Tracing the Ramayana Trail in Hampi

Published on: 10/06/2024

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Photo title: Carvings depicting scenes from the Ramayana at the Hazara Rama Temple

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Photo Credits: Vikram Nanjappa

Austere yet awe inspiring, excellent yet enigmatic, the magnificence of Hampi is magical to say the least. A UNESCO world heritage site, Hampi is an open-air museum and the erstwhile the capital city of the Vijayanagar empire. Spread over a whopping 4000 hectares, Hampi’s rich monuments which include temples, royal complexes, gateways, stables, enclosures, forts and tanks are sheer poetry in stone. According to history, this capital city around the 1500 AD was the second largest city in the world. A picture of grandeur and a standing symbol of a glorious past, Hampi is arguably one of the most popular tourist destinations not only in Karnataka but across India as well.

While Hampi is a favourite with history and culture buffs, many of its monuments have immense religious significance and are intrinsically associated with the Ramayana and with Lord Hanuman. In fact, the archways, temple and pillars of Hampi bear innumerable carvings and inscriptions related to Lord Rama and Hanuman coupled with scenes from the Ramayana. In fact, Hampi is probably one place where the depiction of the monkey God Hanuman out numbers that of all other Gods.

Lord Rama’s Quest for Sita

According to popular belief and folklore, Kishkinda, referenced in the Ramayana as the kingdom of the monkey God, Sugriva is located in Hampi. As per the Ramayana, when Goddess Sita was abducted by Ravana, Lord Rama and his brother Lakshmana came to Kishkinda (present day Hampi) in search of her. It was here that they met Hanuman who took them to his chief Sugreeva. Sugreeva led them to a cave which had Sita’s jewels which she left behind before departing to Ravana’s Lanka.

The region of Kishkinda which is located across the Tungabhadra River is also called Anjeyanadri Hill or Anjanadri betta and is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Hanuman. An extremely scenic paradise, the hill is accessible via a flight of 550-600 steps. It offers stunning views of the surrounding river, lush green rice fields and banana plantations. There is a temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman at the summit. There is also a shrine of Lord Rama and Goddess Sita in the temple. Rishimukha hill in Hampi is believed to be the place where Lord Rama and Lakshmana met Hanuman and the cave where Sita’s jewels were found is located on the banks of the river on the way to the Vittala temple.

Matanga hill which is the highest point in Hampi and a perfect one to view sunrises and sunsets is also intrinsically connected with the Ramayana. Once known to be the hermitage of saint Matanga, it is here that Sugreeva took refuge and protected himself against his rival Vali. Vali was killed on the arrival of Lord Rama in Kishkinda and Sugreeva was crowned as the king of monkeys. Incidentally, the Pampa Sarovar Lake which is located on the road to Anegundi from Hospet is believed to be the place where Shabari, an ardent devotee of Lord Rama met the latter and directed them to Kishkinda. A disciple of Guru Matanga Rishi, Shabari lived in the ashram of her Guru in the place presently called Matanga Parvat in Hampi.

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Photo title: Ravan - Hazara Rama Temple

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Photo Credits: Vikram Nanjappa

Temples Galore

Hampi also has several temples dedicated to Lord Rama. The Malyavanta Raghunathaswamy temple is one such temple located on the summit of the Malyavanta hill where Rama and Lakshmana took shelter during the monsoon before heading to Lanka. The temple is built in the typical Vijayanagar style of architecture and has a sanctum, vestibule and a large pillared pavilion. It is situated about three km from Kamalapur.

The Kodanda Rama temple located on the banks of the Tungabhadra River is again one of the most important monuments of Hampi and houses large idols of Rama, Sita and Lakshmana. This historic temple is believed to be the spot where Lord Rama crowned Sugreeva as king of the monkeys. It is built in a style that has traces of Hoysala and Dravidian style of architecture.

The Hazara Rama temple is yet another key point of interest in Hampi and is located in the core zone of the Royal enclosure. This 15th century temple dedicated to Lord Rama is known for its intricately carved friezes that depict scenes from the Ramayana. The narrative sculptures are in three tiers and run all around the shrine. The story of Lava and Kusha is also depicted in the sculptures.

Situated about 2 km from the Virupaksha temple is the Yantrodharaka Hanuman temple which is a highly significant temple due to the fact that it was built by the great Dwaita philosopher Sri Vyasaraja Thirtha. In fact, this the first of the many installations of Lord Hanuman by the great saint. The monkey God is depicted sitting in a meditative pose and the idol is confined within a hexagonal amulet. It is believed that the renowned Yantrodharaka Hanuman Stotram was written here.

Rashmi (2)

Rashmi Gopal Rao

Rashmi Gopal Rao is a freelance writer and travel-lifestyle blogger from Bangalore. She writes on travel, food and decor. Apart from visiting the tourist attractions of a place, she loves to venture out exploring the 'unconventional' and the 'uncommon'. Learning about the unique customs and culture of a place, interacting with the locals and sampling the local and authentic cuisine is always on her "to-do" list while travelling. A strong advocate and supporter of responsible and sustainable tourism, she blogs at http://rashminotes.com/ and tweets at @rashminotes.

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