Photowalk to Vijaya Vittala Temple

While in Hampi, it is discourteous not to visit the Vijay Vittala Temple. This was my third visit to the UNESCO world heritage temple grounds and I was not sure what to capture. I have gone over the temple grounds pillar by pillar with my camera.

Anyways I left for the Temple early at dawn. This time I drove from Bangalore, so I had my car available to me at all times during the visit. It makes life a hell lot convenient having your own ride in a place like Hampi which spreads over acres of land.

I had booked my lodgings at Clark’s Inn, which is a pretty good deal considering the other available options. The small hotel also provided free parking facilities.

Now there are two routes to Vijay Vittala Temple from the nearby town. You can either park your car near the allotted parking space near Virupaksha Temple and take a 15 minute walk along the Tungabhadra. This is the scenic route and you will pass many other points of interest along the way. The other route is a bit desolate but takes you right to the parking space of Vittala Temple from where buggy rides are available up to the temple.

The Sun had just risen as I set on the road. The heavy clouds though made the skies quite murky. The first structure I came across was the Talarigatta Gate. This gate is the entrance to the lost city of Hampi. It stands alone, with no surrounding structures. During its heyday, there would be queues to get into the city.

After parking my Brezza, I made my way towards the Temple on foot. From the temple it takes about 10 minutes on foot to reach the temple grounds. Buggy rides are available from the Parking lot, but not this early in the morning. On either side of the mud road, you can find various other small temples and other structures in ruins.

To the North, West and east of the Vijaya Vitthala temple were rows of galleries of which only few survive now. The most impressive of these galleries were the ones facing the main gopura of the temple. The eastern Bazaar of the Chariot Street is about 40m wide and a kilometer long. The galleries served as ships, residential quarters, rest houses and camping centers for pilgrims.

The ticket counter had not opened yet, so I loitered round the complex taking some shots of the surrounding areas. The most prominently visible location is the Anjanadri Hill, across the Tungabhadra, just behind the Vittala Temple.

The marked white route goes all the way to the top where a temple lies dedicated to monkey god Hanuman. For some reason or the other, I have always somehow not been able to go to this hill.

The landscape outside the Vittala Temple is very shabby and not at all maintained. You can see rubbish and thorny bushes everywhere. This section used to be a market.

The corridors on either side of the wide road used to sell items relating to prayers at the temple. I moved towards the Shivalayam at the end of the road.

The Gopuram of the Shivalaya looked to have been abandoned midway through construction.

Inside the structure you can still see some boulders lying around that were meant to be sculpted to be a part of this temple dedicated to Shiva.

After exporing the Shivalaya, I walked back towards the Vittala Temple. The admission booth had still not opened, so I walked towards the back on the compound. On the Nothern side lies one of the smaller gates to the temple. These gates remain locked at all times.

Towards the back of the compound you can find two abandoned structures. The nearest one is an open air pavilion, which may have been left uncompleted.

The other structure is quite popular but again not very properly maintained is the King’s Balance.

From the King’s balance, I made my back towards the entrance. On the way I spotted another small temple known as the Nammalvar Temple. I am not very familiar with its main deity.

Just opposite to the Nammalvar Temple, lies the South Gate of Vittala Temple. Just like the North Gate, this gate too remains closed at all times.

Once I reached the front gate, I was glad to see the admission booth was finally opened. Tickets costs ₹30 for Indian citizens and ₹500 for foreign nationals. I do not understand why foreigners have to pay such an enormous amount, it is the Indians who do more damage to these heritage structures than foreigners, and so they should be dissuaded with higher fees to enter these magnificent works of art.

Once inside the temple grounds, I focused first on the Stone Chariot that welcomes the visitors inside the complex.

On all of my earlier visits, I have never been able to capture this beauty without hoards of selfie-takers getting in the way. The stupid thing about selfies is what does it matter if they take the photo in front of the chariot or anywhere else, their face covers 70% of the image anyways.

I took some other side snaps of the Stone Chariot. If you are a photo enthusiast, do take my advice and go in the mornings when there are almost no visitors to disturb your peace.

The Maha Mandap lies in the center of the Temple grounds. Visitors are prohibited from entering as they kept banging the pillars to hear the musical notes eminating from them. I have written in detail about the Maha Mandap in an earlier journal.

To the left of the Maha Mandap lies a flowering tree which is said to be very very old.

To the right of the Maha Mandap lies one of the two Kalyan Mandaps. These mandaps were generally reserved for marriages.

Incidentally I had also missed capturing the beautiful pillars of this mandap, so I went over each of the pillars capturing the beautiful sculptures one by one.

The outer pillars of the Kalyan Mandap have Yali scupltures.

This pillar clearly depicts Hindu God Vishnu in the avatar of Krishna playing his flute.

Below is another pillar with a carving of Hanuman

This one appears to be Lord Rama hunting the deer during his exile.

I am not really sure about this. The others above depict avatars of Vishnu. This could be the woman avatar that Vishnu took to steal away the Amrit from the Asuras.

After capturing the pillars of the Kalyan Mandap. I loitered around the premises. This is a shot of the South Gate again, but this time from the inside.

On the other side, there is a small corridor fallen into ruins.

People were now staring to come in steadily. Mani took a shot of me with the Stone Chariot.

After catching a last shot of the Stone Chariot, we were on our way back to the city.

While driving back to the hotel, I stopped at the fortified gateway known as the ‘Talarighat Gate,’ a ruined three storeyed gateway set into fortified walls. The two upper, arched sections have carved surface detail and a parapet. Two assistants are posed near the entrance and another seated in an archway above.

Identified by an inscription as the ‘hunter’s gate’, this gateway is found on the northeast road leading to Talarighat and the Vitthala temple complex. The gateway has a merloned parapet and pointed arches with rosettes in the spandrels. The walls in the foreground suggest a barbican enclosure (which no longer exists), forcing a number of turns in the approach to the gateway.

Thanks for reading.

Monuments on Hemkuta Hill

India is a country, rich in cultural heritage with hundreds of ancient archaeological sites – each with its own mythical stories. The monuments on Hemakuta Hill in Hampi is one such cluster of ancient temples, archways and pavilions with local folklore spread over centuries.

Hampi’s claim to fame began when it became the capital of the Vijayanagara empire. However these temples on the Hemakuta Hill are among the oldest cluster of shrines in Hampi, preceding even the Vijayanagara reign.

The hill is located on the southern side of the Virupaksha temple, identified quite easily by the slopes dotted with a number of abandoned monuments. When the revered Virupaksha temple was still in its infancy, this hill used to be occupied by Shaivas, devotees of Shiva, who would come from far away parts of South India to pay respects.

You can access the hill via two opposite routes. The first path is just beside the Virupaksha temple’s main entrance. From there, if you are facing Virupaksha, take the left alley up the hill. I chose this route since it was closer to the parking lot.

Otherwise if you already near the Balkrishna Temple, you can take the series of steps up the hill, through the twin storied archway located near the Sasivekalu Ganesha shrine.

History of the monuments on Hemkuta Hill

There are more than 30 structures on the Hemakuta hill that belong to both, pre-Vijayanagara as well as Vijayanagara periods. Celebrated in history, rooted in myths and now a tumbled mass of magnificent residues of an empire, Hampi is probably the most renowned medieval Hindu metropolis in the history of the Deccan plateau. As the capital city of the Vijayanagara Empire, from the 14th to 16th century, it was unparalleled in wealth as well in culture in its time.

The monuments spread across the face of the hill are centuries old and represent a historical era of art and culture. The hill also contains as many boulders as temples.

These boulders date back to more than 3 billion years and are believed to be the earliest solidified rock on the planet. From where I stood, the hill appears to be a canvas of stones.

Mythology associated with Hemakuta Hill

Most of the Hemakuta monuments are dedicated to Lord Shiva. According to local folklore, Pampa, a local girl, performed intense penance on Hemakuta Hill, aspiring to marry Lord Shiva. The Stala Purana and the Pampa Mahatme both support this myth. Seeing her intense devotion, Shiva eventually consented to marry her. People say it rained gold on the hill thereafter. Since then this hill came to be known as Hemakuta which loosely translates into the “hill of gold”.

With time, Hemakuta Hill came to be deeply associated with Lord Shiva and many temples were built on the hill to worship this fascinating deity of the Hindu Trinity.

Architecture of Monuments on Hemakuta Hill

The architecture of the temples on the Hemakuta Hill is quite different from the typical Vijayanagara style of architecture found in many other temples in Hampi. The Hemakuta group of temples have a distinct style of their own.

The first marked difference you will see is the lack of carvings on the pillars. If you have been to Vitthala or any other temple commissioned by the Vijayanagar kings, you cannot miss the intricate Yali carvings and decorations on the columns that support the roof. None of the monuments on Hemkuta carry this trademark style.

The early 14th century temples on Hemakuta hill built during the rule of Harihara Raya I, incorporates the distinctive stepped Kadamba style.

These are the largest and most elaborately decorated temples, situated on the northern side of the hill and face the Virupaksha temple compound. Below is a view from the inside of the temple looking towards the Virupaksha Temple compound.

On the top of the hill lies the Mula Virupaksha Temple, considered by historians to be the original Shiva temple, before the grand Virupaksha temple was built at the base of the hill. Though not as grand as the one built by the Vijayanagara rulers, the Mula Virupaksha Temple represents a style of architecture that was popular before the Vijayanagara style came into being.

There are several other monuments in this area that are built in the pre-Vijayanagara style of architecture.

In the ancient times the whole hill was fortified with stone walls and one could enter the area only using the two gates at each end. Once you each the top of the hill you will find it is almost flat providing the perfect base for temples. There is also a natural pond formation making it perfect for the temple.

Near the Mula Virupaksha temple lies a granite rock with the carvings of the characters from Ramayana. Ramayana plays an important part in the mythological aspect of Hampi. You can read more about it in my journal on Kishkindha.

Afternoons at Hemkuta Hill

The gentle morning light grew into a bright day. The skies turned a vivid blue. In all my visits to the ancient city, I have never seen it more blue before.

The age old boulders were lit up in the golden Sun and looking for attention.

As I hiked down from the other side, I passed by the one of the prominent monuments, that of Sasivekalu Ganesha at the foot of Hemkuta Hill.

It was late in the afternoon. The Sun was harsh, so I left for the hotel.

Evenings at Hemkuta

After a fulfilling lunch at Clark’s Inn, I was back at the hill in the evening. This time I used the entry from Sasivekalu Ganesha side of the hill. Dusk had begun to kick in.

Among the Hemakuta monuments, most are in total ruins. Once home to half a million people, Hampi was ransacked in 1565 by the armies of the Bahamani sultanates. For hundreds of years, the City of Victory lay abandoned until it was rediscovered by the British in the 19th century.

The hike is pretty easy in a few minutes and I was up at the top of the hill.

Some of the temples that had escaped destruction during the Mughal invasions have suffered damage from the wear and tear of weather. I truly appreciate the efforts of The Archaeological Survey of India in its continued efforts to renovate these temples and bring back their lost glory.

The beauty of the ancient temples and the relative calm of the place make it an amazing place to spend some peaceful moments on the hilltop.

We waited at the summit for the sun to set. Hemakuta Hill is one among the best places in Hampi to see the sunset but not as tedious to reach the top when compared to Matanga Hill nearby, which is considered as the best location to watch sunset in Hampi. It was touching 6 pm. The security guard made us promise that we would leave in 10 minutes and went his way.

Today the sprawling beauty, a world heritage site of ancient monuments scattered across a landscape of enormous granite boulders, pulls in hundreds of visitors every year from around the world. After relishing the beautiful sunset we were on our way back to the hotel.


The Hemkuta hill area remains open throughout the day and night. But guards will probably heckle to leave at 6 pm.

No tickets are required to access the site.

Thanks for reading. Please leave me a comment if you liked the post or follow these connected stories of my visit to the mythical monkey kingdom of Kishkindha from the epic tale of Ramayana or take a virtual walk with me to the iconic Vitthala Temple.

Shades of Virupaksha Temple

This was my third visit to Hampi, but the first time that I drove myself to the historical city. Hampi sits on the banks of the Tungabhadra river in the ruins of the ancient city of Vijayanagar, capital of the once flourishing Vijayanagara empire.

The road to Hampi is pretty straightforward. I took the NH48 from Bangalore and then slid into NH50 near Chitradurga. The NH50 is under major repairs but its still faster than any alternative routes.

On the way we passed the Tungabhadra reservoir. The national highway leads directly to the town of Hospet, from where we drove into Kamlapur, where our hotel was located.

Clark’s Inn

We were staying at Clark’s Inn for the duration of our stay in Hampi. Even though we had an amazing time at the Hyatt Hampi in 2014, I reserved this hotel mainly because I wanted to stay closer to the UNESCO site. Staying at Clark’s Inn reduced my travel time to reach the ancient monuments from 40 minutes to just over 10 mins.

Clark’s Inn is a decent place to put up for a few days. The food is nice and the staff hospitable. They also have a small swimming pool. But the parking is a bit of a concern since it lies in the basement and the lane leading to it is quite narrow. On the bright side, they do however have valet services to help out visitors.

History of Virupaksha Temple

Like I mentioned before, I have been to Hampi multiple times but this time I came with the sole purpose of capturing the iconic Virupaksha temple (храм вирупакша) at different times of the day.

While discussing the monuments at Hampi, the first thing that comes to mind is the contribution of the Vijaynagara Empire. However the Virupaksha – Pampa sanctuary existed well before the Vijayanagara capital was located here.

Virupaksha Temple has been a most prominent center of pilgrimage at Hampi for centuries with earliest records dating from 689 CE when it was known as Pampa Tirtha after the local river God Pampa. The temple is fully intact among the surrounding ruins and is the only active temple in all of Hampi. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, known here as Virupaksha.

The shrine dedicated to Shiva was established on the banks of the Pampa (Tungabhadra) river sometime in the 7th century, thus making it older than a thousand years. It is debatable whether the initial temple was actually the structure that is still on top of the Hemkuta Hill known as Mula Virupaksha Temple. By logic it should, since temples are generally created on the top of hills. By the mid 7th century the temple had already become a revered Saiva pilgrimage with the Saivas taking up settlement on the Hemkuta hill just beside the temple.

In those times Hampi was known by the name Pampakshetra. It is not clear when but the growing popularity of the temple might have resulted in the creating of the larger Virupaksha Temple near the banks pf the river Pampa (Tungabhadra).

The mythology surrounding Virupaksha Temple

The Tungabhadra river of today was in ancient times known as the river Pampa. The Skanda Purana mentions Pampakshetra as saktipitha, describing it as the abode of the goddess Pampa otherwise referred to as Parvati. According to local myth, Pampa, the daughter of Brahma, mortified herself here to gain the hand of the Lord Shiva. Multiple references to Pampakshetra can be found in records between the 7th to 14th century, overlooking the banks of the Tungabhadra, which currently include Hampi and Anegundi. Several inscriptions can also be found at the temple itself dating back to the 9th and 10th centuries. 

Time passed and what started as a small shrine grew into a large complex under the Vijayanagara rulers. Domingos Paes (1520–22 AD) whose records provide valuable inputs into life during the Vijaynagara reign mentions that inspite of the numerous temples in the vicinity, Virupaksha temple was the one which the people held most veneration for.

The Vijayanagara rulers, in the middle of the 14th century, initiated the blossoming of native art and culture in the region. Though most of the temple buildings are attributed to the Vijayanagara period, there is ample evidence indicating to additions that were made to the temple in the late Chalukyan and Hoysala periods. When they were defeated by Deccan Sultunate in the 16th century, most of the wonderful decorative structures and creations were systematically destroyed. However they were not able to destroy the religious sect of Virupaksha-Pampa. Even after the anhilation of the city in 1565, worship of Shiva persisted throughout the years and continues even today.

Breaking dawn at Virupaksha Temple

On my first day in Hampi, I woke up at break of dawn and drove down to the temple. By the time I reached the parking lot near the temple the sky was already glowing in blue and the stars were beginning to fade away. The parking was mostly deserted.

One of the best spots to catch the sunrise is from the Hemkuta Hill. Its an easy hike up towards the western side of the hill. By the time I took my position on the Hemkuta hill, the Sun was ready to cast its blessings on Hampi and I was ready with my tripod to capture its glory.

I set up my composition on the main gopura, which is the most ornate structure of the temple. The main gopura or temple tower is called the hiriyagopura or the chief tower. It has a brick superstructure and a stone base. Supervised by Devaraya’s minister Proluganti Tippa, the nine-tiered eastern gateway is the largest of the gopuras raised by the Vijayanagara kings.

Light changes pretty fast in these moments and within minutes the gopura was flooded with light from the Sun.

Daytime at Virupaksha Temple

By afternoon the sky had changed to a brilliant blue. The devotees were streaming in. Being a weekday, it was comparatively less than the crowds on weekends.

At present, the main temple consists of a sanctum, three ante chambers, a pillared hall and an open pillared hall. It is decorated with delicately carved pillars. The smaller eastern gateway leads to the inner court with its numerous smaller shrines. The hall of the main temple is believed to have built under the patronage of Saluvamantri, a minister of Sangama Mallikarjuna (1447–1465 AD).

Another gopuram towards north known as the Kanakagiri gopura, leads to a small enclosure with subsidiary shrines and eventually to the river Tungabhadra.

Krishnadevaraya, the most famous kings of the Vijayanagara Empire was a major patron of this temple. The most ornate of all structures in the temple, the central pillared hall is believed to be his addition to this temple. So is the gateway tower giving access to the inner courtyard of the temple.

It is recorded that Krishnadevaraya commissioned the open air hall in 1510 AD to mark his accession. Inscriptions on a stone plaque installed next to the pillared hall explain his contribution to the temple.

Nights at Virupaksha Temple

Sun is strong in Hampi. Evenings brought relief to my parched body. It also brought with it a magical glow to the surroundings. The sky went all red for a moment. The guard wouldn’t allow me to set up my tripod so I took this handheld.

After this we walked out of the fenced area where I set up my tripod to capture the one below. By that time the sun had already set but it left behind a beautiful blue sky.

After catching the temple at sunset, I made my way towards the wide street in front of Virupaksha, situated between the eastern gate of Virupaksha and the northwestern foot of the Matanga hill. Domingos Paes describes it as – a very beautiful street with beautiful houses with balconies and arcades, sheltering pilgrims that come to it, and with houses for the upper classes. He also mentions that the king too had a palatial residence in the same street.

Festivals at Virupaksha

In the month of February the annual chariot festival is celebrated here. Nicolo Conti, the first European visitor to Vijayanagara (1420–1421 AD), refers to two chariots which carried idols through the city. Richly adorned women or courtesans accompanied the procession stinging hymns in praise of the lord. Poet Ahobala, the author of Vasantotsava Champu, also refers to the two chariots: one taken out by the Brahmins and the other by the merchants or shudras.

Interestingly, the Virupaksha chariot festival has been continued ever since it was introduced in the fourteenth century and neither the fall of the empire nor the destruction of the capital in 1565 AD seems to have affected its popularity or practice. To date, the largest gathering at Hampi is witnessed during the chariot festival of Virupaksha held every year in March/April as per the local calendar.


There have been major renovations which included painting the towers of the north and east gopura. When I was here a few years back the gopura were in white but I see a beige paint now. It is also heartening to see that ASI has stayed away from applying plasters to stone carvings like they did at Kailashanthar temple in Kanchipuram, which actually makes them look ugly.

I leave you with the last image of the day: Virupaksha captured from the steps of Matanga Hill at night.

Thanks for reading. Please leave me a comment if you liked the post or follow my story as I revisit the monuments on Hemkuta Hill.

Heritage walk to Vittala Temple

Today I went on a heritage walk to the majestic Vittala Temple. Built around the 15th century CE, and expanded several times by succeeding kings of the Vijayanagar empire, it is the epicenter of Hampi’s attractions. This time, I was in Hampi along with a trekking group from Bangalore.

It was another day of missed opportunities. I was awake at 5 am, ready for new experiences in Hampi. We were supposed to observe the sunrise from Anjaneya hill as per schedule but our trek leader himself got up at 6 am and by that time hiking up Anjaneya hill was a lost cause.

I wandered around the open spaces near our lodging. it was pleasant with no vehicular pollution or noises in the serene surroundings.

By the time everyone was ready, it was already 9 am. We drove down to Anegundi, the nearest town where we took our breakfast in one of the local dhabas. The idlis, served by a lovely lady were delicious. Just across the street, a wooden Rath was stationed. These chariot like structures are used during the rath festival in these parts.

From there the bus dropped us off near Talwar Gatta, where a ferry helped us across to the other side. Honestly, I was a bit scared, since they didn’t have any life jackets and one is always hearing about ferries toppling over in India.

History of Hampi

Hampi, believe it or not, the whole town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was traditionally known by many names, the prominent ones being Pampapura or Pampakshetra. These names were derived from Pampa which was the name of the river Tungabhadra in those ancient times.

The recorded history of Hampi goes back a long way. Archaeologists have discovered rock edicts from the time of Emperor Asoka in Bellary, not very far from here, dating 269-232 BCE, suggesting this region could have been a part of the Maurya Empire way back in the 3rd century BCE.

Along-with the prosperity of the Vijaynagar empire, Hampi became a centre of religious and educational activities. But I would be biased to other dynasties if I only sing praises of the Vijaynagara kings. Hampi had already gained quite popularity by the 10th century. Inscriptions at Virupaksha temple, a kilometer along the Tungabhadra, are evidence to Chalukya kings making land grants to the temple.

Later between the 12th and 14th centuries CE, kings of the Hoysala Empire also built temples dedicated to the goddess Durga and lord Shiva. During this time, Hampi had almost become a secondary home of the Hoysala kings.

With time, it went on to become the epicenter of the Vijayanagar Empire in the 14th century. Chronicles left by Persian and European travelers, particularly the Portuguese, state Hampi was a prosperous, wealthy and grand city near the Tungabhadra River, with numerous temples, farms and trading markets.

By 1500 CE, Hampi was considered the world’s second-largest medieval-era city attracting traders from Persia and Portugal. Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever and the splendor of Hampi attracted many invaders. In 1565, the Vijayanagar Empire was attacked and defeated by a coalition of Muslim sultanates. Its capital was conquered, pillaged and destroyed by sultanate armies leaving the heritage city in ruins. It is said these invaders looted the city over a period of six months, snatching the valuables and burning all that remained to the ground.

History of  Vittala Temple, Hampi

After a short walk from the river, I found myself at the parking area for Vittala Temple. From here visitors can either wait for a buggy or simply walk to the temple, which is a bit of a distance away. A queue had already built up, so if you desire a peaceful experience please come early. While others in my trek group waited for the guide, I made my way to the temple.

The Vittala temple was originally built in the 15th century AD, during the reign of King Devaraya II (1422 – 1446 A.D.), one of the rulers of the Vijayanagara Empire. Many successive kings have expanded and enhanced the temple campus during their regimes to the present form.

Records from the 16th centure redfer to this complex as “Vitthala.” The temmple complex extends over a distance of about a kilometer. The temple was called the Vijaya Vittala predominantly. In one of the records, it is also mentioned as Kanada Vitthala. It is assumed that the “Vijaya” in the name Vijaya Vitthala indicates a celebration victory.

The road leading to the temple is in a completely ruined state. This road was once the location of a thriving market place. The market was known as the Vittala Bazaar and was famous for horse trading. The ruins of the market can be seen on both sides of the road.

The buggy dropped me off near the entrance tower. One typically accesses the campus through the eastern gate, next to which the ticket counter is located. Behind the ticket counter lies the remains of a township called Vittalapura that existed around this temple complex. The first foundations of the temple were laid around 1505 CE. The eastern gate or gopuram was constructed between the years 1513 to 1516.

The Vittala temple complex

The temple is built in the form of a sprawling campus with compound wall and gateway towers. There are many halls, pavilions and temples located inside this campus. The iconic temple has amazing stone structures such as the incomparable stone chariot and the fascinating musical pillars.

The Vittala Temple is also known as Shri Vijaya Vitthala Temple. It is dedicated to Lord Vitthala, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. An idol of Vitthala-Vishnu was enshrined in the temple.

Notable among the structures are the shrine of the Goddess (Devi shrine), Maha Mantapa or main hall (Sabha Mantapa or congregation hall), Ranga Mantapa, Kalyana Mantapa (marriage hall), Utsava Mantapa (festival hall), and the famous Stone Chariot.

The Vijaya Vitthala temple is a stupendous creation of the Vijayanagar artists with few paralells in the architectural history of medieval India. The main attractions of the Vittala Temple are listed below:

Stone Chariot of Vittala Temple

The first structure I noticed was the sculpted Stone Chariot, which is considered to be the most stunning architecture of the Vijayanagara kingdom. Designed in the shape of an ornamental chariot with the idol of Garuda, it is an iconic landmark of Hampi. The structure is classified as a Karakkoil, a temple fashioned after temple chariots which are taken in procession around the temple during festivals.

The Stone Chariot or Ratha stands in the courtyard of complex and welcomes the visitors as they enter the temple grounds. Even though it appears to be one, the Stone Chariot is not a monolithic structure. As per Hindu mythology, Garuda is the carrier of Lord Vishnu and its image is enshrined into the sanctum. The popularity if this iconic sculpture has led to it being part of the Indian currency in the denomination of Rupees fifty.

The stone chariot may be the first structure see as you enter the Vittala complex, but it is also the most recent.

Just like the Shore temple of Mahabalipuram, this shrine was also built with blocks of granite. The joints are cleverly hidden in the carvings and other decorative features that adorn the stone chariot. The chariot was built on a rectangular platform. The base platform is adorned with mythical battle scenes chiseled into the granite on all sides.

The chariot is adorned with a set of four finely sculptured granite wheels. Though the chariot is not resting on it, the four giant wheels are extremely well detailed and good enough to compete with real life ones. A series of concentric floral motifs decorate the sides of the wheels. The platform, where the wheels rest, shows clamps were later added to fix it from moving around the axis. Some older pictures of the stone chariot show it with a shikhara and the kalasha which have now eroded away. The wheels of the stone chariot are said to be once functional and could be rotated by the people. But some years ago the ASI cemented the wheels in order to avoid causing damage to them.

In front of the chariot two elephants are positioned as if they are pulling the chariot. However if you look carefully, you can see the difference in the style of sculpting. These elephants were supposedly added at a later stage after the chariot was completed. Originally two horses were carved in that position. The rear legs of the horses can be still seen just behind these elephant sculptures.

Maha Mandap of Vittala Temple

On leaving the Stone Chariot, I walked down to the main hall in front of the Vittala temple. Unfortunately the entrance to the Maha Mandap was blocked for maintenance. The first time I was here a couple of years back, people used to be allowed inside the main hall.

The Maha Mandapa or main hall of the Vittala Temple is situated in the inner courtyard, bang in the center of the temple complex just behind the Stone Chariot. It is a structure of immense beauty, sitting on a highly ornate base carved with a series of floral motifs. Maha mandap along the axis of the main temple has a pillared hall with three entrances. A series of steps flanked by elephant balustrades gives access to this elevated open hall called the Maha mandap.

The balustrades on the east and west porch of this hall is more dramatic with giant lion Yalis fighting the relatively dwarf elephants.

There are forty pillars lining the facade of the temple. The central part of the Maha Mandap has sixteen intricately decorated pillars having beautiful sculptures of Narasimha and Yali.

These richly carved giant monolithic pillars set of sixteen pillars forms a rectangular court. The sikhara of the Maha Mandap is very much in ruins, more so because it was created out of mud bricks.

The Musical Pillars of the Maha Mantapa:

The Dolotsava Mandap is other main attraction of the Vittala Temple. The most outstanding components of the Vijay Vitthala Temple is the eastern pavilion of the Maha Mandap.It was originally called Dolotsava Mandap or “Hall of Musical Pillars” This large mandap is renowned for its 56 musical pillars carved out of huge single pieces of resonant stone. This cluster of musical pillars are also known as SAREGAMA pillars, named after the notes of the classic Indian music – Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, etc. It is said musical notes are emanated when the pillars are tapped gently.

The original foundations of the Dolotsava Mandap were laid sometime during the reign of two Devarayas (1406 – 1446 CE ) of the Snagama Dynasty. It experienced further expansion during the time of Tuluva Krishnadevaraya (1503 -1528 AD) It was further expanded upon during the reigns of Achyutdevaraya( 1529 – 1546 AD) and Sadasivaraya (1542-1565 AD)

The analysis of these pillars has revealed that the rocks are resonant because of the presence of metallic ore and large amounts of silica.

The base is decorated with carvings of warriors, horses, swans and several other ornamental designs. The lowermost of it is a chain of horses, its trainers and the traders.

Every main pillar is surrounded by 7 minor pillars. These 7 pillars emit 7 different musical notes from the representative musical instruments. The notes emanating from these pillars vary in sound quality depending on whether the instrument is a percussion, string or wind instrument. When one of the columns is struck, the reverberation moves though the other nearby columns. However, if you find yourself at this site on a Sunday afternoon, forget about being able to hear any music over the ‘hum’ of the large crowds that throng this temple.

The emission of musical notes from stone pillars was a mystery that fascinated many people down the centuries. After conquering the region, the Mughals tried to burn down the temple but it turned out futile since the temples were carved out of granite.

After the Mughals, the country fell prey to the British. They too tried to damage the temple every way they could, pillaging away any artifact that could be carried away to their country. Two of these pillars were cut off by the British, who were surprised by the musical notes of the pillars and wanted to examine them in more detail. However, they found out that the pillars had nothing inside them.

I believe that tapping the musical pillars to emit musical notes is now prohibited, as tapping over the years have caused some damage to the musical pillars of the Maha Mandap. But the local guides fake it on the pillars of the other mandaps to please the tourists.

Most of the granite and sandstone towards the base have survived. The influence of Srivaishnava sect is seen at this temple complex which is revealed by observing minor shrines to the south, west and north. Around this main mandapa are four smaller halls: (clockwise from east)

  • Kalyan mandap
  • 100-columned mandap
  • Amman shrine and
  • Bhoga mandap

After capturing the exteriors of the Maha Mandapa, I moved towards the Kalyan mandapa on the left.

Kalyan Mandap

You can find more pictures of the Kalyan Mandap here.

100 Pillar Mandap

The “Hundred Pillared Hall” has altogether 108 pillars in all. It is said to be commissioned in 1554 AD. Below are close-up shots of some of the pillars.

Amman shrine

From the 100 column mandap, I made my way towards the back of the Maha Mandap where a small temple lies un-bothered and unattended by tourists.

Bhoga Mandap

For some reason they built a second marriage hall in the temple grounds. Generally all the temples I have visited only have one Kalyan Mandap. It might well have been for some other reason, the facts of which have been lost to time.

Some other interesting structures around the temple complex

While walking around the complex, I found this lone tree on the grounds. Beside the tree, along the enclosing walls lies a small structure. It is not very decorated and I am not sure about its functionality either, but it looks beautiful. I recall this from the first time I visited Hampi in 2014.

A few steps ahead lies the northern gate. Like the other structures, the base is very much as it was centuries back, but the top parts created using mud are in ruins.

Ruins of Vittala Temple in Hampi

The Vittala Temple is in a partially ruined state. The sanctum of the temple once contained an idol of Lord Vittala. However, now the sanctum is devoid of any idol. The region around the Vittala temple was called Vitthalapura. It hosted a Vaishnava matha (monastery), designed as a pilgrimage centred around the Alvar tradition.

According to historical memoirs left by Portuguese and Persian traders, the city of Hampi was of metropolitan proportions and the Vitthala temple the crown jewel of the kingdom. I have written another article on the still standing ruins of Hampi if you would want to read about the humble beginnings of the forgotten city.

In 1565, at the Battle of Talikota, a coalition of Muslim sultanates entered into a war with the Vijayanagara Empire. They captured and beheaded the king, followed by a massive destruction of the infrastructure of Hampi. The city was pillaged, looted and burnt for six months after the war, then abandoned as ruins. The central western hall of the temple was ruined during the attack of the Delhi Sultanate that eventually led to the downfall of the Vijayanagara Empire in 1565 CE and the end of Hampi.

I have been to Hampi twice and yet it feels like I have to come back many a more times to truly capture its essence in full. I was prepared to stay another day, but the living conditions of our lodgings forced me to catch the bus and head back to Bangalore.

Thanks for reading. Please leave me a comment if you liked the post or follow my story as I visit the mythical birthplace of luv & kush from the epic tale of Ramayana .

Festivals at Vittala Temple in Hampi

The temple has floodlights installed inside the temple complex. The lights illuminate the Vittala Temple Complex at night and offer a majestic view of the beautiful structure against the dark night sky. But if you want to see it, you should come in winter when the days are small. In summers the place closes up well before sunset.

Hampi Festival (November)

This is the largest festival at Hampi. Generally they are scheduled for 3 days during the first week of November. The celebrations typically packed with shows of music, dance puppet shows fireworks and a pomp procession as the grand finale showcasing the cultural richness of the place.

Purandaradasa Aradhana (January/February)

The annual Purandaradasa festival is held at the temple complex. The festival is held every year to commemorate the birthday of the ancient poet Purandaradasa who lived in Hampi. The 2-3 days long program is scheduled during the months of January or February.

Use of tripods is not permitted inside the temple campus.

The monument opens from 8.30 am in the morning to 5.30 pm in the evening. However, try to visit this place soon it opens in the morning. That is the only time you can explore peacefully before the crowd builds up.

Admission fee is Rs 30 for Indian citizens and Rs. 500 for foreign nationals. Preserve this ticket. If you are in Hampi for the whole day, you can use the ticket on the same day to also enter the Zenana Enclosure area.


Early-to-mid-16th century

Built by

King Devaraya II

Admission fee

₹30 for Indian citizens / ₹500 for foreign nationals


8:30 – 17.30 hrs

The Monkey Kingdom of Kishkindha

Today I went to explore the quiet town of Anegundi. I was here with a trekking group from Bangalore. As per the mythological tale of Ramayana, the city used to be known as Kishkindha in ancient times when Vali and Sugreeva, the monkey kings used to rule these lands. The monkeys though have been driven away by the growing number of tourists and it is just the mystifying boulders that remain to tell us the story of what was once a strange but interesting kingdom.

It was 10 am by the time we rode into the ancient city of Anegundi. The all night drive from Bangalore had been a quiet one. The only excitement was provided by the stunning sunrise whence the golden ball of fire rose over the horizon and removed the darkness from this little corner of the earth. Now simply known as Anegundi, the quaint town lies along the Tungabhadra river.

We checked in to our rooms at the lodge. I will prefer not to name it, it was that horrible. All I can say is the living standards were more qualified to be called a sty. After a breakfast of noodles, which took like forever to be served, we marched on to explore the boulders of Anegundi.

The time before Time itself

While writing this article I had to go through many sources. Rummaging through books on history gave me only half the story. To know the origins of Kishkindha I found myself digging into the the study of ancient Earth itself.

Beyond the temples, the huge boulders are the most interesting things around these parts. These brown rusty granite have been polished through 3 billion years into huge rounded shapes which now lean precariously around hills of piled boulders. Surrounded by these rocks, it is hard to imagine any sizeable population to have been supported here, let alone the core of the Vijayanagar empire.

This region is the bedrock of India known as Peninsular Gneiss, the mass of which is amongst the earliest solidified rock on the planet. The rounded contours and grain show it to have once been molten flowing stuff, but then came the sculpturing work of repeated ice ages. This land mass was pushed by the freezing current of the seas. It kept drifting under the pressure from cooling of the earth’s crust until the sub continent rose from the sea as a plateau.

The stage was now set for the mythical tale of Ramayana, in which the area is referred to as Kishkindha on the Papma river – the mythical kingdom of monkeys. The river that I refer to as Pampa is now named Tungabhadra, after the rivers Tunga & Bhadra which join about 10 miles upstream.

Wandering among the Boulders of Kishkindha

The bus dropped us off at a place called Hippie Island. We walked the rest of the way towards the boulders. This was a busy street with many eateries and lodges. Such was the incursion of foreigners that it was difficult to spot the locals among them. On the other side was a vast area flowing with young saplings of paddy. Though the red mud of Karnataka is not favorable for rice cultivation, the river brings in silt making the area fit for rice cultivation. The flat black silted land between the boulder hills and the busy lodges is thickly planted with patches of coconut palms and paddy fields.

Within the hillocks lie a labyrinth of caves. The medieval kingdom of Vijayanagar around present day Hampi, is tightly intertwined with the Ramayana. I would still want to believe that this region of Kishkindha, the kingdom of the Vanaras, or monkeys, referred to in the epic is just a figment of imagination, but I as explore these parts, I find more and more locations for many significant events in Ram’s journey during his exile. Was it just a well told story or real. Lost in this dilemma, I pushed on towards the hillocks.

The Ramayana connection

The story of Ramayana is deeply embedded in the collective psyche of the Hindus the indigenous population of the Deccan. The wide geographical sweep of this narrative has ensured that every corner of this Indian subcontinent, starting from Ayodhya, is associated with different aspects of its story-line.

Kishkindha is identified to be the regions around the Tungabhadra river (previously referred to as Pampa ) near Hampi and belongs to Koppal district in Karnataka. The rocky landscape strewn with massive boulders is widely believed by many to be the fabled Vanara kingdom of the brothers, Vali and Sugreeva.

According to the Ramayana, after Ravana abducts Sita, Ram’s frantic search for his beloved wife brings him and his brother, Lakshman southwards to Kishkindha. It is here that they meet Hanuman.

At the time, Kishkindha’s rulers, brothers Vali and Sugreeva were embroiled in a bitter feud, with the former determined to kill the latter. This part of the tale has its own story, but I am going to elude that in the interests of keeping this article short(er). In short Ram helps Sugreeva defeat his brother ans ascend to the throne, in return for his help in finding Sita.

Bouldering in Hampi

After a 30 minute walk we were at the summit of a small hillock popular for activities like bouldering. Many of the boulders here are sitting at the edge, dangling in precarious angles.

Many of my trek buddies tried their skills at climbing boulders with the help of a local instructor. I am past my days of subjecting my body to these rigors, so I found myself a quiet place in the shadows between some boulders and laid down re-hydrating myself with a bottle of mineral water.

After an hour of lazing in the shade, while the others flexed their muscles in the sun, we walked back to the inhabited area of hippie island. In the strong sun, it was dehydrating. Grabbing a can of sugary indulgence I made my way back towards the bus.

On the way I passed the ancient Hampi bridge, made entirely of rocks. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it had been repaired in some parts. I clearly remember it being in shambles from when I was here a couple of years back.

Once everyone was on the bus, we drove towards our next destination – Sanapur lake.

Sanapur Lake

Sanapur Lake is a reservoir fed by canal from the Tungabhadra Dam. It is beautiful to watch the wide lake in middle of boulders. Apart from the beautiful scenery one can also enjoy coracle rides at the lake, but at their own risk. The rides don’t provide life-jackets.

Sanapur Lake is one of those ‘secret attractions’ around Hampi. Honestly, I was not aware of it, the last time I toured this region. The natural lake with stunning boulder hills all around makes it a beautiful locale to spend the evening.

Sanapur Lake is still a less frequented place. You’ll not find a large tourist crowd in this locale. I was told that this place is sought after for cliff diving even though you can find dozens of warning about crocodiles in the water. 

Evening was arriving at a swift pace and we set off from the lake to hike up one of the hillocks to experience the famous sunset over Anegundi.

Sunset over Kishkindha

Let me confess, I don’t recall the name of this hill. I am not sure if it even has a name. But the trail was clearly marked and we didn’t face any issues making our way up to the top. Because of the haze surrounding the region, the sun hid behind the thick clouds much before the actual sunset.

The trek guides had arranged for a few munchies, packed neatly in a paper bag. With just a couple of gulps remaining in my water bottle, I was rather glad to find a tetra-pack of fruit juice in my energy pack.

The top of this hill has a commanding view of the whole Kishkindha area. The Tungabhadra river passes through these hillocks and boulders. The river, the greenery and the green paddy fields presents a breath-taking scene. One can only imagine the monkey kingdom spanning this whole area during the Ramayana era.

Apart from these prominent locations there are other smaller sites associated with the story. The Sugreeva Cave is a popular tourist stop, is believed to be where Sugreeva placed the jewels that Sita dropped along the way as she was being taken away by her abductor, hoping that they might lead Ram to her.


The location of Kishkindha coincides with Hampi that was capital of the Vijayanagar Empire. It is saddening to see the ruins of the magnificent palace structures and fabulous market areas systematically destroyed by the Deccan Sultanate armies. Most of the temples have also been desecrated in this area. Some massive granite structures and idols were defaced in order to stop the worship in the temples.

But Kishkindha with all its linkages to the timeless stories of Ramayana still attracts numerous pilgrims and historians alike. It has withstood the test of time and escaped the ravages brought about by the marauding barbarians. It is heartening to see that these quaint temples are still intact and have continued to inspire reverence in innumerable visitors.

Thanks for reading. You can also check out Navabrindaban nearby, said to be the island where Prahalad repented for his sins. Please leave me a comment if you liked the post or follow my story as I visit go on a heritage walk to Vitthala Temple in Hampi.

The lost city of Hampi

Today we walk among the ruins of an ancient kingdom that time forgot.

The ruins of Hampi

Hampi is an ancient city on the banks of the Tungabhadra River in Hospet taluk of Bellary district in Karnataka. The landscape of this once great city is defined by hundreds of granite boulders, distributed as piles of rocks of different shapes and sizes. But it is not just the unique landscape that has brought me here. The former capital of the Vijayanagara Empire is like an ocean of more than 1600 man-made stone structures, spread over an area of 25 square kilometers. 

Once South India’s wealthiest and most powerful city, it was sacked in 1565 CE by the armies of the Bahamani sultanates. For years, the city lay abandoned until it was rediscovered by the British in the mid-nineteenth century, who went on to loot it further for its priceless ancient statues. In this journal, I will take you on a photo journey of the still preserved 800-year-old temples, market streets, bath pools, watchtowers, palaces, and elephant stables which are sure to take you back in time.

Brief history of Hampi

Hampi used to be the capital of the Vijaynagara Empire where music, art, and sculpture flourished. But long before it was Hampi, it was also Kishkindha, the capital of the mighty warrior Vali. Parts of the Ramanayana have unfolded at various sites around this ancient city. The great sage Madhavacharya – the illustrious commentator of the four Vedas, is also said to have lived on the banks of the Tungabhadra around Hampi.

There are numerous stories about the founding of Hampi. One of the most prominent among them is the tale of brothers Harihara and Bukka Raya, who used to serve under the king of Warangal. Not much is known about them before this time of their life and the stories after, also have their variations.

In the early 14th century CE, South India was subjected to repeated invasions led by the Delhi Sultanate. The Muhammadans had been making inroads into India right from 1001 CE. War followed war, and from that period North India knew no rest. By the end of 13th century, the Mohammedans had begun pressing towards the southern kingdoms. When Warangal was invaded and destroyed in 1323 CE, the brothers fled the kingdom and took service under the chief of Anegundi. Anegundi was not a kingdom, it was a small fortified town, surrounded by lofty hills of granite.

Nicolo, an Italian traveller who visited Vijaynagar in 1420 CE writes about the great city of Bizengali (Bijanagar) situated near very steep mountains. In this city there are estimated to be 90,000 men fit to bear arms.

The brothers were smart and rose in ranks under the service of the chief. Harihara became a Mantri (minister) and his brother Bukka Raya came to be the treasurer under the services of the chief of Anegundi. According to Nuniz, who gives a definitive account of Vijayanagar, Muhammad Tuglaq, having reduced Gujrat, marched southwards through the western ghats and attacked Anegundi. In 1334, Anegundi fell.

Its chief was slain along with all the members of his family. After a futile attempt to govern this territory by means of a deputy, Tuglaq restored the city to the Hindus and promoted the brothers to Rajah and Mantri (minister) respectively.

Harihara Raya is considered the first king of Vijayanagar. He reigned between 1336-1350. The first decision he took was to move their base further south on the southern bank of the Tungabhadra. The river would for some time provide better security from the ever-marauding Muslims.

Seeing the horror brought on by the marauding Muslims, the brothers pledged themselves to the cause of their motherland and their religion. It was by luck or by fate that by the time the early Vijaynagar rulers appeared on the political horizon, the emperors of Delhi were in a decaying stage with civil wars rampant among them. Sick of the tyranny and excesses of Tuglaq, the Deccan rulers revolted in 1347, and the independent kingdom of the Bahmants was for a time firmly established.

Princess Gangambika of Vijayanagara writes about these grave times..
“The Tambraparni river, whose waters were once white with the sandal paste flowing from the breasts of the young girls now flows red with the blood of the cows killed by the cruel muslims”

Bukka Raya, succeeded Harihara on the throne. He defeated the Sultanate of Madurai in 1371 and extended his territory into the south all the way to Rameswaram. His son, Kumara Kampana campaigned with him and their efforts were recorded in the Sanskrit work Madura Vijayam written by his wife Gangambika. Bukka Raya’s 21-year reign (1356–77) the kingdom prospered and continued to expand as Bukka Raya conquered most of the kingdoms of southern India, continually expanding the territory of the empire.

Hampi saw many rulers after Bukka and it rose to its zenith during the reign of the Vijayanagara Kings. Among the kings of Vijayanagara, Krishnadeva Raya ( reign 1509-1529), a man of many abilities and sharp intellect, deserves a special mention. He successfully ruled the region and took the kingdom to new heights. It was during his reign that the city truly flourished and came to symbolize the medieval political culture of south India.

When I was a kid, I was greatly inspired by the stories of one Tenali Rama, a witty jester in the court of the emperor, Krishnadeva Raya.

Ride to Hampi from Toranagallu

I and my wife, Mani were staying at the Hyatt Place Hampi in Torangullu. Hyatt Place Hampi is located in the beautiful landscaped Vidyanagar township, some 27 km away from Hampi and it takes around an hour to reach Hampi.

Hospet is normally preferred for staying when you visit Hampi as it takes a lot less time and there are lots of transport choices easily available. At times it felt we would have been better placed had we booked a hotel in Hospet, but after the amazing service we received at Hyatt, there is no doubt that if we were to visit Hampi again, this would definitely be the place to stay.

The best way to enjoy Hampi is on foot or a bicycle, but since we were staying quite far away in Torangullu, we had to take a rental car. I had already gathered most of the information about the area and the route we would take using Google Maps. From my understanding of the place, it was going to be a long walk, so we started a little late in the day at 11 a.m. from Hyatt Place Hampi.

It was a lazy ride from Toranagallu to Hampi with long stretches of open space and some far-away mountain ranges in the west.

Queen’s Bath

The first piece of history we encountered was the Queen’s Bath. The driver was not accustomed to this place, which resulted in some problems later during the day. He was going past the Royal Enclosure on the Kamalapur-Hampi main road when I spotted it and asked him to stop.

As we entered the complex we were greeted by long high-arch corridors running all around a square pool. The balconies are decorated with three tiny windows each supported by four columns that look like lotus buds. The ceilings were decorated with floral patterns. The center of the pool is about 6 ft. deep and fully open to the sky. The sunlight creates a beautiful ambient glow inside the complex. The Queen’s Bath is surrounded by a moat, used to supply fresh water to the pool. And ahem.. according to history, the only male allowed inside was the King himself.

Chandrasekhara Temple

We walked past the Queen’s Bath towards the Chandrasekhara Temple. The entrance to the temple is magnificent, though in ruins. Inside the premises is a small temple dedicated to the Sun and Moon. The front of the temple is adorned with many columns with depictions of Surya (Sun) and Krishna (an avatar of Hindu God Vishnu). There is very little visibility inside and the idols have been moved to the nearby museum to protect them from vandalism or theft.

Octagonal Bath

Beyond the temple, we could see quite a few more structures sprouting all over the area and we decided to walk on rather than go back to the car. The sun was beating hard down upon us, but we were energized by the mystery of the place. We also saw some local farmers coming down the trail. Some 200 meters away along the trail, we reached the Octagonal Bath. This structure, as the name indicates, is a big bathing area in the shape of an octagon.

The Octagonal Bath was a public bath for the residents of the ruined palaces nearby

From here we could see a cluster of palace bases and we just kept walking towards them. The upper structures of these palaces were generally constructed with bricks and now torn down or weathered over the years. Walking past them we reached the Saraswati Temple. Created in 1554 CE, the temple has some intricate carvings of Krishna, Hanuman & Narasimha.

Royal Enclosure

From the Saraswati temple, we kept going west till we hit the Royal Enclosure area. Not much remains of the Royal Enclosure which was once the Vijayanagara kingdom’s seat of power. The remains of a huge base is all that confirms a massive palace once stood here. In its prime, it housed as many as 45 buildings including the durbar halls, platform, tanks, underground chambers, and temples.

As with all the other features constructed by the Vijayanagara kings, the Royal Enclosure makes ample use of granite and soapstone. All the palaces face the east or the north and were built on raised granite platforms. These platforms feature multiple tiers and are decorated with carved details of flowers, geese, demon faces, elephants, and human figures.

Hazara Rama Temple

The road in front of the Royal Enclosure keeps going north towards the Hazara Rama Temple. It is the only temple situated between the residential and the ceremonial enclosures. Dedicated to Vishnu in his avatar of Rama, this 15th-century temple is known for its sculpted friezes depicting the tale of Ramayana. The temple has a sprawling lawn on its northern side. Two gateways provide access to the temple compound.

Hazara Rama Temple was built in the early part of the 15th century by the then king of Vijayanagara, Devaraya II. It was originally built as a simple structure. It consisted of only a sanctum, a pillared hall, and an Ardha mandapa. Later the temple structure was renovated to add an open porch and beautiful pillars.

Running around the main shrine, you can see the narrative sculptures of Rama and his wife Sita. Created so close to the Royal enclosure, it undoubtedly enjoyed royal patronage.

The interior of the temple has ornately sculpted columns. The temple has an entrance mandapa and a yajna ceremony hall, whose ceiling is designed to ventilate fumes and smoke through the roof. Inside the main mandapa are four intricately carved pillars in the Hoysala style. These carvings include depictions of Rama, Lakshmana, and Sita, Durga as Mahishasuramardini, and Shiva-Parvati. An empty pedestal with three holes signifies that the temple once had idols of Rama, Lakshmana, and Sita.

Not to leave behind the stories of Luv & Kush, the sons of Rama, the Devi shrine at the back tells their tale.

From here Mani pointed out to another cluster of buildings around half a kilometer away. We kept walking for some 20 minutes on the same trail and we reached an underground temple.

It was called Madhava Temple, popularly known as the Ranga Temple. The temple is known for the 3 mt tall Hanuman sculpture. The grounds of this temple have a Ranga Mantapa which was exclusively used for musical and dance performances when Hampi flourished. The pillars of Ranga Mantapa have structural depictions of Garuda, Vitthala, Surya, Balakrishna & Hanuman.

Zenana Enclosure

The Zenana Enclosure is just beside the Madhava Temple but we had ended up at the rear gate. The security guard wouldn’t let us in from the rear entrance and we had to go all around the enclosure, to the front to get the tickets.

The Zenana Enclosure is a large stone-walled compound marked by 3 huge watchtowers. The name ‘zanana‘ which means ‘lady’ in Hindi, kind of suggests that this whole enclosure was a separate area only for women and the watchtowers were more of a lookout from where the women could enjoy the activities surrounding the enclosure.

The Watch Towers along the fortified walls were a much sought after entertainment for the noblewomen residing inside the Zenana Enclosure from where they would pry at the bustling city life.

We saw a few foreigners checking out the ruins over here. Right beside the main entrance on the left is a museum, but it is closed on Fridays. The remains of a large building stands opposite, of which only the three-tiered base remains. The structure on top of the base was probably built of bricks or wood, which was destroyed over the years. Historians tell us that this was a palace for the Queens of Vijayanagar.

Lotus Mahal

At the center of the Zenana Enclosure, lies the Lotus Mahal. The two-storied building was a non-religious building, a kind of a resting place for the Queens and other similarly privileged women meant. The upper storey is provided with numerous small arched windows.

Located at the center of the Zenana Enclosure, amid manicured lawns, the Lotus Mahal was a social gathering place for the noblewomen of Vijayanagar

Beyond the Lotus Mahal, a small gate led us into an open area where you can find a row of huge domed chambers with eleven tall arched openings alternating with walls of blind arches. Thousands of elephants and innumerable army men, on foot and horses, were kept and maintained, to protect the vast kingdom.

Elephant Stables

Only the royal elephants were kept here. Frankly, I have never heard of elephant stables, let alone seen one. Those elephants must have had a charmed life. The open area in front of the building used to be a parade ground for the elephants. The guards’ barracks are located right next to the Elephant stables.

The elephant stable was constructed in the 15th century, during the reign of the Vijayanagara Empire. As the name indicates, the stable was constructed to house the royal elephants of the Vijayanagara Empire.

Cesar Fredric, the medieval travellar, says that he had seen many courts but never anything to compare. The Rayas seem to have kept in the city itself for purposes of defence and protection some 100,000 infantry, 30,000 cavalary and about 4000 elephants, with suitable number of guns and artillery.

The elaborate structure indicates the importance attached to the royal elephants during those days. It also suggests the amazing craftsmanship of the artisans of that era.

We were famished after the long walk in the sun and had some cool tender coconut water. After taking a breather, we walked back towards the entrance.

There aren’t many stores located nearby. Only one shop is there near the entrance and I was able to obtain a bottle of cold mineral water. Our ride was still at the Queen’s bath where we had left it. I called the driver but the novice he was, he took 30 mins to come which should have taken 5 mins. Once he was back, we headed towards the Narasimha Temple.

Narasimha Temple

Constructed in 1528 CE under the supervision of King Krishnadeva Raya, the Laxminarasimha Temple is dedicated to Lord Narasimha, one of the nine avatars of Vishnu. According to mythology, Vishnu had taken the form of a human with the head of a lion to kill the asura king Hiranyakashyapu.

The story goes… when the asura king Hiranyakashyapu learned of the death of his younger brother at the hands of Vishnu in the form of Varaha, he swore revenge. He vowed to make himself mightier than Vishnu. He performed rigorous penance to please Brahma, seeking the boon of immortality. Brahma declined so he continued his penance taking it to even harsher levels and eventually Brahma was forced to grant him an alternate boon. Hiranyakashyapu asked of him – “Then let not death come to me at night or day; by weapon or hand; by club or sword, nor spear nor bow; on earth or heaven, nor the Nether world below; by god, demon, snake nor a being as low; by human or beast, nor any other foe; neither in nor out may Death smite me his blow.” Once he got this boon, he started vandalizing Heaven and Earth. Eventually, Vishnu took the avatar of Narasimha, which was neither man nor an animal, to finally kill him.

According to mythology, the lion face of Narasimha is the 4th incarnation of Vishnu and is also sometimes called Unganarasimha (the ferocious Narasimha) This statue of Narasimha is carved out of a single piece of granite and is the biggest statue in Hampi at 6.7 ft tall. Narasimha is depicted sitting on the coil of a giant seven-headed snake called the Sheshnaga, king of the snakes. The heads of the snake act as a hood above his head.

The original statue is said to have contained an idol of goddess Lakshmi, consort of Vishnu, sitting on his lap. But this statue has been damaged seriously during the raids leading to the fall of Vijayanagara.

Krishna Temple & Baazaar

About 200 meters north of Narasimha Temple is the Balakrishna Temple. Carved pillars at the Balakrishna Temple, depict stories from the Bhagavat Gita. The Balakrishna Temple was created around 1513.

This is one of the temples that has its sikhara somewhat intact. It goes to show the detailing involved in the making of the top section. I can just imagine how it must have felt to walk around the temple city when all its structures were still intact.

The Balakrishna Temple is a complex with many sub-shrines and halls. The interior of these temples is poorly lit with extremely rare windows. Today we can stroll into these temples, but during those days the divinity of the sacred idol was known only to a handful of priests and noblemen. Public display of the idol was strictly forbidden.

One of the prominent historical site, the Balakrishna temple in Hampi was built by the Krishnadevaraya in 1513

Just opposite the temple lies the Krishna Bazaar, a trading place for diamonds and other gems. As we went down the steps, we saw some horses were grazing in the ruins of the bazaar. The vast array of bazaars – semi-intact structures are a direct evidence of the city’s inclination towards trade and its associated methods.

For nearly three centuries, the city of Vijaynagar grew rapidly in wealth and importance. It was talked of as the most splendid city in the world by all those who had the fortune to visit it personally. Traders from Portugal, Persia, Italy, and even Russia came to Hampi and chronicled the grand lifestyle of the city.

Destruction of Hampi

During Krishnadeva Raya’s rule, this trade-oriented city developed and thrived. Cotton, spices, and textiles were traded with the Europeans. The Portuguese traders and the king shared a good and friendly relationship that thrived on mutual benefit and the exchange of goods continuously took place between the two. The Portuguese particularly traded horses for acquiring many items from Hampi.

Domingo Paes, a Portuguese traveler who had visited the metropolis around 1520, had compared Hampi’s size to that of Rome. He wrote about what he has seen in Hampi: its lavish markets and fairs, its rich merchants, streets, rows of houses, and even its food. He wrote about its irrigation and its many ports where the Portuguese had set up factories. His accounts are one of the most detailed and well explained. It is known that such was the wealth of Hampi that gold was openly sold in the market, like any other product.

Barely 35 years after the death of Krishnadeva Raya, the Deccan Sultanate, consisting of Ahmad Nagar, Berar, Bidar, Bijapur, and Golkonda attacked and defeated the army of Vijayanagar Empire in the famous Battle of Talikota in January 1565. At the time of the Muslim conquest, Hampi was a city of rich artistic tradition. Hindu shrines were to be found by almost every hillside. Two hundred years of wealth and planning are reflected in the layout of Vijayanagara.

To safeguard against the looting Muslim armies, Harihara and kings following him gave prime importance to protection against invasion. The city was built like a fortress, lined with massive stone walls, with watchtowers scattered across its length and breadth. The chain of boulder hills also made a natural fortress around the vast area. Regardless of their business or intention, visitors to the city had to travel through the heavily fortified and protected area before reaching the town center. Massive fortifications stood at every possible entry into the main metropolis and in other crucial locations. Watch posts were built along the roads, gates, and hilltops to gain maximum visibility. Despite all these precautions, the Deccan Muslim Confederacy still invaded Vijayanagara and plundered, and desecrated the grandeur of Hampi.

They slaughtered people without mercy, broke down the palaces and temples, and wreaked such savage vengeance on the city that with the exception of a few stone buildings and walls, nothing now remains. With this, the last significant Hindu kingdom in the Deccan came to an end. After the battle of Talikota, Tirumala Raya, the last of the Vijayanagara kings escaped, accompanied by the surviving members of the royal family along with 550 elephants laden with treasures in gold and precious stones to the fortress of Penunkonda.

They still left behind the treasures that lay in several other palaces and underground treasure chambers, waiting to be plundered. After the tragedy at Talikota, hordes of dacoits pounced upon the city and subjected the stores and shops to plunder leaving the city in ruins. The scenes which followed the sacking of this royal city were most heart-rending and painful to read. Judging from the amount of destruction of the palaces, the conquering troops must have spent months pillaging the city. Houses of the common folk, made from mud and bricks were completely destroyed. Only the structures built of solid stones survived. So thorough was the devastation that future rulers, despite several attempts could never re-establish it.

Monuments on Hemkuta Hill

Idols of Kadalekalu Ganesha (Elephant God), on the Hemkuta Hill, Sasivekalu Ganesha, in another part, showcase how massive structures were created out of a single piece of rock. Parts of these temple complexes also contain numerous carvings of mythological importance.

The Hemakuta hill houses the most well-preserved pre-Vijayanagara and early-Vijayanagara temples of Hampi. This hill is sprinkled generously with a large number of temples, archways, and pavilions. The whole of the hill was fortified with tall wide stonewalls, the ruined remains of which can be still be seen.

These boulders date back to more than 3 billion years and are believed to be the earliest solidified rock on the planet. 

Read more about the monuments on Hemkuta Hill.

Virupaksha Temple

As we started our descent from Hemkuta Hill, we could see the Virupaksha temple complex. This temple predates the Vijayanagara kings and is still an active temple in Hampi. I was pretty tired by the time we reached Virupaksha temple. There was quite a crowd around and a few devotees were placing diyas on the road. It being Dusshera in India, they probably had some festivities planned for the evening.

Read more about the Virupaksha Temple.

We just watched the temple from outside. I had gotten thirsty and we had left the Water bottle in the car at the Balakrishna Temple. I tried calling the driver but the network was unavailable. We took a short walk on the Hampi bazaar street. On the left was a row of shops. I found a store that was selling mineral water apart from some other snacks. After taking in a few gulps we walked towards the auto/car parking area. We still didn’t have any phone network, so we hired an auto to drive us back to Balakrishna Temple. On reaching the car I asked the driver to take us to our last stop of the day, Vitthala Temple.

He told us that to reach Vithalla Temple we had to take a long walk along the Tungabhadra. it was only later we came to know that there is also a route where you can drive all the way to the Vittala Temple. On the way, we chanced upon another temple in ruins. It is one of the hidden temples of Hampi located beyond the Matanga hills. The location of the temple is secluded and off the more traveled path, the temple is much less crowded as compared to many other tourist attractions in Hampi.

We got down at Virupaksha Temple parking lot and walked back along Hampi Bazaar street. At the end of the street, there was a line of decorated steps leading to a monolithic Nandi statue.

River Tungabhadra

We asked a few locals and they guided us on the trail. After some time we reached a path made of stones parallel to the banks of the Tungabhadra river. The river at this point is forced into a narrow gorge, hemmed by granite hills. Monsoon had just ended but the river was still very calm. After walking for about 30 min we reached a beautiful spot on the banks of the river. Over the years, the flowing water has polished the rocks that border the river. The river was also known as Pampa in ancient times. We sat there for a few minutes enjoying the late afternoon and cooling our heels in the flowing waters of Tungabhadra. After some rest, we started back on the trail. Quite a few people were coming back on the same trail, so it wasn’t difficult to follow.

Achyutaraya Temple

The Achyuta Raya Temple was built in 1534 CE during the rule of Achyuta Deva Raya, one of the emperors of the Vijayanagara Empire. He came to power by succeeding his elder brother Krishna Deva Raya in the year 1529.

The main idol worshiped in the Achyuta Raya Temple is Lord Tiruvengalanatha which is, an avatar of Vishnu. The temple was initially known as Tiruvengalanatha Temple. However, later on, it came to be called after the king in whose reign it was built. Since then, it became widely known as the Achyuta Raya temple. The towers, pillars, and walls have exquisite carvings and ornamentation. Major parts of the temple are in a damaged condition. Although it is in ruins, the temple does not fail in grandiosity and its magnificence even today.

The principal shrine of the temple is located in the center of a pair of rectangular concentric enclosures. There are pillared verandas on the interior flanks of the two courtyard walls. The outer walkways are in a state of decay, collapse, and disintegration. The temple is distinctly visible from the top of Matanga Hill. It is at the end of the abandoned Courtesan Street.

On entering the inner court one can spot a chamber that is facing the porch leading to the central hall. There is a small shrine chamber that once sanctified an image of Garuda. The carvings are done on monolithic blocks of rocks. The statues and sculptures on the pillars reveal themes like Vishnu blessing an elephant, Krishna practicing his flute while the calves are watching this scene with interest, and infant Krishna dancing with a snake and holding it by the tail. There is a Mandapa, a marriage hall of the Gods, and the Goddesses for the yearly nuptials.

Dusk was almost setting in as we reached Vitthala Temple. Just before the Vitthala Temple, there is a monument popularly known as the King’s Balance. The stone frame is all that remains from the original structure that was supposed to work like a weighing scale. It is said that king Krishanadeva Raya, used to weigh himself here with gold, silver, and precious stones, and distribute it to the Brahmans on special days.

Vitthala Temple

The Vitthala Temple is Hampi’s crowning glory and a photographer’s delight. Vitthala is the Krishna avatar of Vishnu, worshiped in these parts as their cult deity. The temple is built in the form of a sprawling campus with compound walls and gateway towers. There are many halls, pavilions, and temples located inside this campus. It is one of the largest temples of that period, started under the patronage of Proudha Devaraya, also known as Devaraya II. He ascended the throne in 1422. and ruled up to 1446 A.D. Substantial portions of the present structure were added by Krishanadeva Raya during his 21-year reign.

Entry to the Vitthala Temple requires a ticket. The temple is built on a sculptured decorated plinth. The Sabha Mantapa (meeting hall) pillars are massive, carved out of single granite blocks. To the north of the Sabha Mantapa is the Narasimha Mantapa, where a pillar has the sculpture of Narasimha and its various other forms. The eastern hall of the Mahamandapa is the Hall of Musical Pillars. Each of these pillars is said to have generated music on tapping and are carved with figures of musicians, musical instruments, and dancers. However, it is off-limits to visitors now; since people used to break the pillars trying to get music out of them.

Two other prominent structures inside the complex are the Kalyana Mandapa (for marriages) and the Utsava Mandap (for festivals). The sky had become vividly purple and looked amazing with the silhouette of Anjanedri Hill in the background. We strolled around the temple grounds, talking and checking out the carvings. After some time we came out and walked towards the left of the temple towards what looked like another Mandapa. We sat there for a few minutes taking in the beauty of the place.

A one-day trip obviously does not do justice to all the monuments. Hampi is a photographic pilgrimage. We spent some amazing time at the Zenana Enclosure, Balkrishna Temple, and Hemkuta Hill but breezed past Lakshmi Narasimha Temple, and Kadalekalu Ganesha and Sasivekalu Ganesha Temples, Virupaksha Temple, Vitthala Temple, and a few others.

Even though the city is considered to be around 800 years old, recent excavations around Anegundi have unearthed archaeological artifacts dating back to the 3rd century BC. These findings show that the Vijayanagar area was densely settled for a long period even before the creation of the empire. The present buildings must have been left alone by the Mahomedan conquerors apparently on account of their utter insignificance – in comparison with the grand edifices which they destroyed, to leave no traces of their enemies.

The Hampi Group of Monuments was inscribed as World Heritage Site (WHS) by UNESCO in the year 1986. Fourteen monuments were covered initially in this inscription and today fifty-six monuments protected by the ASI are considered as World Heritage. Due to the recent jump in tourism and vandalism of this great city, UNESCO has listed it as a “threatened” World Heritage site. Mani was already planning to come back and so was I.

Visitor Information

Hampi is hot during summers and exploring even parts of the ancient city involves a lot of walking. I would recommend visiting between October to April and spend at least two days to truly enjoy the vast heritage of Hampi. Even if you want to explore alone, it is a good idea to hire a Guide, they will tell you the amazing stories behind the ruins. If you don’t know the story a ruin is just a ruin. 

If you can withstand a drive of 3 hours, there are a couple of interesting heritage sites near Hampi like Badami & Pattadakal that are wonderful places to enjoy more ancient architecture

What is the best time to visit Hampi?

It is a good time to visit Hampi during the monsoon season between July and September or during the winter months between November to February. If you are interested in catching up with some religious events, January-February is a good time to witness the legendary Virupaksha Temple Chariot Festival and the annual Purandaradasa Aradhana Music Festival at Vitthala Temple.

Admission Fees

Most of the areas around the heritage city are free to access. You will need to purchase admission tickets at Vitthala Temple and The Lotus Mahal.

Vitthala temple: Open between 6 am and 6 pm, the entry ticket for Indians and tourists from SAARC and BIMSTEC countries is ₹30 per person. For foreigners, the entry ticket is priced at ₹500.

Lotus Mahal: The entry fee of lotus mahal is ₹10 per person for Indians. For foreigners, it is priced at ₹250.