Monuments at Hampi

The monuments at Hampi, were built between AD 1336-1570, from the times of Harihara-I to Sadasiva Raya. A large number of royal buildings were raised by Krishnadeva Raya (AD 1509-30), the greatest ruler of the dynasty. The period witnessed resurgence of Hindu religion, art, architecture in an unprecedented scale. The contemporary chroniclers who came from far off countries-such as Arabia, Italy, Portugal and Russia visited the empire, have left graphic and glowing accounts of the city. It covers an area of nearly 26 sq km and is stated to be enclosed by seven lines of fortifications.

The entire site during the Vijayanagar period was designed on the basis of Town Planning principles of spatial hierarchy. The Sacred center, Urban Core and Royal center, ceremonial areas like Mahanavami Dibba, Central avenues and Bazaars giving different identity to various spatial zones. The ‘Prime Archeological Area’ or ‘World heritage site’ has been classified into the following major areas.

I. Sacred Center:

Laid out along the southern bank of the Tungabhadra River, the Sacred Center of Vijayanagara is made up of distinct Temple districts, partly defined by fort walls. Shaivite shrines are located primarily to the west and Vaishnavite shrines are primarily to the east of the Kodandarama Temple. Dominating the Shaivite area is Temple district known as Hampi, the village that today gives its name to the whole site. Here is situated the Virupaksha Temple, the seat of a god celebrated in pre-Vijayanagara times and still in worship today. The Temple comprises a double-walled compound, entered through towered gopuras (gateways) on the east and north. At the core of the complex are sanctuaries for Virupaksha and Pampa. The Temple is an important pilgrimage destination, attracting large crowds at festival times.

The Virupaksha is surrounded by lesser shrines. To the north of the Temple, on the bank of Manmatha tank, is a cluster of small Temples, many of them dating back to pre-Vijayanagara times. Other early shrines are seen on the sloping ledge of Hemakuta hill, immediately to the south. Here, too, are monolithic sculptures of Ganesha, one set within a constructed shrine. The great colonnaded street that extends eastwards from the Virupaksha Temple serves today as a Temple bazaar, as it did in the past. Chariot festivals are still held here.

About 1 kilometre south of Hampi is the district known as Krishnapura, after the 16th century Balakrishna Temple complex. A great colonnaded bazaar street with a ceremonial tank also precedes the abandoned Temple. Nearby to the south, are monolithic sculptures of a lingam and of Lakshmi-Narasimha, which at almost 7 meters high, is the largest at the site.

So-called Achyutaraya’s Temple, about 1 kilometre east of Hampi and a short distance from the Tungabhadra, comprises the focus of Achyutapura, another district of the Sacred Center. The north-facing sixteenth century complex is consecrated to Tiruvengalanatha, a form of Vishnu. Hemmed in by a double set of concentric enclosure walls, the Temple is approached along a colonnaded street with a ceremonial tank that leads directly from the Tungabhadra.

On the river below Achyutaraya’s Temple is Chakra tirtha, overlooked by the Kodandarama Temple, which dates to the fifteenth century. This is built around a boulder carved with a Ramayana scene. From here the Tungabhadra flows through a rocky gorge lined with carvings on boulders and small shrines that are submerged when the river floods.

Probably the most artistic Temple is that dedicated to Vitthala, a form of Krishna. This serves as the nucleus of the Temple district known as Vitthalapura, near to the south bank of the Tungabhadra, some 3 kilometres downstream from Hampi. Though damaged and no longer in worship, the sixteenth century Vitthala Temple preserves columns with remarkable figural and animal carvings. A unique Garuda shrine, fashioned as a chariot with stone wheels, stands in front of the Temple. A large walled compound, with entrance gopuras on three sides, surrounds the Temple and subsidiary shrines and pavilions. Colonnaded bazaar streets running east and north from the Temple lead to shrines dedicated to Vaishnavite saints, including the largest, dedicated to Ramanuja. The district abounds in minor shrines, service structures, feeding houses, wells and a large tank.

A valley hemmed in by granite ridges running parallel to the Tungabhadra lies immediately south of the Sacred Center. Channels and aqueducts bring water to fields of rice, sugarcane and banana trees, as in Vijayanagara times. They include the Turutha canal that entirely traverses the site, and is still in use. A massive bund once cut across the valley at its narrowest spot, impounding a small lake to the west into which projected the embankment on which the car street the Balakrishna Temple was constructed. Three massive granite staircases climb Matanga hill, which rises to the south of the bund above this irrigated valley. Superb views over the entire Vijayanagara site may be had from the roof of the small Virabhadra shrine that crowns its summit.

II. Urban Core:

A short distance south of the Irrigated Valley are the walls of the Urban Core, the elite residential zone of the Vijayanagara capital. Parallel ridges and valleys that extend northeast southwest dominate this area. Malyavanta hill overlooks the eastern end of the zone while lower outcrops and small valleys at the west end open to plains to south and west.

Massive fortifications define a large ovoid area, about 4.5 kilometers along a northeast-southwest axis. The Royal Center occupies the southwestern half of the area while the Ragunatha Temple complex on Malyavanta hill rises above the east end of the Urban Core. The remains of one of several Muslim Quarters in the city extend northwestward from the hill to the flanks of the North Ridge.

The fortifications consist of earthen walls, having massive block outer revetments, with intermediate bastions, large gateways and small sally ports in strategic locations. In one area, a moat is preserved, while the rows of closely set boulders outside the wall to inhibit attacks, described in Portuguese accounts of the city, are no longer found here. Walls extend along the summits of the North and South Ridges that form the outer boundaries of the zone, cut across valleys between these and intermediate ridges and continue across the plane to the south and southwest. Segments of walls frequently are offset or change direction both accommodating themselves to changing terrain and offering angles that allow defenders to observe anyone coming near to the walls.

Gateways, aligned buildings and pavements indicate major roads while worn paths and stairways suggest some of the numerous pedestrian routes that linked the different residential areas. Major roads radiated outward from the Royal Center following valley floors while branch roads ascended the ridges. Other roads circled around the Royal Center. Modern roads that run through the walls of the Urban Core, some following original routes, have partly destroyed several gateways positioned in the ramparts. They include Talarighat gateway, on the road leading to the Talarighat River crossing, the barbican walls of which have recently been rebuilt. An intermediate wall contains Bhima’s gateway, so called because of a sculpture of the famous hero of the Mahabharata, while the southeast fortifications include a gateway roofed by a dome carried on four lofty arches. (See Roadways)

Shrines, rock-cut features, tombs, and the remains of many walls occur on the eroded slopes of ridges while most structures in the valleys are buried beneath earth washed from surrounding hillsides. Earthenware ceramics are the most common surviving artifacts of the daily life of ordinary people; their houses, which were built of mud, bamboo and thatch, have mostly disappeared. The broken pieces of Chinese blue-and-white porcelains indicate the districts inhabited by the courtly elite of the city. Almost no clearance work has taken place in this zone. However, Temples dedicated to different Hindu cults, Jain Temples and even two mosques indicate the diverse populations that once lived here.

A large tank occupied a valley in the southeastern part of the zone. The Urban Core was supplied with innumerable wells and water from the Hiriya canal that snaked through the eastern end of the city.

III. The Royal Center

It occupies the western end of the Urban Core. The roughly ovoid zone, narrower to the southwest and opening to northeast is contained within its own arc of fort walls, though these are no longer complete. Large gateways leading into the Royal Center stand to the east, now forlorn in the middle of fields. The Royal Center is where the Vijayanagara kings and their private households lived and conducted the daily business of ceremony and government. A good deal of the zone is subdivided into irregular interlocking compounds by high slender walls built of tightly fitted granite blocks that face a rubble core.

The Hazara Rama Temple, which served as a royal chapel, is the hub of the enclosures of the Royal Center. One of the principal roads of the city that runs to the northeast from the Temple, through a gateway in the enclosure wall, is lined with lesser shrines. Other roads lead to the north, east and southeast. Gateways give access to adjoining enclosures. Among the many points of interest about the Temple are the depictions of royal processions and courtly festivals carved in relief on the outside of its enclosing walls.

The compound southeast of the Hazara Rama Temple is linked with the public and ceremonial life of the Vijayanagara kings. Here can be seen the basement of an extensive audience hall. There are 100 stone footings for columns, presumably made of timber, than have long ago disappeared. The nearby multi-storied Great Platform, popularly associated with the Mahanavami festival, stands nearby. Its lowest granite stages are covered with animated reliefs portraying the life of the Vijayanagara kings. A stepped tank immediately to the south, and other nearby bathing places, were probably used on particular festival occasions. A short distance to the southeast of this enclosure stands the queens’ bath, probably intended for the amusement of the Vijayanagara king and his courtiers. Built in a quasi-Islamic style characteristic of Vijayanagara courtly architecture, it has an ornate interior arcade with balconies running around a sunken square pool.

Other courtly structures are seen in the compound northeast of the Hazara Rama Temple, known misleadingly as the zenana enclosure. It contains the basement of the largest palace structure in city. The nearby two-storied Lotus Mahal was probably a royal pavilion. Like the queens’ bath, it too is built in the fanciful Vijayanagara courtly style. A vaulted hall nearby may have served as a treasury or gymnasium. Watchtowers also influenced by Islamic design overlook the enclosure.

Immediately outside this enclosure are the Elephant Stables. These comprise a long line of eleven chambers roofed by alternating vaults and domes in a distinct Islamic style. These face west onto an open ground where troops and animals would have paraded. On the north side of the parade ground is a building with a high arcaded porch and an interior court, possibly used to view military displays in front and martial entertainments such as wrestling and boxing matches inside.

Excavations in the compounds west of the Hazara Rama Temple have revealed the remains of numerous palaces, presumably for the royal household. One complex of fifteen palaces has even been labeled the Noblemen’s Quarter. An important early shrine located in this palace zone is known as the underground Temple, because it was built in a small valley and was later partly buried by eroded soil. The shrine at its core is dedicated to Virupaksha, the same god worshiped at Hampi.

IV. Suburban Sites

The city of Vijayanagara extended well beyond the walls of the Urban Core to encompass a number of outlying settlements, now marked by modern villages. This region was of importance since it supplied food and goods to sustain the king, court and general population. Here camped the thousands of troops and animals that were displayed during the annual Mahanavami festival, and which were brought to the capital before warring campaigns. The arcs of fort walls and gateways and even the dam walls and reservoirs that dot these outer settlements helped to protect the Urban Core itself.

One of the most important suburban settlements is the village of Anegondi on the opposite bank of the Tungabhadra, some 4 kilometers downstream from Hampi. Anegondi preserves shrines going back to pre-Vijayanagara times, and it is still the residence of a local family of royal origins. Several lines of walls with gateways protected the approach to the town from the north. The fort that crowns the hill that rises to the west of the village was expanded in post-Vijayanagara times.

Kamalapura, southeast of the Urban Core, preserves little from the Vijayanagara period, other than shrines and a huge tank, which served as the principal water supply for the Royal Center. A modern road runs along its earthen retaining wall. A short distance to the east of Kamalapura is the Pattabhirama Temple, a religious complex that served as the nucleus of a sixteenth century suburban quarter. An elevated platform to the southeast of the town may have been used to view state ceremonies.

Muslim military officers must have resided in Kadirampura, a village that lies on the road from Hampi to Hospet, for here two Islamic tombs can still be seen amid many collapsed and looted graves. If one continues in the direction of Hospet, the next village is Malpannagudi, in the middle of which is a dilapidated Temple. Pavilion-like gateways at either end of the village mark the ancient roadway between Hospet and Hampi described by the foreign visitors. Fort walls that once extended to either side once formed the wall of a large tank. A short distance away is an early fifteenth century octagonal well surrounded by Islamic styled arches, and reached by a flight of steps.

One of the most impressive and innovative religious monuments in Vijayanagara’s suburban settlements is that dedicated to Anantashayana, the reclining form of Vishnu. This is located in the village of Anantashayanagudi, a short distance from the modern town of Hospet. A lofty, vaulted brick tower roofs the rectangular sanctuary of the Temple.

Except for small Temples inside the town and sixteenth century Muslim tombs on its peripheries, nothing can now be seen of the sixteenth century royal suburb laid out in the Hospet area by the Vijayanagara kings. But 1 kilometer south of the town is a long earthen wall, over which runs the highway leading to Chitradurga and Bangalore. The wall was intended to trap water in a great tank, but the project appears to have been ineffective.

On the north flank of the Sandur hills that rise above Hospet is a Temple complex known as Jambavateshvara. It is one of eight auspicious “gateways” to the precincts of Pampakshetra that defined the boundaries of the vast sacred zone that surrounded the Virupaksha Temple, and by implication, the city itself.


In addition to the ancient Archeological remains, the site has also an outstanding natural landscape with torrential River Tungabhadra traversing the site and dividing it into two geographical units. The southern part is in Hospet taluka and northern part is in Gangavathi taluka. The entire site has an excelent and beautiful natural feature like historic Kamalapur tank, Allikere and irrigation canals like Turtha, Basava, Raya, Kalaghatta and Anegondi canals, rocky hillocks with and valley's islands and rich agricultural lands. It is this outstanding natural feature which is responsible for having the status of the 'World Heritage Site'. Therefore, it is equally essential to preserve and protect these natural areas along with monuments. Here an attempt is being made to identify certain environmentally and historically important natural areas and village wise identification and listing of the various natural areas is done.