India Travel

Must-See Sights in the Ancient City of Hampi

Hampi is undoubtedly one of the most interesting, mysterious and historically rich places in India. Declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and protected under the Archaeological Survey of India, this beautiful city is attracting thousands of tourists from all over the globe.

Hampi is a small and enchanting ruined city in Karnataka. Situated on the banks of river Tungabhadra, this place is a history buff’s paradise. Before I start off with the major attractions of this ruined land, it’s important that you learn about Hampi’s history: a journey from unimaginable wealth to destruction. Check it out in The History Behind the Ancient City of Hampi.

You can easily reach Hampi via public transportation like a bus. It’s readily available, and there is absolutely no hassle to reach here. You can also visit Hampi and many other South Indian states by the luxury train, Golden Chariot. Read all about it in Take a Ride on the 5 Most Luxurious Trains in India. October to February is the best time to explore Hampi due to the pleasant weather.

Now if you’ve decided to visit, here are some of the major sights to see in Hampi that you cannot miss.

1. Vijaya Vittala Temple

The infamous stone chariot in the premises of Vitthala temple
The infamous stone chariot in the premises of Vitthala temple. Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, this is one of the largest and most important temple complexes in Hampi. The architectural expertise and carvings on its walls are more than admirable. In fact, such a feat seems almost impossible during this time. What is achieved with machines today was achieved by human hands at that time.

What makes this temple stand out among the others are its musical pillars. There are 56 music pillars in this temple. They’re collectively known as SaRiGaMa pillars also (Sa Ri Ga Ma are the first four out of the seven musical notes). The magical thing about these pillars is that if you strike your thumb on any one of these, the pillars will produce a musical tone in turn. Some say that each of these musical tones sounds like they’re coming out of different musical instruments.

The British, on finding out about these pillars were bewildered. They thought that something was fitted inside the pillars to produce this sound. In the hope of finding that out, they tried to break some pillars as well but realised soon enough that there was nothing in there. The points where they tried breaking it are still visible. Before you start to ask yourself, “What kind of trickery is this?”, let me tell you that it’s no enchantment (Unfortunately. Otherwise it would have been much more exciting).

According to some geologists who studied these pillars, these rocks are resonant, and there is the presence of a large amount of silica and metallic ore within it that produces the sound (sigh!). But surely, for architects to know this in the 14th century is incredible. Besides this, Vittala Temple is also famous for the massive stone chariot that adorns the temple premise. It’s an architectural marvel.

2. Sri Virupaksha Temple

The temple and its compound
The temple and its compound. Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

This temple is dedicated to Lord Virupaksha, an incarnation of Lord Shiva. It is one of the most splendid temples of Hampi and the oldest functioning temple in India. On dating the carvings within the temple, it seems as if the temple was built as a small one in the early 3rd century. But it was during the Golden Era of Hampi that it was converted into the grand temple that it is today.

The compound of this temple is incredibly vast and well-kept. Lush green grass and old towers adorn the complex.

Another interesting structure within the complex itself is the underground Shiva temple. This temple was built in a depression in the ground, and during the monsoon season, water from the Tungabhadra river fills the temple, and it remains submerged. Nowadays, water released from the Tungabhadra Dam also floods the temple. It is believed that this temple was used by the royal families only for private ceremonies.

3. Hampi Bazaar

The old market in ruins
The old market in ruins. Photo by Wikimedia Commons

Just in front of the Virupaksha Temple lies the Hampi Bazaar. This place literally screams history. During the 14th century, this market was the hub of trading in spices and cotton. Merchants from all over the world used to come here. The King also arranged international trade arrangements and a significant share of Hampi’s profits came in this manner.

Today, they look barren and in ruins. No one can imagine that once this market buzzed with vendors and traders. Some parts of these pavilions are now used as small shops itself. This helps in taking away the otherwise dead and dull look of the ruins.

Just opposite to the Hampi Bazaar lies a large statue of the Nandi bull with a grand pavilion erected in front of it. This pavilion plays a significant role during the annual Hampi festival. There is also a photo gallery nearby that you can visit for free.

4. Matanga Hill

Hampi from the top of Matanga Hills
Hampi from the top of Matanga Hills. Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

This is one of the favourite spots for all the tourists and probably the highest hill in Hampi.

Situated right in the centre of the city, Matanga Hill provides a stunning view of the entire ancient city. It’s only a 30-minute climb, and there is a temple at the top (Veerabhadra Temple). The temple is in good condition.

The best part about Matanga Hill is that attached to the temple is a staircase that connects to its terrace. From here, you have a breathtaking view of the surrounding area and miles beyond that. People usually climb here by twilight or in the early morning. This is because watching sunrise and sunset from the top of the Veerabhadra Temple is an exhilarating experience and one that you should try.

5. Hampi Archaeological Museum

Hampi Museum
Hampi Museum. Photo by TsoiHingPo.

Some people overlook this museum and only visit the monuments, but I think that it’s a grave mistake not to visit the Hampi Archaeological Museum.

As mentioned in another article, Hampi had settlements even before the Vijayanagara Empire came here. These were determined by some ceramic pots and other tools obtained from the city. These and many other incredible artefacts are preserved within the museum.

The museum definitely helps in giving you a quick history check about Hampi. Therefore, don’t forget to visit this museum. If you want to dive into Hampi’s history now, do so with our short guide to the history of ancient Hampi.

6. Hanuman Temple

View of Hampi from Anjaneya Hill
View of Hampi from Anjaneya Hill. Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

If you’re willing to walk a little (4 km) from the Hampi ruins to the Anjaneya Hill, it will be worth it. This hill has an important religious significance.

According to mythology, this was the place where Lord Hanuman (the monkey god and companion of Lord Ram throughout the war) was born. The temple on the top of the hill is, therefore, a sacred site for the Hindus. You don’t have to climb the hill all the way up because stairs are provided for convenience.

There are a lot of monkeys on the premises and you better not hold anything in your hand and make sure to clutch your bags close to you. The monkeys might sometimes jump at you for food, but they can do so to grab anything from your hand so be careful.

The view from the top of the Anjaneya Hill is just phenomenal. Trust me; you’ll never forget this experience and this view.

7. Sasivekalu Ganesha Temple

The main temple and the idol
The main temple and the idol. Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

Lord Ganesh is Lord Shiv’s son, and this small temple is dedicated to him. All you see here are some huge boulders, big pillars and a small shrine with a huge Ganesha statue within. Curiously enough, the architect who built it also included a snake wrapped around the Lord’s bulging stomach.

According to belief, Lord Ganesh’s stomach was protruding out more, day-by-day. He could never abstain from his favourite meals and therefore, started to look for a solution to stop his stomach from exploding. His solution was apparently tying a snake around his belly so that it doesn’t just burst out. Quite an unusual solution.

But either way, apart from that one specification, this 2.4-metre statue is carved out of one boulder stone. Therefore, this extraordinary Ganesh statue makes this ordinary temple worth a visit.

8. Hemakuta Hill Temple Complex

Shiva temple on Hemakuta Hill Complex
Shiva temple on Hemakuta Hill Complex. Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

As the name suggests, this doesn’t only refer to one temple but a group of temples that lie within the same vast complex.

Magnificent ruins of some amazing Hindu temples makes this complex a must-visit in Hampi. Among all of these, Mula Virupaksha Temple is the most prominent.

Also since it’s a hill complex, don’t forget to watch the sunset before leaving. It acts as a perfect end to a perfect day.

By Merlin Chacko

Currently studying English Literature at Delhi University. Obsessed with Harry Potter and NOT Shakespeare. I believe that nothing nourishes the soul like books and travelling. Constantly amazed by the Indian culture and its history. Personally feel that the old forts and ruined palaces in India are almost magical.

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