Hampi, capital of the Vijayanagar empire • Karnataka, India

Watch our video on Hampi, Karnataka, India - the former capital of the Vijayanagara Empire and a magnificent Hindu pilgrimage site. Discover the rich history of this small village, which was once the second most populated city in the world. The video is less than 18 minutes long and showcases the stunning Virupaksha Temple, the Vittala Temple with its intricate carvings and musical pillars, and the Sasivekalu Ganesha temple with its large monolithic statue of Ganesh. Don't miss out on the chance to explore these architectural marvels and witness the grandeur of the Vijayanagara Empire.

This film was made on the basis of photos and videos taken during the trip Unknown India • Ladakh, Karnataka, Telangana in 2022

vimeo chapterA click on this icon above displays the list of chapters of this film about Karnataka • state in southern India in India. A click on a dot goes directly to a chapter.

Reading the text below will help you better understand the historical context of the sites shown in this video.
Chapters: 

00:33 • Sasivekalu Ganesha temple 

02:18 • the temple of Virupaksha, first pearl of Hampi

07:59 • some temples in an amazing nature

09:21 • the royal enclosure

09:58 • the Zenana enclosure (women's enclosure)

13:35 • the temple of Vittala, the other pearl of Hampi

 

Hampi, former capital of the Vijayanagara Empire 

 

Hampi, which is currently a small village in the state of Karnataka in southern India, was the capital of the very powerful Vijayanagara empire in the Middle Ages and the second most populated city in the world, just after Beijing. 

The village has a historical and archaeological site of prime importance. To understand why these wonders are in this small village, a brief summary of its history is essential.

 

The fall of the Hoysala dynasty 

 

The Vijayanagara Empire succeeded the powerful Hoysala dynasty which ruled much of South India between the 10th and 14th centuries. Architectural marvels from the Hoysala period have come down to us. Among them, the temples of Belur and those of Halebid

The political situation in 14th century South India was very unstable which precipitated the downfall of the Hoysala dynasty. 

Among the factors that led to this fall, there are mainly the incursions of the Sultanate of Delhi which have become more and more regular in the region. If we add to this the internal conflicts within the Hoysala family and the power struggles that fueled them, we obtain the explosive cocktail that will sound the end of the Hosyala reign.

 

The Birth of the Vijayanagara Empire 

 

In this context of end of reign, a new empire was born in 1336. Two officers in the service of Hoysala were at the origin, the brothers Harihara and Bukka Raya. After their release following their capture by the Sultanate of Delhi, the Haya brothers worked to build a new kingdom in the region. This kingdom was at the origin of the Vijayanagara empire. 

The Raya brothers, embodying the resistance against the Muslim invaders of Delhi, had no difficulty in finding the support of the local nobility, and many military leaders rallied to their cause to ensure the protection of the local populations against the invasions. 

The influence of the Vijayanagara gradually spread in the region and eventually absorbed the territories and kingdoms that had been under Hoysala influence until then. The integration of the Hoysalas into the new empire was therefore peaceful and gradual. The influence of the culture that the Hoysalas had fostered remained intact and the traditions inherited from their predecessors were very important in the development of the art and architecture of the Vjayanagara Empire.

 

The Golden Age of the Vijayanagara Empire 

 

The empire experienced a prosperous period of more than a century from the middle of the 15th century until the tragic battle of Talikota in 1565. At that time the empire ticked all the boxes: economic, cultural and military. 

At that time, the Vijayanagara empire extended over a large part of South India and part of Central India, namely most of these current states: Karnataka, Andra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Kerala and Maharashtra. 

Important commercial exchanges existed at that time with Arab countries, Europe and Asia. The goods traded were very varied, ranging from spices to precious stones, silk, cotton and metals among others. In addition, agriculture was flourishing thanks in particular to a very efficient irrigation system. 

The Vijayanagara rulers also strongly encouraged arts, literature, music and architecture by patronizing artists and scholars. Evidence of this refined culture can be seen in the intricacy of temples, sculptures and other monuments. 

Added to this was efficient administration. Great religious tolerance, equitable justice and intelligent centralization have allowed the various religious communities to coexist smoothly and thus escape the endless religious wars that have ruined so many states in the region. 

Finally, the whole was protected by a well-organized and powerful military force, based on a well-trained cavalry, an effective infantry aided by an impressive force of war elephants. 

Nothing seemed capable of overshadowing this powerful and well-organized empire.

 

The decline of the Vijayanagara Empire 

 

The beautiful religious tolerance that characterized the golden age of the empire gradually eroded while the appetites for expansion of the Vajayanagara empire did not weaken. This caused frequent brawls with the surrounding Muslim states. These states were the kingdom of Bijapur, Ahmadnagar, Golconda  and Bidar and these eventually coalesced to form the Deccan League. 

The execution of Burhan Khan, a Muslim nobleman of the Vijayanagara empire, on the orders of Aliya Rama Raya, a high dignitary without a royal title but exercising the functions of regent, was going to set fire to the powder. 

In 1565 the Deccan League attacked the empire near the Rakshasa-Tangadi villages a few kilometers from the town of Talikota, which gave its name to this battle. 

The empire's army was supposedly invincible, but resentment over the waning religious tolerance of Muslims and the execution of Burhan Khan drove two of the empire's Muslim generals to betray the empire and fight with their regiment alongside the Deccan League. 

Great confusion ensued within the ranks of the empire, and the Deccan League took advantage of this to launch a massive attack in which Rama Raya was captured and beheaded, before the League plundered and destroyed Hampi. Deccan. 

These tragic events would mark the beginning of the decline of the empire and its break-up into several small independent states. 

These emerging states include the Kingdom of Mysore, as well as the states of Kaladi, Madurai, Thanjavur and the Kingdom of Aravidu.

 

Hampi, the capital 

 

Some of the wonders to see in Hampi, which was the capital of the Vijayanagara Empire, include: 

 

Virupaksha Temple: This is the oldest and most important temple in Hampi, dedicated to Lord Shiva. This temple is still in operation today and attracts pilgrims and tourists from all over the world. 

Vittala Temple: This temple is famous for its intricate carvings and musical pillars, which emit musical sounds when lightly struck. Another highlight is the stone chariot, depicting Vishnu's chariot, normally pulled by Garuda birds, vehicles of Vishnu, located inside the temple complex. However here it is pulled by elephants.

The Sasivekalu Ganesha temple, dedicated to the god Ganesh is distinguished by its large monolithic statue of Ganesh, measuring approximately 2.4 meters in height. This statue is called "Sasivekalu Ganesha" because it looks like a mustard seed ("sasivekalu" in the local language). The architecture of the temple reflects the typical style of the Vijayanagara dynasty. 

The Royal Palace: Although only ruins of the palace remain, the surrounding structures, such as the Hall of Public Audience (Mahamantapa) and the water reservoirs, bear witness to the past grandeur of the Vijayanagara Empire. 

The Elephant Stables: Located near the Royal Palace, these stables were used to house the Royal Elephants. The structure is made up of eleven vaulted chambers and testifies to the importance of elephants in the culture and the military of the time. 

The monolithic statue of Narasimha: This impressive statue depicts Narasimha, an incarnation of the god Vishnu, seated on the serpent Adishesha. The statue, which is around 6.7 meters tall, is the largest monolithic sculpture in Hampi.

 

History of the main monuments of Hampi 

 

Virupaksha Temple 

 

The most important temple in Hampi is undoubtedly the temple of Virupaksha. While Hampi was only chosen as the capital of the Vijayanagara Empire in the 14th century, this temple has been around for much longer. Its foundation is estimated around the 7th century and it was enlarged and modified by the various dynasties of the region, starting with the Chalukyas and the Hoysalas and of course also by the Vijayanagaras after the choice of Hampi as their capital. 

The temple is dedicated to Shiva and his consort Parvati, who is called Pampa in the region. This temple is remarkable for its impressive architecture, carved columns and painted ceilings. It is also home to an important annual religious festival in the region.

 

The Royal Enclosure 

 

The center of power was around the royal palace, of which virtually nothing remains today. It was probably razed during its sacking in the 1565 defeat against the Deccan League. Several important buildings have been erected in this administrative center. Besides the royal palace, a large swimming pool complex with exquisite architecture served for the pleasures of the royal family. This complex is known as the "Queen's Baths". 

A rest and recreation pavilion is also nearby. This is the Lotus Mahal, also known as Kamal Mahal or Chitrangini Mahal. It is a remarkable example of architecture combining Hindu and Muslim styles. 

The royal elephants, which played a key role in official ceremonies and processions, were also entitled to special accommodation, the elephant stables. These stables are also architectural gems. The imposing rectangular building has 11 rooms and these rooms were occupied by a single elephant. Each chamber has a large arch to facilitate the passage of animals as well as other openings intended for optimal ventilation and lighting inside the chambers. 

Another interesting architectural work in the same district, even if it was not part of the royal complex itself, is the stepwell which was intended to store drinking water.

 

Vittala Temple 

 

Hampi is full of temples, but it's safe to say that two of them stand out. The first of them is the temple of Virupaksha, the beginning of construction of which dates from the 7th century. The other was built by the rulers of the Viyanagara dynasty during the 15th century, the temple of Vittala. 

The Vittala temple is dedicated to an avatar of Vishnu, Vittala, especially linked to the regions of Maharashtra and Karnataka. The architecture of this temple is remarkable with its intricate carvings and reliefs, typical of South India. 

In the courtyard of the temple, a stone chariot (ratha) representing the mythical chariot of Vishnu and drawn, not by Garuda birds, vehicles of Vishnu, but by elephants is certainly the most spectacular and most photographed part of the temple.

But that's not the only interesting feature. The Vittala Temple is famous for its 56 musical columns which sound when struck lightly. One more proof of the mastery of the craftsmen of the time. 

Then, several halls and pavilions with pillars carved and decorated with frescoes depicting scenes from Hindu mythology also hold the attention of visitors.

 

What's the weather like in Hampi?

about the place, Hampi:

Nowadays, Hampi is a village in Karnataka in southern India which has a few thousand inhabitants, if we count the surrounding villages. It is difficult to estimate the number of inhabitants as Hampi is a major tourist site and the number of residents changes with the tourist season. 

Hampi has one of the most important historical sites in India, and its current situation in no way reflects the splendours of its past. At its peak in the 15th and 16th century, Hampi was the second largest city in the world. Between 300,000 and 500,000 inhabitants lived there, according to historians' estimates. The largest city in the world at that time was Beijing.

 

Spoken comments in the film: 

At the entrance to the archaeological site of Hampi, capital of the ancient Vijayanagara empire, stands a temple typical of the architecture of this period, housing a monolithic statue of Ganesh, the Sasivekalu Ganesha temple.

 

On this statue, Ganesh seems to have 4 arms. In reality, if we look at the monolithic statue from behind, we see that in fact Ganesh is seated on the lap of a woman. This woman is his mother, Parvati. It is to highlight the importance of the mother-child relationship in Hindu culture that Ganesh is sometimes represented on Parvati's lap.

 

Between the Sasivekalu Ganesha temple and one of the high places of Hampi, the Virupaksha temple, many small temples dot an atypical path, mostly made of improbable granite soil. But this geological particularity of the region also participated in the decision of the first rulers of the dynasty to choose Hampi to establish their new capital.

 

The Virupaksha temple is the most important monument in Hampi. The temple was built in the 7th century, long before Hampi was designated as the capital of the empire in the 14th century. This temple is remarkable for its imposing architecture, carved columns and painted ceilings. It has remained an important place of pilgrimage and festival in the region.

 

The interest of a visit to Hampi is not limited to the many temples of the place, but also lies in a truly amazing surrounding nature. The rock formations and numerous granite boulders that seem to be stacked randomly provide an interesting visual contrast to the temples and other monuments.

 

Following the defeat of the Vijayanagara Empire in 1565 against the Deccan League, Hampi was plundered and sacked. Many buildings have suffered greatly from this looting. Among these buildings, there is the royal palace of which only the foundations remain in our time.

 

This is pretty much all that remains of the royal palace. Only the Secret Council Chamber is still visible, since it was underground. Once at the center of the royal district, the palace was ransacked after the empire's defeat by the Deccan League in 1565. Other buildings in this district are still visible today, including the Queen's Baths, the Lotus Mahal, the stables of the elephants or the wellstep.

 

The royal elephant enclosure has 11 rooms, each of which is intended to accommodate a single elephant. The architecture of the building is remarkable. Each bedroom has a large archway for the elephant to easily walk in and out of. In addition to this entrance door, an ingenious system of openings is used to ventilate and light the rooms.

 

After the temple of Virupaksha, here is the second pearl of Hampi, the Vittala temple dedicated to Vishnu. This temple is remarkable in more ways than one. First the stone chariot, symbolizing Vishnu's chariot drawn by elephants in the courtyard. Next, this temple has a music hall in which there are 56 musical pillars that emit sounds when struck lightly. Obviously visitors are not allowed to touch or hit these pillars, thus depriving us of the sound produced.

 

There is also the Kalyana Mantapa within the grounds of the Vittala temple. A Mantapa in South India designates a pavilion or a hall with pillars intended for various activities. The Kalyana Mantapa was used for wedding rituals.

 

Music:

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 - YouTube video library - Constancy Part 3 - The Descent, (© Constancy Part 3 - The Descent by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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Disclaimer: Despite its appropriateness, copyright issues prevent the use of indian traditional music in "Hampi, capital of the Vijayanagar empire • Karnataka, India", hence the use of royalty-free music. Despite our careful selection, some might regret this decision, which is necessary to avoid potential lawsuits. Although difficult, this decision is the only viable solution.

 

Virupaksha temple, Hampi, Karnataka • India
Overview of the Virupaksha temple complex, Hampi • India • Karnataka

Overview of the Virupaksha temple complex

a monkey in the Virupaksha temple, Hampi • India • Karnataka

a monkey in the Virupaksha temple

one of the ceilings of the Virupaksha temple, Hampi • India • Karnataka

one of the ceilings of the Virupaksha temple

the stone chariot of the Vithala temple, Hampi • India • Karnataka

the stone chariot of the Vithala temple

Hampi, Karnataka • India

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