This article is about the ruined city in India. For the historical empire that bears its name, see Vijayanagara Empire. For other uses, see Vijaynagar.

A view of the Virupaksha complex from Hemakuta hill
Shown within Karnataka
Location Hampi, Ballari district, Karnataka, India
Type Settlement
Area 650 km2 (250 sq mi)
Official name Group of Monuments at Hampi
Type Cultural
Criteria i, iii, iv
Designated 1986 (10th session)
Reference no. 241
Region Asia and Oceania

Vijaya Nagara, meaning the city of victory was the capital city of the historic Vijayanagara Empire which extended over South India. The city's ruins, surrounding the modern-day village of Hampi, are in Ballari district, Karnataka.

Around 1500, Vijaynagara had about 500,000 inhabitants (supporting 0.1% of the global population during 1440-1540), making it the second largest city in the world after Beijing and almost twice the size of Paris.[1][2][3] The ruins are now a World Heritage Site.


Most of the city lies on the south bank of the Tungabhadra River. The city was built around the religious center of the Virupaksha temple complex at Hampi. Other holy places lie within its environs, including the site that legend calls as Kishkindha, which includes the historically important Hanuman temple (the cave home of Anjana, Kesari and Shabari) and a holy pond called the Pampasarovar. It is known to house the cave home of Sugriva, the monkey king in the Hindu epic Ramayana.

The city at its greatest extent was considerably larger than the area described here; an account is given at the article on the Vijayanagara metropolitan area. The central areas of the city, which include what are now called the Royal Centre and the Sacred Centre, extend over an area of at least 40 km². It includes the modern village of Hampi. Another village, Kamalapura, lies just outside the old walled city, surrounded by ruins and monuments. The nearest town and railway is in Hospet, about 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) by road. Hosapete lies within the original extents of the old city, though most of the items of interest are walking distance of Hampi and Kamalapura.

The natural setting for the city is a hilly landscape, dotted with granite boulders. The Tungabhadra river runs through it and provides protection from the north. Beyond the hills, on the south bank on which the city was built, a plain extended further the south. Large walls and fortifications of hewn granite defended the centre of the city.

The City

"Ancient City of Beejnuggur: Ruins near Camalapore", photo circa 1865-1871

The name translates as "City of Victory", from vijaya (victory) and nagara (city). As the prosperous capital of the largest and most powerful kingdom of its time in all of India, Vijayanagara attracted people from all around the world.

After Timur's sack of Delhi, North India remained weak and divided up. South India was better off, and the largest and most powerful of the southern kingdoms was Vijayanagar. This state and city attracted many of the Hindu refugees from the north. From contemporary accounts, it appears that the city was rich and very beautiful—The city is such that eye has not seen nor ear heard of any place resembling it upon earth", says Abdur-Razzak from Central Asia. There were arcades and magnificent galleries for the bazaars, and rising above them all was the palace of the king surrounded by "many rivulets and streams flowing through channels of cut stone, polished and even." The whole city was full of gardens, and because of them, as an Italian visitor in 1420, Nicolo Conti writes, the circumference of the city was sixty miles. A later visitor was Paes, a Portuguese who came in 1522 after having visited the Italian cities of the Renaissance. The city of Vijayanagar, he says, is as "large as Rome and very beautiful to the sight"; it is full of charm and wonder with its innumerable lakes and waterways and fruit gardens. It is "the best-provided city in the world" and "everything abounds." The chambers of the palace were a mass of ivory, with roses and lotuses carved in ivory at the top--"it is so rich and beautiful that you would hardly find anywhere, another such.
Jawaharlal Nehru, The Discovery of India[4]

The ruined city is a World Heritage Site, known in that context as the Ruins of Hampi. In recent years there have been concerns regarding damage to the site at Hampi from heavy vehicular traffic and the construction of road bridges in the vicinity. Hampi is now listed as a "threatened" World Heritage Site.


Main article: Vijayanagara Empire

The Vijayanagara empire was founded by (Harihara) and Bukka, also called the Sangama brothers.[5] The empire consolidated under Harihara I and began to expand and prosper under Bukka Raya. Some time after its original establishment the capital was established at the more defensible and secure location of Vijayanagara on the south side of the river.

Contemporary descriptions depict a very large and highly developed metropolitan area: recent commentators say,

"The massive walls, which can still be traced, enclosed an area of more than sixty square miles, much of which was occupied by fields and gardens watered by canals from the river. The population cannot be estimated with precision, but it was certainly very large when judged by the standards of the fifteenth century. The great majority of the houses were naturally small and undistinguished, but among them were scattered palaces, temples, public buildings, wide streets of shops shaded by trees, busy markets, and all the equipment of a great and wealthy city. The principal buildings were constructed in the regular Hindu style, covered with ornamental carving, and the fragments which have survived suffice to give point to the enthusiastic admiration of the men who saw the city in the days of its magnificence."[6]

The city flourished between the 14th century and 16th century, during the height of the power of the Vijayanagar empire. During this time, the empire was often in conflict with the neighbouring kingdoms with Muslim rulers, which had become established in the northern Deccan, collectively termed the Deccan sultanates. In 1565, the empire's armies suffered a massive and catastrophic defeat at the hands of an alliance of the sultanates, and the capital was taken. The victorious Deccan armies then proceeded to raze, depopulate, and destroy the city and its temples and icons over a period of several months. Despite the empire continuing to exist thereafter during a slow decline, the original capital was not reoccupied or rebuilt. It has not been occupied since.

The buildings in the city are mostly built in the original native traditions of southern India, associated with the Hindu religion. Some of them show a certain amount of Islamic influence due the interaction with the Islamic kingdoms.

Virupaksha Temple

The Sacred Centre

This title has been given by historians to the areas extending from Hampi village to Matanga Hill to its east. It is sometimes extended further northeast to the Vitthala Temple. It consists of a hilly region immediately to the south of the Tungabhadra.

Virupaksha Temple

This surviving temple and temple complex is the core of the village of Hampi. Also known as the Pampapati temple, it predated the empire, and was extended between the 13th and 17th centuries. It has two courts with gopurams (entrance towers). The main entrance with a 50-meter (160-feet) gopuram faces east into a ceremonial and colonnaded street, that extends for about 1 km (0.62 mi) to a monolithic statue of Nandi.

Another gopuram towards north known as the Kanakagiri gopura, leads to a small enclosure with subsidiary shrines and eventually to the river Tungabhadra.[7] The smaller inner gopura and the beautiful mandapa (an open pillared hall or pavillion) were dedicated to the temple by king Krishnadevaraya on his coronation in 1510 CE, making them over 500 years old.[7]

The temple is still in use now. It is dedicated to Virupaksha, an aspect of Shiva and his consort Pampa, a local deity.

Hemakuta Hill

The hill is situated to the south of Hampi village. It bears several small temples that predate the construction of Vijayanagara as the capital of the empire, some being as early as the 10th century. The hill was fortified when the main city was constructed, and a number of more recent temples, tanks, entrances, and gopurams exist on the hill, some of which were never completed.

Krishna Temple

Krishna Temple

This is a partly ruined temple, south of Hampi and Hemakuta hill. It was built by the emperor Krishnadevaraya after military campaigns in Odisha. The temple is contained in twin enclosures. Parts of the temple's gopurams have collapsed. There is now no image in the inner sanctuary.[8]

There is a halegannada (old Kannada) stone inscription by Krishnadevaraya dating to 1513 CE in the premises just before the temple. This temple was abandoned since the fall of Vijayanagara and there is no active worship today.[9]

Lakshmi Narasimha

Also to the south of Hampi is this massive rock cut idol of Narasimha, the fierce aspect of Vishnu, 6.7 m high. Originally the idol bore a smaller image of Lakshmi on one knee; this had fallen off, probably due to vandalism. The Lakshmi statue is now in the museum at Kamalapuram.

Monolithic Narasimha

Narasimha is depicted seated on the coils of Shesha. Shesha is shown here in a form with seven heads, the heads arching over Narasimha to form a canopy. The statue has been restored sometime after 1984, which is evident from John Gollings’ photograph of the statue taken in around 1984.[10] The granite strap binding between his knees is a recent addition to stabilise it.

The donation of this work is ascribed to either Krishnadeva Raya, or to a wealthy merchant during his reign.

Sugriva's cave

This is a natural cave, said to be the original home of the ape king Sugriva, where Rama is said to have met him and Hanuman on his journey . The cave is marked by coloured markings, and the attentions of pilgrims.

Kodandarama Temple

This is situated to the east of Hampi, near the end of the colonnaded street that leads out from the Virupaksha temple. It is in the sacred centre of the city, and by a narrow point of the Tungabhadra river. This temple marks the spot where Rama crowned Sugriva. The temple is still in use, and the garbha griha contains statues of Rama, Lakshmana and Sita all carved out a single boulder.

Stone chariot in Vittala temple compound

Vittala Temple

The musical pillars at the Vijaya Vittala Temple
Hampi Vittala Temple

Situated northeast of Hampi, opposite the village of Anegondi, this is one of the principal monuments of the city. It is dedicated to Vittala, an aspect of Vishnu worshipped in the Maratha country. It is believed to date from the 16th century.

In front of the temple is the world-famous stone chariot or ratha. This is one of the three famous stone chariots in India, the other two being in Konark and Mahabalipuram. The wheels of the ratha can be rotated but the government cemented them to avoid the damage caused by the visitors.

One of the notable features of the Vittala Temple is the musical pillars. Each of the pillars that support the roof of the main temple is supported by a pillar representing a musical instrument, and is constructed as 7 minor pillars arranged around a main pillar. These 7 pillars, when struck, emanate the 7 notes from the representative instrument, varying in sound quality based on whether it represents a wind, string or percussion instrument.

The British wanted to check the reason behind this wonder and so they had cut two pillars to check anything was there inside the pillars that was producing the sound. They had found nothing but hollow pillars.Even today we can see those pillars cut by the British.

The road leading to the temple was once a market where the horses were traded. Even today we can see the ruins of the market on both the sides of the road. The temple contains the images of foreigners like Persians selling horses.

The temple is the venue of the annual Purandaradasa festival.

The King's Balance

This structure, the Tulapurushandana, stands to the southwest of the Vittala temple. consists of two carved granite pillars, spanned by a carved horizontal granite transom. This was used on ceremonial days, when scales were hung from the transom, and the Raya (the emperor) was ceremonially weighed against gold or jewels. The treasure was then distributed, to Brahmins or others in the city.

The King's Balance,

The Royal Centre

This extensive area consists of a small plateau, which starts about 2 km (1.2 mi) to the southeast of Hampi, and extends southeast, almost to the village of Kamalapuram. It is separated from the Sacred Centre by a small valley, now consisting of agricultural fields, and which carries irrigation canals or streams that join the river opposite Anegondi. A granite platform overlooks the Royal Centre.[11] The Royal Centre contains the ruins of palaces, administrative buildings, and some temples directly associated with royalty. Little remains of the palaces except the foundations, as they were largely timber structures, for comfort. The temples and some of the other stone structures survive however, as do many of the surrounding city walls.

An aqueduct runs through much of the Royal Enclosure and into the Great Tank where water was brought for special events.[12] The west end of the tank is overlooked by a platform shrine.[13] The aqueduct also runs into the large stepped tank, lined in green diorite, with a geometric design that has not required restoration.[14]

Thousand Shiva Lingas

Ramachandra Temple

The temple stands in a rectangular courtyard, with entrances facing to the east. Reliefs showing daily life and festival scenes occur on the outer walls of the courtyard. Scenes from the Ramayana occur on the inner courtyard walls, and on the temple itself.[15] There is a well-relief of baby Krishna on the walls.[16]

There are two ornate entranceways, or entrance porches to the temple courtyard, a larger main entranceway towards east and a smaller side entranceway towards north. A small doorway in the south side of the enclosure wall leads to the Royal enclosures.[17]

The temple may have been exclusively for royal use. It is believed to be constructed at the site of Vaali's killing in the hands of Rama. It may have been a private shrine for royalty. It is unusual in that it has four black basalt columns in the mantapa (columned hall). The inner sanctuary of the temple is now empty.[18]

This is also known as the Hazara Rama temple (temple of a thousand Ramas), due to the recurrence of images of Rama on the walls. Sometimes it is called the Hajara Rama temple (the Rama temple in the courtyard).[19]

Underground Shiva Temple

The temple has a] with an antarala and Aradhamantapa and a Mahamantapa. The mahamantapa has pillared corridors that fuse with the pillared Mukhamantapa, making a larger pillared frontal Mantapa which also encloses a Dwajasthamba. The pillars of this temple are plain.

An inscription referring to this temple states that Krishnadevaraya donated Nagalapura and other villages for worship and offerings to the Gods for the merit of his parents Narsa Nayaka and Nagaji Devi.

At times the base of the temple is flooded and may be inaccessible. When it is accessible, masses of small bats may be found in the temple.

Lotus Palace

Lotus Mahal

Panorama of Lotus Mahal and compound.

Lotus Mahal, also known as Kamal Mahal or Chitrangini Mahal is situated in the Zenana Enclosure of the monuments. It is a ticketed monument and a single ticket would let you into the Zenana Enclosure covering several monuments including Elephant Stables. The term Zenana refers to the Women and Zenana Enclosure in general would refer to the Queens’ enclosure along with the servants’ quarters around and private temples.

Lotus Mahal is a two storied very symmetric structure exhibiting a fine example of Indo-Islamic architecture. The base of the structure depicts a Hindu foundation of stone just like in the temples, typical of Vijayanagara Architecture while the upper superstructure is Islamic in architecture with pyramidal towers instead of regular dome shapes, giving it a Lotus-like look, originating in the name. Also, this is one of the very few buildings that have the plaster intact though it is defaced at several places due to wear and tear, especially; the dampness on the walls is very visible. The exemplary carvings on the pillar arches including those of birds and delicate art work can be very mesmerizing, especially with the Makara Torana on top of these arches that can still be seen on some of them.

It is also believed that the Mahal or Palace was air-cooled and maintained its temperature during summer. The proof of this can be seen in the pipeline work above and between the arches.

The entire monument is surrounded by a fortifying wall which is rectangular in plan. The four corners of the fortifications have watch towers that would have been used to keep an eye on the intruders into the Women's chambers. While it was a very popular practice to have Eunuchs hold guards at Queens’ Palaces in the North India, especially during Moghul rule, the existence of such a practice has not come to light in the Vijayanagara kingdom and era.

How to Reach There: The Lotus Mahal is situated in the Zenana Enclosure of the Royal Center and could be reached from Hazara Rama Temple.


Also called the Stepped Bath, or the Queen's bath, this is a stepped well designed for bathing. Such sunken wells were created to provide relief from daytime heat. It would have been covered when the city was occupied.

Elephant Stables

Elephant stables

A set of large stables, to house the ceremonial elephants of the royal household. The area in front of them was a parade ground for the elephants, and for troops. This is another structure that shows Islamic influence in its domes and arched gateways. The guards' barracks are located right next to the elephant stables.[20]

Other areas

Other monuments and places of interest can be found outside of the above two major centers.

A number of modern populated towns and villages lie within the extents of the original city. These include;

All of these are in Ballari district, except Anegundi, which is in Koppal district.

See also


  • Vijayanagara kaalada Sainyavyavasthe matthu Yuddhanithi, Dr.S.Y.Somashekhar, 2009, Sanchike Prakashana, Kannada University, Hampi, Vidyaranya, 583 276, Bellary Dist.
  • Karnatakada Birudaavaligalu, Dr.S.Y.Somashekhar, 2014, Prasaranga, Kannada University, Hampi, Vidyaranya, 583 276, Bellary Dist.
  • Sosale Srinivasachar & T.S. Satyan, Hampi: The fabled capital of the Vijayanagara Empire, (Directorate of Archaeology and Museums), Govt. of Karnataka, 1995
  • J.M. Fritz et al., New Light on Hampi: Recent Research at Vijayanagara, (Performing Arts Mumbai, 2001) ISBN 81-85026-53-X
  • A.H. Longhurst, Hampi Ruins Described and Illustrated, (Laurier Books Ltd., 1998) ISBN 81-206-0159-9
  • The Ruins of Hampi:Travel Guide ISBN 81-7525-766-0
  • Raghu Rai & Usha Rai, Vijayanagara Empire: Ruins to Resurrection, New Delhi, 2014. ISBN 978-93-83098-24-8


  1. Tellier, Luc-Normand (2009). Urban World History: An Economic and Geographical Perspective. PUQ. p. 213. ISBN 978-2-7605-1588-8.
  2. "History of Vijayanagara". External link in |website= (help);
  3. "Hampi". External link in |website= (help);
  4. Nehru, Jawaharlal (2004). The Discovery of India. Penguin Books India. ISBN 978-0-14-303103-1., page 257
  5. Sen, Sailendra (2013). A Textbook of Medieval Indian History. Primus Books. pp. 103–106. ISBN 978-9-38060-734-4.
  6. Moreland, W.H. and Atul Chandra Chatterjee. A Short History of India (New York : David McKay Co., 1962 c1936) 4th ed., page 177.
  7. 1 2 "Trip to Hampi, the ruins of the magnificent Vijayanagara". Trayaan. 2016-02-09. Retrieved 2016-10-05.
  8. "Krishna Temple". Retrieved 2006-09-09.
  9. "Trip to Hampi - Ruins of Vijayanagara - Part 2". Trayaan. 2016-02-15. Retrieved 2016-10-05.
  10. Gollings, John. "Photograph of Lakshmi Narasimha monolith". John Gollings Photography. Retrieved October 5, 2016.
  11. "Great Platform". Retrieved 2006-09-09.
  12. "Great Tank". Retrieved 2006-09-09.
  13. "West End". Retrieved 2006-09-09.
  14. "Stepped Tank". Retrieved 2006-09-09.
  15. "Court scenes". Retrieved 2006-09-09.
  16. "Baby Krishna". Retrieved 2006-09-09.
  17. "Trip to Hampi - Ruins of Vijayanagara - Part 4". 2016-09-07. Retrieved 2016-10-05.
  18. "Ramachandra Temple interior". Retrieved 2006-09-09.
  19. "Ramachandra Temple entrance". Retrieved 2006-09-09.
  20. "Elephant Stables". Retrieved 2006-09-09.
  21. "Vijayanagara, the "Hampi Group of Monuments"". Retrieved 2006-09-09.
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