain about Hampi and its monuments including carvings on each pillar and stones in each temple. This is the best way to explore Hampi tourist places.

Adventurous trek to Matanga Hill for Sunset view

Our guide took us to the Main Bazaar of Hampi, which is a happening place. We then walked towards the entrance for Matanga Hills trek while passing through numerous clusters of Hampi temples. Matanga Hill is one of the most famous and rigorous treks on these Rocky Mountains. Initially we struggled for a while, as the climb was quite risky. Losing balance could lead to a steep fall causing serious injury.


Matanga Hill Steps - Trekking on the hill using carved steps embedded on rocks


I would recommend planning the trek in such a way that you can reach the top before the sunset. Believe me, you do not want to miss Matanga Hill sunset. This is also the highest viewpoint in Hampi. Many foreigners visit this particular Hampi tourist place to capture Matanga Hill sunrise and sunset in their cameras.


The stunning view of Matanga Hill sunset from atop the hills


While trekking to Matanga Hill, we saw many ruins of Hampi temples and monuments. They looked like toy models from atop the hill. The old Hampi temple from the top is spectacular. You can get a clear and beautiful view of Virupaksha Temple Hampi and Achyutaraya temple from here. My camera worked overtime during the trek capturing the real beauty of various Hampi temples of Karnataka. From here, we could see another temple on a hill, the Lord Hanuman Temple of Hampi. The view was so astounding that we could NOT resist trekking there as well.


Scenic ancient architecture seen from atop the Matanga Hill Hampi

Lord Hanuman Temple Hampi

While driving across Hampi you can see two major and highest peaks, one is Matanga Hill and the other is Yantrodharaka Hanuman Temple. Many tourists are unaware of this temple. The other challenge is the numerous steps to climb, which are carved from the rocks making it a strenuous 1-hour trek. We did trek to the top and surprised us with a fantastic view that was awaiting us! The view of surrounding paddy fields and the Tungabhadra River was stunning. This unique Lord Hanuman Temple in Hampi is of huge religious significance. Devotees from all over visit this temple and spend time here.


Lord Hanuman Temple in Hampi is situated atop hills

Hippie Island - the happening place

There are many things to do in Hampi and one of them is the Hippie Island. It gets its name from its vibrant culture. Virapapur Gadde is a small island located across Tungabhadra River. Known to be a backpacker's delight, this island is stunning and is popular amongst locals as well as tourists for its laid-back ambience. There are many things to do in Hippie Island that is full of cozy cafes and lodges. Tourists spend their time relaxing at one of the many shacks and cafes in Hippie Island Hampi. Some of the famous ones are Green Garden Restaurant, and Laughing Buddha Cafe.

Hippie Island is also known to be a center for people to host sunset jam sessions with musical instruments creating a fun party-like atmosphere. We visited Laughing Buddha and enjoyed the ambience of caf with the river view and music. We badly needed delicious meal and some relaxation after the arduous 2-hour climb to Hanuman Temple of Hampi.


Chilling with my better-half at the uniquely designed Buddha Cafe at Hippie Island, Hampi

Update: All the structures in Hippie Island have been demolished as per the Supreme Court of India order of February 11, 2020. The court said these structures were in violation of Ancient and Historical Monuments and Archaeological Sites & Remains Act.

Coracle Boat Ride - a MUST do in Hampi

One of the best things to do in Hampi is the Coracle Boat Ride in Tungabhdara River. It is an amazing experience. Coracles have been an important means of transportation in Hampi ever since early 15th Century and this ride offers an amazing view of both the sides, rocky mountains and Hampi temples built under the caves. The Coracle owner indulged us and gave us a ride inside Tungabhadra River while shedding some light on the history of the caves. This was where the famous fight of Valee and Sugreeva took place as described in the Ramayana. When you are in Hampi you feel the ancient history of Hampi. I would recommend that you arrive early to take Coracle ride in Hampi as it does get crowded later.


Coracle Boat Ride in Hampi is an experience to cherish for a long time


The Coracle ride concluded the first phase of our trip to Hampi. I am sure there is a lot more hidden history of Hampi to explore. As we headed to the second phase of our Hampi travel itinerary, the excitement was building. There were many pleasant surprises awaiting us and we were prepping for it. Please do check out True Glimpse of Vijayanagara Empire Part 2.


Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the best time to visit Hampi?

Hampi is quite hot and humid during the summer so it is better to avoid months of March to June. The weather remains relatively cool and pleasant during the winter season from November to February. You need to walk and hike a lot during your travel to Hampi so, the best time to visit is during the winter.

Is the Hippie Island destroyed?

All the structures in Hippie Island have been demolished as per the Supreme Court of India order of February 11, 2020. The court said these structures were in violation of Ancient and Historical Monuments and Archaeological Sites & Remains Act.

What are Coracle Ride Hampi timings?

Coracle ride Hampi timings are from 6 am to 6 pm everyday.

What are the timings of Matanga Hill Hampi?

Trek to Matanga Hill is open 24-hour and one can visit there any time of the day. However, the trek becomes too risky after the dark. You may not want to miss Matanga Hill sunset if you are not an early riser. However, Matanga Hill sunrise is equally stunning from atop the hills.

How to travel from Bangalore to Hampi?

There are various modes of transportation to travel from Bangalore to Hampi. You can take train, bus or drive in your car or bike. If you are driving then you need to take NH 47 via Chitradurga and Hospet. The total distance is 370 kms.

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