Located in Karnataka, Hampi was once the capital of the last great Hindu kingdom, Vijayanagar, and the center of the spice trade in the 16th century. In 1565 the city, founded in 1336, was conquered and destroyed by Muslims. The temples and sculptures are a highlight of traditional Indian art.
Hampi Temple District: Facts
|Official title:||Temple district of Hampi|
|Cultural monument:||the »Indian Machu Picchu«, former capital of the last great Hindu kingdom Vijayanagar and in the 16th century the center of the spice trade; impressive monuments such as the Virupaksha Temple with its 52 m high pyramidal tower (Gopuram), the “Bath of the Queens” and the Lotos Mahal as well as the 6.7 m tall colossal figure of Narasimha, also known as Lakshmi Narasimha, and the Vithala temple complex|
|Location:||Hampi, northwest of Bellary|
|Meaning:||important testimony to the high culture of the last Hindu kingdom|
Hampi Temple District: History
|1336||Establishment of Vijayanagar (Hampi)|
|1509-29||Flowering time under Krishna Deva Raya|
|1565||Battle of Talikota and subsequent destruction and abandonment of Vijayanagar (Hampi)|
As big as Rome and almost as beautiful as paradise
Where the Tungabhadra River breaks through the rocky shield of the Deccan, the Hindu Hoysala dynasty founded the mighty empire of Vijayanagar in the 14th century during protracted defensive battles against Muslim invaders. It was an empire of plenty, if one believes the report written in 1443 by the Moorish Abdur Razzak: »Roses are sold everywhere. People cannot live without roses, they are as necessary as food. The shops are crowded, each class and occupational group has its own shops; the goldsmiths publicly sell pearls and rubies, emeralds and diamonds. Many streams trickle through the beautiful city and the royal palace, as do numerous chiseled water channels made of polished stones. ”
Vijayanagar, whose most important war and trading port was Goa, stretched from the Kistna to Cape Comorin and for two centuries it proved to be the only great Hindu empire in India and the last bulwark against the domination of Islam. The “City of Victory” impressed the Portuguese merchant Domingo Paes so much in the early 16th century that he wrote enthusiastically about his visit: “(…) even when I climbed a hill, (…) I did not see everything, as the city is nestled between several hills. From up there it seemed as big as Rome and was wonderful to look at. (…) A small river flows below the Maurenviertel and there are gardens with many fruit trees, mostly mango trees, betel nut palms and breadfruit, lime and orange trees, which are so close that they look like a dense forest, and not to forget the vines with their yellow grapes. (…) The city has so many residents that I do not want to give a number because I would have to fear that it will be considered fictitious, but I assure you that no troops, on horseback or on foot, will find their way through any street or an alley could pave its way, so many are people and elephants. ”
But this impression of peacefulness and living in luxury was deceptive, since of all the Hindu kingdoms Vijayanagar was more like a military state, as a companion of Domingo Paes noted with astonishment: “The king constantly maintains 50,000 paid soldiers, including 6,000 horsemen who are part of the palace guard belong (…). He owns 20,000 spear and shield bearers (…), as well as 2,000 craftsmen, namely blacksmiths, bricklayers, carpenters and washers for washing clothes. ”
Despite its impressive strength, this army was destroyed by Muslim troops in the decisive battle of Talikota, and the legend of this drama soon took hold: the loyal brother of the king who fell in battle is supposed to keep his harem and the state treasure on the back of 1550 elephants in safety brought.
Anyone who visits the immense field of ruins today can imagine the “paradisiacal” conditions that Domingo Paes recorded in his notes with a lot of imagination. Monumental rock formations tower over the watercourses and river bays. The buildings, which are spread over three main areas, are located in the vicinity of the Lotus Palace, the Vithala Temple and the Virupaksha Temple, which is adorned with magnificent frescoes, all of them in their layout and above all in their architectural sculptures, highlights of traditional Indian art according to ehistorylib. Incidentally, this fantastic Vijayanagar-style architecture seems vaguely reminiscent of European baroque.
The remains of the palace complex include columned halls, airy gateways and throne platforms with relief decorations, as well as the “Queen’s Bath” and the elephant stables, whose structural forms clearly reflect the Islamic influence. The most famous temple of Vijayanagar, Vithalasvamin, begun in 1513 under the reign of Krishna Deva Raya, remained unfinished after the defeat of 1565. The Hazara Rama Temple with numerous relief depictions of the Ramayana, an epic about the life of the divine Rama, and the colossal figure of Narasimha Avatara as well as the Virupaksha temple dedicated to Shiva are among the imposing attractions of the ruined city.