Some things are destined to be special. My trip to Hampi in July 2022 was one of them. Being a history and travel enthusiast, Hampi attracted me for almost a decade before I went there finally with my friends Satyajeet and Vyankatesh. The capital city of one of the greatest empires of medieval era is now in ruins, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hampi attracts a lot of foreigners because of its astonishing architectural marvels. I had a greater reason to go, a hostility towards the last empire which preserved true Indian, Sanatani Hindu Culture through its architecture that still have some strong vibes. I wasn’t disappointed though.
History of Hampi
Hampi was the capital city of the Vijayanagara Empire. The Empire mostly covered modern-day Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Goa, Tamil Nadu, and the Kerala States of India. During the times of King Krishna Deva Raya, The empire was also extended till Udaygiri, present-day Udgir, dist. Latur in the state of Maharashtra. Basically, the empire was huge. Established in 1336 by King Harihara Raya I of the Dynasty Sangama, the Empire went on expanding against many challenges, especially during the times when the great Kakatiyas of Warangal (Present day Andhra Pradesh) and Yadavas of Devgiri (Present Day Maharashtra) were fallen to the invasions of Foreign Islamic Invaders. This was indeed an inspirational Kingdom where the Sangamas united all the Hindu powers of South India against the invaders, and risen above all like phoenix. A Portuguese traveler named Dominigo Paes visited Hampi in 1520 during Krishna Deva Raya’s rule. He described Hampi as the second largest city in the world after Beijing, as beautiful and large as Rome, and was so technologically advanced that the likes of which lacked in the Europe at that time. He also described the advanced and robust system of irrigation that allowed farmers to yield the best crops at the lowest cost. He described city as a market full of precious stones, gold, abundant vegetation, artificial lakes, nearly 3000 temples, educational hubs, and so on. Basically, Hampi was the city of dreams built and preserved by the people.
Not only in development and asthetics, Vijayanagara Empire had a powerful army and political wisdom too. Any invader would not even dare of meeting Vijayanagara soldiers on the battlefield, and those who dared enough failed miserably. The only thing that doomed Hampi, was a fraction of their own soldiers. The Muslim soldiers in Vijayanagara Army fought for the Islamic Bahamani Army when the Bahamanis attacked Vijayanagara. The Radical Islamic power was so obsessed with wiping out the cultural heritage of a Hindu empire that they spent years demolishing each establishment, temple, palace, and idol in Hampi. Eventually, they ran out of money and manpower but the architectural marvels are still there. If they look so beautiful and dope in ruins, imagine what it would look like if it weren’t brutally destroyed. Taj Mahal is overrated, real architectural wonders are still there in Hampi. A disclaimer, though some of you might label me as an Islamophobe, whatever I said is an official archeological record. In any circumstance, interpretation, or narration, I do not intend to disrespect any Islamic religious ideology at all. I am against the tyrants who destroyed my nation in the medieval era.
Best Spots in Hampi
You will find a plethora of blogs, articles, and YouTube videos regarding what to see in Hampi. I am briefing my experience about some places that I loved the most, and some travel advices as well.
All the ancient temples in Hampi are under the authority of Department of Archeological Survey of India (ASI) except a few. The Virupaksha Temple is a grand religious establishment which is still under worship. There is an entry fee for the Grabha Griha (The closer look of God Virupaksha Mahadev) of ₹ 25/-. The temple is full of mesmerizing views. It is really hard to believe that the Shikhars (High temple towers) carved with thousands of idols and having altitude of around 100 feet are still standing without any depreciation, even after 600 years. The next wonderful thing you notice is when you enter the temple there is a Mandapam (banquet halls made for carrying out religious and cultural functions. Every pillar is carved with ancient Hindu sculptures. In fact, all these pillars convey pictorial representation of the
Dashavtar saga depicted as per Hindu mythology.
As you enter the Garbha Griha, there is an ancient idol of Mahadev Virupaksha in a calm, blissful environment. After exiting the Garbha Griha, there is a pool beyond a door and 3 adjacent temples. We need to climb down the stairs to visit the ancient pool. The entire view looks beautiful. In the temple premises, there are some other Hindu deities with separate Garbha Griha for each. The pillars look like a polished marble work, but they’re ancient.
Located just beside Virupaksha Temple on a hilltop, Kadlekalu Ganesh is a 30 feet, monolithic Ganpati Idol in a temple. There are Dashavtar and other Hindu Sculptures carved on literally each temple pillar of Hampi. There is a mandapam in this temple too. Entire Hampi looks beautiful from this hilltop.
Few kilometers from Virupaksha Temple, Hazar Rama Temple is perhaps the legit 8th wonder. Entire epic of Uttar Ramayana (Ramayana’s later parts) is carved on stones in this temple. As you enter, there is a Yadnya Mandapa on the right, Kalyan Mandapa on the left and a grand Rama Temple in front of you. The pillars, ceiling, terrace palisades are so delicately carved that we literally feel two eyes are not enough to see this beauty at its full.
This is one of the earliest establishments of Vijayanagara Empire. This temple was built by King Bukka Raya I in probably 14th Century. The idol of Lord Shiva in this temple is known as Prasanna Virupaksha or Pataleshwar. For some reasons I don’t know, I felt a weird vibe here. The ruins of temple might have made me feel nervous but the feeling was same as when I saw the fictional city of Old Valyria in Game of Thrones.
This temple is the main reason why all the national and international tourists visit Hampi. Widely known for the famous Stone Chariott inside the premises, the temple is a real eye catcher. Built in 16th century over 42 years by 2 Kings, the temple contained musical pillars in its main Sangeet Mandapam (Music Hall). The pillars were made of stone and sounded like musical instruments. It is said that on Mahanavami festival, there used to be a music program in this temple and the sound of musical pillars could be heard from 2 kilometers afar. On the other hand, the chariot made of stones depicts the chariot of Arjun in Mahabharat. Despite the efforts of demolishing, the entire Vijaya Vitthala Temple is still a beauty. The Garbha Griha of temple contained idols of God Vitthal and Goddess Rukmini together. Locals say the same idols have been relocated to Pandharpur’s famous Vitthal Mandir in Maharashtra. However, this theory is debatable. There are still some musical pillars in there, you can hear them sound like Tabla and Pakhwaj.
Though it lacks historical evidences, I strongly believe that the epic of Ramayana had happened for real. Speaking of wonders spoken in the story, I believe we, and especially the Indians exaggerate things too much. So much so that even real incidents seem fake. When it comes to the Vanar Sena, the army of Monkey-like species in Ramayana, I believe they were one of the highly evolved but not human kind of monkeys. Even until the 20th Century, the North Sentinal Island in India had humans who were having tails. Therefore there is a good chance that the Vanar Sena, possibly the Neanderthal men existed in South India during the times of Ramayana.
The Kishkindha empire was the kingdom of Vanaras. They were strong, huge, spoke languages and possessed knowledge as well. Present day Hampi was the capital city of Kishkindha. Lord Hanuman was born here. The birthplace of Lord Hanuman is the Anjanedri Hill. There is a temple atop the hill for which one has to climb around 700 steps. Temple does not look like its ancient but there’s a stone in a glass shelf inside the temple. The stone was one of the millions that were used for building the Ram Setu. Interestingly, the stone is floating above the water even today.
From the hilltop, you can get a mesmerizing view of nature. For me, climbing this hill was the most divine experience ever.
There are other hills in Kishkindha as well, including those where Vanara King Bali and his brother Sugreev used to live.
After all the ancient architectures you have seen and all the places you have visited, the Tungabhadra Dam feels like a delicious dessert after a feast. The River Tungabhadra flows through Hampi as well and there are Coracle Rides available for enjoyment. The river further goes to Hosapete, a nearby town and a huge dam is built on it in the British Era. The dam is surrounded by some mountains. Once you visit the entry gate of dam, a bus comes and takes you up to the light house of the dam. The dam looks immensely beautiful and huge from atop the Light House hill. Another bus then comes and takes you down to the dam wall. There are gardens all beside this wall and a closer look to the dam gives chills. Down the line, there are musical fountains, dashing cars and so many other recreational activities that make this place truly enjoyable.
Travel Guide for Hampi
1. How to Reach Hampi ?
If you are an international or even an Indian tourist not from Karnataka or nearby, traveling to Bengaluru by flight is the best option. From Bengaluru, there are a lot of trains available to Hosapete. Hosapete is a town located 12 KM from Hampi. From Hosapete, you can reach Hampi by 3 modes
- City Bus from Hosapete Bus Station, available on 20-30 minutes frequency, costs around 20 ₹
- Auto Rickshaw, costs ₹ 200-300 for 3 people
- Cabs – Costs around ₹ 1000 for 4 people
If you are from Karnataka, Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala, Train to Hosapete is the best commute. You can also come by your own vehicle as Hosapete is situated on a junction of national Highways.
If you’re anywhere from the north of Maharashtra, flying to Bengaluru is the best option. Trains are also an option when time is not a constraint.
2. Where to stay?
The best advice can be to stay at Hosapete, as it has hospitals, chemist shops, good hotels, resorts, security, daily needs shops etc. Hampi is a small village and there are no hospitals or chemist shops. There is also a network connectivity issue in there. You can go to Hampi during day and return to Hosapete in the evening.
However, I liked staying at Hampi. I stayed at this beautiful guest house called “Temple View Guest House” in Hampi. It is located just 200 meters from Virupaksha Temple. The rooms were clean, every necessity was available including high-speed Wi-Fi. There is a restaurant at the ground floor run by Mr. Shambhu. Shambu makes delicious Dosa and Uttapam. At night, the view of Virupaksha Temple from its terrace was dope. The cost of stay at this restaurant was very reasonable and the owner was very kind and welcoming. I would highly recommend you all to stay at this guest house.
There was one more restaurant right in front of this guest house called Taste of Brahmins. It was a home-style food restaurant. If you love South Indian food, this place is highly recommended. I loved the taste of Idli and Appam.
3. How to commute?
The best way to commute in Hampi is by hiring a cab. I highly recommend Travel MaaYa travel agency to book your cab. The fares are reasonable, their drivers are experienced & disciplined and cars are clean as well. My experience was pretty good with Travel MaaYa. Apart from cabs, you can hire scooters from Kamalapur, a village 4 KM from Hampi. You can also hire an auto rickshaw for 3 people. There are bicycles and mopeds available on rent in Hampi. The total area is around 30 KM. So it is best you consider bicycles and mopeds for a limited distance.
4. Sanitation and Other Services
There are public toilets available at every site in Hampi. However, best advised that you should get your stuff done at the hotel itself and then leave for exploration. There are a lot of Lemonade and Juice Stalls at every spot. Snacks, biscuits, and fruits are also easily available. There are some Italian and continental restaurants in Hampi too. So if you feel hungry or thirsty during exploration, do not worry at all.
One more thing to keep in mind, as there is a severe network connectivity issue in Hampi, it is best that you take enough cash and change with you to avoid the card and UPI payment. There are high chances that low-speed internet can disrupt the transaction.
5. When to go?
Though I visited Hampi amidst light rain showers and low rush in July and it was beautiful too, the best time to visit Hampi however, is during October to February as there is low heat and humidity in that period. A pleasant weather and lush greenery will be welcoming you.
6. Security and Other Issues
There are less than 1% chances that you’ll get robbed or attacked in Hampi. It is a completely police-protected area. The people in Hampi i.e. the hotel owners, shop owners, agents, tour guides, small vendors all are very genuine and they do not charge beyond limits. Their hospitality is commendable as well.
7. Overall cost
A day in Hampi will cost anywhere between ₹ 1500 to ₹ 3000 depending upon the level of accommodation and mode of commute. It may even cost ₹ 5000 to ₹ 10000 per day if you stay at a 3 star hotel or a resort. My total cost from Latur to Hampi and return was ₹ 5000 for 2 days, including train tickets and almost every penny I spent in the entire tour.
However, the hotel and guest house prices may increase during peak days.
What happens in Hampi, becomes a happy memory lifelong!
Dnyanesh Make ” The DPM”