Hampi is mentioned in the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, and many Puranas as Pampa Kshetra or Kiskhinda. Located in the Indian state of Karnataka, it was once the seat of the vast, prosperous Vijaynagar empire (A.D. 1336-1565), which included at least the current states of Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Andhra Pradesh. In 1565, while under the rule of Ramaraja, the 26-square-kilometer Hampi area was sacked by the combined armies of five neighboring Muslim rulers. The flourishing city of architectural wonders was evacuated, never to fully recover its former glory.
Govinda Bhakta Dasa and I started our visit in the early morning on a motorbike from Hospet, ten kilometers southwest of Hampi. On the road to Hampi the first impressive temple we stopped at was a temple built by Krishnadeva Raya (1509-29) in 1513 to enshrine a deity of Krsna he had brought back from a military campaign in Orissa. The deity child Krsna holding butter in His right hand now rests in a government museum in Chennai.
Just twenty meters down the road we came upon 22 foot tall Lord Narasimha, hewn out of a single boulder during the rule of Krishnadeva Raya. No longer worshiped, Narasirhha sits out in the open, nearly everything around Him having been destroyed by invaders. He is seated on the coils of Sesalinga who rises behind Him with seven hams, which serve as canopy. To the left of Lord Narasimha is a ten foor tall Sivalinga named Badavilinga, which is surrounded by a small channel of water coming from a nearby stream.
Traveling up rhe road we stopped at two Gat:lesa temples before reaching the top of Hemakuta Hill. From there we had a beautiful view, to the south, of the Krsna temple and the Narasimha deity,and to the north, of the Tungabhadra River, the Hampi Bazaar, and the Virupaksha Temple.
The Virupaksha Temple, at the western end of Hampi Bazaar, has a ten-story entry gate, decorated with many sculptures. The main deity is a self-manifested Siva-linga. The temple is situated at the feet of Hemakuta Hill, where Lord Siva is said to have performed penance and burnt Kamadeva to ashes. There are also the shrines dedicated to Padmavati, the wife of Lord Siva , and to the Bhuvanesvari, or Laksmi, worshiped by the brothers Harihara and Bukka, who founded Vijayanagar in 1336. The architectural style of the Laksmi shrine indicates that it existed before the Vijaynagar kingdom. In the basement is a shrine where the deity of Lord Visnu holds a scale to compare the merits of two holy places: Pampa Kshetra wins over Kashi.
At the noon we witnessed a small ceremony performed by the temple elephant, and then we came out onto Hampi Bazaar, about 700 meters long and 30 meters wide. Many Chinese, Arab, and Portuguese merchants came to trade here, where gems were sold in abundance. Domingo Paes, a Portuguese traveler who visited Hampi during (he reign of Krishnadeva Raya, described (he market: "Broad and bea utiful scree( full of rows of mandaps [open pavilions] and beautiful h ouses with balconies and ar cades. On this street live many merch ants, and there you will find all sorts of rubies and diamonds and emeralds and pearls and clothes and every other sort of thing there is on earth and that you wish to buy."
The street is now used for the temple Rathayatra, or chariot festival. As we passed through the street, many children approached us selling posrcards. There are several restaurants and many shops selling fruit, books, bags, cloth, ornaments, and religious supplies double wall enclosure wirh great gareways. The doorways are carved with the symbols of Lord Visnu and small figures of Krsna.
From there we went towards the Tungabhadra River, passing through a pillared hall and reaching the Varaha Temple, on whose inner walls is carved the boar incarnation of Lord visnu standing before a sword, with the sun and moon represented above the figure.
We then climb the steep path over rocks to the top of Matanga Hill and the Durga temple, which also contains a black stone image of Visnu as Parasurama. From the roof of the temple the view was breathtaking and worth the climb in the hot sun. Clearly visible were the royal complex, Hampi Bazaar, the Tungabadra River, the Vitthala Temple, Kiskhinda, and emerald rice fields with innumerable palm and banana trees. This hill is mentioned in the Ramayanas Rishyamuka Mountain.
Stepping carefully, we descended to the Acyutaraya Temple (built by King Acyuraraya), a large temple situated in a double-wall enclosure wirh great gareways. The doorways are carved wirh the symbols of Lord Visnu and small figures of Krsna From there we went towards the Tungabhadra River, passing through a pillared h all and reaching the Varaha Temple, on whose inner walls is carved the boar incarnation of Lord Visnu standing before a sword, with the sun and moon represented above the figure. This was the crest of the Vijayanagar kings.
As we continued toward the Tungabhadra River, we came to the ruins of an old bridge. From there we could see Kiskhinda on the other side of the river, as well as the mountain on which Hanuman was born. Following the river upstream, we arrived in front of Sugrtva's cave, clearly marked with red and white vertical lines. Here the monkey king Sugriva kept jewels that Sita had dropped while being carried away by Ravana.
Near Sugriva's cave is the Kodanda Rama Temple ("bow-bearing Rama"), containing beautiful deities of Sita Rama, Laksmana, and Hanuman carved in black stone. Above the temple, in a cave, is a temple of Hanuman called the Yantrodara Anjaneya Temple. The very kind Madhva priest Shamacar, who dailycomes from a nearby village to perform the worship of Hanuman, told us that at this place the acarya Vyasa Tirtha was meditating, and after eleven days Hanuman appeared to him. He requested Vyasa Tirtha to install him on the rock in a bas-relief form because this was therock where he had first seen saw Lord Rama and Laksmana sitting. The placewhere he first met Them is twenty meters bellow the hill, in a place called Chakra Tirtha, now covered by the Tungabhadra River.
The next day we used a motorbike to visit the Malayavanta Raghunatha Temple, on Malayavanta Hill on the road to Kampli. Ar this place Rama and Laksmana spend four months of the rainy season after installing Sugriva on the throne. In the main temple, deities of Rama and Laksmana are sitting, Sita is standing next to them, and a kneeling Hanuman is carved on a boulder on their right side. The priest of the temple told us that these are the only deiries of Rama and Laksmana in a sitting posture; they're worrying about the kidnapped Sita.
We drove down the hill and came to Madhuvan. After finding Sita, the monkeys stopped here and enjoyed royal gardens full of honey and fruit. Today there is a small Hanuman temple here. The priests invited us for lunch, so we gladly accepted, enjoying delicacies from the Madhuvan garden.
From Madhuvan we rode to the famous Virthala Temple, a most splendid building where every pillar has its own musical sound. The detail of the temple carvings is fascinating. The temple construction started during the reign of Krishnadeva Raya, but it was never finished, due to the destruction of Hampi. In front of the temple is a hall with numerous pillars carved with scenes from the Ramayana.
A stone chariot sits outside the temple. Some guidebooks say that it was carved from a single stone-a mistaken observation that artests to the skill of the builders: The joints are nearly invisible unless one takes a close-up look. Two stone elephants stand guard in front of the chariot. Awed by the beautiful Vitthala Temple, we next drove to the Tungabhadra River and crossed it in round basket boats. While Hampi is a popular tourist destination, few cross the river, because the greatness of the temples on the other side is the devotion to the deities rather than the architecture, which most tourists have come to see.
Birthplace Of Hanuman
After crossing the bridge we came to Anegundi village, the original Kiskhinda. Worship is still going on in the old Ranganatha Temple is the village. Nearby is the samadhi (memorial tomb) of Narahari Tirtha, a direct disciple of Madhvacarya.
Driving through Kiskhinda we came to Pampa Lake, filled with lotus flowers. (From Pampa the word Hampi was derived.) It is mentioned in the Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya 9.316) that Caitanya Mahaprabhu bathed in Pampa Lake. Here Rama and Laksmana met Shabari, an elder woman performing penance. She offered them delicious fruit and directed them towards Rishyamuka Mountain. On the hill above Pampa Lake is a cave where Shabari lived and the Pampa Ambika temple.
Five minutes' drive from Pampa, on the highest hill of Kiskhinda, is Hanuman's birthplace. To reach the top of the hill we had to climb six hundred steps. On the way we visited Kesharitirtha, a cave where Keshari, Hanuman's father, lived. In the temple the deity of Hanuman was carved in a huge boulder and painted red. In the opposite shrine is a deity of Anjana, Hanuman's mother. A few sages stay on the top of the hill and perform the worship. Praying for the blessings of Hanuman, we descended the hill. Before it got dark, we again crossed the river in a small basket boat and drove back to Hospet.
On the third day we visited the royal enclosure, where we saw ruins suggestive of the greatness of the Vjayanagara empire. Among rhe many remples the mosr splendid is the Hazara Rama Temple. Surrounded by a wall and carefully mainrained garden, rhe remple concains a large number of Ra:maya1).a basreliefs carved in great detail.
Under the rule of Krishna de va Raya, the Vijayanagara empire reached the zenith of its power. He was a disciple of Vyasa Tirrha in the Madhvacayra disciplic succession and ruled in the name of his guru and Krsna. He was a poet, and he patronized literature and the building of the temples. Historical records describe him as an expert administrator and able, brave statesman who led his armies in person. He had a noble presence, a gentle and generous character, attractive manners, and a strong influence over those around him.
Having seen just a spark of the original Kishkinda and Vijayanagara empires, we could only lament for not being able to witness their full splendor under reign of the saintly kings Sugriva and Krishnadeva Raya. They ruled in the name of the Supreme Lord Rama and Krsna perfectly satisfying their citizens materially and spiritually in this unique and charming place.