Vijayanagar, Hampi, Karnataka, India    (site museum)

Vijayanagar, the capital of one of the largest Hindu empires ever, was founded by Sangama dynasty princes Harihara and Bukka in 1336. Its power peaked under Krishnadevaraya (1509-29), when it controlled nearly the whole of the peninsula south of the Krishna and Tungabhadra rivers. Comparable to Delhi in the 14th century, the city, with an estimated population of half a million, covered 33 sq km and was surrounded by several concentric lines of fortification. Its wealth derived from the control of spice trade and the cotton industry. Its busy bazaars, described by travelers such as Portuguese Nunez and Paes, were centers of international commerce. The empire collapsed after the battle of Talikota in 1565 when the city was ransacked by the confederacy of Deccan sultans (Bidar, Bijapur, Golconda, Ahmednagar and Berar), thus opening up southern India for Muslim conquest.

The ruins are set in a strange and beautiful boulder strewn landscape with an almost magical quality. The undisputed highlight, the 16th century Vittala Temple, is a World Heritage Monument. Started by Krishnadevaraya, it was never finished or consecrated; its incredible sculptural work is the pinnacle of Vijayanagar art. The outer pillars are known as musical pillars as they reverberate when tapped. An ornate stone chariot in the temple courtyard containing an image of Garuda.   [- Adapted from Lonely Planet India, 1999]

Vittala Temple

Stone Chariot

Main Temple

Musical pillars


Pillared hall


Krishna Temple


Virupaksha Temple



Stepped tank

Hajari Rama Temple wall

Baby elephant


Lotus Mahal

Lotus Mahal


Elephant stable

"In the South there is the great city of Vijayanagar. In the early sixteenth century, it was twenty-four miles round. Today, four hundred years after its total sacking, even its ruins are few and scattered, scarcely noticeable at first against the surrealist brown rock formations of which they seem to form part. The surrounding villages are broken down and dusty; the physique of the people is poor. Then abruptly, grandeur: the road from Kampli goes straight through some of the old buildings and leads to the main street, very wide, very long, still impressive, a flight of stone steps at one end, the towering gopuram of the temple, alive with sculpture, at the other. The square-pillared lower storeys of the stone buildings still stand; in the doorways are carvings of dancers with raised legs. And, inside, the inheritors of this greatness: men and women and children, thin as crickets, like lizards among the stones." 

[--VS Naipaul, An Area of Darkness, p218, 1962-64]


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