Hampi - I : The Royal Enclosure

Hampi - The ruined city of the Vijayanagara Kingdom

Hampi in a null-shell:
The magnificent site of Hampi comprise mainly the leftovers of the Capital City of Vijayanagara Empire (14th-16th Cent CE), the last great Hindu Kingdom, which reached its apogee under the reign of Krishna Deva Raya (1509-30). Termed as one of the most beautiful cities by many foreign travelers during Vijayanagara period. Conquered by the Deccan Muslim confederacy (five sultans of Deccan) after the Battle of Talikota (Rakkasa-Tangadi) in 1565, the city was pillaged over a period of six months before being abandoned. It was designated as World Heritage Site in 1986 by the UNESCO.
The Iconic Lotus Mahal of Hampi
The Iconic Lotus Mahal of Hampi
As described by the UNESCO, Hampi is “one of the most beautiful cities of the medieval world” and in today’s world as “one of the most striking ruins of the world”.

Vijayanagara Architecture:
The Architecture of Vijayanagara is termed to be unique in nature, with traditional Hindu architecture of stone temples and a blend of Indo - Sarasanic architecture for their enclosures. Adding to this are the millions of boulders in the backdrop which gives a perfect contrast to the monuments. 
The evolution of Architecture in Karnataka was majorly classified with the Chalukya, Hoysala and Vijayanagara Architectures.While Chalukyan was the school of Architecture and major developments of Architecture happened to be during this period, and Hoysala architecture has embarked on to its intricate and perfection in carvings, the Vijayanagara Architecture is majestic and innovative. Finest example being the majestic Vitthala and Virupaksha temples and the innovative designs of Stone chariot and musical pillars.

Group of monuments of Hampi:
The ruins of Hampi have hundreds of monuments surviving at present day. Top ten places of interest being,
1.       Vijaya Vittala Temple
2.       Virupaksha Temple
3.       Lotus Mahal and Zenana Enclosure
4.       Krishna Temple
5.       Elephant Stable
6.       Hazara Rama Temple
7.       Ugra Narsimha & Badavilinga
8.       Royal Enclosure - Stepped Tank, Queen's Bath
9.       Pattabhirama Temple, Kamalapura
10.   Achyutaraya Temple

Some of the other places of interest in Hampi are
o   Kadalekalu Ganesha ,
o   Hemkuta Digambar Jain Temples ,
o   Sasivekalu Ganesha,
o   Underground Siva Temple
o   Ancient bridge on River Tungabadra, behind Vittala Temple
o   Gagan Mahal, Anegundi
There is still restoration work going on by the Archaeologists.
There are a few places you can visit around Hampi, Daroji Bear Sanctuary, Hampi University, and Tungabhadra Dam Hosapete.

Within a single day, one can have a decent glance at the main attractions. While it takes several days to explore the Hampi ruins in detail. Best time to visit is during Aug-Jan to avoid the heat of the Deccan plateau.

The whole day was not enough for us to completely explore the Ruins of Hampi. We managed to visit the main attractions, keeping aside the remaining for future visits.
All the major attractions are spread across three areas, near the Royal enclosure, near Virupaksha temple and the third is near the Vittala Temple.

Hampi - I : The Royal Enclosure

The Royal Enclosure was the Kings landing then, located in-between Virupaksha temple and Kamalapura. Many of the attractions of Hampi are located within this enclosure including the Stepped tank, Sabha Mantapa or Mahanavami Dibba, Queens bath, Hazara Rama Temple, remains of the Palace of Vira Harihara, a little further to the north takes you to the queens landing - The Zenana Enclosure which consists of the Queens palace basement, Lotus Mahal, and watch towers. A small door out of the fortress leads you to the Elephant stable.

The first monument on Kamalapura-Hampi main road is the Queens Bath, Used by women of noble families occasionally by king himself. The architecture from outside is very plain, while the inside view is spectacular. The significance of this monument is there is a pool at the center, surrounded by the verandah with ornate balconies projecting inside the pool. There is only a mud road from here till the Zenana enclosure.
Queens Bath with projecting balconies
Balcony with arch opening beside
On the way there is Mahanavami Dibba, stepped tank and the remains of the ruined Royal Palace. After the royal enclosure is the HazaraRama Temple or Ramachandra temple. The uniqueness of this temple is the panels of sculptures of Ramayana on its wall enclosure. It got the name Hazara Rama (a thousand Rama) Temple owing to this multitude of these Ramayana panels on its walls. There are frieze on the outer face of the wall enclosure. This temple was built in the 1420s. It has an elegant pillared pavilion to the east which leads inside the temple and further to the sanctum. There are entrance porch to the north and south of the temple. The main shrine has finely carved ad polished basalt, which displays various forms of Vishnu.

Outer wall enclosure of the Hazarama temple
Main Temple entrance
The tall & strong standing columns supporting the beams and roof of the temple
Beautifully sculptured black stone pillars inside the temple
Patterns carved on the walls the temple
The Temple complex of Hazarama as seen from the other end
Further driving through the mud road takes you to the Zenana Enclosure. The tall fortress is standing strong even today. This was a secluded complex reserved for the royal women. At present the complex inside the fortress have the Queens Palace basement at the center, a rectangular royal treasury building at the North West corner facing east, Jal Mahal to the south west corner facing east and Lotus Mahal to the east of Jal Mahal, along with three watch towers. As a water source there is a tank to the north of the Lotus Mahal. The Queens palace along with other royal structures in Hampi are ruined to ground, probably reason being these royal structures were built with materials like wood and less durable materials meant for luxury rather than being strong, and during the invasion from the enemies these must have been burnt to ashes and destroyed. The Royal structures can only be imagined today considering the remains of the city being so beautiful, the Palace would have been like heavens
Assumed to be basement of the Queens Palace, in the backdrop is the watchtower
One of the three watchtowers of the Zenana Enclosure
Must be a royal treasury building
At present the main attraction in the Zenana Enclosure is the Lotus Mahal or Kamal Mahal. It’s strange to note that this is one of the beautiful structures that were left undamaged during the siege of the city. There is no proper evidence which depicts the actual function of this structure, though it can be referred as a socializing area for the Royal Women, probably could have served as a reception hall for the king or his military commander.
Lotus Mahal
The beautiful arches of the Lotus Mahal
The two storied structure is made out of lime mortar and brick made composition. The name Lotus Mahal is due to its design of the archways and the balconies resembling a half opened lotus bud, with the center dome having Lotus bud shape. This is the second most iconic structure of Hampi after the stone chariot.

The small door which opens to the east of the Zenana Enclosure leads you to the Elephant Stables.  This is also one of the undestroyed structures of Hampi. This structure has domed tall chambers eleven in number which was used to park elephants of the Royal Family.
The Elephant Stables
House for the Royal Elephants
The locking of stone structure at the domes of Elephant Stables
There is another structure beside the Elephant Stables, which is now a museum gallery housed with sculptures. This structure is worth exploring inside with its symmetric arches inside the building.
Beautiful Arches of the Military building beside the Elephant Stables
Gallery of sculptures
Probably a military building
There are tender coconut sellers at this place, which will be mostly your first major rest place after the long exploration experience and before starting towards the next set of monuments towards Virupaksha Temple.

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